Chemo Bipolar

Yes Katy , I am having a case of Chemo Bipolar, and I am hot and cold in my noggin’ sans hair. I have treated many with bipolar but now I am getting a visceral understanding of really what having the ups and downs means. Having no control over how you are going to feel for the next few days, actually¬† miserable is the forecast 3-4 days post chemo, waiting for the cloud to lift so you can have your share of the “manic” week before it starts all over again. It’s hard to believe that a week ago I chose to walk 2 miles just to get a cup of good coffee – only had decaf at home, what kind of life would that be! Today just a trip to the kitchen feels like a hike. That, my friends, is Chemo Bipolar.

I am passing the week in hope for the “bipolar switch” when the metallic taste in the mouth disappears, the “shutdown” in the alimentary cabinet is able to push out a solution, the aching in the muscles (reminding you of what you are going through) disappears, the nerves start to fire some energy beats and the corners of the mouth are able to host a smile. Such are ups and downs of life with chemo.

It’s good they give you a schedule. You start to plan your life in the “good week” – work, kids and activities. The good week is off week – off from hospital, off infusion pumps going “hee-haw, hee-haw” for 8 hours (I hear them as “you will, you will, survive”), off from smell of IV meds, off bandages, off hospital gowns, off being “the patient.” It’s life without caffeine….no buzz, no beat, just existing, waiting for the grand prize at the end, end of treatment. My mind wanders, “What will be my lithium for this bipolar – something to hold on to so I can bear it all?” Thinking like a true psychiatrist, huh?

For me, it is the “manic week” when I am able to bake cookies (OK, I admit not from scratch), go do my Target runs of mostly non-essential items, go see patients and encourage them out of their deepest depression, be silly with the kids so much that I forget it all and live in the moment and cook and taste real food. Life truly becomes a collection of moments rather days, and about having fun while you can.

Then the day before chemo comes, with anxiety and irritability, with apprehension, with hope that it will easier this time, knowing very well that fatigue is a cumulative side effect of chemotherapy, still some hope lingers, until the infusion is done and I puke my guts out – that signal from the pit of the stomach that says “This stuff would be so much better outside my body.” The day of chemo, two hours prior I “marinate” my port (IV access disc surgically placed in my left subclavian vein) with lots of lidocaine (numbing medicine), so the needle won’t hurt (not the worst pain every but totally avoidable with good marinating) and then place Saran Wrap on it. Really, Saran Wrap. Then I put on my smile and my make up, and we go.

I guess it’s all about dulling the pain as much as possible and taking the rest in stride. Especially in October. Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Take care of those breast or you will miss them bad!