Digging deepPosted: November 4, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, drugs | Tags: Antibiotics, breast cancer, chicken pox, Harriet Beecher Stowe, inspirational quotes, mono, Phenergan, postaday2011, psychological effects of breast cancer, Taylor Swift, Zofran 8 Comments
The last week has been rather trying.
Ok, it’s pretty much sucked out loud.
This time last week I was puking like a freshman pledge at a fraternity party, and the fun didn’t stop until I dosed myself with Phenergan and Zofran and conked out for the night. Little did I know that that was a harbinger of what was to come.
The preventative course of antibiotics has quite simply kicked my ass. I’ve never been one to run from a fight, until now. I’m done. I’m out. Let the countdown begin so someone can drag my sorry carcass out of the ring.
I’ve spent the vast majority of this week in my bed. The entire week. This is rather unusual for a busybody like me, but there was no way around it. My body said, enough. I got up for the necessities: sustenance, teeth-brushing, and potty breaks. Oh, and to drive carpool. Gotta go get the kiddies! Yesterday I picked up the kids in my pajamas — a first for me. I know some moms who do that on a regular basis, but I had never once done it, and today may well be a repeat performance. One of the teachers in the pick-up line, an adorable & energetic kindergarten teacher, stuck her head in my car to say hi and giggled at me in my jammies. She said,”Oooh, I want your life.” I looked her straight in the eye and said, “No, you don’t.”
Trust me on that.
Never have I been laid so low by the workings of modern medicine. Not when I had chicken pox in grade school and had to miss the school carnival (a belated thank you to Rick Dodd for bringing me cotton candy from the event). Not when I had mono in middle school and thought I was near death. Not when I got my tonsils out in high school and would have slipped quietly out of this world if someone had just pulled the sheet over my head.
I have never felt this sick.
I seriously considered calling my dear, delightful doctor yesterday to say that I highly suspect the antibiotics are poisoning me.
My whole body hurts. My bones ache. My lower back feels like it’s being pulled in all directions. My eye sockets feel too big. My tummy is in serious turmoil. The back of my mouth feels like something died in it. My tongue feels fuzzy. My brain is switched off yet my head is spinning, and the idea of making a simple decision is overwhelming. Nothing sounds good, nothing tastes good, yet I’m convinced that there’s something out there that will make this all better. Fresh-squeezed orange juice? No. A grilled cheese sandwich with spicy mustard? Sorry. An angel food smoothie with extra antioxidants? Good try, but no. Macaroni & cheese? Hah. Yogurt with lots of blueberries? Puh-leeze.
The only thing that’s gonna help me in this dire case is time. As the sage Boy George once said, “Time, oh give me time.”
Time to heal. Time for the drugs to run their course. Time to patch up my desiccated digestive system. Time to get past this latest round of shittiness.
(I really hope it happens fast, too, because my favorite girl & I have tickets to see Taylor Swift tomorrow.)
It’s time to dig deep, to look to wiser women than myself, and to seek comfort from whatever source in which it may reside. Today it’s Harriet Beecher Stowe who speaks to me, whose words assure me that I can get through this:
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
As if the tornado wasn’t bad enough…Posted: June 14, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, infection | Tags: AL East, Alex Rogriguez, Antibiotics, Dustin Pedroia, Freeman Hospital, fungus, hurricane categories, infection, infectious disease, Jacoby Ellsbury, Joplin tornado, mucormycosis, mycobacterium, psychological effects of cancer, PTSD, recovery, Red Sox Nation, survivor, tornado EF-5 1 Comment
I feel a weird dichotomy of emotion when a friend hears about a rare and hard-to-treat infection and thinks of me. On one hand, it’s nice that my friends are the sort of people who know what’s going on in my life (I guess being a blabbermouth and having a blog help). On the other hand, it’s a weird feeling to be the one associated with the rare and hard-to-treat infection.
No matter, the horse is out of the barn, and the fact of the matter is that I did indeed have a rare and hard-to-treat infection, I am a blabbermouth, I do have a blog, and my friends rock.
