Unexpected

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Friday night at 8:30 pm the Tarceva was put to work. Dave swallowed his first dose of the new chemo regimen. We thought 8:30 would be good since it is at least 2 hours after dinner time and evening pills. This means I’ll need to make sure dinner is consistently on the table by 6:00, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

All is well. It was time to snuggle down for the night.

I didn’t wake up until about 3:30 or 4:00 am.

It was awfully still. I had that moment when I couldn’t see his chest rise and fall with breath in his silhouette cast by the night light from the bathroom. So I reached out and touched his arm. Surprise! He was awake or at least easily awakened.

“I’m in a lot of pain.” He said out of the darkness. “It’s all across my chest. And I have a headache.” I immediately envisioned the pill doing its “job” going after cancer cells. Does that mean the cancer has spread? I was shocked at how I quickly jumped to that conclusion.

“What’s the pain level from 1-10?” I asked.

“About a seven.”

Seven. That’s at least double from the radiation pain. Or in terms of Richter scale it is exponentially a big jump. Regardless, that’s real pain, indicating a poison or some other form of invasion in his body.

“Have you taken any more ibuprohen?” I asked logically. Can we get this under control? Do I need to call for assistance? Is this an emergency now or do we wait it out? Headaches are reminiscent of meningitis. Middle of the night pain is reminiscent of stroke. We are doomed with bad health experiences.

“No. I couldn’t get downstairs to get it.”  he responded. Dummy, wake me up!

Apparently the bedside container of IB had fallen behind the nightstand. Crawling on my hands and knees to find that bottle among the other things that fall behind a nightstand was easier and faster than traipsing downstairs to the kitchen. And, a bit comical in retrospect. I must remember to clean behind the furniture more often.

IB. Wait for it to work.

There was dozing in and out for us both during the next couple of hours. It took that long for the medicine to begin to help him relax. I was reminded of an important lesson in pain management: Keep ahead of it. It is more difficult to stop pain than to prevent it.

Later we had a banter of words over this. Unexpected. Unwanted. Unnecessary. Dave and I both love language, usage, puns , thinking. Just one of our ongoing attractions.

Unexpected. No kidding!

We had no idea that the first dose would be such a doozy. Chemo builds up right? The first one is a piece of cake so to speak? Not this time.

The pain began about 1:00 am for him. He didn’t wake me for help. Why?

I think we both have all sorts of scenarios pop into our heads related to health. He didn’t want to scare me with a middle of the night “wake up” as happened during the stroke. I spent Saturday remembering so much about Hodgkins. Taking care of the household, getting pills, bringing breakfast, just hanging out in bed with him. I was in a time warp. Except now the house is bigger, there’s a flight of stairs to traverse and I am 22 years older with less energy! How quickly this all changed. Will the fix – Tarceva –  make him worse?  Is it worth it? Is this just a radiation and chemo mix?

No answers, just questions, worry and checking. At one point there was reason to discover he was had slightly elevated temperature. Please, no fever. We looked over the paperwork to determine what meant a call to the doctor.

Fortunately, now I have a grown daughter to call upon these days. This is the advantage to having a kid… you don’t have to face life alone. (I can’t help but feel pain for the parents who have faced the death of their child at any age right now. I can’t imagine how devastating the yearning to have them for moments joyous and  difficult would be.) I called Leah, to explain, to update, to comfort me and to comfort Dave. She lights up his world.

Leah has too many of my own qualities; that’s so weird to recognize me in someone else. The one I saw in our conversation is the one that says, I have an idea, a vision of how something should play out, and I want to carry it out right. She was planning to be eight  blocks from our house at a restaurant, but thought she would go eat, head all the way back across town for another obligation then come back later in the evening to visit, and then makes some cupcakes with me. The cupcakes have been a funny to-do for a few weeks. That’s another story. But the point is that we, people in general, want to paint a big picture when really a small gesture of human connection is all that is warranted. Drop by for 10 minutes when you are in the neighborhood. Give your dad a hug (me, too). Let him know you love him. She and Scott did drop by. No guilt about getting back later. Efficient. Important. Extremely helpful to us both. No perfection. Be good enough. (Advice given to me just the other day as a matter of fact!)

By 5:00 pm Dave pushed himself to have a light dinner downstairs, check his email, and take his evening regiment of pills (Better living through chemistry is our motto). Weak, but moving.

Taking his 8:30 pill was pure bravery as far as I am concerned. But the IB was on board, too. I made him promise to wake me as needed.

Thank goodness this night went well. What a difference. I could hear a stronger voice immediately. He said he was able to get up through the night more easily, too. We are both, literally, breathing better.

Now I can go take my Sunday walk around the Lake. Routine is good.

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