Apparently, it’s a lot easier to forget than remember. I feel like I’ve learned this lesson before but I, er, forgot. I suppose any 9th grader could have reminded me, especially were I to ask the day of the Big Spanish Test. Some things I know I know just leak right out of my brain. Like the memories of how hard the chemo hits.
Three weeks is a long time, especially when bouncing between the double-gift of “school is almost over” and “wow, I am so lucky she’s still alive.” I’m torn up, just vibrating in the space between “hurry up!” and “savor every breath.” In those 21 days between Spa vistis, the dampening effects fade as the poisons loosen their grip and that oh-so vibrant Spirit de Maggie bursts out. It’s a lot like watching the seasons change in time-lapse photography with one minor exception – winter hits very sudden and very hard.
Winter hit yesterday. The Spa visit was fine, she tells me. But Dr. Loukas had some specific tasks this time. One was to make the fingers and the toes stop hurting. So we’ve got a new drug Lyrica. It’s used for a number of things, from epilepsy, fibromyalgia, diabetes and herpes. For Maggie, its job is to stop the continued and increasing pain in her extremities. It does its magic not by fixing the problem but rather by hiding it. It slows the pain nerve impulses down so they sometimes just don’t quite make it to the brain. They are, unfortunately, narcotics and as the nice pharmacist said (after some prodding from me, of course) will “knock her on her ass.”* She also suggested that Maggie avoid elephant hunting, sky diving and tequila shots. Hmmmm… I think one of those is going to be a problem.
* HEB auditors read this: The pharmacist did NOT say “knock her on her ass.” In fact she was the epitome of professionalism, answering every question I had with the proper mix of genuine concern yet with an eye on the bottom line. In fact, she deserves a raise.
Every day the pain seems to be getting a little worse. It has crept up her feet to her ankles now and numbness follows in its wake. Even she has stated that the ground feels a little less stable these days. Never mind that most of us, despite our love for her, have wondered for years how she manages to walk around normally anyway. She’s never been the most stable of the heel wear-ers. But, for now, the heels are out.
She told me last night that taking out her ear rings was pretty tough, too. From what I understand, anything that has any type of point, sharp or not, hurts. And since numbness follows the pain, we expect her fingers to be pretty numb within a week or so. I suppose I have one more reason to undress (and dress) my wife now.
The cause of all this is the oxaliplatin. As I’ve said before, it’s nasty stuff, not a RedBull cocktail mixer or a recreational shooter to share with the friends. All my research, and Dr. Loukas concurs, that we can expect this all to pass eventually as the oxaliplatin levels in her body diminish.
In fact, he’s decided to wean her off all her chemo drugs for a little while, one Spa visit at a time. It’s a scary experiment and yet one more big step in the direction of who knows where on The Great Cancer Adventure.
Maggie’s got a new side-effect to add to her list. It’s a little hard to describe so work with me. Picture Algebra II, about 30 minutes into the class. Look around to check out the people who are not quite with the rest of us, the ones with the head that drops and snaps back up suddenly as if to say “wha? Pi R Squared?” That type of quick head bob makes Maggie’s feet throb uncomfortably. Dr. Loukas labeled the obscure head/feet relationship Lhermitte’s. It, like the other side effects, is caused by the platin-type chemo drugs. And its appearance could indicate a number of things ranging from yer basic run-of-the-mill neuropathy (like her fingers and toes) to swelling of the spinal cord to (and this one is kind of the worst) a new tumor in her brain. So, come a few weeks from now, along with the PET and CT scan, we get an MRI of the brain. And you thought YOU were having all the fun this spring!
On a quick personal note, my school is almost complete. I’m hoping that the $20 bills I’ve stabled to my finals more than adequately cover any inadequacies of my work. This weekend I complete my last three finals (Harvest – the bane of my existence, Growth – a rockin’ fun class, and Launch – fun, but harder than I expected.) Monday and Tuesday complete those discussions. Weds we have to take some type of authorized MBA test and then we meet up with a prof for lunch and, er, uh,… age-appropriate beverages. Thursday is the Voila! C’est fini! And Sunday, May 4th wraps up the debauchery that we will call “resting and recovering” with a formal graduation ceremony.
Not that I’m counting or anything but here’s the unofficial school countdown. (I’m not sure there exhists an “official” countdown. 😉