Tag Archives: poo

It’s Only Da ‘Roids

steroidnoun BIOCHEMISTRY 

Any large class of organic compounds with a characteristic molecular structure containing four rings of carbon atoms (three six-membered and one five). They include many hormones, alkaloids and vitamins.

Say what?

The above, I imagine after choosing a life of easy culture and civil service instead of biochemistry, is a fairly crude definition of a steroid. I do not know the molecular compounds of steroids. Why would I? Nor do I know the specifics of the steroid I have come to loathe called Dexamethasone. All I know is that above description of a steroid fails, quite dramatically to encompass the sheer power of a drug I have been taking for nearly five years and for that whole period of time has be routinely kicking me in the guts. My quick Google search makes it sound so innocent. I know some steroids are innocent, but ever since I watched an episode of California Dreamin’ where Tiffany became addicted to steroids to enhance her volleyball performance, I have known there are something to be wary of. And wart I have been. 

Of Dexamethasone, the Internet describes it as a medicine this time and as ‘a synthetic drug of corticosteroids type, used especially as an anti-inflammatory agent’. I’m not going to begin to understand what that means, all I would say, is that for the moral of our current story, remember it’s use as an ‘anti-inflammatory agent’. 

Whilst we are on the subject of uses, I do not know, as this blog should clearly indicate, why I take this drug so routinely. I think I understand why I am talking it now, but why Dexamethasone supports pretty much all the myeloma treatment I have ever been on, well, that reason is anybody’s time to research. In light of my ignorance, I thought the least I could do was to investigate the list of known side effects, for it is those where I feel I know the drug as well as I need to. 

According to Wikipedia the side effects of taking this dreamboat can include acne, insnomnia, vertigo, increased appetite, weight gain, impaired skin healing, depression, euphoria, hypertension, increased risk of infection, raised intraocular pressure, vomiting, dsyspepsia, confusion, amnesia, irritability, nausea, malaise, headaches and cataract. These are the common side effects.  If you are bored, research further but I think I have copied enough to get my point across. They do a lot and they are unpleasant. 

Steroids are hard on the body. They have always been hard on my body. In fact, such has been my response to steroids that for the last two treatments I have had, I have been allowed to take a lower than the recommended dose so that I could have something that resembles a normal human’s week at the end of it. I would rather take any other of my routine medications, even the one that gave me nightmares. 

Wikipedia’s list failed to list my biggest problem with the stuff and that’s the fatigue. The inevitable crash after the fall. And it was inevitable. I used to prefer taking my month’s steroids over four back to back days as opposed to weekly, just so I did not have to deal with them as much. I didn’t always succeed, but that was my goal. Get them out of the way as soon as humanly possible, whilst still adhering to the will of the Medically Trained People.

Why on earth are you telling us all of this, Emma? 

Patience. Something I lack in abundance, but bear with me. There is relevant, I assure you. 

Scooped up all the shock that happened 10 days ago now, I was prescribed what is medically known as a ‘pulse of steroids’; with the particular steroid being, yes you guessed it, Dexamethasone. At the time, I thought I had been on a similar pulse of steroids before,  but I soon discovered that the only thing I had to compare this pulse to from previous treatments was like walking up Parliament Hill and comparing it to Mount Snowdon.

The course started with taking 20 tablets (40mgs of Dex) for four days, reducing to 10 tablets (20mgs of Dex) on days 5 and 6. By Day 7 and 8 I was down to just five tablets ( 10mgs Dex) and for the final two days, I was prescribed a piddly two tablets per day. Just in case you were wondering, this was to be taken on top of my usual-keep-things-at-bay and not-so-usual-pile-of-pain-medication. So, I have been taking a lot of medication. The prescription for the first four days was for more steroids than I had taken in the last four complete monthly cycles of treatment. It was a LOT of steroids.

When I first heard of this mammoth dose, I thought that it was the sour cherry on top of a pretty ropey, dry cake. It didn’t take long, even in the mental state I was in that day, to be apprehensive about this course of treatment. Eyes were rolled.

How big is the inevitable crash going to be? When am I going to crash? How am I going to go to the toilet over the next week? Am I even going to be able to go to the toilet? What’s my mouth going to taste like? Will I be able to drink water? 

Sometimes, I should spend less time worry about the answers to unknown questions and just let Myeloma take me for a ride. I mean, that sounds all very nice and tranquil and a creator of less worry knots. To be clear however, I would never complain about worry knots. If worry knots exist and you were to mention your own worry knots to me, especially after 10 days on steroids, there might be problems. Or at least some solitarily mocking.

