Changes to my body

My body has undergone many physical changes over the last 6 months, since my cancer diagnosis and my chemo began. I used to have hair on my head.

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Now I do not.

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All this from the chemotherapy.

I’ve also had a plastic triangular disc placed under the skin on my chest which allows for easier intravenous access for chemo drugs. I’ve also lot some weight. And those are just the changes one can see.

My treatment has also given me peripheral neuropathy, which means my fingers and toes tingle all the time.

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And the fatigue is persistent, and even as it wanes the further from my last treatment, it pops up unpredictably, causing me to end social engagements early, to leave my friends before I finish my coffee or tea, to leave parties well before the end, just so I can go home and sleep.

In all of this I have been fortunate—my body is continuing to respond well to treatment (relatively speaking). The cancer itself is having less effect on my body than it once did, despite still remaining my probable and eventual killer.

It’s difficult to deal with change, even if you recognize its inevitability and its pervasiveness. If you change one thing, and deal with that, that’s still hard but okay, especially if you are the change’s agent rather than its plaything.

A large, unshakeable, change will come to me swiftly at some point. The chemo will stop working, and the cancer will overtake my body and me. It will be fast—a matter of months. But it will also be slow—months are long. The cancer will bring fatigue down on me like rain. I will not burn out or end with a bang. Instead, I will whimper and fade away. My death will be pathetic.

Drugs I am taking

What drugs I have been taking: Folfirinox (my chemotherapy regimen: Oxaliplatin, Irinotecan, Fluorouracil, Folinic Acid), Emend, Ondansetron, Dexamethasone, Prochlorazine, Creon, Fragmin injections, Nupogen injections, and Citalopram.

What drugs I may start taking: Pot.

My brother likes to repeat joke that I like: You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proven to work? Medicine.

I’ve heard many suggestions for various alternative medicines, passing along a few to my medical team (doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse, dietician, pharmacist) to see what they would say. Everything I mention, they are sceptical about its value, but at least they think a few are harmless. And so if it’s important to me to try those ones, they tell me to go for it. But it’s not important to me if it doesn’t work. I want to know what works. And I don’t want to spend my time and effort on things that do nothing.

But when I asked about marijuana for symptom management, wondering if it had any value at all or it was just another crazy theory, the doctor said, “yeah, let’s get you a prescription.” The nurse practitioner said, “yeah, we’ll get you a prescription to a dispensary. It can help with nausea, low appetite, and insomnia.” The nurse said, “Yeah, most patients here are on pot. And chemo patients have been using it for decades. Make sure to use vaporizers; they’re much better to use than smoking it the old fashioned way.” There was no question of its usefulness. The team was unanimously in favour of me trying it.

So there you have it. Pot was once an alternative medicine, but it ain’t alternative no more. It’s just medicine now.