(19-03-04) A Crappy Day – Pun Intended

3:32 am.

I awake with a start at the all-too familiar feeling of something moving around in my left knee. The cancer cells are on the run. Within three minutes, I’m already buzzing for the nurse. Gotta try to stay ahead of the pain this time.

The Spanish-speaking Sunday nurse takes her sweet time getting to my room. I’m guessing i probably woke her up, so almost ten minutes pass before she opens my door.

“Tarah?”

“The pain has started. It’s in my knees.”

“Pain?”

“Yes, pain.”

“Estomago? ”

“No, joint pain.” I point to my knees.

“Oh, okay,” and she leaves.

I expect her to come right back. With every passing minute, the pain intensifies and travels, moving along my left elbow, hand, and foot. The tears flow, and my moans are probably waking up the patients across the hall. Five minutes pass, and i press the buzzer again. I know i am being impatient, and I simply don’t care.

At 3:54, she brings me a shot of pain medicine, then leaves. I settle into a breathing activity to push through the pain and return to sleep … which works for about an hour.

5:05. Again, I wake with a sudden start from the jolt of joint pain. I knew that shot wasn’t going to cut it, but the weekend staff doesn’t understand the magnitude of this pain. By the time the nurse returns to my room, i am sitting in a pile of my own shit, rocking back and forth crying. I had literally shit myself, needing to go to the bathroom but unable to stand up due to the amount of pain in my feet, at this point. I don’t tell the nurse about the mess in my bed – partly because all i can focus on is the pain and partly because i am beyond mortified. Instead, i just lay there in fetal position, silently crying and slowly rocking while she hooks me up to a drip bag that contains more pain medication. When she leaves, i continue rocking, crying, and deep breathing for about a half an hour before the pain subsides enough for me to get out of bed and clean myself up. By this time, it’s after 6. I rinse myself off and then strip my bed. Laundry facilities are only open to the patients from 4pm-7am because the cleaning crew needs them during the workday (and i have already pushed my limits with this timeframe twice since i have been here). I attempt to run the bedding and my robe downstairs to at least get them in the washer before the staff get there, but i am too weak, and i buckle under the weight of all the linens. So instead, i throw the smelly pile down into a corner of the room, move over to the spare bed, and curl up in defeat as i wait for the pain meds to take effect.

* * *

That was how my day started. It really didn’t get much better from there. The day itself was filled with low appetite, non-functioning taste buds, cotton mouth, fatigue, head fog, weakness, a sore throat, nasal drainage, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, heavy sweating, and – according to Blanca – yellow skin. Luckily, the joint pain never returned for another round, and the cleaning lady took the soiled bedding from a very embarrassed me to launder. And now, it’s 11:35pm. The idea of (1) waking with a start to more joint pain or (2) defecating on myself again has me afraid to go to sleep… but my eyelids are heavy, and falling asleep brings me one day closer to going home.

And I*really* want to be one day closer to going home.

(19-03-02) Mini Rants

I am convinced my physical and mental states have deteriorated so much this week as a result of the cumulative effect of all the treatments i am getting. When i first got here, they dosed me exclusively with immune-boosting drip bags, building up my body to prepare for the fight ahead. (Sigh – i was feeling so invigorated then!!) From there, they introduced two of their standard cancer vaccines – nothing too serious yet – then one round of chemo. Now, though, as Week 6 comes to a close, my body is juggling four different vaccines and four different chemo drugs every week … and it’s running out of steam. Add sleeplessness, unsatisfying food, very uncomfortable body swelling, and official homesickness, and yeah: Grumpy Tarah is out on the prowl. Big time.

Dear Blanca,

You are, by far, my favorite nurse here. With that said, if you come in my room one more time and deliberately wake me up from a nap for no good reason, i might bitch slap you. No, i don’t want dinner. Yes, i know i have been sleeping all day. I’m fucking tired. I’ve been up since 2:30 and on the toilet since 4. Go away. Stop telling me to go downstairs and get dinner. Look at my stomach. Does it look like it needs food right now? It can eat the gas and the feces in there, for all i care, and wash that meal down with all the fluid retained from the drip bags. … Are you seriously not going to turn the light off when you leave? Blanca, do not TEST me today.