I am digressing. I am constantly digressing and that’s because I am here to tell you what it actually feels like to take 238mg of Dexamethasone.  It makes your brain feel like fuzz. My mental recall, unless it is about episodes of the West Wing, is… well… what was I saying? At this rate, I am going to wish I had different friends. They are too learned for me right now.

Digressing again… I was right to be apprehensive about it. Prior to starting, I had already discovered that the Dex offered some pain relief in the 24 hours after taking it, but this was the only benefit I saw and I did not know for certain that it was the Dex that had made it easier to get around on that particular day. My immediate thought was that I was not going to be able to move for at least 10 days. At a push, I thought I would get through the first few days and then I would be a bedbound mess for weeks after, unable to get out of bed for a drink. Thankfully, so far at least, that has not happened.

Instead, the steroids ploughed me into a period of emotional instability supported by mass uncontrollable, US reality TV level of food cravings. It’s probably best to break it down. Wikipedia needs to update it’s ‘common side effects’ information because nowhere on that list did I see fatigue, constipation, tin mouth, facial hair growing  at the speed of light and tears, lots and lots of tears.

My first few days can be easily categorised as ‘the crying days’. Without the Dex, I dare say that I had some very valid excuses to cry, but on the Dex it was uncontrollable. My usual stoicism forbids this sort of behaviour and I have managed to install a usual system where my crying is done in the privacy of my fortnightly counsellor’s sessions or alone at the darkness of night.

I returned to the safety of Mamma Jones’s nest after the latest of my Bad News Day, and it was there, where I am surround by my immediate family, where I found a lot of things to get emotional about. I could feel that a full outburst was never far away and it wasn’t far away. Somedays, I cried just because the pain was overwhelming me. Other days, and these are the ones that surprised me, I cried in gratitude and in sadness and all of it was completely out of my hands. 
Something as simple as Mamma Jones bringing me my dinner. She cooked it, carried it upstairs to my room and served it to me every day. Almost every delivery resulted in tears, whether she saw them or not. The steroids made my insides come out. 

The worst part of my behaviour was around my nieces. Aged 5 and 10 years old, I do not know if they have an idea why they  Auntie Emma constantly breaking into silent tears mid conversation over the course of a weekend. It’s not something I chose to do, it was completely out of my hands and that is a testament to the power of steroids.

For the first few days, as I acclimatised and things sunk in, I just had to look at them and I immediately began to miss them. My brain would fast forward to that point in time where I once again won’t be there and I’d worry they wouldn’t remember me. Thoughts like that could come in an instance. Would I always be their favourite auntie (if I am indeed their favourite auntie) if they cannot remember me at all?  I asked the eldest if she would miss me, I know I shouldn’t have done, but my steroids took away the filter. Her answer was a ‘maybe’. So, bathed in love and not feeling remotely vulnerable, I cried again. The eldest was supposed to spend two days with me in London, and even the guilt at having to let her down had me blubbing. 

At my most confusing, at least what I imagine was the most confusing for them anyway, was a very innocent conversation about breasts or in our case ‘boobies’, that may well be ranked in my non-existent list of worst conversations ever. At the age of 10, my eldest niece is going through the changes girls go through. Her little sister enjoys this and proceeding to tell us that ‘Lara has little boobs, Auntie Emma has BIG boobs and I have no boobies’. That was it. That’s all she said. Even recounting said story makes my ears water. I immediately started to cry, not loadly, it was more of a silent, please do not see this, sort of cry. It was so innocent, but it highlighted how much there is for me to lose and I have absolutely no control over it. I think they rallied together, but I am pretty sure they had a few days of thinking that Auntie Emma was a total wing bat.

I expected the mood altering side of steroids to manifest itself into rage. Sorry, I meant RAGE! It did not. Even when two women complained bitchily to me that I had put my luggage in the wrong place on a train carriage resulting in them dismantling my disabled friendly bag set up lovingly done by Big Sister, so they did not need to lift up their own suitcases,  even then, the rage was nowhere to be seen. Instead, I apologised, returned to me seat and cried. I should have told them why I couldn’t move my luggage, or why they had just seen my sister escort me onto the train, or why one of the bags was full of prescription medication and another contained two empty specimen bottles awaiting 24hrs worth of my urine, or why I was free to travel in the middle of a week day. I should have done all or any of these things, but I didn’t. The steroids just made me cry and I am wholeheartedly ashamed of myself. 

Maybe that will come, but if it is anywhere near as strong as the tears, stay away from me. Actually, don’t stay away from me, the steroids make me paranoid and I do not want to feel like that either. Anyway, I cannot do up my bra at the moment, so I doubt I’ll be getting into any physical fights any time some.

