Tag Archives: liver mets

Ativan 

So here is part two of my addiction story….

During my many chemo sessions, it became apparent to not only myself, but to all of the nurses working in oncology, that I was developing MAJOR anxiety before even stepping foot into the clinic. My oncologist wrote me a prescription for a drug called Ativan (also known as Lorazepam) and told me to put two under my tongue an hour before each appointment. Well I did, and they did nothing. I kept the bottle in my cupboard at home and thought nothing of them. 

Before each and every surgery the same thing would happen – I would have a major anxiety attack. After the first major blow out I was also prescribed Ativan to be taken 30 minutes before being called into the operating room. Just like with the chemo anxiety, they did nothing. 

All I ever knew about this drug was that is was to help with my anxiety. From my experiences I thought it just didn’t work for me. 

While packing in March to head on my Thailand and Australian adventure, I was taking out the Advil bottle and noticed the bottle of Ativan. “Perfect find!”, I thought to myself. Just in case I have an anxiety attack while away, I will have something to help calm me down. I made an appointment with my family doctor before leaving, and told him that I had a bottle of Ativan and it never worked for me before. He then prescribed me a bottle of Clonazepam, and said they might work better for me. 

Both Lorazepam and Clonazepam belong to the drug class known as benzodiazepines. They act on the brain and nerves and produce a calming effect. 

While on the 17 hour flight to Hong Kong, my panic set in. So I popped a Clonazepam and low and behold, I felt nothing. 

Great. My anxiety levels are too high for these drugs apparently. 

A few days later, finally in Thailand, I was having some anxiety before bed and thought I would try just one of the Ativans. 

The following day I woke up and could not believe it – I actually had a full nights rest! 

I have not slept through the night since I don’t even remember. With my multiple keloids on the body, and the anxiety and pressure from this cancer world, I toss and turn throughout the night. But now, I feel rested and AMAZING. Well, this is a miracle. 

I decided right then and there, I would take one each night to help me sleep. They did not make me groggy or even put me to sleep. But what they did do is KEEP me asleep. Which was the best thing I had experienced in a long while. 

In May I went for my consultation with my surgeron for my upcoming surgery, and I told him about how Ativan has helped me, and if he could right me another prescription. He did, but only for 3 months because he said he wasn’t allowed to write one for longer than that. Well that’s annoying, but I thought nothing of it. 

I dropped off my scrip and when I went to pick it up the next day, the pharmacist let me know that I was NOT allowed to get my next 30 day refill till the actual day it was due. Ok, sure lady. Again, I thought nothing of it. 

Now in August, I made an appoint with my family doctor again to have my pre-op for my colonoscopy. During our talk he saw I wrote down that I was taking Ativan. That reminded me, my three month prescription was almost up. So I asked him to write me a new one. 

“Are you addicted?” He quickly asked. 

“Um no. You know me I hate taking drugs. This I just use to help keep me asleep. No big deal.”

“Ok. You are a special case. With everything you’ve been through I can understand if these help you.”

I was so confused. Why was he being so weird? 

“Are these super addictive or something?”

“YES. Very much so. But you are different than most people and I know you wouldn’t be taking something unless you truly needed it.”

He wrote the prescription and told me to just have the pharmacy fax him every three months for a new one. 

I went home and spoke to Chris about my conversation with my doctor. He and I agreed that if it was helping me right now, then it’s ok. 

Later that night I got into bed, took my pill, and then began googling “How bad is Ativan?” – oh the things that came up. So many blog posts about people who were given it in the hospital, and it took them months and sometimes YEARS to get over the withdrawal. It explained how it is the most additive drug and that you should start with a low dose of 0.25mg. 

Holy crap I was taking 1mg! 

The next day I woke up and said, “Nope, I’m never taking that again.” 

The following day I woke up, and was instantly in withdrawal. My skin was crawling, my heart was beating out of my chest, I felt super anxious and couldn’t stop crying. Just a complete mess. I didn’t know what to do. If I took a pill to stop it, I would still have to take one at night – so then I would be taking two pills in one day. That wasn’t the answer. I called my doctor but he wasn’t in that day, and I was told he would call me on Monday – this was Friday. 

I cried and cried to Chris – I was so mad at myself for getting into this predicament. I started reading online how hard it was to come off of this drug, and that got me even more scared. Chris was amazing and calmed me down. He let me know that I am not a drug addict, that my case is different. If I needed this to help me get to sleep then so be it. 

