Friday, September 18, 2009

I've Lost My Self-Control

One of the most frustrating things about this whole thing, at least to me, is the fact that I've lost control of so many aspects of my life. I can't eat what I want because it's been in the refrigerator too long. I can't go out because I might get sick. I go in for chemo when they tell me my blood levels are okay, and I go home when they tell me I can go home. I eat what they bring me in a plastic container, I pee in another plastic container, and the mechanical bed on which I get to sleep decides all by itself when and how to change shape. Nurses find excuses to wake me up every twenty minutes (or so it seems) when all I want to do is be left alone to sleep through the night. Even at home, I have to wake up every morning at 6am to take meds for the pain and nausea, even though I know that I'm going to be nauseous whenever I wake up. My body will tell me I need to throw up out of nowhere. I need to take stool softeners multiple times a day because I can't do that the way I used to either. I'm not even going to get into what morphine does to my sex drive. I just hope that my body can remember what all that is like when this is all over. My hair has fallen out, I can't shake hands or give hugs when anyone comes to see me, the dog can't sleep on my bed, and I have to use my very own special video game controller that's just for me and nobody else can touch it.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. That said, I like to find the humor in things when I can. I've always felt that it's foolish to take things too seriously. Life is too fleeting to be taken seriously.

My chemotherapy consists of Part A and Part B. Part A is given over two days, and seems to be a little more intense than Part B, which happens over five days. So far, I've been through two A's and a B. I obviously prefer B to A, because even though I have to be in the hospital for longer, the aftereffect is less severe. Oh, and in the hospital, I can't really unhook the tubes to take a shower either, though I would much prefer to maintain my personal hygiene.

Anyway, I was in the hospital for my very first Part B. That's the five day variety. On one of the middle nights, as the nurse was checking my vital signs for the umpteenth time, she mentioned to me that the chemo I had just received required that I be given a lot of fluids over the course of the night as a precautionary measure. I thought nothing of it, as it was late and I was glad to be done with the day's chemo and wanted to go to sleep. She left, and I dozed off.

Possibly the lone bright spot of being in the hospital for chemo is that they give me plastic containers, called "urinals," in which I am expected to urinate. Every time I have to pee, I have to do it in a plastic bottle. I don't know why, since the nurses just empty them into the toilet most of the time, but I do. At night, however, it really is fantastic to be able to turn over to the side and pee into a bottle without getting out of bed and dragging the I.V. with me to the bathroom. It really is that simple. I open the container, turn to the side, do my business, and hook it over the side of the bed for the nurse to take care of it. Since it is so simple, I was shocked on this particular night to wake up in the wee hours soaking wet. I had peed through my boxers and my shorts, and had managed to totally drench the blanket and sheets that were underneath me. Now, I'm not saying that I pee in the bed regularly, but on the rare occasion that it does happen, there will at least be some inclination that something is going wrong. But on this night, so much fluid was pumping through me from the I.V., I didn't even have a clue. I didn't even have a prayer of avoiding this one. I mean, I've lost control of a lot of things, but my bladder is definitely not one of them!

I slept the rest of the night on the outermost sliver of the bed with my legs straight and my arms at my sides. That really was the only place I could sleep without getting wet. The rest of the bed was soaked. Of course, I changed into different boxers and shorts. You can probably imagine how badly I wanted to unhook those tubes and shower, not to mention how badly I was dreading the next two days without one. It wasn't until the next afternoon, when the sheets had dried, that I had the courage to ask for a fresh set. I kept to the same outermost sliver of the bed until then.

Having told you about the convenience of the plastic urinal, I should tell you what happened on another wonderful night in the hospital. This was before my chemo had begun, when the doctors were still running all kinds of tests to figure out my diagnosis. At this point, I had to sleep with a little metal thing wrapped around my pinky finger to make sure my pulse didn't accelerate abnormally during the night. The little metal thing had a cord that connected to a machine that sat on the table next to the bed. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the gizmo was malfunctioning to the point that every time I took the metal thing off of my finger to get out of bed, it started freaking out and the alarm would sound and the nurses would be called. And, at this time, I was still a novice and had not yet mastered the turn-and-pee technique. I was still getting out of bed and standing up every time I had to use the urinal. Of course, the cord to the little metal thing didn't reach that far.

When I removed my finger from the thing, the nurse asked me through the intercom if everything was alright. I promptly answered her that everything was fine, I was just going to use the bathroom. Urinal in my hand, I got out of bed and stood up to do my thing. Before I could even manage to get started, though, I saw a shadow looming outside the door. Clearly, the nurse had not heard me, so I yelled, "I'm fine! Don't come in here!" Nevertheless, the doorknob began turning, so I yelled frantically, "Please wait! Please wait! Please wait!" and as if to partially acknowledge my pleas, the door only opened a sliver at first, and there it stopped. I really thought someone had listened to me until the door flew open and a team of three nurses strolled into the room to find me with my pants down, urinal in one hand and well, you know what was in the other.

At least as time has gone on, my parents have treated me more like my normal self. It's hard to explain to people that I haven't changed. I'm still me despite what my body is going through. I think that as time goes on, I'll also regain control of things, little by little. I know that some things will have to be dictated to me until I'm through this, but I still miss being in control.