I suppose the tears the could be neatly boxed under Wikipedia’s ‘depression’ section. I do not think I have been able to portray the weight of the feelings I felt. Just do me a favour and trust me when I say it was ‘bad’. Thankfully, as my dose has lowered, there have been less tears. I have been feeling far more aligned with my usual self and that involves burying my true feelings until I am alone or with my counselling. A healthy approach if ever there was one. 

All other side effects, possibly with the acceception constantly thinking I have glandular fever and excess facial hair, are concentrated around bodily holes. That is how powerful steroids are. 

If there is one thing that a pulse of steroids did to me that I was expecting, was to increase my appetite. A bodily hole. I dare not total up how much I have eaten in the last ten days nor how many calories have been consumed on pretty much zero physical activity. It’s a lot. Like, a bloody lot.  As I soon discovered, the Dex did not have me searching for all foods, just the bad ones. I know asparagus is good for you and I like asparagus, but a tin of mushy peas made a far better plate fellow with a pie.  Like I really had to explain that? 

Dexamethasone when taken in isolation and mixed with my body loves nothing more than carbohydrates. If said carbohydrates happen to be served fried, with butter or with a sprinkling of cheese,served with a massive piece of chicken, comes in a packet disguised as a crisp,  or as a cake then that was Nirvana. Fulfilling each craving felt medicinal.

Thinking about food beats thinking about death, but I have never known my desire to eat to be so all consuming. I’ll be honest, and this does make me weak, no ifs or buts, I gave in to every single craving. I’m sure a nutritionist might have a view on this, or just an opinionated person who eats a lot of greens, but I do not want to hear it. I know that it was bad having a bowl of frozen mash potato as a snack one hour before dinner, but I needed the instance gratification despite the fact I had only just finished half a tub of hummus and had porridge for breakfast. The four slices of Soreen that followed that dinner were also completely necessary and, unavoidable. It was treatment.

I know that I have had steroid cravings before, but this last week has been a whole new realm. I arranged a supermarket delivery on Saturday and on top of including foods that would keep me semi-independent, I ordered Skips, Wootsits, Squares (salt and vinegar), toffee popcorn, mini popodoms, boxes of cereal and a packet of bagels.
 The shame!

On Friday, I sent my friend on a quest to my favourite bakery in London to buy slices of my two favourite cakes in our fair land. It was all to satisfy a craving that started 24 hours before. On Thursday, I found myself on Tottenham Court Road with 90 minutes to kill between appointments. In theory, the cakes could have been mine then, but in practice, they could not be. Do you know why? Because I could not walk the 0.8 miles round trip to get them. I had to settle for a Krispy Kreme instead and I do not really like a Krispy Kreme. Oh, just to maintain some level of continuity with this blog, do you know what happened when I realised I was unable of walking to Konditor and Cook for my slices of Lemon Chiffon cake and a Curly Whirly? I cried.

As with anything that goes in, it must come out. Wikipedia definitely neglected to tell us about this. The only thing I will say on this matter, is sodium docusate. Sodium docusate and lots of it. My long experience in large doses of steroids does not support any argument towards diarrhoea. Steroids mixed with the pain medication I am on, causes the opposite issue. I prepared for this eventuality and so far, so every four days. Yesterday, my experience can only be classed as sublime.

Being on so many steroids also had me searching my brain for the techniques of years gone by. Again, this relates to holes. Linseed is a lifesaver, just don’t accidentally let a puppy eat it. 

Finally, no story of mountains of steroids would be complete if I did not mention the effect it has on my mouth. I used to call it Tin Mouth. I still call it Tin Mouth. I think I have listed enough life altering side effects already, but do not underestimate the impact of having everything in your mouth, including your salvia tastes like mental. Thank goodness nobody but my dentist gets near my mouth. Every flavour is distorted. No amount of ice lollies will get rid of it. My tastebuds are tainted. The weather this weekend was lovely, but I could not quench my thirst with an ice cold glass of water because such a thing would taste of week old unbrushed teeth mixed with pond. Thankfully, though probably not for my kidneys, steroids make me less thirsty than usual, but unfortunately one still needs fluids to function. People like me need fluids to take their 20-40 pills per day. The trusty brew is strictly off the menu. The only thing that tastes remotely like something I would want in my mouth is lemon squash. That was another thing I had to think about and prepare for. Squash had to be purchased.

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I think you get it now. A course of steroids is no walk in the park. I mean, I cannot walk around a park at the moment, but it’s hard. The Dex, even though it is there to help, above all the other medications I take it seems, mostly to hinder. Nothing seems safe from it.  I would even go as far as saying I hate them.  I hate that I have to make sure I take it by 11am, even if I am too tired to make sure my stomach is full, so I can get a good night’s sleep. I hate that even though I have taken it early everyday, there have still been nights where the power of the Dex have overpowered the strength of my sedatives.

