drugs, drugs, and more drugs

So my doc asked me the other day if I’m still taking my antibiotics.


Did those words really come out of his mouth? Why, I oughtta…

Yes, I’m overly sensitive about this issue, because I hate the antibiotics so much. Love that they’re killing the infection, but hate them nonetheless.

Yes, I am still taking my antibiotics. Twice a day, every day. With no end in sight. I haven’t missed a dose, I say proudly, although no one seems to think this is a worthy feat. Sometimes people need a quick left jab, right to the kisser.

Not that I’m complaining. Really, I’m not. I’m glad that I have these drugs in my life. Who knows where I’d be (or whether I’d be here at all) without them. I’ve been on some form of antibiotics since May 13, with just one week off.

There was the precautionary IV dose during and after the mastectomy. Then an oral course at home for the first 10 days out of the hospital. Once I started feeling better, an additional course seemed superfluous. Wasn’t I healing like a rock star, even ahead of schedule in my typical impatient, over-achieving way?

Uh, yeah. So much for that.

Infection: enter stage right and become the star of the show.

Damned mycobaterium has become the bane of my existence. I hate it like I hate Sarah Palin. I wish she would have gotten the myco instead of me. Surely she could have picked it up in one of those mountain streams she claims to ford as she’s impaling innocent salmon. I’d like to see her be all cocky and try to “reload” in the midst of the myco.

But again, I digress.

That happens a lot.

I can’t blame it on “chemo brain,” but I’m going to blame it on “abx brain.” Surely the continual supply of Bactrim and Minocycline in my body all day every day for the last 169 days qualifies me for that small disability.

Yes, that’s right, I counted the days. I like to know just exactly how long I’ve been taking these two drugs, twice a day every day. I also take a dose of Florastor probiotic twice a day every day. The few times I’ve been lazy or resistant to shoving yet another pill down my throat and skipped it, I’ve been sorry. I owe a big debt of gratitude to Susan C. for recommending the Florastor, and if you’re they type who gets an upset tummy while on your week’s worth of Amoxicillin, you should take it too. I typically have a cast-iron stomach, but the 169 days of oral drugs combined with the myriad variations in the hospital, then shaken not stirred with the little bits of good drugs (e.g., Vicodin) thrown in for grins has given rise to a need for Florastor. 

Here’s the cast of characters now: the blushing beauty in the bi-colored pink is Minocycline. It’s a member of the tetracycline family, which a lot of people–mostly teens, I guess–take for acne. In fact, one of the many Walgreens pharmacists I’ve gotten to know asked me if I take it for acne. I chuckled and said no, why? And she said, “because your skin is really clear, so I thought it must be working.”  I may suffer from hot flashes, mood swings and brittle hair but by golly my skin is clear. I like that pharmacist a lot.

I’ve been trying to be very vigilant about taking my meds properly, rather than tossing them back and washing them down with a flute of champagne. Or two. Or three. Hypothetically speaking, that is. I’d never do that for real.

I’ve even read the literature that comes with the drugs from the pharmacy. Talk about a giant mess of C.Y.A. Take this little gem for the Minocycline: “Take this medicine with a full glass (8 oz/240 ml) of water” (not champagne?). I like the idea of 240 ml of bubbly. “DO NOT LIE DOWN for 30 minutes after taking this medicine.”

Well, I admit it’s been a while since I’ve read this info. Like 169 days, probably. And in my “abx brain” haze, I didn’t remember the DO NOT LIE DOWN part. Every night, I mean every single night, I gulp down the drugs with a sip or two of water, which is by my bedside, then I promptly LIE DOWN AND GO TO SLEEP. Oops. If my failure to NOT LIE DOWN means the Minocycline isn’t working, I’m going to be really mad.

This part of the Minocycline’s instructions is particularly vexing: “DO NOT TAKE THIS MEDICINE with food or milk unless otherwise directed. This medicine is sometimes taken with food or milk, however, certain medicines, food and milk may bind with Minocycline, preventing its full absorption.”