I, on the other hand, did not agree. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I was taking a drug that was highly addictive. I think it would cause me more stress. From all of my readings it seemed like the best way to get off of it was to slowly drop your dose down. So Friday night I took a pill, and then I decided Saturday I would not. When it came time for Sunday I though, hell I will roll the dice and just not take one tonight either. On the Monday I felt the withdrawal, but it wasn’t overwhelming as it was on Friday. When my doctor finally called I told him my predicament and he said very firmly, “Do not go off of this drug cold turkey. You have to gradually take it out of your system.” 

Well as we all know by now, I rarely listen to doctors. 

So I decided to push myself, and if it got too bad at any point I would give myself permission to take a pill. 

It took about two weeks, but I finally began to feel back to normal. Now, here is the craziest part. My depression also has seemed to have left. I no longer feel as though I am living in this dark hole. I truly believe that has to do with being off of the drug. I still have my days obviously, but they are not a constant anymore. 

My sleeping is back to being scattered, but now I am looking for more natural remedies to help with this. 

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Addiction 

I avoid drugs. I know how easy it is to become addicted to pain killers, so I was always scared to take them. Since I have always been vocal about this to all of my doctors, they are never worried about me and always tell me, “Don’t be a hero and just take the drugs if you need to”. (Well ok they do not use the term “hero”, that’s my ad lib 😉) 

After my second surgery in 2014, I saw first hand how easy it was for my body to become addicted to drugs. Even though my mind wanted nothing to do with it, my body began going through extreme withdrawal when I tried to stop taking the Oxycodones. My skin felt like it was crawling, I was sweaty but shivering, and my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. I was forced to continue to take them and gradually reduce the dose. Since then I have refused to take anything other than just regular ole Advil – well until recently. 

I was in a lot of pain and discomfort after my recent lung surgery, and when I went in for my post-op, my surgeon told me to just take even a single pill if I think it might help. After discussing it with Chris, we both decided that I will have to try it as the Advil did not seem to be doing the job this time. So I cut the oxycodone in half and took it at 6:00pm. At 9:30pm I still felt no relief so I took the other half. By 10:00pm my whole body was numb and I felt drunk. No joke. I had to put myself to bed. 

The following day I had plans in the morning so I woke up and felt groggy, but I figured that was only because it was 8:00am. It wasn’t until I was half way to my destination that I realized, “holy crap I am SO high right now and should NOT be driving”. I pulled into a parking lot and had my friend pick me up. This feeling lasted till the mid afternoon! 

When I got home I looked at the bottle, my original prescription was 1-2 every four hours!! WHO COULD SURVIVE THAT?! 

Never again – I went back to just suffering through the pain. 

So, this story is not even the main reason for this post…. I will have to write an “addiction part two” tomorrow. 

But to finish off our discussion about oxycodone – or just any pain reducing drug for that matter. BE CAREFUL. The doctor will prescribe you what is the standard dose, but LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Do not just read the label and pop away, see what works for you. I am not advocating to never take a pain pill. Tolerances for pain are different for each individual, and if you are in too much pain then that will actually harm your healing process. All I want to make known is just to be aware of the problems that can come from taking pain killers. It may help with your pain but it may be hurting you in some other way. These drugs are strong so please use with caution. 

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Unknown

Since I have been home from the hospital, I have gone through my usual routine of being a hermit – or so I thought. Usually after any of my surgeries, I spend a lot of my time recovering quietly. Sure, I will go out the odd time, but always try not to make those times too social. I am never interested in talking to anyone – I just enjoy the peace and quiet. So this time I have been the same way, except I should be starting to turn the corner by now. I have been in a “funk” emotionally for the past few weeks and could not figure out what was wrong. At first I thought it was the recovery process, and then I thought maybe it is the stress of the wedding. Both of those do play a part in the way I am feeling, but they still were not enough. Yesterday I finally broke down and figured it out. I’m entering into a world of unknown. I have been here before, last summer to be exact. I had a successful surgery and entered into the “monitor” stage, only to find out after my first scan that everything was back. So this time I do not have the same delusions in my head that maybe, just maybe, I have finally beat this cancer shit. After my post op this week I just am left to sit around until October when I will have my next scan. It weighs so heavy on my mind.