* * *

Dear Nahaliel,

I’m pretty sure that it’s your fault i feel extra shitty today. Saturday is supposed to be one of the two days in the week that i don’t experience any symptoms … yet here i am, clammy, exhausted, body-heavy, with a sore throat and extra mocos in my nose. Yesterday, you were supposed to come take those magnets off of me after two hours. You forgot, and i fell asleep waiting, and those magnets were left on my body for almost three hours. I don’t think that’s going to end well, especially since Dr. Rubio, Sr. told me that he caps those magnets at two hours for anyone. I’m a little nervous about the pain that’s going to hit tomorrow now, but you won’t even be at work tomorrow for me to take my frustration out on you, dammit.

* * *

Dear Dr. Smith,

While I do want to thank you for FINALLY getting me those itemized statements after i hounded you for over a month, what the hell am i supposed to do with a 22-page hardcopy edition? Do you see a scanner in my bedroom? There was a reason i asked you to email me this documentation. I swear you did this on purpose. I thought paying for your stupid tacos the other night would have worked as a subtle peace offering – apparently not. You’re welcome, by the way. Guess I’ll be back in your office on Monday night… You can’t get rid of me that easily. I’m just saying – if you dislike me as much as i feel you do, you should just give me what i want the first time around so that i leave you alone.

* * *

Dear Botas,

Stop fucking scratching that one wall. You are literally peeling the wallpaper off. If i have to pay to get that wallpaper strip replaced, I’m gonna toss your ass back out on the street. You have toys. You have a hamper and a chair you can claw. I know you need a damn scratching post; I’m trying to find you one. In the meantime, show some restraint. Are you seriously attacking my foot right now, as I’m ranting about you? Are you serious? How’s this water bottle blast feel right about now? Yeah, run away. You be working my nerves too, today.

* * *

Dear Weather,

Can you PLEASE not rain again tomorrow morning? I’m going stir-crazy in this room, and my window of opportunity for walking tomorrow is going to be minimal – especially since Nahaliel left those magnets on, and i don’t know what time that joint pain will hit me. Please take pity on this miserable White girl from AZ and just hold off on raining until later in the morning. I know the forecast says there is a 40% chance it will be raining by 7. Please. Work with me here.

Sincerely to all of you motherfuckers,

Tarah

(19-02-26) Conversation w/the Doctor

Dr. Rubio, Sr’s devious glint in his eyes let me know he was starting off our daily check-in with a bit of teasing.

“So, i heard you had a good Sunday.”

“I did NOT have a good Sunday. ”

He laughs at my pouting face, and we discuss symptoms, Sunday staff, and changes in drip bags for the next two days. At one point, he mentions the magnet vaccine.

“It hit faster and harder because you went for two hours. Next time, we go back to one.”

I protested. “No, i want to keep it at two. I’m here to beat this cancer. I know it’s going to be painful… but i want to do the maximum.”

He agreed to keep it at two, so I’ll probably get another round of that on Friday? (I forgot to ask him that.)

From there, we proceeded to discuss my timeline here, and here is the basic gist of our conversation.

  • He wants me to stay for two more weeks. His goal is for me to get my TNF number down to 45-50 before i leave. I don’t see that happening in just two weeks, but we’ll see….
  • Then, he wants me to come back in a month for a week of treatment. I have already booked my flight to return here the week of April 29.
  • He wants me to return for another week of treatment in June. Well, he said another month, but i would hold off until my students are on their school break.
  • At that point, we’ll decide whether i can just start coming for maintenance treatments once every six months or if i need to keep it at three for a while longer.

We also discussed the home program in more detail – specifically, the shots. I learned that the shots are doses of the vaccine and my stem cells. I didn’t realize I’d have access to my customized vaccines and stem cells at home, so i got a little excited about that. I’m a little less excited about giving myself shots every day, but he once again reassured me that he would show me how to do it properly before I left. He also confirmed what Erin told me a few days ago – that following the home program will allow my TNF number to continue going down even when i am not here in Tijuana. Hearing him say this flooded me with light inside, as it was yet another reminder that cancer is right now, in this moment and all future moments, losing its war inside my body. I’M GONNA WIN.

(19-02-25) Sunday Not Funday

Reactions to the magnet vaccine hit a day earlier than expected, and I learned this weekend that Sunday is the worst day here to need some extra personalized attention.

