Friday, March 8, 2019

DAY 063 -- "One Woman's Cat"

I now have a wife who has both a husband and a cat with cancer.

I’ve noticed that she shows her affections using the same words and gestures one way with her sick cat Comet, and different ways with me.

Wait. That’s not true. They are the same differences.

Every life story has (or should have) animal elements, preferably where simple visuals define all of that story’s easiest and hardest of times. Like this one with Diane.

Or, this one: another cat reclining on the front porch: contemplative, reconciled, lying outside a normal door used for this life’s normal comings and goings.

But, handy nearby, there’s also an urgent, makeshift abnormal door clawed and pushed through a screen, for use when that easy, formal normal door just won’t suffice.

It’s a portal that now lets the good in and out along with the bad (more on this soon).

Plan A. Plan B. Done.

(Dog people may substitute their comparable pooch pics here)

Follow-up today at the infusion unit for first bloodwork since my last first new chemo treatment (see Day Sixty-Two).

After chasing my dehydrated rolling vein for a puncture or two, we got a successful draw. Then, it was wait for results and a visit with my reviewing oncologist.

Time to pass the time with crosswords, practicing my what-me-worry look, and checking my must-say list. As a nurse, I’ve always advised my patients to make a list of questions, concerns, dirty jokes to tell the visiting docs, because too often we’ll forget and remember too late what we wanted to ask them, especially if we’re in high-stakes medical mode (See Day Fifty-One).

As a patient, I do try to listen to myself and today I’ve written a short list:

--- I’ve lost a few pounds in the days since Day Sixty-Two. Food has returned to tasting like boiled cardboard, blunting my appetite. You already know what that spiraling, descending circle of diminishing returns means, so let’s try to keep it down.

--- I had one entertaining episode of nausea/vomiting on the third day after my infuse-o-rama. (If you need more description than that, revisit Day Nine.) I restarted the anti-nausea med, and it's kept my innards in line. If I heed the signs, I can see me coming and head me off at the preemptive med pass.

But, the problem is getting stomach and brain to buddy-up when nausea/vomiting is lurking, even if I can control it. The brain still becomes an anti-hero and pulls the stomach away from the table.

We may not live by bread alone, but every road trip meal welcomes a traveling companion for some destinations, even if it is a hitchhiker with no gas money (I know you expect me to strain a metaphor on occasion. You’re welcome.)

--- For a few days after Day Sixty-Two, my rashes and itching subsided drastically, but they’re returning. Itch, scratch, open sore, rinse, lather, repeat.

--- My “trigger finger” fingers also disappeared for a few days after treatment, but they’re back as well.

Oncology Doc arrived with the lab results. I read him my list, and we met minds on the interventions: med for nausea, ointments and anti-itch med for skin, and postpone my decision for now on whether or not my claw-fingers will interfere with Harley throttling, clutching and braking.

We then went over the numbers. No terrible news, but one noteworthy (and expected) change:

“You’re a bit neutropenic,” he points blankly.

“Oh, Doc, you say the sweetest things.”

But, he speaks this way to me knowing my vocational background and the knowledge-is-humor-is-power guy thing I have going on. We’re both at our ease with doctor/nursey-talk.

My neutrophil count is low. Neutrophils are white blood cells. They’re essential in helping to fight infection. The drugs I’m taking fight my cancer but also weaken my defenses. This irony is a bittersweet theme with cancer and cancer treatment, and in fact is found everywhere in medicine and its screen door folklore:

It has to taste bad to be good.
The cure is worse than the disease.

One woman’s cat is another man’s cat.

More as we go, El

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