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Surgery Round 4, 5, and 6

Yes, you read it right, I have three surgeries coming up. My scan results left me again feeling uneasy. A met on my lung and a met on my liver have showed a slight growth. Not anything that is majorly alarming, however my surgeons are concerned. Since the chemo has only been out my system for three weeks, this is too fast for things to already be growing. So yet again, they are scheduling me for another CT scan. If that scan shows growth again, then all surgeries are off and I get hooked up to the lovely chemo cocktail. If they stay stable, I will be operated on starting May 2nd. This one will be for the four on my upper right lung. Thankfully this surgery can be completed laparoscopically so I will only have three small incisions. Following this surgery on May 4th, they will perform my liver surgery. Unfortunately Dr. Jay has decided not to use the same abdominal incision he has accessed twice before, but will open me up down and across the right side of my upper abdomen/lower chest. From what I have heard, recovery from this incision is much worse – so I am totally looking forward to that. If all goes well I will be in the hospital for a total of 2.5 weeks. Shortly after I will have yet another CT scan and if that again shows no new growths, they will perform the lung wedge resection on my left side in mid-June. This side is a tad trickier, so he is planning for laparoscopic however it may end up having to be a larger incision.

So the week of my 30th birthday, after my scan, I will either find out that my cancer is WAY more aggressive than anyone has imagined and my surgeries will be cancelled – or – my body is about to endure a shit ton of pain with the hope of a successful outcome. 

Again, all of the same worst case scenerios have to be spoken about and signed off. Obviously as with all surgeries there is a chance of complications, infections, liver or lung failure, yadda yadda yadda. The one that always worries me more is the increased chance of reoccurance. Weakening my body will just give the cancer all the ammo it needs to get stronger and maybe multiply again. Even if everything goes as planned and nothing grows, six weeks after my third surgery I will be right back on chemo for “maintenance”. It is a never ending rollercoaster. 

So to sum it up, on my 30th birthday on April 30th I will either be upset at the fact that my cancer is being a little bitch and growing, or be upset at the fact that I am about to endure a fucking awful summer of multiple surgeries. Happy Birthday?

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Food Poisoning

Well this was a first that I do not welcome into my life ever again. And here I was thinking that throwing up on chemo was bad. Oh no – food poisoning is like no other. I am pretty positive that is what was wrong with me- although the doctors have no way of proving it. It started at 3:30am and was every half an hour until 4:00pm. Right around 1:00pm I realized I couldn’t take it anymore and was becoming weaker by the minute since I couldn’t even keep water down. Now that I know the hospital system so well, I knew emerg would be my best course of action. I needed an IV of fluids stat. Off we went – on Chris’s birthday too – poor guy. 

I always have to be upfront with the nurses and doctors at the hospital right from the start. Let them know I do have stage 4 cancer and I just came off of chemotherapy. I know the drill. My immune system is compromised and no one can risk leaving me out with all of the sick patients for too long. We waited approximately an hour or so and then were shown into our own room. 

From here I thought it was going to be easy, hook me up with some saline and then ship me off. Wrong. I always forget how much weight my disease carries. Food poisoning was their best case scenario, and they were starting at the worst – that this whole thing was cancer related. It didn’t even dawn on me once that that is what could be the issue. The doctor wanted to run multiple blood tests and a urine test to rule out any sort of infection. Even my temperature being only two degrees higher than normal had them concerned and they began monitoring that – which was super annoying because I was freezing and was only allowed a thin sheet. 

After being at the hospital for 7 hours now, the tests results came back fine – and yet they were still concerned. If I wasn’t scheduled by my regular doctors for a CT scan the following week, they would have ordered one for me that night. It is fantastic that our health system cares so much for patients like myself – I guess I better start taking my disease as serious as they do. I know it is horrible, but I never think that every single time I feel sick it may be cancer related. I mean I guess I should? But who really wants to live like that. The ER doctor gave me the option to stay over night so I could be monitored. By this point I was able to keep fluids down for the past two hours. I opted to go home but promised if I was sick one more time either that night or the next day, I would come right back. Too bad they don’t have a test to prove it was food poisoning, would have been a much shorter trip. 

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Healthy Weight Loss

As I have written about many times – I have body issues. My scars funny enough do not bother me in the slightest – it is more of the gained weight over the past year and nine months. By the way – how crazy is it that it is has been that long? Unbelievable. Although it feels like it has been my life forever truthfully. 

I went from 155 in April ’14 to 135 in September ’14 (back to back surgeries will do that) to 180 in January ’15 – and have been that weight ever since. The swelling from the steriods went down, but I still did not feel like myself. It wasn’t until I began to eat clean and healthy that I began seeing amazing results. I was never doing it for weight loss. That is the truth. It was just a happy side effect to eating as clean as I have been. It has been 5 weeks since my healthy lifestyle started and I have lost a total of 15 pounds. Before you begin to judge – no I am not weighing myself. Before each chemo I have to weigh in so they can make sure the dose is appropriate for my weight. I don’t even care about the scale. It is the way I feel in my clothes now. The way my face looks in the mirror. Slimmer and healthy. When you start eating clean you stop watching how much you are eating. Just the other day I finished an entire container of fresh hummus and veggies in just two sittings. No regrets because it is not a bag of chips. I eat as much as I want, whenever I want. It is a glorious thing. My stomach will never be flat again due to my scar tissue build up, and I may never return to my original 155 pounds – but that’s ok. I am happy and healthy. 