  • There are only two staff present on Sundays: Dr. Melissa (bilingual) and Nurse Mari (almost exclusively Spanish-speaking). This means that two people are responsible for nine different patients, which is a lot, considering some of us can be a little needy when they’re not feeling well (ahem, ahem).
  • Because these two are only here on Sundays, they really don’t know our needs and routines like the other staff do. Hence, we waste a lot of time reviewing information that I feel they should already know.
  • They both pull long shifts on these days: Dr. Melissa, 36 hours, from Saturday night to Monday morning; and Mari, 24 hours, from Sunday 7am – Monday 7am. They get tired. They sneak naps in the middle of the night. They don’t always respond quickly to 3am panic buzzes from my room.

So yeah, if I can figure out a way these last few weeks to get my symptoms to act up any other day of the week besides Sunday, I’m gonna work that out.

On a positive note, Dr. Melissa gave me a bottle of specialized arnica and eucalyptus cream as a pain-relieving topical treatment. Holy cow, this stuff works way better than the Arnica cream I commonly buy back home at Sprouts. She said her friend specially makes it, which makes this gesture even sweeter. Hopefully, I can find a way to order it back in the states…or sweet talk Dr. Melissa into adding some into my home treatment program.

(19-02-21) Battle Time

Yesterday was rough. Dr. Rubio, Sr. warned me that by raising the dosage of the vaccines by 1,000cc’s, I was going to experience an increase in side effects, and he wasn’t exaggerating. Meals and drip bags were brought directly to me as I spent the entire day inside my room, alternating between crying real tears of pain in the bathroom and rolling around in my bed making obnoxious moaning noises that probably made my Amish neighbors blush and say extra prayers for my fallen soul. I got to experience another round of that intense joint pain, where the dying cancer cells are fleeing the battlefield and all rushing towards the same places – in this case, my right knee, both elbows, my hands, and my feet. My mindfulness activities failed me once they hit my hands, and I begged for (natural) pain medication at that point, which they administered from 12:30pm all throughout the night.

Right now, I have a temporary reprieve. I’m still feeling sick, but showers help with the fever flushes, and the pain meds are masking the body aches and stomach cramping. My stomach is even growling for solid foods right now … and today I am going down to the kitchen PROMPTLY at 7:59 because we currently have some bigger, farm-sized Amish patients who leave me NO eggs in the morning when I get there at 8:30. Not today, boys. Not today.

I have been warned another round is coming, especially since I am getting the electromagnetic vaccine tomorrow. I am preparing my mind for battle once again. Luckily, I have a little soldier in my corner who brings me both comfort and joy in my time of need ….

4am snuggle sessions
taste-testing my dinner
watching TV with me after I just finished crying

(19-02-11) Delayed Reaction

{Warning: boob shot below}

… And here I thought I might not have anything to blog about today.

A BREAKDOWN OF EVENTS

11:00 – I get my third drip bag of the day: a bag of iron. I take a book outside to read by the pool.

12:30 – Adrian comes out to ask me for my credit card so that I can pay my weekly fee. As I hoist myself up off the lounge chair, I feel a weird twinge in both my knees. I shrug it off, although I do notice I struggle a little walking up the stairs to my room.

1:15 – As I am changing out of my clothes and into my ozone therapy suit, I notice a rash has spread across my right breast. I also notice that I am having trouble lifting my legs to get into the suit. Something doesn’t feel quite right in my knees.

1:35 – Lying in bed receiving my ozone treatment, the pain in my knees is starting to intensify. Initially just some tightness, it has now escalated to pulsating and throbbing.

2:10 – Nurse Nahaliel comes in to stop the ozone treatment and prepare me for the cabbage wrapping. As I step down off the bed, jolts of pain rip from my knees, up and down both legs. It brings tears to my eyes.

2:45 – I’m back to lying in bed, submerged under cabbage. At this point, it feels like someone is taking a hammer to both of my knees and going to town. The initial silent tears that were coursing down my cheeks minutes ago have evolved into low groans and sobs. When Mario comes in to deliver a package, I ask him to get Dr. Godinez for me.

2:48 – Dr. Godinez shows up, takes a verbal report of my symptoms, and checks my knees, which are swelling. I show him the rash on my breast as well, which has now started to blister. I am crying through this whole conversation, and I’m starting to shake internally from the pain.

2:50 – Nurses come in with drip bags containing pain medication and an anti-inflammatory. I can barely move my legs at this point. Dr. Godinez lets me know Dr. Rubio, Sr. is on his way.

3:10 – Dr. Rubio, Sr. arrives. He asks me what my pain level is, and I tell him, “8…maybe 9.” He takes one look at my panicked expression and immediately unleashes his exquisite bedside manner, letting me know that all of this is perfectly normal, and he’s about to explain why.

