Of every complication caused from cancer and its treatments, nausea has been the worst for my sister. It has caused pain, discomfort and was the number one reason she returned to the emergency room. No matter what medications were dosed, whether it was orally or by IV, or how much they gave to her, so often, nothing ever seemed to work.
Home remedies from peppermint to ginger, when to eat or what to eat, provided little to no reprieve. Because the nausea led to terrible bouts of vomiting, she consistently was in need of fluid hydration. That meant many more hours spent in clinic when all she really wanted was to be at home. For three months after her cisplatin-induced seizure, nurses called 2 a.m. the “bewitching” hour because she would begin to throw up and sadly, there wasn’t anything to do to ease her pain.
Even now, nearly two years after cancer, nausea and vomiting are still symptoms that are being managed for her. After enduring so much and facing many complications throughout her treatments, some negative effects have continued post-cancer. She is in the very early stages of what some of her care team believe to be neuropathy-induced intestinal paralysis.
During this battle, although not consistently, some things have helped. To start, once nothing seemed to work, I made the choice to let her eat anything. Yes, I really do mean anything. The first thing the team did was try to change her diet in an effort to help. When that failed, I decided that if she was going to be throwing it up anyway, she should at least get to choose what she was eating.
Not letting her eat and me letting her eat anything sit at far ends of the spectrum. My choice was made out of haste and frustration. Since then, a middle ground has been formed. She drinks non-fat milk, but on occasion, she also eats ice cream. She eats less fatty proteins, but when we eat fish fry, she will have a piece or two. For all of us, life is about moderation, and I never want her life to anything different from the rest of us.
She still works with a nutritional team and although I am no longer her caregiver, many of the things I implemented are still a part of her care plan. Because she is still sick frequently, she takes supplements and vitamins to ensure that she is getting the proper daily values that she needs to stay healthy.
Although it isn’t ideal to see my sister struggle, it is simply a reality – the reality of what life looks like for a young woman who endured 52 chemotherapy treatments, 10 rounds of radiation and a bone marrow transplant to reach remission. That is important part to keep in mind. On those harder days when she is struggling the most, it is easy to forget how far she has come. And it isn’t to diminish how awful some of her days still can be, but perspective is gained when one remembers that despite any complications, she is in remission.