Saturday, August 09, 2014

Transition finished!

I think the painkiller transition is finally over. We've found the right level of the new painkiller and although I occasionally have twinges in my sternum (which may be related to Gozer jumping on me), I'm not experiencing any real pain.

I've noticed some changes since I've switched painkillers, mostly related to sweating. I know this might be TMI but it's part of the way painkillers affect me. Before, my entire body would sweat. Seriously - my fingers and arms and legs and even my toes would sweat, and I developed little bumps around my eyes from sweat. Because I sweated so much, I drank a lot of water but didn't pee as much as you might think.

All that has changed: I now sweat only in the more normal places - like under my arms and on my scalp - and I pee way more often. My sweat also smells different to me; before, it didn't have much smell but now it smells the way it did before I ever had cancer. So that's a good thing, I guess.

I'm also finding that I enjoy my baths less. I loved taking baths and would take several each day... which, it turns out, wasn't a good thing. A hot bath increases the amount of painkiller I absorbed and then once the bath was done I'd experience withdrawal symptoms (like increased sweating). In other words, I was abusing my painkiller patches. I had no idea that I'd been doing this until I went to have a bath and it just didn't feel the same. I was ashamed once I realized what I'd been doing, and that shame was probably made worse by the fact that I was mildly depressed. At least I'm off the patches now and it's not possible for me to unknowingly misuse my pills.

The mild depression is gone now. My psychologist is away until the end of this next week so I wasn't able to make an appointment to see her. If I'd been feeling worse I'd have asked to see another psychologist in the clinic but I figured I wasn't doing too badly. I'm feeling much more emotionally even and am generally happy now so I think I'll be ok.

I'm really happy that the transition is over. I like that I'm feeling more like a normal person with the pills than I felt with the patches... but mostly I like that the transition is over.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Update on me and Gozer

I'm feeling a bit better now although my digestive system is still not quite right. At least I'm not at the point where my belly and gut are so distended that I can't wear anything constrictive, which is where I was in my last post. I'm also feeling less depressed although I'm still somewhat lethargic.

I haven't called my psychologist yet because I keep wishing that I could just fix this mild depression myself since I have the tools to do it. However, the fact that all of this is related to the change in painkiller medication means that I don't have much control over it. I'll call her tomorrow and set up an appointment.

In other news, Gozer saw her dermatologist last week. The dermatologist was happy to see Gozer looking good and scratching and licking less. We think the allergy shots are helping but we won't know for sure one way or another until Fall. Gozer still has yeast problems so for two weeks she'll receive her anti-yeast pills every day instead of two consecutive days each week. As well, the dermatologist gave us a medicated shampoo that we're to use one to three times a week; on the days that Gozer gets a bath, we're to wash all of her bedding, blankets, leash, and collars.

I also have to keep track of Gozer's itchiness each day on a scale of 1-10 (1 = least itchy, 10 = crazy itchy) and email the results (along with her regular calendar of pills and appointments) to the dermatologist each month. Finally, we decided that we're going to wait until the Fall to change her diet to deal with her food allergies, mainly because we want to give the allergy shots more time to work and make a difference and to get her yeast problems under control.

Gozer doesn't much like getting bathed, especially since this shampoo has to sit for 5-10 minutes before it's rinsed off. She's more resigned to the process than she used to be, although it's difficult to get her into the bathroom where she gets a bath. However, we've discovered that she love love love loves carrots so we grate some up for her and feed her the grated bits as a treat and that keeps her happy.

Oh, and it turns out that she knows the command for "Speak". We had no idea!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A little TMI whine

I've been having to take percocet to deal with the pain because the amount of the new painkiller wasn't enough. I talked to my family doctor's office today and my doctor is going to increase the painkiller amount. 

In the meantime, I'm having to deal with a common side effect of these drugs: constipation. Some (Ian) might say that I'm full of it (ha ha). I know this is a bit of TMI but it's (unfortunately) a fact of life with this stuff. Everything had been going so well for so long that I kind of forgot that I have to make sure that things stay going well. 

I've taken some dulcolax and it'll help eventually right now I'm quite uncomfortable. If this goes on for much longer I'm going to be very heartburny which can be unpleasant for me and anyone I talk to. Gum can only cover up so much, you know? 

Sigh. I'm whining, I know, but I figure that it's important to talk about the stuff that isn't so pleasant, too.

I've mentioned before that I've been experiencing some mild depression with this transition and since it's still going on (it's mild, but it's there) I'm thinking that it would be a good idea for me to see my psychologist. I know I have the tools to deal with all this but I'd feel better if I saw her.

I love not using the patches but I'm not in love with this transition. I'll be very happy once the amount of painkiller is stabilized and I'm back to being my regular happy self.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Regular oncologist appointment

Yesterday was my regular oncology appointment.

My CA 15-3 tumour marker from three months ago was at 43, which is higher than it's been in years but only slightly more than the previous two values of 39 and 40. Since the rest of my bloodwork yesterday was awesome and shows no problems, we agreed that there's no reason to be concerned about the tumour marker value.

It turns out that August will be scan time so I have the bone scan on August 5 and the CT scan on August 18. I'll get the results when I see my oncologist again in October unless there's a reason to be concerned - which we don't expect will happen.

In painkiller transition news, I'm doing ok. I'm definitely sweating less (which my oncologist noticed), and I'm feeling less depressed and lethargic now. I've still got some pain but it's not too bad so I think the worst of this transition is over.

EDIT: I was looking back through my tumour markers and the value three months ago was 32, down from 40 and 39 the three and six months prior to that, so it appears that the values are still oscillating. I'd checked because I was curious about when it had last been at or above 43 and when I discovered that it hadn't been that high since 2007 I was feeling a tiny bit worried. I was concerned that if the marker was starting to creep up, my years of stability might be coming to an end. Now that I know that the last value was 32, that tiny bit of worry is gone.