Here is a progress picture. Ignore that itsy bitsy bathing suit – it was a pre-cancer purchase. I’m not dumb I obviously know it no longer fits. 

April ’15 – July ’15 – December ’15 

   

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Stuff

Just like everyone else living in a first world country – I have accumulated a lot of stuff over my short 29 years. So now the issue is – when do I start to get rid of it? I have slowly been going through my old but good clothes that will never fit again – selling them piece by piece. I can’t say this is a cleansing experience because I am not selling to just clean out my closet. I am selling a lot of my clothes because they will either never fit again, or I will never have another use for them (dress pants for work, etc). I am starting to think about what will happen to everything once I am gone. I hate the thought of all my expensive clothes, shoes, purses, linens, antiques and others being packed up and just sent off to Value Village. Even though I shop there a lot, and do donate often, I somehow feel like my things deserve better. But why? It is just stuff. I have no control over what happens when I die, so really what should I care? For now I will continue to sell little by little in order to help fund my vacations. Long term disability is great, but it is not a lot. I would love the idea of when I pass for people in my life to take a lot of my items, but I assume they may find that strange. “Hey, where did you get that jacket?” – “Oh, my dead friend gave it to me.” 

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Too Soon

After I felt fully recovered from my lung surgery in May, I began acting like I was on the “had” side of this cancer world. Although I didn’t look like my old self, I was finally starting to feel like it. I have been enjoying my new hair styles, and was planning to keep it this short for quite some time. I began planning trips for Spring/Summer of 2016. I was purchasing new blazers, shirts and dress pants for work – telling everyone who asked that I was going back in November. When speaking with newly diagnosed people – I discovered I was the person on the other side of the table now. Helping them through the tough parts when you are first diagnosed, talking about their fears, being their inspiration because look at me and what I have endured – and I’m ok now. 

Man, did I ever speak too soon.

Wednesday I was certain my scan would be clear. Maybe the doubt was a tiny 0.1% for the other way, but that is just because nothing is ever 100%. My surgeon called me in, shut the door, and wasn’t messing around.

“Jamie, it’s back and it’s bad. You have multiple tumours showing in your lung and liver. I’m sorry to come out and say this to you so fast, but I wanted to get right to it. When I saw your scans last week I wanted to phone you, but I thought that a missed call would have you worry too much. The ones in your liver are too close to the center, that I will not be able to operate. You are now what we call, a person living with disease. Chemo will start as soon as possible and you will be on it indefinitely. I’m so sorry, but I told you from the beginning your case was severe. I thought this day would come some day, but truthfully I did not think it would be this soon. Our hope is that the chemo will at least keep things at bay, and not have any more growth for now. I have had patients live up to 7 years with disease still in them. I honestly do not have a patient of your age with your severe condition, so I am not sure what to expect.”

Best word used to describe the way I feel – heartbroken.

  

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Reality Check

As I have said before, most days I forget what is going on with me. I just live day by day on this extended stay-cation not really paying too much attention to the bigger hurdles in my life. It is days like today however, that shake me out of it. I saw for the first time my CT scans. There they were, up on the doctors screen. As he scrolled down each scan these dark shadows would appear then disappear on my liver, like a light show. Every dark shadow was cancer, and let me tell you this shit was everywhere.

I received many options today on how to proceed with my condition. As the information was flowing in my ear all I could pay attention to were those dark shadows.

“Did he just say on my “good” side of my liver… the 20 percent he would like to try and save… I have 9? 9 tumours on just 20 percent of my liver. Geeze the other 80 must be a large company picnic.”

If my MRI next week shows no significant change to my scans (aka they do not find a cluster of tumours hiding somewhere), then I have opted for the surgical route. I should be excited but again, this is another shake to my system. I have now gotten in the routine of going to chemo, this has become normal life for me. The amazing outcomes of surgery can be great, however the implications of the surgery are also extremely scary. For instance, after the first round of surgery my body will be extremely weak. This is the perfect chance for my little cancer friends to grow and thrive. It was very clear when my doctor was explaining the risks, this is the thing he is most afraid of. Having surgery can save my life, but it could also actual do the reverse and put me in a worst state. But what choice do I have? Prolong my life on chemo for a couple years, or jump in feet first with surgery and hope for the best. He said it today, surgery is the only chance I have to be cured, and I don’t half ass anything.

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