So when the news broke that several people in the wake of last month’s giant killer tornado in Joplin, Missouri, have contracted a rare and hard-to-treat infection, my name came to mind. Perhaps this provides a bit of perspective for me. On many levels. It reminds me that while I’ve been through a lot, I also have a lot for which to be grateful. Namely things like this: #1, I wasn’t involved in the devastation of that giant killer tornado. #2, my rare infection was hard to diagnose but not especially hard to treat; just a giant pain in the ass. #3, my rare infection wasn’t deadly, as the one in Joplin is. #4, my rare infection is gone, baby gone. And, because I like odd numbers in lists, #5, I’m done with the 267-day course of oral antibiotics needed to treat my rare, pain-in-the-ass infection. Oh, if only I got paid extra for using hyphens in my modifiers.
The giant tornado last month in Joplin stirred up a lot of soil in its destructive path, and it uncovered mucormycosis, a deadly fungus among us. Like most bacteria and fungus, mucormycosis is all around us but only affects people who are already limping along with weakened immunity. The proverbial kicking a man who’s already down. It seems to prey upon people with diabetes, leukemia, lymphoma, and AIDS as well as those who have had an organ transplant and those who engage in chronic steroid use (Alex Rodriguez, you better be careful).
I must digress here for a moment about the mighty A-Rod. We don’t like him much in our house (understatement of the year, right there). Not just because we are die-hard, hard-core Red Sox fans and he’s on that other AL East team. You know, the one that wears those gawd-awful pinstripes. Ick. Well, A-Rod, in our opinion, typifies everything that’s wrong with pro sports: the drugs, the attitude, the disdain for the very fans who provide him job security. Imagine our surprise and delight when we found this yesterday:
An A-Rod baseball card, chewed to bits by our little dog Pedey. I love it! It’s even funnier because that little dog is named for Payton’s favorite Red Sox player, Dustin Pedroia. The idea of Pedey going after A-Rod fills my heart with pride. I’ve said before that Pedey is not much like his namesake: he’s lazy and clumsy with a ball, but in this case, Pedroia would be proud of this little dog for pouncing on A-Rod and tearing him to bits!
As long as we’re digressing for baseball-related ramblings, I might as well post a pic of my boy-crush, Jacoby Ellsbury. It’s been a while, and I know my loyal readers have missed him. Here ya go.
Ok, back to the Joplin tornado and its unwelcome sidekick. The tornado was a big one. An EF-5 to be precise. The EF scale refers to the Enhanced Fujita scale, which was developed at the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University. Yay Red Raiders. I don’t know much about the tornado scale, being a bit more familiar in this neck of the woods with the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale, but a quick peek on Wikipedia tells me that an EF-5 tornado means the storm has winds in excess of 200 mph. A bad-ass, scary storm, to be precise.
The May 22nd tornado cut the city of Joplin roughly in half with an estimated 7-mile-long by 1-mile-wide swath. It moved slowly and stayed on the ground rather than touching down and moving back up. All of these factors combined equal untold destruction, a death toll of 151 people, and the unleashing of a nasty fungus.
Eight tornado victims have contracted the mucormycosis, although public health officials won’t make an official link between the fungus and the tornado. Four of the people who tested positive for mucormycosis have died. It’s a nasty bug that spreads fast and can invade the blood supply of its victims, who typically have injuries and secondary wound infections. Sound familiar? Ugh. The rush of feelings and memories this topic evokes roars in my head much like a tornado. I think my PTSD is showing.
The mycormycosis fungus is usually found in soil and wood and enters the body either through a puncture wound or when a person breathes in mold spores. The dirt or vegetation becomes embedded under the skin, and mold is actually found in the wounds of people who have this bug. In some cases, wounds that had been stitched up after the tornado had to be reopened to clean out the contamination. Again, sound familiar? The incubation period is a little shorter on the fungus compared to the mycobacterium, and hopefully the fungus presents itself faster than the myco; both times I’ve been tested for that damn myco it took 6 weeks to present itself.
People with weakened immune systems who come into contact with this fungus have a mortality rate as high as 90 percent. Yes, you read that right: 90 percent.
It’s strange how the spores of this fungus look almost artistic under the microscope, yet can wreak unimaginable havoc on the human body. Compare that to my bacteria’s photo and you can see how vastly different these bugs appear under the microscope and why I have enormous respect for my sweet infectious disease doc. You rock, Dr Grimes!
