Cancer got your Tongue?
Yesterday was filled with very tender yet extremely painful moments.
Part 1: Craig and I watched the rest of one of his blues DVDs. He hiccuped all the while yet still was able to laugh and describe a certain musical instrument or name an obscure musician. His new ‘percussion’, so to speak, would be cute if it wasn’t the result of something so horrific (but I’ll save that for the painful moments discussion).
Part 2: Craig was heading back to bed and needed to plug in his IV stand. Emily walked over to help and they had a stutter-step moment trying to coordinate cords, bodies and the stand. Emily said something to the effect of “you wanna dance with me darling” and Craig chimed back with something in the order of “oh yeah”, grabbing her waist and ‘dancing’ for a spell. It was brief but really neat to see. As our mom would say, “Awesome”.
We learned, once again, that his cancer has progressed. Some tumors have grown, some haven’t. It appears that the cancer has metastasized to the remaining kidney (other kidney was removed), and within his lung (though not to any great extent). Kidney function is still pretty good and the node in his lung isn’t large enough to create symptoms. There is also cancer or “seeding” on his diaphragm and the irritation has caused intractable hiccups. They occur every 4 to 15 seconds convulsing his shoulders, chest, and head each time. Some are fairly violent, causing a frog-like rib-bet when they occur. When vomiting, the hiccups seem to make him cough and wretch to a greater degree. In terms of quality of life, he’s noted that the hiccups are more uncomfortable and aggravating than the pain and nausea, at the moment. Could be because those two symptoms have been more or less controlled, or at least the pain — he still vomits. The hiccups, however, affect his harmonica playing, sleep, general moment-to-moment peace of mind. The tears in his eyes showed how upsetting it was for him when the hiccups first took hold (before he grew accustomed to their presence). Now, his reference to the hiccups is a bit more matter-of-fact. He told Emily he wanted to talk with her but the spasms are so uncomfortable that it makes him not want to talk. Talking stirs the diaphragm and the discomfort of his cancer. They give him muscle relaxers and other meds that interfere with the brain’s channels/receptors. They typically help by knocking him out, which minimizes the hiccups and allows him to sleep. BUT, last night, something happened with the combo of drugs and he turned ghostly pale, said he felt dizzy and was about to pass out. It happened fairly quickly and the nurse called a doctor just to verify something more extreme wasn’t happening. I asked her to take his blood pressure—wouldn’t want it to bottom out a la sweet sweet sepsis (referring to our mom, who’s BP was essentially non-existent). Instead, his was quite high, which is not uncommon for Craig since beginning his new chemo. The astute conclusion from the doctor: the drugs have sedative qualities, and he’s basically being knocked out. Emily and I were still skeptical but color started returning to Craig’s face and he said he no longer felt faint. Startling moment to say the least.
Two hours later, at 1:45am, I awoke to him vomiting and tended to him. When he started feeling queasy again at 5:30, the nurse promptly came over to stir me awake (I was already heading over to him, but funny that her first instinct wasn’t to grab the bucket for him, but to get me).
Regardless of yesterday and last night, today has been a bit better in terms of talking through the hiccups. Despite it all, Craig is one helluva adaptable guy.
He just vomited after having walked a few laps up and down the halls. The doctor came in the room as he was vomiting, and as I was giving him a tissue and cold washcloth. It’s interesting to see how the nurses and doctors really rely on the family to take care of him during those times. They stand back, watch, or turn around as the doctor did today. It’s an extremely tender moment to have with the hospital staff, in an odd way. They deliver the medication but when it comes to comforting Craig, they step back and watch the family tend to him during the most painful moments.
Shortly after he vomited, he told me and the doctor, “Vomiting makes it feel so much better”. We sorta laughed at how ridiculous that sounded but he qualified it by saying it released the gases and removed some of the stuff that had been sloshing around. Glad it gave him some relief.~E
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