It wasn’t long ago I was moaning about the size of the chemo pump I get to be tethered to for two days per session. My friend who is also undergoing treatment told me their pump was more like an old Walkman, and electric rather than gravity fed, like mine. It’s also flat, rather than the silly giant capsule shape of mine. The above barely begins to cover all the different types, that’s not close to the whole page. Which leads me to wonder about standardisation, patient care, and patient outcomes. Whether or not you are paying attention to it, obviously everything about treatment has its effect on you, and user friendliness counts on some level, I’m sure. Of course, capitalism reigns supreme here in Ustates, and it’s quite apparent that there are plenty of chemo pumps all vying for attention and purchase. Obviously, more prestigious institutions with money behind them will have whatever is passing for the current state of the art and better design when it comes to patient point of view. Other institutions will have no choice but to go for cheaper options. And of course, there will be fingers, pockets, and the vagaries of salesmanship involved. Business is business, medical or not. What effect does this lack of standardisation have on patient outcomes, on the reputation of institutions? If I was given a choice, I would never choose the particular pump I’m saddled with. At the very least, I’d prefer something which could be carried at or below the waist. Oh yes, I’m sure they all get the job done, and the effect I’m talking about is certainly a small and subtle one, to be sure. Still, I can’t help wondering. Is this lack of a standard also prevalent elsewhere in the world?
ETA: I just didn’t have the energy to do this yesterday, but I talked about it in a correspondence with my friend in colon cancer treatment. Look at the people in that screenshot. Most of them with manic grins and poses, screaming “LOOK AT MY GOOD ATTITUDE! I HAVE POSITIVE!” Fuck that noise. I do not have a positive attitude. I don’t even have a good attitude. I have a shitty, cynical attitude, about most everything, and that certainly includes having cancer. If I lose that, I will be in serious trouble. My colon cancer friend is the same way. So, another little note: don’t go around telling a cancer patient something like “you have a positive attitude, and that’s the most important thing!” No, it’s not the most important thing. It’s not fucking important at all. What is important is whatever attitude your friend or loved one normally has is still intact and firing on all cylinders. If dark, twisted, gallows humour keeps someone going, don’t try to paint it pink with positivity. If razor sharp wit and observations keep someone going, allow that. It’s not up to anyone else to call the shots on what attitude will work best for any given person. As I said before, the person with cancer is still the person you know, they are still the same person they were before diagnosis; cancer is not a call to do a 360 on your personality and attitude.
I was putting off another chronicle for a while, which I’ll get to a bit later, but it turns out today is World Cancer Day. The whole thing is so damn Perky Positive that it exhausts me, but I will say this: If you’re putting off a standard screening, don’t. Grit your teeth, clear your schedule, and get it over with. It may well save your life. The people who love you will appreciate that. Yeah, it can be scary, no one wants bad news. No one wants that news. Nonetheless, Get. It. Done. If you’re stupid like me, and wait until pain shows up, it will be for the worse. If you’re a younger person, and put off something like getting the HPV vaccine, stop that right now, and Get. It. Done. If you’re a parent, and you have not given this gift to your child, Get. It. Done. It’s much better to get that news when you have a good chance of survival. I’ve already known too many people who were dead inside six weeks of diagnosis.
Okay, stories. I was going to put this off until after the next session, but I felt compelled to write today because of the whole world cancer day thing. This involves chemo, having an ostomy, and rivers of shit. If you would rather avoid such shit, now’s the time to stop reading. My next chemo session is the 7th this month, the last two weeks have been a nasty hell spent in a river of shit. I’m exhausted, have next to no motivation to do anything at all, punctuated by bursts of explosive anger. It’s a kind of madness. I’ve had the interesting experience of having constipation and diarrhea at the same time. I don’t recommend it. Chemo turned the shit in my bowels to stone, it felt like I had a belly full of rocks. I waited a couple of days, to see if anything would move, nothing. Yeah, okay, so I take the recommended softener/laxative stuff. That was a fucking mistake. I turned into a skin bag of diarrhea, a spout stuck on ‘pour’. Thing was, this wasn’t coming out the ostomy end, oh no. My belly was still full of rocks, could feel them. This goes on for days. Now I’m taking stuff for diarrhea. Doesn’t work. I’m now on day 8 or 9 of leaking. It’s slowed down some now, and some of the rocks have exited the building, but not through the ostomy end. Feels like all I’ve been doing for over a week is cleaning shit: off myself, off the floor, off the toilet, out of clothes, out of underwear. The only thing happening there is Grimhild burping out farts on a regular basis, and Grimhild has a new trick of rapid shrinking down to flush with my skin, then popping back out again. I’m sure I’ll be having fun with my surgeon again this week. Obviously, stuffing my face like a victim of starvation after chemo is not going to be an option, because I cannot face another two weeks like the ones I’ve been through. Hello mostly liquid diet.
And then there’s the pain. Oh Sweet Crispy Christ, the pain. I have an abnormally high tolerance when it comes to pain, but even I have limits. Why in the fuckety fuck did no one arm me with pain meds before chemo? Why in the fuckety fuck am I going to have to bring this up? Suffering is not good for your nonexistent soul, it isn’t good at all. Out of my current doctors, only the radiation doc was familiar with the direct and referred pain caused by a colorectal tumour, and I’m wondering why. The pain has prevented me from sleeping, it’s woken me up from sleep. It overrides everything and leaves me wanting nothing more than to be unconscious. A low down (no pun intended, but…) colorectal tumour makes your tailbone a center of pain, it spreads out over and through the ilium, the lower spine, and puts amazing, blinding pressure on the sciatic nerve. It’s so gosh darn fun to get up and think you’re going to walk, and have a lightning strike of pain take your leg out from under you. That kind of pain momentarily shocks you out from under the dismal symphony of pain which has already become oppressively routine.
Sitting at my desk, staring off into middle distance, I become aware that I’m nodding along to the rhythm beat of pain in my lower spine rather than the music playing. Time for inadequate meds again. It’s a piss always having to be medicated, too. Well fuck it, I have animals who would like to be fed, so I’ll go do that. For the record, rats totally win on the “oh gods, we are going to die right this second, pitifully, in your arms, if we aren’t fed immediately!” There’s nothing like walking in and seeing a group of boys standing up and reaching their little hands out like a chorus of Tiny Tims.