Because the mucormycosis fungus is so rare, medical research is limited, and treatment is simple but fraught with complications. Treating it sounds eerily familiar to me: confirm the bug, excise the affected tissue via surgery, and administer long-term and powerful antibiotics. Same plan I followed for the mycobacterium.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that it is conducting tests to help investigate the infections, which are so uncommon that even the nation’s largest hospitals might see only one or two cases a year. In fact, Dr Ewe Schmidt, infectious disease specialist at Joplin’s Freeman Hospital, said that in 30 years of practice, he’s seen 2 cases of mucormycosis, both of which occurred in patients who had untreated diabetes.
“To my knowledge, a cluster like this [several cases of the fungus] has not been reported before,” said Dr. Benjamin Park, head of the CDC team that investigates fungal diseases. “This is a very rare fungus. And for people who do get the disease, it can be extremely severe.”
I’m so glad my rare infection wasn’t this deadly fungus. I’m even more glad that my rare infection is gone. And I’m so glad this guy and his dog survived the storm and the deadly fungus.
SummertimePosted: June 8, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer | Tags: Antibiotics, bilateral mastectomy, breast cancer, egg salad sandwich, hospital, Houston, Houston Museum District, infection, IV antibiotics, JP drains, kids, mastectomy, Methodist Hospital, mycobacterium, new boobs, nosocomial infection, plastic surgeon, plastic surgery, post-mastectomy, reconstruction, recovery, Sam Cooke, school's out for summer, survivor, tennis, Vera Bradley 10 Comments
Summertime, and the living is easy. Sam Cooke said it, well, sang it actually, a long time ago. The fish were jumpin’ and the cotton was high. The girl he was singing to had a daddy who was rich and a mama who was good-looking. All was right in Sam’s world.
Well, the living is easy all right. No alarms waking me up before I’m ready, no lunches to pack. Payton’s lunch is easy: sandwich, bag of baked chips, string cheese, Rice Krispie treat, and a drink. No lunch box, no ice pack — he’s too cool for that. Macy, on the other hand, is quite particular about her lunch, requiring 5 different things, some of which must be washed & chopped and placed into small tupperware. She does at least take the same thing every single day, much like her mama did as a schoolgirl. I had a homemade egg salad sandwich on wheat bread every day of my schoolgirl life, and didn’t care one lick that the other kids thought the egg salad looked gross and the brown bread looked weird. They could have their stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth Wonder bread PB&J any day. I was perfectly happy with my gross-looking egg salad on weird-looking bread.
So no lunches to pack, yea. No mountain of school paperwork to wade through, only to find that other than glancing at the grades at the top of the completed work, there’s not a single thing in that mountain that really matters. No racing the clock to get out of bed, gobble down breakfast, get dressed, and get out the door. No meanie mom enforcing a highly unpopular bedtime so the little darlings don’t act like feral hogs in the a.m. Last but not least, no school projects. Oh, how I despise the projects. After 18 years of living with the original slacker student, who did minimal work and gasp! even skipped school projects altogether yet made good grades and somehow managed to become a contributing & successful member of society, my opinion on school projects has definitely changed. Changed to hatred, that is. They’re messy, time-consuming, inane, and require ME to go to Hobby Lobby AND help with said project when I could be playing tennis.
Ok, rant is over.
I certainly hope I didn’t offend any teachers out there. If I did, please direct your hate mail to my husband, the original slacker student. It may take him a few days to reply, because he’s busy running a software company. I’m not sure he could have risen to such heights and attained 2 graduate degrees without that pivotal diorama he made in 3rd grade at Jenks Elementary.
Ok, now my rant is over.
So we are blessedly free of the strict schedule imposed by the Fort Bend Independent School District, and most thankfully free of the blasted school projects. We can go where we want to go when we want to go there, stay up late, and eat lunch when we please. All that sounds great, right?
Except for one tiny detail: I don’t do well with unstructured time. Remember me, the busy-body? I don’t blossom with a lot of downtime. It’s day 3 of summer, and I’m already feeling a little itchy, a little twitchy. As much as I dislike the hustle & bustle of the imposed school schedule, it does keep us on track. And I like that. I need that. I would have been great in the army.
