Cancer Complications: One More To Go

After five months, Ed is approaching the last two of his scheduled chemo cycles.

On the third night of the fourth chemo cycle, Ed developed a toothache in his lower left jaw that became very painful during the day, but tolerable when taking Advil. The toothache, which lasted five days, subsided two days after the last day of the fourth chemo cycle.

It was day four of the fifth chemo cycle and the toothache returned the night before. It was very severe this time. Nurse Janie and Nurse Ratched were concerned, but had no way to explain what was happening. So they contacted Ed’s dentist and made a late afternoon appointment for him. Ed’s friend Don responded immediately and said he would drive Ed to the dentist as soon as the infusion was complete. Don was on call that day.

Don was his caregiver that day because Pattie had scheduling issues with her staff and needed to be at the outlet store she managed. Ed and Pattie were appreciating Don more and more, since every time Pattie could not be with Ed, she would call Don and ask him to “babysit” until she could get to the infusion room. Sometimes it meant staying longer than expected, but Ed bragged about the lunch selections. However, Don did not like chicken salad, so he never tried the “world famous” chicken salad sandwiches.

The dentist X-rayed Ed’s lower jaw, but could not find any abscess. Ed was not able to determine which of the two teeth in that area hurt the most, but the dentist did say one of them had a root canal done three years ago. The dentist concluded there might be an infection somewhere near these two teeth, and prescribed amoxicillin after consulting with the oncologists. With prescription in hand, Don drove Ed home after stopping at the Safeway Pharmacy to fill the prescription. Within two hours after the first dose of amoxicillin, Ed’s toothache began to subside. But it still lasted a full five days, just like the last time.

Waves of nausea would rapidly sweep over Ed, bringing on sudden vomiting. His stomach contents were nothing but digestive fluids, and became what he called the dry heaves. Dr. Asif prescribed anti-nausea pills that were very effective at reliving the nausea, but only if the attacks came on slowly enough for Ed to keep the pill down.

Ed forced himself to eat even though he did not want to. Daily meals were losing their appeal. Pattie was very patient with him and would try to prepare things she knew he liked. Ed appreciated her concern and culinary skills, but frequently could only choke down a few mouthfuls, never finishing a meal. His favorite “chicken Caesar salad” began to turn him off and he would never again care for it the way he had before beginning chemotherapy. Oh how he wished life could be the way it was before leukemia.

The care and thoughtfulness by Ed’s family, friends, doctors and especially Pattie and the nurses was never lost on Ed. He thanked God daily for these blessings and had faith that by the grace of God he would get through this to “ring the gong” as a survivor.

Ed began to wonder if this was the way he would live with the weakened state of his immune system. The white blood cells were coming back very slowly, but were barely over 1,000 and the neutrophils were very low and the hemoglobin was very low.

Then words from the hymn “Whispering Hope” came back to Ed’s sub-consciousness

“Wait till the darkness is over

Wait till the tempest is done

Hope for the sunshine tomorrow

After the shower is gone”

The hair on Ed’s head was turning very gray, almost white, but he never lost any hair on his head. He did lose the fuzz that had started growing on his back when he reached the age of 65, which was a good thing. But Ed would tease the nurses in infusion by requesting chemo that would make the hair in his nostrils and ears fall out.

There was only one more chemo cycle on the schedule. The past five months had, at times, been difficult. Hope had made it all possible. Hope had manifested itself into strength, courage, determination and the faith that becoming a survivor was within his grasp.

“Hope sees the invisible,

feels the intangible,

and achieves the impossible.”

-- Helen Keller