Friday, April 29, 2011

Mind over matter

I only have 5 doses of radiation left.  Why do I feel so defeated?  Answers: 1) real, chemo-esque fatigue has set in; 2) I am entering week 3 of a sinus infection and I'm grumpy about it; 3) my throat is burned, making it painful to swallow and therefore difficult to stay nourished and hydrated.

Hmmm.  Justifying my depression doesn't make me feel any better.  To feel better, I am going to employ my tried and true methods of Indulging Myself and Mind over Matter.

1)  Indulge the fatigue.  It has gotten quite severe and can no longer be denied.  I don't know why it has gotten so bad; perhaps my low white counts are a contributing factor?  Below is a graph of my white counts that I snagged  from my electronic medical chart.  You can see that as of Wednesday (4/27) they have dippped down again, ending their brief upward trend.  The blue dashed lines show the normal range for white blood cell counts.

I went to work yesterday and tried to think, revealing my lacking cognitive abilities and exacerbating the fatigue.  Sigh.  Today I am resting, with the exception of this post and the two short walks to radiation.  I am going to lay on the couch or in bed, do some puzzles with the ladies, and read a delicious book.  I can't wait for all of this to be over so I can get back to my exciting science!

2)  The sinus infection is no doubt contributing to the fatigue, but mostly it is responsible for my grumpiness.  The endless drainage is getting old.  Yesterday I saw Dr. Ear Nose and Throat, who stuck a loooooong periscope followed by a loooooong Q-tip up my nose and took some samples.  These samples will be cultured for bacteria and fungi, and I will be given the appropriate antibiotic based on who has wrongfully colonized my sinuses.  In the meantime, he gave me a sinus wash that contains the antibiotic gentamycin.  I am to squirt 90 milliliters of this antibiotic solution up my nose twice per day, and he seems to have given me a lifetime supply (I think it's two liters).  This is certainly a situation in which I need mind over matter, because all of that fluid rushing through my head sort of feels like I'm drowning.  But I'm not.  So I close my eyes tightly, open my mouth wide, and squirt the solution up one nostril.  Gravity pulls it out of the other nostril almost instantly, and like a whale clearing its blow-hole I snort out the remaining fluid.  Yea.  Grumpy.  But it has to get better soon.

3)  The radiation is burning my esophagus and swallowing is painful.  Dr. Radiation Oncologist gave me some liquid tylenol with codeine, and that helps a little bit.  Also, I met with a dietitian to get some tips on what foods will feel better.  She said that water will be one of the most painful things, and it is.  She said to go for things with a little bit of thickness to them, but not too much texture.  For example, mashed potatoes, smoothies, cream of wheat, and ice cream.  These have all been excellent suggestions, and indeed I am a bit more comfortable at mealtimes eating mushy foods such as these.  Ice cream in particular is fantastic because the cold is a bit numbing.  Overcoming this problem is definitely a case of mind over matter because I have to stay hydrated in order to ease problems 1 and 2.  Grimace and take it down, hbomb.

I'll get a nice break from radiation over the weekend, and then I should finish up on Tuesday.  I'll definitely be weakly stumbling over this finish line.  No triumphant arms pumping the air.  At this rate I'll be lucky if I'm not crawling.  


  1. My mantra, when I am nearing that part of a run where you've already hit the wall, and then powered through it - and your second wind has already finished blowing, too - is the somewhat masochistic but (I find) focusing chant: "Pain is temporary, achievement is forever." I will grant that "achievement" is maybe a silly thing to call "running around Gray's Lake 4 times instead of 3," especially next to what you're up against. But feel free to use that mantra if it helps these next few days.

    If you don't have the energy for triumphant arm air-pumps, then that's fine - we'll do them for you for the time being. But give yourself credit: you (and Ian too) deserve much triumphant pumping.

    PS - I think technically YOU dyed my hair blue...

  2. Heather, my heart breaks to hear the toll that this shit has taken on you. I remain absolutely astounded by your strength. If I may make a bold ice cream suggestion, which I might mention is helping me lately to maintain my juicy physique, try Blue Bunny Red Velvet Cake. It looks gross because it is bright red, but it has soft little bits of cake in it and is amazing - like you (amazement-wise, not cake-wise). I love you Heather and I am rooting for you and for Tuesday!

  3. I like Frank's manta, even though it is hard to remember that pain is temporary when you're smack dab in the middle of it. You, and your family, are amazing. The forward movement that has always been visible by us onlookers is so impressive. As the girls' bodies, minds and vocal skills are spurting forward, you and Ian dancing the dance of "what now, what next" has been incredible. There is a Zen saying, something like - "student learns from master learns from student learns from master learns from students learns from master . . . . . ." I am always learning from you.

  4. I am so glad radiation will be one more thing to put BEHIND you! We're getting there! I love you so much! I am coming up there on Wednesday, if that works for you.

  5. What's up with this sinus infection? It seems to never go away. My goodness.

    On this day in history (1924) because of a grisly crime, rubber gloves were first used. See? Now there's some light for ya - at least you know your doctors are using gloves! Right?

    See - there's goodness in everything. :)

    xo - Bec

  6. I love you, I love you, I love you!!!

  7. Thinking of you on your last radiation day! Love you!


  8. What Martha said! Welcome to the first day of your radiation-less life! You're free!

  9. Eat ice cream, read books, take naps!

    If it weren't for the radiation and the sinus nonsense, that would be a pretty nice regime.

    Be sweet to yourself; you are doing a fabulous job.