Because it’s #BellLetsTalk day about mental health awareness… let’s talk.
I’m currently on seven regular medications, which doesn’t include the shit they pump into me during my chemotherapy and immunotherapy:
- 40 mg Pantoprazole every morning for heartburn I got from all my other medications
- 10 mg Metoclopramide for nausea from the chemo, as needed every six hours (Some days 3, some days none)
- 5 mg oxycodone / 325 mg acetominophen (i.e. percocet) for tumor pain in my jaw (Some days as few as 3, on average days 5)
- 400 mg ibuprofen for tumor pain in my jaw (On average days none, some days up to 3)
- 10 mg Zolpidem OR 15 mg Zopiclone every night to help insomenia (probably from the other medications)
- 75 mg Zoloft every night for depression / anxiety
- 1 mg Ativan every 6 hours for anxiety (2-3 the first few days after chemo; none later in the week)
I wasn’t on any of these before I was diagnosed with breast cancer; however, I was walking a fine line. When I was in college twelve years ago, I was depressed and tried several medications. I never found one that worked for me, but graduating, getting on a regular sleeping schedule with work, not staying up until 3 a.m., and eating healthy were enough to eliminate depression for me.
The anxiety is more complex, though. My doctor has not officially said, “You have an anxiety disorder,” but being that I’m on two medications for anxiety, well, that’s good enough for me.
What’s a label, anyway? I’ve always been an overthinker, although as I got older, it turned into getting fixated on my worries. As I went about my daily life, I managed it, I coped, and I started recognizing it earlier. Kevin helped point it out (sometimes in a rather frustrated, worried tone of voice, which made me realize it was not normal). It’s possible I could have benefited from anti-anxiety medication previously, but I didn’t realize it.
But then, of course, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I had panic attacks. If you’ve read my blog up to this point, you’ll remember that I didn’t know that’s what they were at first. Part was that I’d experienced the physical symptoms before. The imminent sense of death was new, but it seemed, well, logical. I mean, come on, I was just diagnosed with metastatic cancer.
If I could have found a medication that had minimal side effects, I would have wanted to take it earlier. I wish it hadn’t come to this for me to realize I needed help. I’ve always been an advocate of doing what is needed, and I’ve never felt ashamed or embarrassed to have struggles with my mental health. I would rather tell someone I have a problem, get help, and be happy than slog on alone and afraid.
Slogging on alone and suffering not necessary. It’s not brave: courage is doing the difficult thing–getting the help that you need.
But what about all those medications? Well, there’s more.
Today, Wednesday, I go see my doctor. It’s the twins’ turn first to have their eight month checkup. They’re thriving: both are over eighteen pounds now, and Phoenix has somehow surpassed Calliope for the first time since they were born. They started fourteen ounces apart, and Phoenix is now one ounce heavier.
But Calliope’s face is still rounder, and I’m disbelieving of the measurements when I see them. I swear Phoenix feels lighter. They’re simply built differently, I guess.
It’s my turn with the doctor, then. It’s nice she squeezes me in, although I know, I know, I do have something seriously wrong with me that I need to talk to her about. It’s just hard to remember sometimes. On the good days. On the days the medication is working.
But there’s hope for me to replace several of them with something else. Something natural. Something our doctors like to call medical marijuana.
I’ve always been an advocate of legalizing it, although I honestly never thought I’d need it. It’s plant-based, which is why it’s so strange that people regard it as a villainous substance. It all has to do with the history of drugs in the West, which is boring and I don’t really want to research or blather one about it. Suffice it to say that I’m being referred to a doctor that specializes in it, and the goal is to drop as many of the medications as I can.
And, as far as I understand it, for most prescriptions / strains / mixtures, the THC is removed, so I might actually be able to walk around not feeling high. My medications #3, 5, 6, and 7 all come with a warning not to drive, and they all cause me to feel a tad sleepy or loopy, depending on the day or hour.
Who would have thought someone would be going onto marijuana hoping not to feel high all the time?
Oh, and the other really not-so-fabulous thing is that I read one of those papers I wasn’t supposed to read about my chemotherapy, Paclitaxel, which says it’s mixed in ethanol. So #3, 5, 6, and 7, which all say not to drink, are possibly what makes me feel like epic shit on chemo day. I don’t know how much alcohol I’m actually getting, but when I read that (which, I know, I’m not supposed to, but I did it!), things clicked into place.
Friday, when I went in for chemo, the nurse looked at my port incision. The sides have healed to a pink scar, but the middle had two little yellowish, wiry things sticking out of it.
With the tone of the long-suffering, I said, “The doctor says it’s just stitches. I’m supposed to rub alcohol swabs on it, and they’ll come loose. I’ve been doing it for a week, but they’re still there.”
The nurse gave me a long look. “Do you want me to remove them?”
What the… ? “Yes, please?” Why didn’t someone else offer to do that already?
She did so, apologizing for making me bleed. I almost rolled my eyes at her naivete. I’m getting old and jaded now. A little bit of pain for a few seconds–who cares?
I write some of a new short story.
I write some more of the new short story.
It’s about a god’s death lottery, in a sci-fi / fantasy setting–but it’s really about cancer.
What is it about artists, man? I like writing. I like having written. I don’t like thinking about going and actually doing the writing. It’s an uphill battle every time I want to sit down.
Sometimes the words start coming, and I realize I need bat at them, catch them, put them in jars like fireflies. That’s when I leap at my laptop. That’s when it’s easy.
Except it’s still not easy.