Most of all, I hate the unknown. I finish said course of steroids today and I have no idea if I am about to have one of those, all too familiar steroid crashes.  I have been preparing myself for this for 10 days, and it looks like it may not come.  Do I let my guard down?  It’s not worth the punt.

I will never live a life completely free of steroids. I may get to be free of them for the next week, but they’ll be back. They’ll always come back.  Dexamethosone goes with Myeloma like salt in porridge. They should always be served together. It’s an acquired taste. 

In conclusion, despite everything I have written, I am a liar. Despite previously willing this pulse to end as quickly as possible and for the steroids to depart my body,  I do not want to stop taking them in the short term. In fact, first thing this morning I called the  Medically Trained People ready to beg  them to allow me to  take more.  

I do not want to prolong the mouth, waist and emotional altering torment just to give me something to talk about. I just want my pain to improve. And at the beginning of last week, for 12 hour periods at a time, my pain improved. The Dex really did act as an ‘anti-inflammatory agent’. Last week, when I was taking 20 or 40mg a day of steroids, I may have been eating non-stop and crying at the sight of the dog, but I could walk normally. I did not walk like Quasimodo. The ‘pulse’ of steroids, designed to control my pain, actually did control my pain. I’ve weighed it up in my head. I will get more from the steroids right now, crash or no crash, than I would by not taking them. The radiotherapy is going to work, it’s just not going to work right away and I need some independence. I need to be able to clean the mushy peas I dropped on the kitchen floor on Saturday.

I never thought I would say it, but I don’t think I can do it without them. 

EJBx

P.S. I cannot think of steroids without thinking of the sign my friend made for me all the way back in 2012, that states ‘It’ Only Da ‘Roids’. She’s literate by the way, I think the use of ‘da’ was designed to make me smile.  It’s a thought I hold close. Through tears, shout, late night shopping and whatever else it throws at me; steroids are not my controller. 

Myeloma is.

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How You Doin’?

How are you? How you doing? Are you okay? How are things? What’s going on? What’s up? How you diddling? Are you alive? Whaa gwaan?

The above are all questions I have had the good fortune to receive over the last few weeks, even the last one is real. As well as being a fine example of British manners, even the one that is an assault on the English language; I have considered each question to be a subtle reminder that I am failing miserably to keep my  blog up to date. Read between my non-existant lines and you’ll may discern a lack of energy despite the will, but that will only get you so far in coming to grips with the gravity of the question; how are you? 

In my silence, I have discovered that not only are there are a number of ways in which people can ask how I am coping in my post Transplant Number 2 world, but there are a number of ways in which I bombard myself with the same questions. I badger myself. I frequently find myself pondering  how I am, wondering if I am progressing and asking if this feeling will ever end? I am yet to receive, no matter the turn of phrase, a satisfying answer to any of my questions. One sided conversations are almost always, frustratingly unsatisfying.

There are many, many variations of answers to these questions about my mind, body and soul. As if it needed to be said, My Myeloma is anything but clear cut. My answers will change depending on the day it is asked and sometimes, there will be multiple, almost contradictory answers within a single day.  I can be something quite different at 16:00hrs to something I was at 15:55hrs. With regards to this blog, I have decided to provide all the answers in the form of a waffle. Mind, body and faeces. 

To get a grasp on how long it has been since my sister’s stem cells entered my body, to assess the progression, I  referred to something called a ‘calendar’ and discovered that it is 55 whole days since my transplant was completed. It does not feel like 55 days. 55 days of sleep, the hospital, waiting, vomit and poo. It doesn’t not feel like 55 days either; I just feel like I am existing in a volatile limbo where having a concept of time is an unnessary evil. This recovery nonsense is nothing but incredibly slow, and I see it as fortunate that I cannot remember one day from the next and last.

I am still nowhere near answering the questions laid at my door. Other than the ‘I don’t know‘ option, the short answer to these questions and the official party line is that I am  “doing as well as can be expected at this time; and there is nothing to worry about.” Shortly after my discharge from hospital, my transplant was described as “uneventful”.

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Well, that’s great then. I can wipe my brow, exhale with relief, keep my mouth shut and just continue to watch as my body learns to accommodate it’s new DNA…

Only joking, I may now partially be made of my sister, but this blog would not be mine if I just stuck to the short answer. Grab a cup of tea and put your feet up.

