Archives for posts with tag: Frustration

I’m a feedback loop. We all are. When my mood is negative, I don’t take care of myself because I don’t give a crap. And when my body chemistry is off, e.g., low blood counts for example, I have a negative mood and thus am even less attentive to myself. Therefore, it’s a big feedback loop. If I felt like making a drawing with little arrows and boxes right now, I might hop over into one of those programs I have, but my modeling synapses are on medical leave.

This brings me to a trite little saying “Minding the Body to Mend the Mind”. I bet I’m not the first one to think of it, so it’s probably not original, but neither am I here to amaze the room (apologies to Jane Austen).

It’s been a rough few weeks really – after my final anthracycline chemo, anemia (low red counts leave you tired and depressed) and neutropenia (low white counts increase the likelihood of infection) set in. So I had an iron infusion, a white cell stimulating shot and heavy duty antibiotics to counter an an infection. But then the combination of low counts and antibiotics killed off the few happy bugs I had left in my body. And earlier this week, I woke up feeling crappy with a lovely green-yellow tinge to the tongue and it even looked furry. In German, the word for fungus is pilze, the same word used for mushroom. Tongue mushrooms. Yummm. Actually my tongue was the color of a porcini mushroom right before it goes off. Off to the oncologist for an anti-fungal tablet and an anti-fungal rinse. Fungus cleared up quickly and I felt normal. Hard to describe, but I almost expected to feel hair when I shook my head. I felt perky, and I started to get back in touch with a number of people I’m owing emails, phone calls and etc. Coming out of hiding. Haven’t felt like this in months.

So that brings me to the mind-body connection. I suppose that I knew this rationally all along – but it has never been more evident to me in the last few weeks as I experienced some intense depression brought about by lowered blood counts and both fungal and bacterial infections. The lowered blood counts are the primary culprits here, since they make the infections more likely – and as I said above, the antibiotics kill off all the happy digestive bugs making fungus more likely.

I know that when my counts were low, and I had infections, my thinking was unclear and depressed. My head felt foggy. There was a hopelessness hanging over me. This brings me to the hamster wheel, the perfect metaphor for hopelessness. A hamster on the never ending wheel of dismal circumstances. When I feel like this, it’s hard for me (as for many others with family history, no doubt) to disentangle myself with cancer from my mother with cancer. A few days ago I looked in the mirror – my eyes were tired, and my eyebrows were scant. I saw my mother looking back at me. When I feel better, I don’t recognize my mother in my face. Similarities change with mood.

When my infections were resolved, I suddenly felt much, much better. It was so odd. Like jumping off the hamster wheel and moving forward.

Today I started my new chemo. Twelve weeks of taxol, derived from some sort of yew plant. Rather than sacrifice yews now though, I think they create taxol through stem cells or something (guess it’s ok if it’s plant stem cells, of course).

Anyway, taxol is one of the most beneficial drugs against metastatic breast and other cancers. Not that I really think I have any metastases. (Note to self, remember the correct spelling of that word). The idea is, however that this will seek out and kill any potential metastases. Like a met-seeking-missile. I’ve really been watching too much NCIS, Criminal Minds, Without a Trace and etc. But it’s still not a war, and I’m not a survivor (read previous posts if you don’t get this).

Back to the chemo… I’ve had a tough week. My cells bottomed out (this is a good thing, I am assured), leaving me susceptible to infection(not a good thing), so we had to deal with that. One of the side effects of low counts is that I’m just tired and with that tiredness comes depression and lethargy. Of course when I’ve just on chemo I have a prednisone head buzz. And the anti-nausea drugs make you constipated. Lots and lots and lots of different side effects, each annoying in their own way. However, each is predictable and relatively short-lived. And there are lots of strategies for minimizing side effects – starting with when you receive chemotherapy itself.

For the taxol, I’m getting what’s called “dose-dense”, and that means that every week I go in for an infusion. Exposure rather than the magnitude of the dose is most important.The major mside effects of taxol are an allergic reaction to the drug itself, and neuropathy (pain in fingers and toes). For the neuropathy I have vitamin b6, and for the allergic reaction, prior to the taxol infusion, I receive an infusion of prednisone, an anti-nausea drug and two different antihistamines. Then the taxol. Today it was fine… we just have to wait and see for each infusion. The prednisone taper is shorter too… just 3 days so far, and I have to take anti-nausea drugs for two days. For twelve weeks, I will go each week for this treatment – I’ve just finished the first, so 11 more to go.

The anithistamines make you sleepy. I feel asleep during the infusion – and made an embarassing snore, waking myself up. Then I came home and went straight to bed this afternoon, forgetting a call I scheduled. But I’m going to bed soon here….

I talked to my oncologist for a while today about how i feel. This was quite helpful. I appreciate that to a fairly large extent, side effects are somewhat predictable and time – limited. I realize that they are not entirely predictable, however, and my oncologist is quite honest about that. He’s also incredibly supportive and confident but not in an arrogant way, and the nurses in the office are all very competent and caring. The idea is generally that one should live as normally as possible, but still take care to avoid tiredness and infection. But I feel like I’m in a good place and receive good care. Still, I have my ups and downs and occasionally when I look in the mirror, I’m not sure who’s looking back at me. A few ghosts to exorcise. There’s still quite a bit of anxiety bubbling forth, too.

Every day, there’s a bit of a struggle between remembering and associating with the past too strongly, fearing the future, and living in the moment. Living in the moment is what I want to do most of the time. Writing helps, so I’m glad I’m now in a writing mood…………

Today I want my life back. I want to take a bath without wrapping my arm in a plastic bag. I want to not think about the picc line in my right arm or the wonky feeling I have that’s just off center. I don’t want to see a doctor, have a blood test, and I wish I didn’t have that creepy feeling in the back of my head where my hair used to be.

I don’t want to be a cancer patient. I want my big old underwire bra back.

But I can’t have those things. Not right now anyway.

At the moment my life is consumed with the business of getting through chemotherapy, radiation and what follows. My life is consumed with side effects, anti nausea drugs and even laxatives. Cancer patient seems to pervade all aspects of my life. So many changes in a short time.


And then I also realized that I need to manage things just a little bit better. I have these wide open days before me without structure. So I want to set some goals for things to do …. Meditate, nap, write. I have to set myself a schedule and follow through something that I’ve learned from having ADD. Once I realized that, the angst just went way, way down. And I had my life back again.

Interesting to think what this says about anxiety.

Although now I’m tired so I will save that for another day………