Lots of people enjoy their downtime and get into being lazy. For me, laziness makes me feel icky. I really like having a to-do list every day and relish the feeling of being productive. Some people were laughing at me that on the first day of summer, I cleaned out the garage, did 4 loads of laundry, vacuumed the entire downstairs, and bagged up discarded clothes for donation. Before lunchtime.
Now that my kids are a little older and a bit more independent, summer isn’t as stressful because I can still get my stuff done without having to watch them every second. The ever-present possibility of a toddler finger in a light switch cramps my style and interferes with me crossing things off my to-do list. With the luxury of semi-independent children, I’m trying to relax more this summer. That, and the burning desire to suck every drop of summer this year, since last summer was such a bust.
Last summer, I was not only recovering from a bilateral mastectomy but also playing hostess with the mostess to a nasty, long-staying bacteria that exploded into a messy, hard-t0-diagnose-and-even-harder-to-eradicate infection. I spent some extra time in the hospital, multiple times and multiple hospitals, and had a few extra surgeries. I weathered the ups & downs of being an impatient patient, and learned the hard, hard lesson that no matter how nicely I treat my body, it can and will betray me. As my sweet mama would have said, “That is rude, crude, and socially unacceptable.”
Last summer I missed out on a lot, thanks to Mr. Mycobacterium. This summer is going to be different. I’m going to spend some idle time, and hopefully learn to like it. I’m going to float in the pool with my kids and my crazy dog, and not worry about the laundry piling up or the dishwasher needing to be emptied. I’m going to teach my kids to cook, and not stress over the messy kitchen. I’m going to drag them away from the TV and computer games and into the museum district, and not get discouraged when they complain about how boring it is.
This summer, I’m going to relish being home instead of in a hospital, staring at this:
I’m going to delight in the fact that I don’t have any of these attached to me:
I’m going to do a little dance about the fact that my sling bag isn’t carrying any of those icky things that are no longer attached to me:
and that I no longer need a collection of these to catch the collection of gunk that accumulates in those things to which I’m not longer tethered:
I’m going to breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have any of these stuck to me:
I’m going to offer up a special nod to the fates that I won’t be going here:
However unstructured this summer is, it’s gonna be great. Summertime and the living is easy.
The best news in a long timePosted: May 6, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, drugs, infection, tennis | Tags: Antibiotics, infectious disease, mycobacterium, nosocomial infection, Pommery, post-mastectomy infection, Seinfeld, tennis, witch is dead, Wizard of Oz 16 Comments
After 267 days, I finally heard the words I’ve been dreaming about: “We are discontinuing the antibiotics.”
Cue the hallelujah chorus.
I saw Dr Samo instead of Dr Grimes today, and he delivered the most-excellent news. He is my new best friend. All of the cultures run during The Big Dig came back negative, which means we can safely assume the post-mastectomy infection is gone. Yes, at long last, the mycobacterium has been vanquished.
Let me say that again: the infection is gone. I’m cured.
No more twice-daily dose of minocycline and bactrim. No more nausea. No more planning my consumption of food & drink around my doses. No more remembering to take my drugs. No more antibiotics.
Oh, happy day!
I’m still in a mild state of shock, or maybe just slightly buzzed. Could be the celebratory champagne straight away after returning from the medical center (duh), and the margarita at my tennis team’s end-of-season lunch.
We broke out the good stuff and gathered our close circle of friends who would never say “it’s too early” and question the wisdom of popping a cork at 11 a.m. To Amy, my chief medical correspondent and chauffeur to & from appointments: thank you. For everything. To Jill & Keith: thank you for rushing right over, then leaving as soon as the bubbly was gone. But for planning to come back with dinner.
My tennis team’s luncheon was already planned, but how fun to celebrate my big news with some of my favorite girls? And how cool that they gave me a huge, signed tennis ball? Thanks, girls!
The infection is gone. Ding dong, the witch is dead.
I half expected the citizens of Munchkin Land to come out and dance their little legs off and sing in their froggy voices to celebrate.
I admit, I’ve been wondering all week if my visit to the infectious disease doc today would result in the end of the abx. I was trying to not get my hopes up, and while I knew not to expect it, I would have been disappointed if they’d said keep on swallowing those pills. No matter. It’s all good now.
