Monday, December 10, 2018

Health Update: Pneumonia Sucks

I will keep this short.

Cathy got out of the house today, for the first time since coming home from the hospital. With her portable oxygen tank strapped to her back, we made it down the stairs, to the hospital for a chest X-ray, and then over to our primary care physician for a check up, in just under two hours. Considering that all of the above locations are a five minute drive from the theater, you can be assured that yes, it took a long time.

That's what pneumonia does, apparently. In blocking your airway, it starves your body and your blood of oxygen. I mean, we're looking at a four-to-six week recovery time...and we caught it early. I shudder to think what would have happened if we had waited a couple of days. Cathy would probably still be in the hospital.

Still, she is feeling better. She's out of the hospital, at home, in her own clothes, and dealing with me, playing the role of Patch Adams. Here's a free life lesson for you: when someone you know is on home oxygen, connected to about fifty feet of tubing, and trying to cross a room, moving very slowly, you may be tempted to make space-walk astronaut noises, and imitate the radio crackle of Neil Armstrong talking from the surface of the moon. My advice to you is this: the person will not find it funny, no matter how dead-on accurate your Neil Armstrong impression is.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Health Update: Home

Cathy in repose. Taken during her last night in the hospital.
Part of my journey into wellness (and I know how fruit-loop that sounds, okay?) involves taking my negative emotions, my dark thoughts, my little grievances that crop up every day, and instead of tamping them down into my stomach like an emotionally-stunted garbage compactor, I process those emotions and thoughts and, well, expel them. Yeah, that's a word that doesn't sound like poop, sure. And I have been doing pretty good with that strategy, writing a lot more on this blog and turning my family's struggles into something less than poignant and a little more than maudlin.

Even so, I was not prepared for Cathy's stay in the hospital. Not at all. It was a clothesline maneuver from the get-go. We walked in to get blood work done, and then she got an oxygen tube in her nose, and then they ordered a chest X-ray, and then here comes a second doctor, and suddenly, they are admitting her for pneumonia. Onetwothree like that. Oh, and in the midst of her dealing with pneumonia, here comes this whack-a-do muscle spasm that is locking her body up like a rictus, shooting agonizing pain through her with every breath, every sneeze, and oh, hello there, pneumonia, every single cough.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Cancer: Pain Management

Cathy, under the blanket her sister knitted for her. The damn
thing weighs twenty five pounds, I kid you not. It's like a
Thunder Shirt for grown-ups. Cathy loves it. 
I should have known better. It was going so well. In every movie, every comic book, every aspect of cliched storytelling the world over, it's the guy in the war movie who stands up and says, "I can't wait to get home tomorrow to see my baby girl!" that gets taken out by a sniper.

The "we've got a handle on this pneumonia" post must have felt a lot like bragging, because the Stage Three Ovarian Cancer Sniper was quick to remind us that he's still out there, and he's an asshole.

Ever since her diagnosis, and a little before, Cathy has complained of intense, localized lower back pain--think a charlie horse, but up in the middle of your back. We have examined, poked, prodded, massaged and kneaded the area, to no avail. Muscle relaxers? Tried 'em. Yoga? You betcha. Nothing worked. The thing was this: it didn't feel like a back muscle spasm. No knots, no bulges, no tightness, nothing I could feel. The muscles in her back were fine, even in the midst of a 'spasm.'

With her cancer diagnosis, Cathy was quick to report the problem to her oncologist, who confirmed what we knew: not only was there no muscular problems, there was no cancer, either. Not there, anyway. The cancer and its accompanying physiological problems could still be the culprit, however. Neurological pain is complicated, and without being able to isolate something, there could be any number of things pressing down on somewhere else, and the pain receptor in her back is going haywire.

Yeah. This sucks, all right.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Health: Cathy Update

Dateline: Sunday December 2

One of the things that they tell you look out for when you start taking chemotherapy is "flu-like symptoms." They are serious about it; emphatic. The doctors tell you. The nurses tell you. The guy making the sandwiches tells  you. "Hey...no screwing around, now. You get to feeling sick? You call in and let us know immediately."

And it makes perfect sense, right? I mean, after all, the chemotherapy messes with your immune system. Your white blood cells, etc. It's part of what makes the chemotherapy work, and also part of what everyone dreads about it. I've written before about some of the symptoms that Cathy has endured in these past six months, and while I've tried to be as whimsical about it as I can, it's still a problem, especially since Cathy has an ever-rotating palette of symptoms and side-effects that present themselves, at different times, dependent on where we are in her chemotherapy cycle. It's a lot like living with a werewolf.