Monday, March 12, 2012

Is It Time To Celebrate?

I've talked in previous posts about some of the nuances I'm experiencing with regards the residual side effects of my treatment.  So, as I've been rather tardy of late with regards updating the blog (sorry), it's time I gave you an update, and to be honest, some of it is quite exciting (at least to me). In no particular order.

I've been on holiday for the last week and I have to confess it has been somewhat of a revelation.  In the past, I've found it really hard to wind down and actually relax, but this past week I've just rolled with it and feel genuinely refreshed as a result. Sure, I had a list of things I wanted to do, but I haven't done them all and I'm fine with that.  If the mood has taken me, I've gone and done something, equally I've just blobbed around the house doing effectively nothing.

Holidays to me always used to involve a day or so of winding down, a couple of days of supposed relaxation (there were always activities that we're supposed to be relaxing, but as they were structured, they were never going to be that), then the rest of the time I'd be thinking about getting back to work.

This last week was effectively my first proper holiday since returning to work last year, so I certainly needed and if this one was an example I'm looking forward to the next one.

Why the change in "approach" to this week off?  Not really sure, but have no doubt the shift in focus re what is really important in life has had an impact.

I've been having fortnightly appointments with Nicholas to tweak the hearing aids.  It looks like we've got them pretty much sorted now and I find them a natural accessory to wear so to speak.  But, as with most things there are some downsides to this newly enhanced ability to hear.

There have been a couple of occasions where the the background noise level has been abnormally loud in bursts and the amplification provided by the aids makes it quite unpleasant - oh to be able to anticipate such events so one could take the things out first.

I also still get the occasional squelching through the aids - in one instance at work, it was so loud my colleague sitting next to me could actually hear it as well.

On the plus side, it is definitely easier to hear conversations in noisy environments, which was the main problem.

So, overall, good progress, but I think maybe one more session is needed to iron out the last few niggles.

This has become a somewhat conflicting issue.  Over the last couple of weeks, I've been a bit slack with regards exercise and eating (yes I do have a list of "valid" excuses, just like everyone else does).  As a result my weight has crept up a little.  So one of my goals this week was to get out and exercise.  I succeeded well for the 1st 3 days, before a bad shoe choice delivered blisters on both heels.  Despite all the effort, the weight has stayed reasonably neutral - bugger.

Can I fall back on the old myth "muscle weighs more than fat"?  - of course not, we all know that a kilo is a kilo no matter what it is of.  Maybe I can blame the thyroxine?  Not sure, will just have to keep an eye on it and re-establish the previous exercise and eating habits.

On the positive side, if there is any extra weight, it isn't showing where it "counts" - my clothes are still fitting just fine.

The effects of the treatment on my saliva is still an ongoing mystery tour.  While things have largely settled down, there are still occasions where I'm surprised by it all.

When sitting down for a meal now, I find I can pretty much keep pace with a "normal" eater.   Sure, it does depend to some extent on the nature of the meal, but the days of me still chewing away 5-10 minutes after everyone else has finished seem to be over.

I've also been noticing that the need to continually drink to keep the throat lubricated isn't as onerous as it has been.  Providing I'm limiting the amount of talking I'm doing, I can almost get away with what I'd consider a normal water intake - and the heat of the day doesn't really seem to impact either.  I'm also needing less liquid during the night.  These all represent a quite significant change.

Coupled with this, I've been finding that my ability to eat previous "troublesome" foods has improved as well, for instance bread isn't quite the same obstacle it has been.  But wait, there's more.  Traditionally, I've tended to favour eating on my right side (because the left suffered most with the treatment), but I'm now starting to venture into the right side without too much difficulty.  It is still quite a new thing and I'm still "learning" to use that side of my mouth more.

The gang of 7 always told me that the saliva glands wouldn't recover (nuked forever), but they also told me the hair follicles on my jaw wouldn't either and they're back.  So, we might just have a breakthrough?  Hopefully.  The clinic appointment at the end of the month could be quite interesting.

I'd actually be quite happy with just the extra "freedom" I'm currently getting, but the possibility of further recovery of my saliva glands is indeed a juicy prospect.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Healer or Suppressant

As I sat in the dentist chair last week, enduring some slow drilling as he removed an old filling in a broken tooth, I was experiencing double pain - the economic one (another god-damn crown) and the physical one.  

With little else to do, I started to think about the last time I'd experienced that sort of physical pain/discomfort and it seemed that the logical time was during my treatments in mid 2010.  That in itself seems so long ago now, but while pondering the pain history, it occurred to me that I couldn't actually remember any real pain any more.  So, is time really a great healer, or does time merely end up superceding or suppressing the painful memory, in some kind of defence mechanism?

Sure, a week down the track, and with some effort, I can now remember some moments of pain, but given the total period of my treatments, they are relatively few and far between, so why is that?  Logic says that the experts got the medication regime spot on pretty quickly and morphine will without doubt continue to be my favourite pain relief for many years to come (although, I'd rather not have to undergo any sort of situation that required it thank you very much), but is it that simple.  Sure, the drugs are there to manage the pain, but isn't that just the point - without any pain, how do you know it's working?

From conversations I've had with people who visited me at hospital, it would appear I'd quite happily phase in and out, talking to them one minute and waking up some time later to resume conversation. I was obviously in a very happy drug-induced space, so it's no wonder I struggle to remember the pain.  The first week of treatment is memorable for the issues with "accepting" Jake, but the only real pain was the needles & cannulas that started to become part of an ongoing cycle, so after a while you just accepted them (as much as it is possible to do so) and as they became routine, so did the acceptance of the discomfort they brought with them.

When the effects of the chemo started kicking in, and as the proper medication regime fired up, there was undoubtedly real pain to deal with (check this posting out to see how things were going early on in the process), but I struggle to remember now how it really felt then - thankfully the blog postings help there.

As I came out the other end of the treatments, and they started to wean me off the morphine, they were looking to ensure that with each reduction I wasn't requiring top-ups in the form of the morphine elixir to keep the pain away, so even at this late stage, there was expectation of some pain.  By the time I was totally morphine-free, things had obviously run their course and I had no need for any drugs whatsoever (ignoring the temporary distraction of the subsequent gastric bug and it's treatment).

Back to the original question then - is the passage of time really a healer, or just a mechanism to help us forget?  A part of me doesn't really care - I'm just thankful to still be hear to ponder this issue.  Another part of me thinks the latter is probably closer to the mark.

I suppose the reality is we need to accept the body (in its entirety including the mind) is a truly marvellous machine.  It has the ability to self-heal (in a large number of circumstances), accept all sorts of abuse and make adjustments to keep on working, manages to let us remember things - both good and bad - at will, gives us the ability to learn & feel new things, yet it doesn't let us forget the past.  It's almost like there is an inbuilt mechanism that periodically forces us to revisit past events, just to remind us not to take things for granted.