On Thursday of treatment week ten, I had an annual physical that included a fasting blood draw. By the time the dinner hour rolled around that evening, I had been fasting for over fifteen hours. Nausea combined with an empty stomach had me feeling "off". I felt weak and clammy. Dinner was OK but the aftermath was horrific. I seriously considered sleeping on the bathroom floor.
The next morning, a Friday, I was due at the clinic for a neupogen injection. Once there, I enjoined my boys to "behave...well", intuiting the need to be specific. I was ushered to the back and seated for a blood pressure check. The nurse stood off a bit, silently taking stock of me for several uncomfortable moments. Warily, she offered the assessment, "You look bedraggled."
"Um...yes. I am bedraggled. That is a good word for it," I muttered. I then relayed the prior evening's development, whereupon both the nurse and the doctor bombarded me with advice, admonitions, and warnings. I wasn't prepared for them to treat diarrhea as a Big Hairy Deal, but they clearly did. Or maybe I looked worse than I thought.
The nurse exclaimed, "Immodium! You need immodium!" and hurried off to retrieve it.
"Food! You need food and drink!" recommended the doc, as she vanished to gather pretzels and water from the staff lunchroom. She then promptly offered a prescription for potassium, in the form of a pill the size of my thumb. Warnings of a possible hospital stay were given, followed by explanations of blood chemistry and worrisome signs to watch for. I was to go home, drink as much as I possibly could, and rest, rest, rest.
I managed to avoid a hospital stay, and did a lot of resting over the weekend.
New side-effects appeared. What felt like a sustained electric shock moved through my feet. It seemed to start at the ankles, and then it swooshed through both feet at the same time, all the way to my toes. It didn't hurt, and it lasted only a second, but it took me off guard. This happened maybe twenty times each day. Neuropathy in my feet had begun. It would get worse.
My fingers were affected by neuropathy too, from the fingertips back just beyond the first knuckle. It was painful to write, and impossible to button things. Tying shoestrings was difficult and frustrating. Aside from being painful, it felt like my fingers had expanded; they seemed to get in the way of themselves, like I was wearing invisible gloves. I dropped stuff a lot. I was afraid to use knives.
Fortunately, I could still type, despite neuropathy. I updated friends and family about one of the nurse's suggestions for de-toxing my liver between treatments. She recommended that I drink apple cider vinegar, the murkier, the better:
I was to mix of 2 TB of apple-cider vinegar into 8 oz. of water, then drink it down once or twice daily. I added a liberal amount of unauthorized honey to the glass as well.
I would like to tell you that the elixir is nothing short of a delight, however that would be a big, fat lie. What it is actually, is a method for disintegrating the back of your throat. Given enough time, I'm pretty sure it would strip all the enamel off of your teeth, too. In a word: Yuck.
When I next met the nurse, just two days later, I reported that my entire biological system had voted "No" to apple cider vinegar. I tried it two or three times, but instead of getting easier, drinking the stuff got even more difficult. She then suggested that I drink 4 oz. of minimally processed apple juice every morning instead. This I did, happily, almost every day.
Only two treatments were left. I couldn't feel my fingers, my feet were wigging out, my liver was angry and my hair was getting thinner and thinner. I had no energy, and my brain was...different. Would I make it to number twelve?