I will also admit that when the nurse was taking my BP and temp and asking me the reason for my visit, I felt funny saying “yes” to her question of “are you here to see if it’s time to get off of the antibiotics?” It was almost too much to hope for. Almost.
Then when Dr Samo uttered those glorious words of “We are discontinuing the antibiotics,” I was stunned. It was a bit surreal. Once I grasped what he’d said, my first thought was that “discontinuing” meant taking a break, not stopping them altogether.
It was almost too much to take in.
As my best buddy Ed said, “I feel I should shove you and yell ‘Get Out!’ like Elaine on Seinfeld.
“Get Out!” indeed.
The end of the antibiotics is like an end of an era. My life has revolved around them for so long now–one week shy of a year, in which I’ve been on some form of abx, whether oral or IV. Nearly a year on some pretty powerful drugs, and none of them the fun kind. Nope, these are the ones that tear up your stomach and make your insides cry like a baby.
But no more.
The fat lady can sign her heart out right now.
Extra! Extra!Posted: April 25, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, infection | Tags: Antibiotics, breast cancer, cancer battle, DIEP, Harry Potter, hospital, Houston, Houston Chronicle, ICU, infection, infectious disease, Medicare, mycobacterium, nausea, nosocomial infection, PTSD, staph, vascular infection, Zofran 2 Comments
The front page of the Houston Chronicle today has an article entitled “Infections Top Safety Issues for Hospitals.”
For hospitals?? What about for patients??
I admit, before I became a statistic and contracted a nosocomial infection, I didn’t think much about it, and I would have to say that infections were not the top safety issue for me. Now, of course, I am a statistic, and I’m not very happy about it. Well, I learned a new word (nosocomial,) which usually makes me happy, but this time, not so much. In fact, not at all. I could have happily lived the rest of my life never hearing that word, much less learning about it so intimately.
The article in today’s paper got my attention, for sure, and I half expected to read a story similar to my own, but instead it’s about systemic vascular infections among Medicare patients. The article itself didn’t enlighten me much, and it never said specifically what kind of infections we’re talking about. Not a single mention of staph or mycobacterium to be found.
Sadly, I’m quite well-versed in those two topics.
The article did say that out of 46 hospitals in a 50-mile radius of Houston, half of them reported that Medicare patients under their care contracted infections. Some 472 “hospital-acquired conditions” were reported among 234,000 Medicare patients from October 2008 to June 2010.
I love how the infections are downgraded to “conditions” in print. I can tell you with 100 percent clarity that my hospital-acquired infection was not a condition. It was hell, and it became all-out war.
Even though I eventually emerged the victor, like most warriors, I will live in the shadow of that victory forever. I don’t know that I will ever feel completely at ease about the infection. I suspect the fear of infection will always be in the back of my mind. Like Harry Potter looking over his shoulder for “He Who Shall Not Be Named,” I will carry this monkey on my back for all of time.
It’s been a while since I have had the recurring dream in which my chest splits open and fluid is pouring out. Maybe that means I’m healing, mentally. In January I wrote about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and how it’s not just for people in the military.
At that time, I was 5 months out from my last hospitalization for the post-mastectomy infection, and it was still alarmingly fresh in my mind. Today, I’m even farther out from that last hospital stay, and hope to continue putting distance between myself and that date. 8 months and counting….
I don’t freak out on a daily basis anymore, and having a reconstructed chest instead of a battle-scarred sunken stretch of mangled skin helps. A lot. To the untrained eye, I look like a normal suburbanite going about her daily business. I’m pretty much recovered from The Big Dig, other than some lingering soreness in my belly incision and the annoying fatigue that I can’t seem to shake. The reconstruction, like the cancer, was a piece of cake compared to fighting the hospital-acquired “condition.”
That “condition” and I go round and round, and even though I was the winner in our balls-out battle this past summer, it will always have a hold on me. The 256 days of oral antibiotics are case in point.
Twice a day.
256 days. With no end in sight.
The other day, I did something I haven’t done in all that time: I missed a dose.
This is huge for me. I’m a bit OCD when it comes to taking my meds, and I’ve been ridiculoulsy proud of the fact that after all this time, I’ve stayed on course and haven’t had to take a break, to nurse an upset stomach or to quell a GI disturbance. I’ve only barfed a couple of times, and it was because I didn’t eat enough to lay down a good base for those antibiotics.
