Today is a really good day. It feels normal, which is kind of remarkable since it’s the second day after a nine-hour chemotherapy session in which one hour is spent pumping a toxin called cisplatin into my system and the other eight hours are spent pumping fluids and anti-nausea medication into my system. The fluids are to flush the cisplatin out of my kidneys, where it can do unwanted damage. The anti-nausea medication is to keep me from vomiting out all the hydration.
“People used to vomit their heads off,” my oncologist said about cisplatin. He explained that patients would be in the hospital for days at a time, hooked up to IVs to keep them hydrated while they vomited repeatedly. It was an exercise in flow control. More fluids in that fluids out to make sure some of them go through the kidneys and flush them of the poison. He’s saying that by way of letting me know how much worse it could be, how relatively easy I’ve got it. And he’s right.
I’m losing too much weight, and this period after chemotherapy isn’t going to help. I don’t anticipate being able to eat much while I’m this vaguely nauseated. There’s still nausea, but it’s like the pain you feel under a painkiller. You know that’s pain you’re feeling, but you’re not feeling it, you know? I know I’m nauseated, but I’m not feeling it, you know? I have a rotating pair of medications, with a third I can take on top if necessary. I’m using 12-sided dice next to the bottles to mark what time I last took any given medicine so I know how long until I can take it again.
So it’s a Saturday, which means no radiation therapy. I just got off the phone with my mother, who’s taking all this remarkably well. Christien is out at his son’s soccer game and the house is still. The cat is sleeping under the covers of my bed. He snores when I touch the bump in the covers. The dog is in the backyard desperately watching the squirrels in the trees. I let her in and she runs back to sprawl on the floor in Christien’s room, waiting for him to get home.
I’ve got Driveclub on the PS4, checking it every so often to see if it will go online. It’ll flicker online and then drop me as soon as I try to do something that involves being online. That’s not very online. I’ve got a game of Beyond Earth set up on the main PC and I’m playing it when I’m not checking Driveclub or working on a couple of articles. The Aliens review is about ready to go. I’m having a great time prepping Skylanders Trap Team to show Christien’s son next time he’s over here (Monday?). I even bought an armload of Skylanders from Gamestop yesterday and got to do that really fun thing of opening a bunch of packages. I think I really like what they’ve done with Trap Team. Try as I might, I can’t hate on Skylanders. Disney Infinity, on the other hand, hoo boy. I don’t really have it in me yet to write that review. It’s going to be pretty mean.
I just got a package from boardgame publisher Victory Point Games in the mail, which includes the latest expansion to Darkest Night, a game I really like playing solitaire. They also sent me Imperial Stars II, a two-player 4X designed to play in under an hour. I shall have to see if I can wrangle my voice to enlist someone to try that. It’s by the Chris Taylor who made Nemo’s War. Victory Point also sent me Snapgammon, a cow herding variation on backgammon by the guy who made Darkest Night. I love nothing so much as breaking down a new boardgame, dividing the pieces, and reading the rules.
Life is good. Very good. My main goal today – and really, it’s a modest and totally attainable goal – is to hydrate myself. I need two liters of water a day to keep flushing the cisplatin from my kidneys. I’m about a third of the way through today’s allotment. The problem is that it hurts to swallow. The tumor on the surface of my hypopharynx is getting shredded by radiation, as is some of the healthy tissue around it, and it all balks when anything brushes against it. The muscles I use to swallow are weakening, so it takes more effect. There are sores in my mouth from the radiation, including a particularly nasty one at the base of my tongue that rubs against my teeth. I have a name for that sore that involves the “F” word.
So what I have to do is take a mouthful of foul liquid lidocaine. It’s a numbing agent. I swirl it around my mouth, and then gargle it, and then swallow it. Everything it touches goes almost immediately numb. Then I can chug a bunch of water and eat some food without it hurting. Well, it’s like the nausea. I can feel it hurting, but I can’t feel it, you know? Medication is such a weird thing, detaching you from your body, putting you into some isolated corner of yourself.
“You stay over here,” medicine says, “and let me handle this.”
“But I’m not really comfortable giving up control,” I start to protest.
Medicine isn’t listening. It’s doing its job.
Also, I keep getting the hiccups. These are weird industrial strength hiccups. Some of them come in pairs. The first hiccup quickly followed by a bigger afterhiccup. hic HIC. What’s up with that? I love that my biggest problem right now is hiccups. Okay, time to choke down a swig of lidocaine, chug another couple hundred milliliters of water, check Driveclub again, help Africa dominate this alien planet, and break open some boardgames. Life is good and close enough to normal and I wish you could all be here for this great day I’m having.