Wednesday, January 18, 2012
The Proverbial Goalpost - Pain Medication, Recovery and Cancer
The scene I remember in particular is one where the other housewives find her at dawn on a foggy morning, clutching the goal post at her son's soccer field, rocking like a baby and muttering to herself because she finally crashed.
I keep thinking of this episode, because the steroids they give me when I receive chemo every Tuesday (to prevent an allergic reaction to one of the chemicals) have this effect on me. I come home from chemo all charged up, feeling awake and alert and ready to be productive. I can't usually sleep on Tuesday nights because of it, but I give in to it and use the time to do quiet (but productive) activities like making jewelry or responding to emails (last night found me up at 2am, wrapped in a blanket and sipping tea and working my way through my Inbox).
The crash comes, though, by tonight, and I'm back to the bone-tired weariness and lots of sleeping.
All of this is a steroid-induced preamble to my point, which is that I've received lots of emails from people in recovery asking how I'm handling pain medication during the course of my treatment.
The answer is simple: carefully, and with respect. I respect that the pain is real, that I need to take medication for it, and that I need to follow the doctor's advice. I'm very vocal with all the doctors and nurses about my history of alcoholism (and I clarify that even though my history doesn't involve drug addiction that doesn't mean I don't need to be as careful with drugs as any addict would be). I don't necessarily take a first recommendation at face value; I always ask about other options, addictive qualities of medications and whether natural options are available that would work just as well as what the doctors are suggesting (this was true in the earlier part of my treatment - Melatonin for sleep is an example).
I examined all my pain medication options, and chose the one that seemed the best for me, that had the least likelihood of becoming habit forming for me over the course of my treatment. In my case, at this point, it's a patch that I wear that dispenses medication slowly and is replaced every three days. I like that it doesn't involve my discretion on when to take it, or how much to take, and so far it isn't producing unpleasant side effects or cravings.
I may need to take more, heavier dosage pain medication as my treatment progresses, and at every step I will be careful and respectful. I am talking to people in recovery about it, too, getting advice from all sides.
Some people in recovery feel strongly about the topic of pain medication (mainly that it should be avoided if at all possible, and some even consider it a relapse), and I listen to what they have to say, but I will choose the course that is right for me, my treatment and my pain. I've been around the recovery world long enough to know that if you ask 100 people the same question, you will get 100 different answers, and some of them will be very opinionated. The trick is to listen with an open mind and heart, but to always balance advice with what is right for me, and then to run what I think is right for me past my inner circle of recovery- my most trusted friends - who will tell me if I'm lying to myself.
The Desperate Housewives image - as funny as it is - is also a reminder to be careful.
As a woman in recovery I don't like feeling out of it anymore. I don't like the feeling that I'm looking at the world through a fog. Thankfully, so far that isn't happening, and with the exception of the steroids I haven't noticed any appreciable side effects from any of the medication I'm taking.
As difficult as this is - this whole journey through cancer - I want to be present for it, feel the emotions, work through the tough stuff. When I come out on the other side I want to have grown.
If I were still drinking, there would be no growth. If I were drinking, cancer would be a Grade A, World Class excuse to drink, no matter how bad it would be for my body and my treatment.
There are moments when I want to escape - to pull some secret trapdoor and just drop out of my life for a while. When I get like this, I start talking, because I know it's the first step towards wanting to be out of it altogether.
For now, though, I will enjoy my bursts of productivity, while keeping a wary eye out for the proverbial goalpost.