But lately it hasn’t mattered what I eat, I always feel barfy. Once the simple carbs like crackers & pretzels failed to rid me of the ever-present nausea, I gave in and took the Zofran. The nausea was gone, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Clearly this would not be a daytime solution. Once I’d exhausted the simple carbs and Zofran plan, I resorted to alcohol. And lots of it. I figured, if I was gonna feel that bad, I might as well have a good buzz.
Not such a good plan.
I’m really glad I never read the 2001 study on vascular infections authored by Dr CA Mestress of Barcelona. In it he says that vascular infections are “dreadful surgical entities that are usually accompanied by a high morbidity and mortality.” Yikes. I’m really glad I didn’t know that until now. Dr Mestress goes on to say that these infections “require immediate diagnosis and aggressive treatment.”
The recent study on Medicare patients found in the Chronicle today quotes Donald McLeod, spokesperson for the US Department of Health & Human Services as saying, “We wanted to bring transparency to the fact that patients are exposed to potentially unsafe occurrences at America’s hospitals.” He goes on to say he hopes that the recent study will “spur hospitals to work with care providers to reduce or eliminate these hospital-acquired conditions from happening again to even a single patient.”
There’s that word again: condition. That’s gonna bug me.
It seems the recent study focused on vascular infections contracted via catheters, so who knows how many other hospital-acquired “conditions” are unclassified. Instead of giving me the details I want, the article devoted itself to discussing other hospital-acquired “conditions” such as bed sores, falls, mismatched blood types, and surgical objects accidentally left in the body after surgery.
Ok, so none of those things happened to me, and for that, I am grateful. Wonder if Harry Potter can whip me up a cure for the all-day nausea?
Preach it, GB ShawPosted: April 23, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, literature | Tags: Antibiotics, cancer battle, cancer diagnosis, drug therapy, Fabian Society, George Bernard Shaw, infectious disease, Labour Party, London School of Economics, morning sickness, nausea, Oscar Wilde, post-mastectomy, probiotics. Dublin, recovery, survivor 2 Comments
Editor’s Note: There’s a glitch on WordPress that is hiding my hard returns, so this is one long post without the usual breaks in text to give the eye a rest. Apologies.
“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”— George Bernard Shaw
Love this quote. Love GB Shaw, too. Apparently he didn’t like the “George” and refused to use it, personally or professionally. That’s why I call him GB Shaw.
Another day, another antibioticPosted: March 26, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer | Tags: Antibiotics, breast cancer, cancer battle, Cubicin, Houston, hyacinths, infection, IV therapy, Lady Bird, recovery, satsuma, Siggis yogurt, tulip tree, wildflowers 9 Comments
After the outrageously bad day I had yesterday, I’m happy to report that things are better. Way better. I didn’t suffer from alcohol poisoning, nor did I eat my weight in ice cream, and I didn’t impair anyone’s hearing or make any ears bleed with cuss-word-filled rants, so we’re doing well on the moderation front.
All I needed was a tall flute of my favorite elixir, Piper Sonoma, and the presence of good friends. Once again, Jill & Keith provided both, and the time spent inhaling the heady fragrance of their about-to-explode-in-blooms satsuma tree was wonderfully restorative.
Each one of these highly fragrant flowers will become an orange, and Keith may well have to stand under that tree full-time to support the weight of all that fruit. I fully expect to see you on my doorstep with bags full of fruit, mister. I’ll eat ’em raw, juice ’em, and mix ’em with any manner of alcohol. Last year I didn’t get to witness the tree in its pre-fruit state, and now that I have, I plan to make this an annual event.
It’s springtime in Houston, which means horrific allergies from the myriad things blooming, but that’s one thing (maybe the only thing) I haven’t suffered from of late, so I can enjoy the flora & fauna without the sneezing & coughing. Perfect. As I speak (or type), I’m peering out my front window to the lake across the street where Payton spied an alligator this morning, noticing the wildflowers in bloom along the bank and the hyacinths blooming in the neighbor’s yard. I love them both. Wildflowers because they just exist (thanks, Lady Bird Johnson), and hyacinths because they bring the smell of spring into sharp focus.