The long answer, the answer I prefer to give when circumstances allow, does begin with an “I don’t really know”, then it is immediately followed by one, big, fat “but…”

Apart from the words in my short answer, medically, I do not know how I am. I do not know how the transplant is progressing and I have absolutely no idea when I will know if the treatment has been successful. I knew the transplant would be followed by months of uncertainty, and I prepared myself for that, I just did not know it would be so difficult being completely blind in the matter. It takes an awful amount of mental discipline to stop myself from cracking under the pressure of the unknown, and the silence. 

Medically, I have been told not to worry about my case. My case. I have been told that it is discussed by the Medically Trained People weekly and I know that I should be assured by that. I know that I have no other option but to put my faith completely in the process and the people coming up with my care plan. I do not know how my blood results have changed since my discharge and thus my answers to these all important questions, cannot be based on any scientific or research led evidence, which is an adjustment for me. How I feel, and how I am, is completely separate to my results. 

The official answer, although it is an important and positive one, fails to adequately describe how I feel on a day to day, and week by week basis. In the absence of any clear medical conclusion, I can merely describe what I feel is happening to me and hypothesise what it can all mean. 

I am tired. I know I am always tired, but this post transplant fatigue is different to my previous dalliances  with fatigue. It’s almost always present and there is no visible pattern to when I am going to have more or less energy. I generally, just go to bed one day hoping that the next day will be better. Sometimes it is better, and sometimes it isn’t. Today for example, I have been able to write this blog, do some chores and potter round Marks and Spencer. On Monday on the other hand, I could barely get out of bed, I most certainly could not leave the house. 

Fortunately, I am experiencing less days like Monday and more days like today than I was seven weeks ago. How do I know? People tell me so, because I sure as hell do not have the memory recall, nor the distance to see that sort of progress myself. Okay, I can see it a little bit. I’m not limited to just five minutes of activity a day anymore. I do not know what my limit is, but there definitely is one.

I have surpassed some of my Getting Better Milestones. The first meal I made myself from nothing but ingredients occurred some three weeks ago, and I am now able to prepare at least one such meal a week. I have taken myself to the cinema and I have been on a train. The last train I got did not result in me immediately having to go to bed upon reaching my desination. These things may sound small, but to me, they are fine examples of me clawing back some freedom. I am yet to ride a bus, I do not feel fully confident in sleeping alone and I panic at the thought of a crowd, but I know that these milestones too, will be past eventually.

Before my treatment started, I was told that the recovery differed from that of an autograft. I was told that my recovery would not be one of slow and steady improvement, but one of unpredictable peaks and troughs. It is a warning that haunts me. My day-to-day ability to function my vary, but I dare say that if you saw me weekly since my transplant, you would say that I have shown gradual improvement week on week. I have gone from being able to do nothing but wash myself seven days a week, to be able to hold conversations longer than an hour at least four days a week. My fear, and thus my reluctance to comment on my health and my progress, stems from me  waiting for the fall/s. The fall that everybody warned me of, but nobody can or is willing to predict.

The fatigue may be my biggest drain and the headlining side effect, but there are more and they seem to all feed into each other. Are they a result of the transplant, a side effect of the 40+ tablets I take daily, a symptom of the all important Graft vs. Host Disease or is it simply the toll of three years of constant treatment? I am left to do nothing but guess.

I have gone from having to take six laxatives a day pre transplant, to no laxatives and a requirement for a mammoth supply of wet wipes. I do not know what is happening inside my body for this change to have occurred. I take a number of pills a day that constipate, so I dread to think what would be happening if my mobility was not so dependent on MST. Believe it or not, after 55 days, I still have not got my head around such a visible change.

My nausea is just as unpredictable as my fatigue. I take the prescribed medication and yet there are still days when I see the wrong side of my breakfast and even more days when I feel like there is a chance of me regurgitating more than just my words. Annoyingly, despite all the stools and despite the occasional vomit, my weight remains static. Joy.

I have self diagnosed neuropathy. Unlike the Velcade days of yore, when I suffered from dead arm and pins and needles, I now get all of that, plus severe pain in my fingers and toes whenever I experience a rapid change in temperature. It is a pain that takes the pleasure away from getting into a hot bath. The Medically Trained People tell me this is not an expected side effect from the transplant, and yet it started after the transplant and I  endure it everyday. Have I become a hypochondriac to boot? Probably.

Mentally, I am coping. You can say that I am also coping physically, but I feel like I have no control over the latter whereas I am in charge of how I deal with these obstacles and holt myself together. My brain and my feelings belong to me, everything else belongs to another power.

So that’s the long answer sorted. I can actually exhale now… No, hang on, I think I have something profound to say.

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In My Myeloma experience, I have never felt so detached from my treatment as I do at present. It unnerves me. It is not a feeling I planned for, nor want. I do not know what the caused it, but when it comes to all things allogenic transplant, I feel like I am nothing but a vessel. No, it’s worse than that, I feel like a specimen that is constantly being poked, prodded and analysed; a specimen who is seen but not heard; a specimen who is no longer a human being but is a sequence of numbers and test results. 