Here is what happened.

Remember that nanomagnetic particle vaccine I got on Friday – the one I was worried didn’t work because I felt no side effects whatsoever from the treatment?

Yeah. It worked all right. And today was the day my cells went to battle.

The iron drip bag I received this morning obviously contains metal in it. The metal from that bag triggered some cell activity from the vaccine, and my healthy cells were spending the day attacking the protein casings surrounding my cancer cells. My cancer cells, realizing they were getting beat the fuck up, were scurrying to retreat to someplace safe: my joints. According to Dr. Rubio, Sr., cancer cells commonly retreat to four places to hide and/or die: the liver, the kidneys, the joints, and the bones. That’s why my knees suddenly felt like they were being smashed to pieces; I had a bunch of injured cancer cells rushing in and overcrowding the area, and the metals attached to them were spinning wildly and out of control. Now, they were stuck, and my body needed to figure out a way to flush them out of my system. Nurses returned to the room with more drip bags (containing electrolytes, among other things) to help with this process. Additional pain medication was also administered in 20-minute increments, ice was placed on both knees, an oxygen breathing tube was put inside my nostrils, and Dr. Rubio, Sr. told me to relax and breathe for the next hour in darkness. In an hour, he said, my pain will be gone.

It took about an hour and a half, but eventually the pain subsided to a 2. I felt the pain head to other joints in my body – particularly my elbows, where I can still feel it now at 5:50pm. But I can now stand up and walk around again without wanting to buckle and fall to the ground.

And now I know that the nanomagnetic particle vaccine worked…

…and what to expect later this week when I get the vaccine again: mind-crushing pain to remind me this war is still very much in full effect.

(19-02-10) Weekly Reflection

As my third week here draws to a close, I find how easily I have settled into my new routine here. Morning walk around the city (today we walked for almost an hour and a half! Damn, was my right leg sore after that.). Breakfast and morning meds. Chelation. Electrolytes. Reading outside in the sun, or sitting in the massage chair in the common room, or turning water black with my toxin-ass feet. Lunch. Ozone. Cabbage. More bags. Dinner. More reading, perhaps journaling. Asleep by 10. Up before 3. Rinse and repeat.

Three to five more weeks to go of this, and then I return to a world that I was told I would soon not be a part of.

It still blows my mind, this extra chance at life I’ve been given – a chance that would not have been plausible without the Internet giving me knowledge on alternative treatment, without HB giving me the contact information of someone who successfully received treatment here five years ago, and without my dad finding multiple ways to make sure this trip continues to be funded. I am so filled with gratitude today that my heart feels like it’s swelling out of my chest.

Tomorrow my blood will be drawn again to see if the magnet vaccine had a significant impact on my TNF levels. I’m a little concerned it didn’t, solely because I really experienced no side effects from the vaccine. I felt nothing during the hour the magnets were attached to my body, and other than getting a little clammy sweaty Friday night, I felt nothing in the aftermath, either. I didn’t get sick at all this weekend, like I did last weekend from the dendritic vaccine. When I got sick last weekend, the doctors said that meant the vaccine was doing its job…so does that mean that a lack of sickness shows the vaccine didn’t do what it was supposed to? I guess we’ll find out when we get my levels on Wednesday.

(19-02-08) Vaccines & Stem Cells

Exactly one month ago, I sat across from Dr. Curley as he delivered my death sentence: 6-12 months to live. What a mindfuck to think about that now, here, as I feel myself not weak, but stronger; not sickly, but energized; not hopeless, but motivated.

I had the magnetic vaccine today. Nurse Blanca first hooked me up to a drip bag that contained magnetic nanoparticles in it. Then, Drs. Rubio, Sr and Godinez taped magnetic strips to the outside of my body, where there are known tumors: my lungs, my liver, my bones around my hips and pelvis, and my lower back.

It was a little anticlimactic, honestly – I didn’t experience any of those crazy hot flashes during the session, and I was able to last the whole hour without incident. Doctor Godinez came in every 20 minutes on the dot to check my vitals, which I found curious. I’m guessing some people have had serious reactions to this? Not me, though… ‘cuz I’m a warrior. My body handled the session like a boss.

Side note: I discovered another way they use stem cells here. Last night, Dr. Smith came in my room and took a culture swab of my vagina. Today, Dr. Rubio, Sr. explained that he creates stem cells that come from those cultures in my cervix because that area has the same kind of hormones as my breasts. All of this just continues to boggle my mind.