All the local Bradford pear trees are blooming, and they are as showy and beautiful as always. When they’re not showing off their blooms, they stay full and green year-round, and those leaves even turn colors in the fall, which we don’t see much of in the land of eternal summer.
Not that I’m complaining. It’s currently 77 degrees, sunny, with puffy clouds in the sky. The usual hint of humidity lingers in the air, but it is Houston, after all.
My tulip tree has flung itself into bloom in the backyard, which is always a lovely site. It’s not nearly as showy as the Bradford pears, but more colorful and exotic, for sure. Love the deep pink and the huge petals of each flower. Considering how precious little attention anything in my yard has gotten from me, it’s a wonder there’s any color at all, but thanks to the gardening fairy, otherwise known as Ed, there is, and I’m enormously grateful, especially during my house arrest. And no, I’m not saying that Ed is a fairy. Just that he shows up and takes care of my plants when I can’t. That’s how rumors get started, and that’s just not nice.
I’m getting acquainted with Cubicin, my new antibiotic. It replaced the old standby, vancomycin, yesterday when I had an unexpected reaction to the IV vanco. So far Cubicin has done an admirable job of trying to assert its dominance over my weary body, but I’m reserving judgement on how successful it will be in that pursuit. For now, it’s bobbing and weaving with the most elemental of antibiotic side-effects, which is frequent trips to the bathroom. Big whoop. At the risk of poking the caged cat, I wonder if that’s all it’s got. I certainly hope so. What I really don’t need is a return to the inception of all this antibiotic therapy this summer, when the drugs waged a holy war on my gut and gained quite a stronghold. Siggi’s yogurt at $2.50 a cup was my best weapon; yes, I know that Dannon and Yoplait are a fraction of the price, but they are neither Islandic nor delicious enough to elicit haikus from satisfied customers like this:
Tangy sweet mouthful
Clean as snow and good and whole
Pudding of my heart.
so yes I will spend crazy money on Siggi’s again if I have to. Take that, Cubicin.
I bet no one has ever written a haiku about Cubicin. It’s such a strange drug name that even though I’ve typed it here and via text at least 100 times in the last 12 hours, I still can’t wrap my head around it and have to double-check it again and again. Who names these drugs anyway?
Sounds like a future blog topic waiting to happen, right?
Update on the jerkPosted: March 21, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer | Tags: Antibiotics, culture, Gram stain, infection, needle aspiration, pseudomona, Vancomycin 5 Comments
Amy says I need to post an update, and she’s always right, so here I am. Saw Dr Spiegel this a.m. and she’s not overly concerned with the fever, the firmness, the divot or the discomfort down my right side from the faulty drain. The right drain does indeed seem to be faulty, and she supports the unpopular (with me, anyway) opinion that the left drain is compensating for the right. Both drains are staying at least another week. Boo hiss. I wanted to start crying right then & there, but I’m way too proud for that.
She did culture the drain fluid and is looking for answers to my conundrum. She suspects a pseudomona and we hope to know for sure soon. She dug around on my new right breast A LOT (and I do mean dug, as in with a sharp object in hand), looking for fluid to collect and culture. No fluid to be found, even after she opened up the suture line AND tried to aspirate with a very long needle.
No fluid is good news but the very long needle was bad. I told the doc it would be a good day for a Xanax but I didn’t have one on me, not even in my “bag of tricks” as Amy calls it. No, since I’m still carting around these dumb drains, I have my little bitty sling bag for a purse instead of my real purse, which happens to be fully stocked. Grr.
Dr Spiegel suggested I pop into the office of Dr Grimes, my infectious disease guru, since he’s in the same building. He was at another hospital but we talked to his nurse Rhonda. She took a lot of notes and said she’ll get in touch with him and they will get back to me today sometime. Absent the pathology report, we’re in a holding pattern. Dr Spiegel and I talked about Vanocmycin, the wonder antibiotic that has worked so well on me in the past. Problem is, it needs to be administered via IV, either in the hospital or through home health, and Dr Spiegel doesn’t think that’s necessary just yet. She did suggest adding a vanco-like oral drug to my current antibiotics, but Dr Grimes’s nurse Rhonda didn’t think that was a good idea. She said it wouldn’t add more protection and would make me feel sick. Guess we need to wait and see what we’re dealing with.