That is not something I have said lightly; it is not something I want to think, let alone feel. I’m impatient. I’m impatient for something and I don’t know what.

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So, after all that, be honest. You preferred the short answer didn’t you?

EJB x

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Decorum

There were two events yesterday, two and a half really, which proved to me, if I needed anymore proof, that I now have absolutely no decorum whatsoever. The subject in question, was of course, my faeces or my lack there of.

Everybody requires a little bit of context and this is mine. I am currently on six tablets of docusate sodium a day plus two senna pills before I go to bed, and still, despite this hefty dose of laxatives, going to the toilet continues to be the bane of my daily existence. In case you were wondering, myeloma is the bane of my world. At least once daily, I also have a portion of linseed, which I believe gives the medicine a healthy, natural helping hand. Linseed also means I occasionally have to visit a Holland and Barrett, thus allowing me to feel superior to the unhealthy masses, that is, until I look in a mirror.

I have long been of the opinion and voiced it several times, that constipation is one of the biggest, unspoken downsides of my medical predicament. I had an appointment with a Senior Medically Trained Person recently, who I had not met before, but Mamma Jones once saw on the television and I instantly took a liking to him when he asked me about the difficulty of my bowel movements.

In that appointment, he told me that one side effect of the radiotherapy would be a slightly jippy tummy. It was a statement that solidified my positive opinion of him. I have now had three sessions of radiotherapy and that particular side effect is yet to appear. I am forgiving him of that, if in a few weeks time, I am able to sit on the toilet without a fear of snapping my spine in three when the struggle ups it’s game.

That is the unsavoury background to my daily (if I am clutching the glass half full), trials and tribulations. I will indeed talk about them to anybody who is willing to listen. The only difference is, depending on the company, I might deepen the code of the subject in which I speak.

Yesterday then, I had a particularly traumatic morning. I had to be up and dressed by 10am, ahead of the Patient Transport Service collecting me for my two hospital appointments of the day, the first of which, was at midday. The PTS can pick me up anytime between 10:00hrs and my appointment time two hours later. As such, stage fright usually kicks in and I cannot pass what needs to be passed because I need a clear 30 minutes to do it. Unfortunately for me, the biological need kicked in around 11:15hrs, shortly after I discovered my transport was not in fact, picking me up at the agreed time. In a panic, I booked a taxi and then visited the room between my kitchen and my bedroom. It was an act that was indeed a mistake for there was not enough time for me to do what needed to be done.

This brings me to my first example. Mid act, I had to give in. As I uncomfortably made my way through my flat to the waiting taxi outside, I said something to Housemate that does not need to be repeated here, such was the level of my crudeness. All that needs to be said is that it Is a term usually reserved for the delivery room in a hospital.

It was a very uncomfortable taxi ride, during which, it became apparent to me that I was going to have to be late for my counselling appointment at midday. Not wanting to be rude, I thought it necessary upon my arrival at the Cancer Centre to inform the relevant people that I may be a little late to my appointment.

Most people would probably have asked the the lady on reception to inform my counsellor that I would be late and send my apologies. Not me. In my second example, the conversation went something like this:

“Hi, I have an appointment with Sxxxx at midday, but I am going to be late…. I have a problem. Not a bad problem you understand, but the one people get with their medication that they don’t really talk about… You know… Um, I just really have to go to the toilet and I’m really uncomfortable and it might take a while. Can you let her know? I’ll go down to her office when I am done.”

It was a conversation that was greeted by a knowing smile, and off I went. Fifteen minutes later, with a large smile on my face, I returned to the reception desk to see smiles all round. I then proceeded to discuss matters in more depth for five minutes more.

Later in the day, I received a text message from a dear friend of mine, who is also experiencing similar woes, and what followed was a lengthy, open discussion about my troubles of the day and the effectiveness of linseed. It was that conversation that confirmed what I have long known… Cancer causes constipation and I absolutely love shouting it from the rooftops.

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EJB x

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Rite of Passage

Few people, unless they have been in the position where they have had to take strong drugs, will truly understand how said drugs can disrupt your body. Even when you think you have been there and got the t-shirt factory, it can still take you by surprise. Despite the fact they are designed to make you feel better, in the short term, they make you feel quite the opposite. They make you tired, they make hungry, they make you lose your appetite, they make you sick, they weaken your heart and so on and so forth, until we get to their secondary role as a butt plug.

