Better Living Through Chemistry

Before cancer I was one of those people who would not even take an Advil for a headache. I would just tough it out until the pain went away. It took A LOT of pain to get me to take any kind of pill. I have no idea where this aversion came from, but it has been there throughout my entire adult life.  

My, my how things have changed in the last four months. I never thought I would say this, but thank God for good (legal) drugs. Let's just say that I have now finally understood what "better living through chemistry," a phrase a good friend often uses when talking about pharmaceuticals, actually means. 

It all really started with the nausea. A sure sign that it was really bad came when I asked my doctor for medication to help make it more tolerable. I started on a relatively low dose of a pretty common drug, and even though I needed something a bit stronger, I resisted asking for more for weeks. Silly, silly me. Suffering for no reason -- a fact I recognize now that I am on the right drug combination. My life is literally transformed by not fighting the nausea battle every day. 

This was a good learning experience that only prepared me for what has happened over the last week or so. First, there was the gamma knife radiation procedure during which I took any and all drugs offered -- something I probably would not have done even six weeks ago. This made the experience much less stressful, even somewhat forgettable thanks to the Ativan (an anti-anxiety medication) they pumped into me that day. 

Then there was/is terrible muscle pain in my back that developed about 10 days ago. I believe this pain has been brought on by a combination of my general inactivity (thanks to the aforementioned nausea), one day of trying to do too much around the house, and weeks of poor posture while laying on the couch. Whatever the cause, I was in a ton of pain. More pain than I have ever experienced in my life. The kind of pain that makes you cry and think you may never rest comfortably again. 

Given the situation, I called my doctor last Friday to ask for some medication to help ease things and perhaps give me a few hours of shut eye. Of course, since I have cancer nothing is that straightforward. I should have known they would first send me to the emergency room to be checked out. While I resisted at first, since the ER is pretty much the last place I want to spend a Friday night, or any night for that matter, I am so glad that I went. After I arrived with a heart rate of well over 130 bpm, a sure sign my body was stressed, they gave me a couple of injections of some strong stuff to immediately relieve the pain. They then discharged me with prescriptions for pain, inflammation and a muscle relaxer. This was after receiving strict instructions on how to manage all these medications since I am, according to the ER doctor, "narcotic naive." The truth hurts, I had no idea what it would be like to take these medications! I have been taking all three over the weekend and am happy to report that I woke up today feeling pretty darn good in the back department. Better living through chemistry! 

My current cocktail of prescriptions! 

I am starting to understand that it's alright, even good, to allow myself to be helped by these drugs and the doctors prescribing them to me. The resistance I still sometimes feel seems to me to be coming from a place of control. I want to be independent. I want to do things on my own. I don't want to take anything that will alter my mental state.

This desire for control extends far beyond prescriptions and into so many areas of my life. Having this disease is showing me that I have to let go sometimes to find comfort and relief. It is also showing me that letting others help me in that process can be an incredibly healing experience. Good lessons. I just wish I didn't have to learn them the hard way.