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Jay Lake
Date: 2010-09-13 05:43
Subject: [cancer] The recovery curve intersects with the catastrophe curve
Security: Public
Tags:calendula, cancer, health, personal, sex
Warning: Several kinds of TMI in this post. Don't say I didn't tell you.

A discussion of cancer treatment side effects and the recovery process seems to be in order once more. Over the past few days I've hit several significant if minor improvements in my well being and general functionality. My oncologist had told me quite some time ago to expect to feel better from chemo around September. By golly, she had it right. I don't know how much of this was inflected by the vacation that calendula_witch and I just took, and how much is simply the passage of time.

And of course, with liver surgery in three days, almost certainly followed by more chemo, this is as good as it will be for another year.


I'm still pretty bedeviled by fatigue, but at this point I can stay up late if I need to without being wrecked for days after. I survived the Hugos in Melbourne just fine, as contrasted with my general collapse after attending the final Clarion West party in Seattle last July. At the moment, I can't yet sort out post-chemo fatigue issues from the last bits of jet lag. There are worse problems to have. (And yes, I have worse problems.) I do still find the amount of time I spend sleeping to be pretty darned irksome, but it offends me less than it used to. Unfortunately, the forthcoming surgery is going to shove me way back down the fatigue pipe. Apparently the recovery from liver resectioning is deeply exhausting.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Over the past weekend I have been experimenting with leaving my gloves off and going barehanded for periods of time. Also, the numbness in my feet appears to have receded a bit. I'm not sure how much improvement there is objectively, but I don't seem to be quite so miserable subjectively. I do not expect the forthcoming surgery to retard this recovery much if at all.

Lower GI

TMI alert. Lower GI was all over the place in New Zealand and Australia, but that's not unusual for me when traveling, even in my pre-cancer days. Local variation of bugs in the water affects intestinal flora, after all. At this point, I'm still having movements with a frequency that would be alarming in someone of ordinary health, but they're pretty normal other than the frequency. As normal as I'll ever be, given the state of my colon and lower GI. Surgery, however, will screw this up royally for a while, due to my body's reaction to general anaesthetic. Once I get over that, chemo will screw it up even more royally, as I'm told this next regime has more severe GI side effects than my last chemo regime. Which is, frankly, a truly appalling thought.

Sexual Function

TMI alert. As I've discussed previously, the colonic resectioning in 2008 to address my primary cancer, created a long-term erectile dysfunction problem. My doctor told me that I was headed there anyway simply due to my age, and the surgery side effects accelerated a natural process. The ED is not absolute, but Viagra is often my friend. Chemo flatlined my erectile response, even with Viagra, though it never flatlined my libido. Post-chemo not too much changed until the past week or two, when I began occasionally experiencing an almost-normal response even without the medication. This past weekend, something woke up in both my libido and my physical sexual functioning, to a degree I haven't seen in a very long time. Which surgery will of course flat-line as both a response to anaesthesia and a response to the surgical insults to the body, so I'll enjoy my four or five days of actual sexual health before sliding into another year of 'meh' with surgical recovery and chemo.


As mentioned before, I talk about this last bit not for prurient reasons, but because maintaining a sexual identity and some form of functionality is an incredibly important part of mental health, emotional health and quality of life when one is ill on a chronic or long-term basis. I've found the oncology team remarkably reluctant to discuss sexuality and cancer, and most of the online resources that discuss this at all are very prissy, obviously far more concerned with not offending than with actually informing.

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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: cuddlycthulhu
Date: 2010-09-13 15:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I agree. It's cool to see you so open about what is going on. You're in my thoughts as well
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W. Lotus: Peaceful
User: wlotus
Date: 2010-09-13 16:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I third these sentiments.

You're in my thoughts.
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User: barbarienne
Date: 2010-09-13 15:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm glad to hear that the anticipated improvements occurred as promised.

Sorry they're going to be smacked back down by yet another round of "cancer, cancer, who's got the cancer?" Perhaps it will be heartening to remember this step towards recovery and anticipate it happening again next year? (And, we hope, not being interrupted again!)
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Clint Harris
User: wendigomountain
Date: 2010-09-13 16:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My dad went through prostate removal last year due to cancer. I'd rather hear the sexual function TMI stuff here than what goes on with him. That shit will scar you for life! :)
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2010-09-13 16:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm glad that there are being some improvements. And I'm hoping that the surgery won't knock you back too hard.
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V's Herbie: ionic bond
User: vsherbie
Date: 2010-09-13 18:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:ionic bond
It baffles me that doctors are frequently prudes. I mean, they'll discuss minute variations in your biochemistry but the state of your dick is too intimate? WTF?

My hubby is a type 1 diabetic, and I almost made a tech flee the room when I wanted to discuss fat deposits and insulin delivery on his ass. She wouldn't hear it and proceeded to install the tech on his side, causing invalidation of the test and three days of bleeding. All because she didn't want to look at his butt.
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Paul Haines
User: paulhaines
Date: 2010-09-13 22:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hey Jay,

45% missing is easy! You'll get through it okay, and just maybe have to take it easy and no reading, writing, nothing for a couple of days as the body diverts everything it has to regrowing that liver.

I don't think I mentioned it to you when we were talking, but once I came off the IV painkillers in hospital I only took paracetamol a few times a day as my regular painkiller, and then after a week or so I didn't really take anything, except maybe a couple before I went to bed to help me sleep. I was very weak for that first couple of weeks too. Needed to sleep a LOT.

Just don't cough, sleep, or laugh (so be careful with my book then), and there will hopefully be minimal pain after surgery and through the regrowth.

Best of luck, man!

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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-09-13 23:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you, sir. I'll work on that not sleeping thing... :p

And truly, our conversation in Melbourne was very inspiring. I really appreciate your experience and the wisdom so dearly bought thereby. And your book is here by my side, next up.
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