For fun, here's my current tumour marker graph:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Changing pain medication

I didn't realize that it had been a month since I last posted here. Clearly there's not much going on in my life these days.

One change is that I saw my family doctor last week so that he could see how I was doing and I asked to change pain medication. I'd been wearing the fentanyl patches for some number of years and lately especially I've been getting a heat rash - or prickly heat - under the patches. This happens when sweat has nowhere to go so it goes back into the skin, causing the sweat glands to be blocked and thus causing the rash. The rashes have been getting worse since the brand of generic patch changed but it was happening before that just because I sweat so much.

My family doctor agreed to put me on OxyNeo at about 3/4 the equivalent dose to my patch dose. I have no idea how much of the patch dose I was getting - it won't all go through the sweat or rash, so I don't know if I was getting 100% of the dose. I took the patches off and started taking the new pain medication on Thursday night.

It turns out that I was getting more than 75% of the dose so over the last few days I've been going through some mild withdrawal symptoms. The biggest symptom I had was what I call "woogly back" or Restless Leg Syndrome in my back (apparently it happens, although it's rare). I managed to deal with most of this with percocet in the first couple of days, to make the reduction in painkiller more tapered, and clonazepam in the days afterwards. I've also been experiencing some mild depression and lethargy.

Today was the first day that I didn't have woogles or need to take the clonazepam, and I discovered that this painkiller level isn't enough to deal with my pain. Starting this afternoon, the pain started. It isn't a a stabbing pain, but a light twingy, squeezy pain. Sigh.

So although I was really, really trying to make this level of painkiller work by not supplementing it with anything else, I'm not going to fool around with pain - once pain starts, it's harder to control so it's better to get ahead of it. I called the doctor earlier today, before the pain started, to let him know about the mild withdrawal and that I was doing ok so far but I'll have to call in the next couple of days once I've got the pain under control to see just how much I need to bump up the amount of painkiller.

On the bright side, I'm sweating less and I now definitely know that I still need the painkiller, even though the sternum is healing. I'll be very happy to leave this transition period with its woogles and lethargy and depression behind, however. This hasn't been an enjoyable few days.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Still working on the garden

I should take pictures of the garden but I'm going to wait until I'm done planting. I've planted most of the climbing plants now but I still need to plant the hen and chicks (I forgot about them before) and I may have purchased a couple more coneflower plants in shades of red today when I went to get more soil. I love purple coneflowers but I thought the red ones would add a bit more variety.

I've got one of those %&%)@! canker sores again. It's on the left side (of course), in my lower jaw (of course), where the gum meets the cheek (of course) and it's currently about 8mm in diameter. By the looks of things, there's another one forming just to the left of the center along my lower mouth. I wouldn't be surprised if the current one merged with the new one. I'm rinsing with salt water but it isn't helping much. Anbesol (or whatever it's called) does help a bit and I'm putting that stuff on before bed so I won't be woken up by the pain. Because oh my goodness it hurts. Maybe it's time to start brushing with Biotene toothpaste, which is supposed to help with them.

Ian's out tonight and I'm watching this documentary on UFOs and aliens (and the possibility of a coverup). All these people - some of them military - are talking about crafts they've seen and aliens they've seen. The narrator says that people don't want to experience a UFO or alien encounter but I think that would be awesome. Of course there's life out there somewhere although I don't know if (or why) they would be here on our planet. Anyways, if aliens really existed and visited, I'd love to meet them.

Until that day happens, I've got a garden to work on. And a canker sore to heal somehow.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

More about the garden

It turns out that taking a day off of planting wasn't such a bad thing. I rested up and was able to get quite a lot planted yesterday: all of the perennials I'd bought (including asters, which I forgot to mention) as well as the begonias, zinnias, and petunias.

I think I've discovered why we had a bit of a "dead zone" on that hill where I planted all of these plants. When we had the landscaping done, either they didn't add new soil or else it's all just washed away and what's left is mulch on top of clay. And rocks. There's no soil to speak of and so no nutrients - no wonder all the plants were dying in that area!

When I planted these new plants, I added what I thought was lots of soil there so that the plants have a chance. Hopefully I've given them enough; I used some 4-in-1 organic soil so there should be something for them. I'm not totally opposed to the use of fertilizers but I'm concerned about their environmental impact and so I'd like to avoid them if at all possible.

This afternoon we got some of the groundcover plants in the ground and I got the salvia planted as well. I think I've just got vines and things that climb or trail left to plant and I hope to get them done in the next two days.

I also cut my lupine flowers down today as they were starting to go to seed and I have so many now (and seeds) that I don't need more. Say what you will about this winter but it made my lupines thrive and it killed off all of my lupine aphids so they're positively thriving.

Speaking of this past winter, it was very difficult for a number of trees and shrubs in our area. Our cherry tree's central leader has started to die off a bit and at least one of our shrubs barely survived. The buds on our weeping willow started to crack open but then stopped and now all of the branches are breaking off. The root stock is doing just fine; it's trying really hard to send growth out. We think that there's growth in the grafted area so the tree might yet be saved but we don't know. One of our rosebushes that had been doing incredibly well last year had to be cut back almost right to the ground.

All through the neighbourhood, trees and shrubs are dead or dying. I don't know if it was the cold or the ice or the snow or what but it really affected things around here. For all I know, this kind of killing winter is actually good for the trees and shrubs because once the dead stuff is cleared out, they all seem to be thriving.

I'm looking forward to getting everything planted in the garden and spending my afternoons puttering around. It turns out that I don't love the hard work so much as I love just walking around, trimming these flowers or pulling those weeds. It'll be nice to be able to be a bit lazy again.