Currently, I am trying to learn and understand what the fortnightly payoff is for having a poison injected into my stomach. There is always a payoff and a debt for goodness, and I’m adjusting to that once more. I know what the velcade side effects look like when they are accompanied by other hard drugs, but I do not know what it looks like all on its lonesome and this has me ready to pounce on any change in or on my body.

My post transplant world, fraught with its own issues and darkness, is the longest I have gone without hard drugs, since all this started. The beauty of this little factoid, is that it enabled my body and my system, should we say, a chance to regulate, a chance to acclimatise. Just as I have had to get used to living with this, so too has my body. The problem however, as I am discovering as I type, is that everything and anything that is not the norm, wreaks sheer havoc on my insides. I am mainly talking about drugs here, but it also applies to bacteria. I think an episode last week involving some past its sell by date bean curd made Housemate never want to sleep with his door slightly ajar again… On the other end of the scale, when I was forced to take Oramorph, I made the deal with the devil, which allowed me to sleep, but stopped be from doing something rather special, for a whole week.

At the moment, I know that my limbs are more prone to numbness than they should be. I have had my phone resting in my right hand for a good 15 minutes now and the sensation in my right hand particularly, is not a pleasant one. With my two injections to date, I have been kept up once with the desire to chop my left arm off, as I was aware of its presence and only it’s presence. The neuropathy is the easiest thing to measure. It’s the same as it has always been, and velcade has always been its cause.

More difficult to measure is the fatigue. Fatigue is our plague. I am tired pretty much all of the time, so it is difficult to separate the causes. After each injection I ask myself and others whether I am tired because I am just tired, or am I tired because I have just had bleach injected into my stomach? It’s too soon to be able to answer that question. Not that it stops me from hypothesising.

Of one thing I am certain. I had my last injection 9 days ago and since then, I have managed to empty my bowels two and a half times. The same thing happened a fortnight before. Another deal with the devil, eh?

On the above, I can whinge and I can moan, and I do whinge and moan, but I also need to just get on with it. It is a payoff; maintain a remission for little discomfort here and there.

The truth is, I know it could be so much worse, so it just has to be dealt with. It’s part of growing up.

EJB x

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Movement

After a lengthy period of the trots, I am informed that some individuals, may experience constipation. When one is taking six drugs on top of other drugs, which is said to lead to blockages, a person may experience constipation. When a body subject to change, experiences a lot of change, I imagine, a human, may experience constipation.

The Medically Trained People expect some difficulty in this area, and persons who may be troubled by infrequent stools, are offered medicine, to ease the process along somewhat. Some individuals opt against using this medicine because it makes their insides feel like they are on fire, regardless of there being a need to incinerate their waste or not. Such people, let’s call them patients, may suffer from lengthy periods of constipation, especially, when they usually use their diet to regulate such things, and they currently do not have a diet to speak of. Tricky.

Sometimes though, life cannot be that bad. Life cannot be that unfair. And so, today, after a six day absence, it gave me great pleasure to say “welcome back Buddy, welcome back”.

Thankfully, it was a painless reunion.

I called my Mum.

EJB x

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Expecting the Expected

It is strange to be surprised by the expected, but I am. I knew that I was going to have a dodgy tummy, nausea and fatigue, I have been preparing for it for so long, I was almost bored of it, but now I am in it, I can wholeheartedly say it is nothing like I expected it to be.

I think my current situation, is one where to truly understand it, one has to live it. Saying the words, will not make you comprehend the force. And let’s face it, there is a lot of force. No amount of preparation is going to make a stomach cramp any easier.

On Sunday afternoon, when the diarrhoea started to come, I sat on the toilet and thought to myself, that if that was it, it was going to be easy. Clearly, that wasn’t it. Fast forward a few days to last night, when I was forced by my body to have my tenth poop of the day, whilst doing that, I developed a cramp that was so hideous, I vomited (500ml by the way) and sweated. It then took, three more visits to the toilet, five hours, IV anti sickness, IV fluids, oral anti sickness and stomach pills and oramorph for the pain to subside. Until that pain did subside, I spent that time awake, unable to do or say anything, lying on my bed thinking, this must be the worst I am going to feel. It must be the worst right?

I do not know if I have yet hit the bottom. I currently figure that my diarrhoea and vomiting cannot worsen, but my fatigue can, if I continue to lose fluids at the rate I am losing fluids. That’s basic science right?

I am going to try and explain my current role in this world as Green Excrement Girl, but I am not doing it to gain your sympathy, it is just to explain what this feels like. I’m having to think of it in much the same way; if I start to feel sorry for myself, I become a martyr to it. I am no martyr. Right now, this is my job. So, as well as expecting the expected, I have to accept it too. I am just trying to ride the most unpleasant wave that has ever existed.