So the good news is this: I didn’t get admitted to the hospital. The lack of fluid means the infection, if it’s there, hasn’t set up shop to the extent that it had last time. It’s possible that the pseudomona is preying on my already-fragile but on-the-mend body and causing some havoc with the drain sites but not revving up the original mycobacterium. Those are all good.
I’m also healed up really well, considering what a heinous surgery it was. So healed, in fact, that Dr Spiegel couldn’t pry the suture line apart (hence the big needle). She and Nurse Sonia both seemed unusually pleased at how well I’m healing. So why do I feel so crappy?
A cast of characters, minus onePosted: February 12, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, drugs | Tags: Antibiotics, cancer recurrence, morning sickness, pill organizer, pinkwashing, prescription drugs, probiotic, steak, tamoxifen, vegetarian, Walgreens 7 Comments
I’ve had this snazzy little grouping of prescription drugs on my kitchen counter for months now. Yes, the lids are pink, because my Walgreens had them for the pinkwashing that comes every October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Cute, huh?
These are the drugs I take every day, like a little old lady. My old standbys. The usual cast of characters.
There are the two big stars sharing top billing, Bactrim and Minocycline. My darling antibiotics that course throughout my body twice a day, every day to kick some mycobacterium butt. I would be lost without them. Or perhaps I would lose the all-day morning sickness feeling without them, but that’s just wishful thinking. Maybe I’d be dead without them, who knows? There was a time when I was almost sure I was dying from them, but I got over that.
Next we have the Florastor, the one thing that besides coffee that keeps me upright every day. I’m forever indebted to Susan Christopherson for turning me onto this probiotic that helps restore peace and order in one’s digestive system after said system has been under attack by the slash & burn tactics of an antibiotic regime. There have been a few times over the last 6 months of living under this regime in which I’ve either forgotten or willingly neglected the Florastor, and I paid dearly for that mistake. It’s not a prescription, but is kept behind the pharmacy counter for some reason. I don’t have to show my driver’s license to buy it, though, so I guess you can’t make meth out of it.
There’s the Ferrex iron supplement, since I’m a bit anemic and because I need uber-healthy blood vessels to harvest during reconstruction. Because I don’t eat any meat, I need a little help getting my iron; I get some from all the dark, leafy greens I eat, but not as much as my carnivorous friends ingest. My sweet, Peruvian oncologist can’t for the life of himself understand why someone would willingly forego meat. He shakes his head and looks at me a little funny every time it comes up, and he tends to bring it up every time he sees me. I’m done expecting him to compliment me on my plant-based, cancer-fighting diet. It didn’t help much, anyway, so I guess everyone is free to go on ahead and eat a big-ass, nasty, extra-rare steak. Might as well add some fries, or a loaded baked potato. You can see how far the healthy eating thing got me. Harumph.
Then there’s Tamoxifen, my daily cancer-battling bad-ass. It makes sure that there’s no estrogen flowing to feed any remaining cancer cells. While the side effects are troublesome (early menopause, hot flashes, leg cramps, decreased fluid in the joints, to name a few), I like the idea of starving those bastards. Tamoxifen is my first line of defense against recurrence. It makes me feel like I’m doing something every day to keep this beast from re-entering my life. It’s a daily pill that I’ll take for 5 years, then reassess to determine if I should stay on it or switch to another, similar drug.
And today I stopped taking it.
That scares me. More than a little bit. But since Tamoxifen can promote blood clots, it’s counterindicated with surgery. So I stop taking it for 3 weeks and hope that nothing goes haywire with my bloodflow. No clots, no bloodletting, no drama. That sure would be nice for a change.
Although I’m subtracting one prescription from my snazzy little grouping, I still feel like a little old lady whose life revolves around her meds. Ya know the old wisecrack issued when someone asks what time it is, and someone else smarts off, “Why? Ya gotta take a pill?” In my case, the answer is yes, smart ass, more than one pill. So zip it and get me a big glass of water so I can choke these guys down. While my life may seem to revolve around my meds, I refuse–I mean, dig in my heels and refuse–to get a plastic pill organizer. I’m all about accessories, but not that.