Second Round of Chemotherapy Winding Down

The second round of my oral chemo has five more days to run. This second run went fine until a couple of days ago when enough chemical built up in my system to cause considerable nausea. There is nothing, really, to be said about nausea. Everybody knows what it’s like, though reportedly some people find vomiting less awful than others. I am among the “others.” Jenny Diski writes in In Gratitude that “there is nothing [she] dislikes more than being sick,” and goes on a little later to put it in these terms: “Do I want to live another year or so [by taking the chemo pills] or do I want to feel ill and eat when I haven’t the slightest appetite?” To do this chemo you have eat food with your medication–otherwise your body, quite rightly, rejects it in the quickest way it knows how. Diski comments on her own question: “It’s a new perspective.”

Given the choice between being consistently ill and adding , in her case, a year or so of life expectancy, Diski chooses to forego the chemotherapy, accept an earlier death, & to die, at least, without the added indignity of regular nausea & vomiting.

Diski’s chemotherapy must have been much more unpleasant that mine, since it is only the final week of each run that has even approached what she describes. But I am far from criticizing her choice. Especially for a writer, someone who works with her mind, being deprived of the ability to think clearly because of nausea would be a terrible deprivation–in her circumstances, I might well make the same decision.

The second round (of three) of my chemotherapy has five more days to run; then I will have two weeks off, then another 28 days on. (Funny that they use the moon calendar rather than the solar to set the duration.) I’m dealing with it pretty well, all things considered. Have been getting some writing done, taking care of the business of life, with only the occasional bout of misery. Considering that this is supposed to buy me some indefinite period of more or less normal life when it is over, I’ve made the bargain–I’ll stick it out. Of course, contemplating that “indefinite period” and what lies beyond it can be depressing, but I try to dwell as much as possible in the moment.

Chemotherapy Update (A List of Eight)

  1. After all my life absorbing the cultural lore surrounding chemotherapy, I have been surprised this week–the first of four–that Sunitinib worked so quickly to restore, however incrementally, my strength & lift my fatigue.
  2. The lore says you will be sick as a dog, but as far as I can tell the nausea I was experiencing as I began chemo was a side effect of Percocet taken for pain. Since switching to mostly morphine sulfate with only occasional Percocet for pain, I haven’t had any nausea. Morphine is not quite as effective as Percocet, but the trade-off is worth messing around with the morphine to get the dosage right.
  3. My hair has not fallen out. Yet.
  4. Sunitinib comes with an extensive kit that includes a little satchel complete with fancy medication box with compartments for each day of the week, those subdivided into times of day. I may use the pill box, but want nothing to do with the satchel, what with its brand-identification implications.
  5. Sunitinib costs approximately $466 / capsule.
  6. The satchel also contains several expensively printed pamphlets intended, near as I can tell, to usher one into the arcana of the “cancer community.” I want nothing to do with that community. Such a community is a granfaloon, to borrow Kurt Vonnegut’s neologism: “A granfalloon, in the fictional religion of Bokononism (created by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle), is defined as a “false karass.” That is, a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless.”1
  7. Flinch reaction: As my pain has receded, I still find myself flinching when making certain motions, despite the fact that the flinch itself is more painful (now) than the gesture or movement.
  8. Among all the brochures there is one sober one that explains “Sunitinib is not a cure” & that “different patients respond differently to this drug.” My oncologist had already explained this to me while making it clear that there is no cure for my cancer when it has developed past a certain point. “No cure, only management,” or, in blues language, “Doctor say it kill me, but he don’t say when.”2

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Source: Wikipedia.
  2. “Cocaine Blues.”