Posted by: jeanne | August 12, 2010

a therapeutic sick day, not in a good way

i’ve been on tamoxifen for 5 years and a bit.  one of the side effects of tamoxifen is a permanent yeast infection, so i’ve been dabbing estrogen cream on, alternating with the anti-fungal cream the ob/gyn prescribed.

now i’m on aromitase, another kind of estrogen suppressor.  while i was menstruating, tamoxifen prevented my breast from using estrogen, and at the same time, evidently, increased the estrogen available to my womb, which is why another side effect of tamoxifen is uterine cancer.  and there is in fact a thickening of my uterine wall after all this time.  it’s to be expected, and now that i’ve hit menopause and am no longer on tamoxifen, it should de-develop into normal post-menopausal tissue.

but nothing about me is normal, including my response to medicine.  that’s a factor only i can weigh, because all the doctors and druggists are dealing with an average they learned about in the literature.  as in, women’s periods are 28 days long.  so my 6 months between bleeding is abnormal, and they’ve got a pill for it.

anyway, i’m in with the ob/gyn because i’m still having nausea and diarrhea with occasional vomiting, after 2 1/2 years.  the gastric guy can’t find anything wrong with me, and he’s to the point where his nurse just plain can’t find the number for the increasingly obscure tests he’s reduced to ordering for me.

it’s funny.  i’ve got a nurse practitioner as my primary, and see an oncologist, a gastroenterologist, a cardiologist, a gynecologist, a pulmonologist, and once in a while, a surgeon.  and none of these people talk to each other.  and if i don’t get a copy of my records every time i go to a doctor, then nobody knows what tests have been done.  i might as well have seven different diagnoses.  that’s why i’m in charge of my health care.  i have to research what’s wrong with me, study all the different pictures the doctors get, and put the facts together in a doctor houselike manner.  and then gently lead the doctors toward the treatment i decide i need.

which is a little ridiculous, don’t you think?  they’re the ones who’ve spent years in medical school and internships.  they’re the repositories of the latest knowledge and practices.  and some of them have been in practice for years and should have developed really good medical instincts.

but what i find is harried doctors who rush from patient to patient with a glance at the chart and little reflection, who don’t listen to the patients, who decide what’s wrong based on what they know, and dismiss any more complicated clues as being all in the patient’s head.  sorry, they listen to the drug reps too much, and all a lot of them know how to do after years of medical training, is to prescribe.  not cure, certainly not that.  not even diagnose properly.  but medicate.

so i have to heal myself.  it’s my responsibility.  if i just sit there and let them run me thru the mill, i end up with a cookie-cutter treatment that only works on the symptoms, and my underlying disease just keeps on developing.  then they treat that by chemical poison, and if that doesn’t kill you they start you on a cocktail of drugs for the various symptoms that will finish the job.

but let’s not get me started.

anyway, my gynecologists, while dealing mainly with poor women and their babies, has one or two geriatric patients like myself, and one or two cancer patients coming in for various side effects.  so while not entirely familiar with how it works at my age, they’re game, because some of them are my age.  and so, being everything doctors just because they deal with pregnant women, where anything can happen, they’re used to looking at the whole person, as my oncologist, my cardiologist, my GI guy, my lung doctor, don’t.

so i got a bunch of tests.  for hepatitis, for aids.  and a pap smear.  and a glance at the juices under the microscope told them i had no good bacteria, plus a yeast infection.  so they recommended acidophilus and prescribed this anti-yeast suppository that wasn’t any of the ones i’ve used before.  and i don’t remember what it is.

i took it the first night.  the directions said to keep at room temperature, but they meant 72, and it’s running 96 in the house during the day, so i stuck the 2nd and 3rd doses in the fridge.  it felt very uncomfortable, kind of burning, and inflammatory.  i felt like i had to poop.  i had a slight headache and was dehydrated in the night.

i inserted the frozen one the second night.  i felt it burn immediately, and felt the headache come on.  the headache bothered me all night, and none of my usual home remedies worked.  the next morning i drank about half of my coffee, and ended up pacing the room trying to calm my stomach down.  my head hurt.  after the dog walk i refused breakfast and went to bed, warning the baby that i was going to be bad grandma if he didn’t sit there and watch his movie all day while i slept.

i stayed in bed all day, sleeping, not sleeping, tossing and turning.  in our bedroom we have three windows and a screen door, and all of them were open.  a ceiling fan was on, and a box fan on a chair near the bed was on 2, rather than level 1 which is where we set it at night.  i was naked on the bed, which is not an erotic sight unless you like i forget that artist who painted fat women.  i had a wet towel nearby and every now and then would sponge off, making a really great instant cool in front of the fans.  repeat as necessary.

i let jim go off to dinner and a movie with his son, packing all the goodies we were going to take, shuffling him out the door, and piling back into bed, the daughter having taken her child so we could go to dinner.  several blissful hours passed during which i tossed and turned with a constant headache, constant joint pain and nausea.  i wondered if sitting in a cool bath wouldn’t help.  it felt like a hangover, just like, and i wondered if sitting in a cold shower suffering wouldn’t be about right.

i drank water like it was going out of style.  i was way dehydrated, and no matter how much i drank i wasn’t getting up to pee.

this lasted all night long.  jim slept peacefully beside me.  the baby came back from the daughter’s and went to bed.  i got up and sat on the computer until i was exhausted, and then went back to bed to toss and turn some more.

in all, i felt like i’d been hit by a bus for 36 hours after taking this delightful medication.  it got into my system, and there was no backing out of it, i just had to endure it until it was over.

something about being in pain makes you want to die.  well, makes me want to die.  and i don’t take wanting to die lightly.  i know how powerful these bleak emotions are, and i am very superstitious about saying things like that.  but a little pain and i’m looking seriously at the alternatives for stopping it.  and not being alive is a really good one.  drugs don’t work; there’s something existential about pain, something dumb-animal about it.  you just want to crawl into the bushes and die when you’re in pain.  it’s way beneath the conscious level.

by the next morning i was better, except for a nagging twinge at the base of my neck.  and i’m going to report the drug reaction when i go back to the gynecologist for my follow up to all the testing they did, which is coincidentally, tomorrow.

not coincidental at all, actually.  as the followup got closer, i finally got around to doing the yeast infection treatment they prescribed me, and so got this lovely reaction just in time for it to be fresh in my mind when i go in.

i should have listened to my little voice and just not taken it.

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