Friday, February 28, 2014

On tour with Toxic Diarrhea

              Here I was, at a chemo crossroads: Stay the course and continue beating the shit out of my body, or go a more paved road and extend my treatment by months. 
               I chose to take the beating, of course.
               Up till this point, I was doing pretty damn well, considering. I had managed to conquer the disgusting queasiness. I pushed fatigue aside and plowed ahead with work each day. My prescription mouthwash was doing its job, keeping the sores on my tongue, the sides of my mouth and in my throat to a minimum. The one thing that couldn’t be quelled was the ass o’ fire. Sorry, TMI, I know.
                The theory goes, since chemo can break down the lining of your esophagus, opening the door to sores and all kinds of goodness, the same could be said for the lining on, uh, the other end. And let me tell you, you really don’t miss that wonderful lining till it’s gone.  I’m sure you’re definitely not asking what that feels like, so let me tell you: Take a handful of wooden Lincoln Logs, smash them with a hammer a couple of times till they’re good and splintered, then light them on fire and shove them up your butt. Now try to poop them out. THAT’S what it feels like.
                Anyway, the sad state of affairs on the other end really worried my oncologist, Dr. Aijaz, because a breakdown is an infection waiting to happen for a chemo patient. Sitting in his office last week, he laid out the possible routes I could take. He also gave me this week off from chemo, to see how ass o’ fire would heal.
Yep, that's what it feels like (minus the onlookers).
                My options were:  A. Heal enough to keep going full steam ahead and finish treatment in April. Taxotere is heavy duty stuff and would require not only a white blood cell booster shot, like I’d been getting, but also require three days of steroids—12 pills—taken the day before, the day of and the day after treatment to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction. Without them, my lips would probably swell up and I’d look like Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler. Or B. Go low-dose, which apparently even 1,000-year-old women—such as Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler—can tolerate. I wouldn’t need steroid shots or white-blood-cell boosters, but treatment would entail a weekly infusion for three weeks, with the fourth week off. Thus, one month equals one treatment, effectively extending my final four treatments till July.
                I think I got all that right. I got a little distracted when Dr. Aijaz was describing how the full dose of chemo could trigger diarrhea, which would be highly uncomfortable for someone suffering the kind of side effects I was. He was describing the different types of loose stool and as soon as he said “toxic diarrhea,” I could feel the corners of my mouth twinging, trying to go skyward. Stop it, Heather, this is serious business, don’t smile or laugh. Shhh, he’s now moved on to chemo-induced diarrhea, pay attention! But I couldn’t. All I could think about was toxic diarrhea.
“That would make an awesome band name,” I blurted out. You could see the panic cross his face for a second, at first I thought because he was thinking about a band out there with that name, touring and corrupting today’s youth. Then he quickly explained that the full and formal name was toxin-induced diarrhea, not toxic diarrhea as he had stated. “I don’t want you quoting me on that!” he exclaimed. Too late! When I get my band Toxic Diarrhea together, I’m starting each and every show with, “And thank you to my oncologist, Dr. Aijaz, for coming up with the band name.” It’s about this point I realized I must drive my doctors nuts and leave them wondering, “Is she ever going to start taking this shit seriously?”
                So, the good news is that I think I healed enough to proceed on schedule, and that was my choice. Given how aggressive my tumors were, and the fact the paternal side of my family could claim no breast cancer survivors, I want to hit this full force. Show those rogue cancer cells no mercy. And I want to be done in April.  I mean, I have a family—and my band, Toxic Diarrhea—to think about.


  1. If you invite Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler to join, Toxic Diarrhea would be one badass geriatric supergroup...

    1. Ha ha! Maybe I could get Metamucil to sponsor our tour!

  2. My butt will never be the same! But we all change, I guess...