Thursday, December 08, 2005

Un/Medicated Ratio Now Back to 1:1

As you've probably guessed, the other major reason why I haven't updated this space for a while is medically-related. I write about myself, but I hesitate to write about David because I prefer if he writes about his own condition. The patient/caregiver perspectives differ, and I strive to keep a balance between us regarding the reporting of his health in the public domain. Then again, I'm always encouraging David to write because a) even cancer can't keep a good man down, and b) it's better if it comes from him. Sometimes this isn't possible, so I fill in the gaps when necessary.

Dave's Logbook: Status Report

It occurred to me that my radio silence suggested I'd Nyquil-ed myself into a four-day stupor, but it came as a surprise -- even to myself -- that I only needed two doses of it to get me through the weekend. The sickness didn't last nearly as long as I thought it would. (Thank heavens for that.) And it snowed on Saturday -- a real snow, not that quasi-snow that arrived on Thanksgiving Day while I was in New York and promptly melted -- so being stuck inside to recover from the cold was no big hardship. Driving in snow is not my idea of a good time.

I tried my best not to infect David with whatever I had, and thankfully that was the case. It was a very brief bout of symptoms, and aside from a sore throat, none were passed onto him. David had a second blood transfusion for the week on Friday, and we had our fingers crossed that Monday's blood tests showed an increase in his blood counts.

In the meantime, over the weekend all David could do was try and medicate his pain away. His left ankle swelled up like a balloon, and he phoned the on-call doctor to see if this was something to worry about. The doctor said under the circumstances this was not abnormal, and for some reason it's typically the left ankle. Hobbling about with a cane, a sore hip, knee, and a swollen ankle in our two-storey house isn't easy, so David was mostly confined to the second floor. Then his right ankle followed suit -- swelling up about the same amount as the left. We found out later from the oncologist that the swelling can be attributed to the high dosage of growth factors recently.

On Monday we went to the clinic for the blood tests, this time:
  1. Hemoglobin up
  2. White blood cells up
  3. Platelets low
The nurse consulted with the doctor, then wrote up an order for two bags of platelets at Mercy Hospital. We didn't have time to eat, we had to go directly to the hospital. Platelets don't take nearly as long to absorb as blood, but we had to wait a while before the bags were ready. With nothing to do, I made jokes about delays at the platelet farm and tried to distract David by making lists.

Since Monday, David's pain has become worse. The doctors have upped his medications again, but for the umpteenth time there's a red tape delay because the pharmacy says the insurance company won't honour the prescription, they're faxing the doctor, blah blah blah... I swear, I've said this time and again but the insurance companies have patients by the proverbial testicles here. 'It's enough to make an elephant crazy,' my Israeli friend used to say. (I'd like to hear how that sounds in Hebrew, it's probably more descriptive pre-translation.)

So, with David's increasing pain (he says it's the worst ever since the diagnosis, 11 on the typical 1-10 pain scale), my tasks have changed. I've been trying to modifying the house to accommodate David's current physical state. We bought a few things to try and make things easier for him:
  • padded seat for the commode ("for my bony ass")
  • in-shower seat (it's still difficult for him to get in and out of the tub, though)
  • bed tray, etc.
Last night I rearranged his clothes so he can reach them easier. He can't go down the stairs, so I fetch things, and may well tie a basket onto Hugh so he can be useful and play sherpa rather than trip me up all the time trying to race me down the steps.

We're also spending more of David's waking time together. He sleeps in the spare bedroom because the single bed is softer and lower, making it easier for him to get in and out. It's too small for the both of us. Pain wakes him up, and it paralyses him for the first hour or so until his medication kicks in. Unfortunately waking up happens several times a day and is unavoidable. Only after the painkillers take hold does he feel more like a human being. Until then, I try and come up with some way to distract him, a story or a conversation, but usually he just lays there quietly in a dark haze of pain until the drugs make their way into his system.

For David, waking up is awful and dreaded. He calls out and I rush over from the bedroom to give him his pills and a drink to wash them down. He can't move his legs. Yesterday I had to wheel him to the bathroom with an office chair. This is how it goes. Not always, but when it's bad... it's off the scale.

That's why it was such a relief for David to hear the magical words "We'll radiate you on Thursday".