A cast of characters, minus one

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.

Yikes.

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. 


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.