What’s a girl to do — take it with food or milk, or not? I don’t like instructions that include “sometimes.” I prefer black & white directions.

Here’s one part of the Minocycline instructions I can willfully and completely ignore, though: “THIS MEDICINE IS EXCRETED IN BREAST MILK. DO NOT BREAST-FEED while taking this medicine.” Ok, I won’t. I promise.

After you’ve finished laughing uproariously, as I did when I read this, let’s move on to the second antibiotic, Bactrim. This big guy is a member of the sulfameth family. Sadly it has none of the desirable characteristics of meth-derived drugs like increased energy, decreased appetite, effortless weight loss and eternal youth. 

It’s just a big, nasty, chalky pill.

Here’s a handy little graphic to show you just how big and just how nasty it is.

Twice a day, every day. For 169 days and counting.

It’s not without its humor, though. An excerpt from Bactrim’s monograph made me laugh again: “DO NOT STOP OR START any medicine without doctor or pharmacist approval. Inform your doctor of any other medical conditions including liver or kidney problems, blood problems, asthma, HIV, allergies, pregnancy or breast-feeding.”

Those last two made me chuckle, and I felt safe in crossing those off my list of things to worry about. Onward.

Bactrim, too, is picky about how you take it, and the monograph advises taking it not only with a full glass (8 oz) of water, but to also drink several additional glasses of water daily. No indication of how many ounces those glasses should be, though, and not a mention of milliliters to be found. Curious. I’m just glad it doesn’t yell at me to AVOID TAKING THIS MEDICINE WITH A FLUTE OF CHAMPAGNE. That would be depressing.

Here’s the best part of the nitty-gritty details of Bactrim, and I quote, “LONG-TERM OR REPEATED USE of this medicine may cause a second infection.”

Pardon me?

Did that really mention a second infection?

Excuse me while I go get some champagne.

A Funny Thing Happened…

I was at Walgreens (again) to pick up (yet another) prescription, and had one of the best belly-laughs I’ve had in a while. Thank heavens Macy was with me, or I might have embarrassed myself, and the pharmacist, even more.

To set the scene: I go to Walgreens a lot. They know me there, kind of like how it was for Norm on Cheers, but without the drinks and witty repartee. I have lots of prescriptions, all of which are on a slightly different schedule, so that I can’t ever manage to go pick up a month’s worth of all my drugs but instead make multiple trips every month.

Usually, there’s either a grandfatherly pharmacist or a host of young female techs. This visit, though, I found a sweet young male tech behind the register, and another sweet young male pharmacist. While these two fellas were plenty easy on the eyes and seemed competent at their jobs, I do prefer the grandfatherly pharmacist because he always calls me “miss” instead of “ma’am.” I know, it’s a farce, and I know I’m way more “ma’am” than “miss” at this stage of the game, but I like it anyway.

The young whippersnappers both referred to me as ma’am, but I’m not going to hold that against them. The young tech went to get my order, and the young pharmacist butted in to ask if I had any questions about my meds. I thanked him but said no, I’m a frequent flyer here, quite the pro at taking these drugs. He couldn’t just leave it at that, he had to be extra thorough and read the warning labels on one of the drugs, either one of my antibiotics (yes, I’m STILL on them both) or my iron supplement, I’m not sure which.

So he looked at the label and asked me, in all seriousness, if I might be pregnant or am breastfeeding. I can’t decide which scenario is most amusing: pregnant me, in all my forced-menopause hot-flashing, hormonalness; or the idea of breastfeeding with no um, breasts. Those poor sweet young men behind the counter didn’t know and can’t be blamed. And I’m pretty sure both were quite horrified when I told them, in no uncertain terms, that both scenarios are quite impossible for me and that any baby relying on me for breastfeeding would be utterly starved to pieces.

We had a good hee-haw about it, and the tech said something about the fact that I look young for a cancer patient. Shows how much he knows: there’s no mean demographic for cancer. The pharmacist said, any age is too young to be a cancer patient. And how.