Since Sunday evening, I have not been able to hold down any liquids or foods that have entered my body. The Medically Trained People were trying to get me to drink 2.5 litres a day, but it was decided yesterday, that attempting to do 0.5 litters caused so much discomfort, that I did not need to do it. I really am trying, and yesterday, I even felt hungry, but after a few sips of water, spoonfuls of mashed potato, the mixer in my stomach started churning and I had to run to the toilet to deposit it. This happens whenever I drink or eat. On Monday, it was worse, because I ate much more, thus the sheer volume, was, well, impression. Mamma Jones was soon sent out to buy moist toilet paper. Practical. I do not want to irritate any piles.

Managing the diarrhoea is one thing, but it is not my only symptom or problem.

Practically, it requires me getting out of my bed on the lefthand side to unplug my pump, wheel my fluids and myself round the foot of the bed, navigating wires and other obstacles, past the sofa, to the bathroom. On competition, when I am back on my bed, the pump needs to be reset, because it’s battery is broken. I taught myself how to do this yesterday, because I could not stand all the beeping.

Physically, the diarrhoea is accompanied by nausea, which until last night, had just been nausea, and not full scale vomiting. If you were wondering, the vomit, was the same colour and consistency as my poo; slime green. So yes, nausea, it is a bugger. I feel constantly sick. There are scales to it, but in short, there is always a feeling of sickness around as is its friend, the stomach cramp. The stomach cramps, for ladies, feels like the worst sort of period pain you will ever have, at it’s worse, I imagine it is like giving birth. I actually think this. It constantly feels like they is a wooden spoon, in my stomach making potions, occasionally making sure it gets all the ingredients by scraping round the sides. Last night, I knew there were drugs in me, because my mind started to create stories for what was happening in my stomach. I kid you not

So, as somebody has had a nasty bout of food poisoning will know, because of all of the above, I feel weak. I am dehydrated, my blood pressure is low and I constantly tired. Yesterday, because of the dehydration and the byproduct, dizziness, I had to sit on the toilet for ten minutes longer than needed, to ensure I would not faint on the long walk back to my bed. Again, with that sort of activity, I am running a constant risk of piles. I am talking grade 4 level here.

Above are my main adversaries, but I also continue to fight a fever, a toothache, a sore throat and ugliness. Oh, and my neutrophils are flat.

Fortunately for me, the Medically Trained People are marvellous, and more crucially, they have seen everything I am experiencing before. The Doctor explained yesterday that they can give me so many more concoctions to get me at my most comfortable, she also said, which I guess is a good thing, nothing is happening that should not be happening. I am no medical marvel.

The difficult thing with all of this, is that nobody knows for certain if this is going to work. I have seen a lot of comments on the blog mentioning the word ‘remission’ and I have been asked about it much more than that in person, but the truth is, my transplant is unlikely to give me that. Everybody’s experience is different. It’s my best chance. The reboot is what I need. Back in January, when I was sitting on my paraprotein level of 20, I was told that it would be highly unlikely to walk out of a transplant with a level of zero. At my last Clinic Appointment, the Senior Medically Trained Person said that a decision will be taken after my transplant as to whether I have to start a new course of treatment straight after or if they are just going to let my body be for a bit. It could be that my body does surprise everybody, but I think we all need to be realistic about what my transplant is going to achieve. If the last 11 months has taught me anything, it is that My Myeloma is one stubborn arse. Time will tell. I am going through this, putting up with this, because somehow, maybe not immediately, I know it is going to give me a holiday, but more importantly a return to normality.

As for today, I am hoping for a better one. Late last night, my stool sample came back and I do not have an infection, which means that I can take Imodium. Yes. Imodium. The day might not be better, as I was threatened with having to measure all my outgoings yesterday, which sounds fun. Time will tell I guess.

Today is Day 7.

EJB x

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Hot Box

Some time ago, whilst I was preparing myself for March’s transplant, I was informed, and it was informed, I am talking volunteered information here, that the Melphalan induced bowel problems, whilst horrible, were not considered to be ‘offensive’.

At the time, if memory serves, it was during my harvest, I asked for some clarification. By ‘offensive’, what was meant was that the Melphalan side effects do not come with an unpleasant smell. Great, I thought, I can defecate in front of my friends and they would be none the wiser.

Unfortunately, whilst my faeces has yet to turn to liquid, I am experiencing increased, erm, action, in this area, and I can confirm, in my windowless hotel room, all evidence, thus far, has been to the contrary.

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The Taboo Of Pain

I know it is not a thing to be discussed in polite society, but, if you have ever experienced constipation whilst having a fractured rib, you would want and need to tell somebody about it.

It hurts. Plain and simple.

Afterwards, I recommend the douche.

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