Friday, September 21, 2012

People Are Watching You

When I was going though cancer treatment, I became familiar with some books by Dr. Bernie Siegel, a physician who has worked extensively with cancer patients.    One of his books, "Peace, Love & Healing", has a great quote about disease being an agent of transformation. Listen to the richness of this statement:

"Disease is surely one of the ways we are tried by life and offered the chance to be heroic.  Though few of us will win Olympic medals or slay dragons, disease can be the spark or gift that allows many of us to live out our personal myths and become heroes".  (p. 197).

In other words, a person may not accomplish anything above the mundane in life, that is, win medals or slay dragons.  But yet, in a strange way, having an illness, whether it be cancer or another malady, provides an opportunity for a person to become a hero.  I've certainly discovered this to be true in my own life.  Although I fail in so many ways, I still am approached by people in church years after my cancer battle who tell me what an encouragement I was to them when I was in the darkest moments of my sickness.  Hey, I wasn't trying to be a hero.  I was just trying to survive.

Reminds me of the account of Paul and Silas in Acts 16.  As you may recall, they were thrown into a Philippian jail after publicly renouncing a girl with a spirit of divination.  After being arrested, they were beaten with rods and thrown into prison.  Their feet were placed in stocks.  How did these early missionaries deal with their situation?  Acts 16:25 records how "...about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God and the prisoners were listening to them (italics mine)."

Although it is unfathomable to think of the immoral punishment inflicted upon Paul and Silas, it did have a good result in that the prisoners were listening to them.  Brought to mind how whenever a person goes through hardship such as illness, there are others watching to see how one will respond.  Believe it or not, the dungeon of cancer may be the divine instrument in life to propel a person to stardom.  Who are the fans?  Why, it's simply the other prisoners in life who happen to be listening.    

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Advances In Nausea Control

I've been a nurse since 1983.  It's amazing some of the medical advances I've witnessed in my lifetime.  Consider the advances in treating acid reflux or peptic ulcer disease.  In the old days, I can remember giving patients an antacid such as Maalox or Mylanta every three hours (I kid you not) to allow healing of an ulcer and neutralize the acid in a patient's stomach.  I can still picture the white coating on  patients' lips who underwent this regimen.  Later, and not necessarily in order of appearance on the market, drugs like Tagamet,  Zantac, and Pepcid appeared to decrease acid production.  Another drug was subsequently developed to coat the stomach called Carafate.  Not too long after that, even better acid reducing medications like Prevacid and Nexium appeared.  Eventually, it was discovered that some ulcers were caused by a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori (known simply as H. pylori).  If H. pylori was discovered in your stomach, then you were given a course of antibiotics plus acid-reducing medications for several weeks.  So, the former days of  frequently gulping down chalky antacids were replaced by taking some pills for a few weeks.  An incredible breakthrough.

As I may have previously stated, extreme nausea was one of the worst side effects I endured while going through chemotherapy.  Frequent nausea.  Debilitating nausea leading to further fatigue and weight loss during treatments.  Consequently, most anti-nausea medications I received were of little value.  The nausea simply had to run its course.  Finally, with my last treatment, my doctor gave me a new drug called Emend which I took the day of chemotherapy and two days afterwards.  It was an expensive drug, roughly one hundred dollars a pill back then, but it totally obliterated the nausea.
I can only wonder what a difference this drug would have made if I would have taken it early on in treatment.  Perhaps the multiple hospitalizations due to dehydration could have been avoided.

Furthermore, I recently spoke to an oncologist who stated, if I understood him correctly, that nausea is not as much an issue with chemotherapy today due to advances in medical treatment.  Although some side effects of chemotherapy may be unavoidable, such as fatigue or hair loss, being able to eat and drink freely after treatments without the fear of vomiting may be the biggest medical breakthrough of them all.