Let’s break it all down…down…..down (think echo, here). I’m speaking to you right now from the bottom of a single, deep, oddly-misshapen taste bud from one side or the other of my tongue. The soft, shiny tissue looks innocent enough from this close proximity, but we all know there’s lightening waitin’ to be unleashed if that fat old man takes a shine to dressing somebody down.
During a short nap, I had this snippet of a dream. I have this similar dream when I get into a rare dream state and I’m not feeling well. I am always a minimized version of myself, left to look up at a Texas-sized lanscape. Cancer makes me feel small, especially that I’m having such a difficult time doing any damn thing. My joints, by God, hurt! I know I’m a tough guy, but living through 40 months in some sort of daily measurable physical pain really does wear on a body.
The odd dreams in naps notwithstanding, my whole body is a mess right now. I can’t taste anything specific. I, in fact, can taste everything and everything tastes like everything else. Sweet. There is no savory for me at the present. Salt is sweet. Chocolate is even sweeter, but in a weird off-putting way. For a guy who can taste the razor-thin nuances between different types of grassy flavors in a sauvignon blanc, being sentenced to a one-taste-fits-all universally bland sweet flavor profile is pretty much awful.
As you know, I haven’t posted in a while, and I’m sorry about that. I have been nauseated almost constantly since I started on the 800mg dose of Votrient, a powerful tyrosine kinase inhibitor (oral chemotherapy) drug I have been taking since Tuesday, November 13.
I went to see my primary medical oncologist, Dr. Andrew Pippas, on Thursday, November 29 for a follow up visit to see how I was taking to the new medication. Andy reached over and unwrapped a tongue depressor and looked back in my direction. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” I said. “If you’re having a burning sensation in your mouth, I need to see what is going on,” he said.
“Then you had better give me a barf bag,” I said. I palmed the barf bag and he went in. I felt like Mr. Ed for a short while. Dr. P was on the fringes. “Well, your teeth look great,” he said as he rolled my tongue around, dangerously near my very shallow vomit trigger.
Then he went deep, and so did I. After about ten minutes of hurling, we were able to resume our conversation. He looked at me with compassion, even though he was easily the cause of my having to add yet another tick mark to my ridiculously short vomit streak. A good vomit streak (or the lack of vomiting for a time, technically) is hard to come by when cancer is in your life.
At the end of that appointment, Dr. Pippas cut my daily 800mg dosage of Votrient in half, with the intention of ramping me back up to the full dosage over some period of time if my body will adjust. In addition to the all-encompassing nausea, fatigue was a major side effect at the full dosage. I slept a lot, long nights and naps during the day and still awakened feeling like I could just curl back up and sleep some more. People say to listen to your body. Mine was telling me to sleep. So that is what I did.
So, with Dr. Pippas telling me to skip the entire dose on the 29th and to begin on November 30 with a 400mg dose, I am now six days into the reduced dosage. Yes, I feel more like myself. Yes, I’m able to hold food down. Yes, my tongue feels more like a tongue than a studded, metal hacky sack.
But, it is still a daily struggle, mainly with my not feeling like doing much. Sadly, one of the the things that I just not felt like doing is writing. I know that I have a huge, loyal following of this blog and those people want to know what is going on with me. I have commiserated with others who are on some kind of medical journey and who also blog about the struggle between just getting some information out and being able to write something you feel good about people reading. Something you’d be proud of, so to speak. Too many times I’ve had to just sit down and take that journalistic dose of castor oil and bang something out when I had much rather be entranced with some piece of good music and have my heart flow through my fingers as they dance across my MacBook Pro’s keyboard. Lately there has been too much “castor oil” gagging and not enough flowing.
Maybe this downward dosing (which I just confirmed on the phone with Dr. Pippas’ office will be in place until at least Dec. 27, when we return to see him) will allow me to extend my vomit streak through the Christmas holiday. Then we’ll look toward the new year (my 60th) with an idea of how to proceed.
With the ramping down of nausea, I’m hoping for a ramping up of blog activity. If that turns out to be, then there’ll be more to follow. In the meantime, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are thick into the planning for your Christmas holiday. Merry Christmas, Mr. Herlihy!
See you soon!