Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chemotherapy 4: A Step Forward and a Step Back

       On Thursday Feb. 19 I had my second chemo treatment.  Sort of like going to your home-away-from-home.  I sat in the waiting room trying to decide which patients were wearing wigs.  Only one person had on a bandana.  Then a woman sat down opposite me and was coughing.  She covered her mouth, but still I cringed.  Here are all these people with suppressed immune systems and this is the perfect venue to catch some infection.
       Anyway, I get called in and I get a different nurse this time.  I really liked the first one, but this one gave me the impression that she would rather be anywhere doing anything than helping us poor chemo patients.  When you're on chemo, they give you continuous saline along with the drugs, so you have to go to the bathroom about every 45 minutes.  The first time the nurse was very solicitous about helping me get there because with my arthritis I'm not too agile, but this time I'm on my own.  So there I am, unplugging myself, climbing out of the recliner, staggering along as I roll the IV stand, trying to get the heavy bathroom door open ...  Oh, well, guess it's good for me to be self-sufficient.
       This lasted from 9:00 AM until 2:00.  By afternoon the whole thing had gotten pretty old. I was actually terminally bored.  Then I had just about received all the fluids when THE FIRE ALARM WENT OFF!  Yow!  A bunch of little lights started flashing on the ceiling and this klaxon-like siren started screaming!  I knew it was a fire alarm because the other day when I went for an appointment, the lights were flashing in the hall and there was a fire truck at the main hospital entrance.  Then the lights went off and a voice came on: "Code Red all clear -- Code Red all clear."
       In the chemo room everybody burst into frenetic activity.  Somebody said it was a drill, but of course nobody knows for sure.  My original nurse took charge of me, unhooking me from the port, and grabbing my arm, saying, "Can you walk down the stairs?"  I said, "I can if I have to!  Glad it's not upstairs!"  So we headed for the door and about that time the alarms quit  and everybody relaxed.  Somebody said to me, "I guess that woke you up." 
       I felt fine on Friday, but now I have to take Neulasta shots, so I went on Friday afternoon and got one.  This is supposed to stimulate the growth of white blood cells, which are low in my case.  The problem is, it causes bone pain because it affects the bone marrow.
       And boy, on Saturday I felt horrible.  First, they had insisted on giving me intravenous Zofran, which I am sure constipated me before.  And lo and behold!  I was constipated immediately after the chemo treatment.  I'm going to insist they leave it out next time.  So I'm back on the Miralax regimen -- this time I'm not waiting because I definitely do not want to have to take magnesium sulfate again.
       Second, the Neulasta does make you ache.  Yesterday it was awful -- mostly in my arthritic joints, like the knee, and also in my hands.  Also, yesterday I was so fatigued I could hardly move.  Kinda makes me mad because I had been feeling really good.  Now my appetite has disappeared again, although I still don't have nausea.  But food feels funny in your mouth.  I noticed that after the first chemo treatment, too.
       It's now Sunday, and I do feel better this morning.  I'm not aching as much and I'm not so horribly fatigued.  Also, the Miralax seems to be kicking in.  The evidence that I do feel better is that I felt like writing this blog post.
       I had wanted to have scrambled eggs for lunch, and I may still try for that, although it's a lot of work.  I'll see how enthusiastic I am for that when the time rolls around.
Hair Update
       Very thin now, but still I have some all over my head.  I washed it this morning (Sunday) and it came out in clumps, which got tangled up with the hair that was still attached and I looked like I'd stuck my finger in a light socket.  I had to untangle it manually and a lot came out.  I'll be just as glad when it's all out.   I think I might actually be a little better looking than this turkey vulture!  My beak isn't as sharp!

Turkey Vulture
Who says bald isn't beautiful?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chemotherapy 3: Better News

       Following up on the last post -- I didn't get results and last Saturday I did go to the ER, which was a complete bust.  I do not advise going to the ER for constipation.  They gave me a bottle of Magnesium Citrate and then an enemy (Freudian slip -- I meant to type "enema"), which did not work at all.  Then they wanted to give me the stuff they give for colonoscopies, but I refused in horror and told them I just wanted to go home.  Actually, they seemed to expect the Mag. Cit. to work instantaneously, but it doesn't do that with me.  After I got home, it started up and worked for 24 hours.  I'm not exaggerating.  I was absolutely miserable and had my first nausea in the middle of the night.  I did take a Zofran and it fixed the nausea, and I'm happy to say I've been fine since in that regard.
       I could have bought the Mag. Cit. and taken it myself at home -- it's over the counter.  That's what I'm going to do the next time.  However, I did get some good advice from the doctor in the ER.  Miralax twice a day for a while.  I'm happy to report that seems to have worked.  Now if I can just get everything regularized permanently ...
But now for the good news!

       I had blood drawn on Tuesday and they ran the CA125 test.  That's the test for the cancer antigen.  It's not always reliable for diagnosing cancer, but they use it to measure whether the chemo is working.  And apparently it is, because

my level was originally 107 and now it's down to 11!

And a little Googling revealed that normal levels are below 35, so it looks like things are on track!  I take my next treatment next Thursday.  I hope it doesn't get worse as it goes along.

Hair Report

       I had been told that hair doesn't begin to come out for a couple of weeks, and lo and behold, they were right!  Last Thursday marked two weeks since the first chemo treatment, and on Friday (yesterday) I started to shed like a long-haired cat.  It's not coming out in clumps, just five or six hairs at a time.  I get a few if I tug on it, and it's always hanging down over my glasses or tickling my nose.  When I look in the mirror with the sun shining on me, I can see a bunch of hair on my shoulders.  Wonder what my bald head will look like.  Will I have weird knobs or protuberances?  Maybe I'll discover I'm growing antennae!  LOL

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Body Language in TermiteWriter's Books

       I'm still having the same reaction to the chemo (see my last two blog posts), but I decided to forget about it for now and write on a more entertaining topic.
       I just read this article about the use of body language in fiction. and it has prompted me to write a post about how I use body language in my writing.  I'll give examples.

From v.1: The Speaking of the Dead
Chapter 8 (using body language to change another's opinion of a character):
       “You impressed Prf. Jerardo at the Yakuta symposium.  He says you debate with a real instinct for the kill.”
       Kaitrin looked at Jerardo in surprise; he was grinning and rocking on his heels.  So he really had noticed that she had trounced him!  Maybe she had been selling him short.

Chapter 7 (Kaitrin observes the enigmatic but disturbingly attractive Griffen Gwidian in a social setting for the first time.  We learn a lot about Griffen's reputation for womanizing from how he and the other woman interact, and we learn something about Kaitrin from how she reacts.)
       Kaitrin stared at the distant table.  Gwidian was not alone; his companion was someone Kaitrin had seen in the XA Database Lab – an exotic-looking, dusky-skinned woman with hair dressed in the currently trendy lion’s-mane style, frizzed out in points tipped with colors, in this case a mix of silver and blue.
       “What is the matter?  Your mouth is open.”
       Kaitrin closed it.  “He’s with somebody.  How did he get to know that person so quickly?  He’s been over here to anthro only a couple of times.”
       “I have to look – just a peek …  Oh, I know that woman!  Her name is Meka – do not know the second name.  And they think I am strange-looking.  But she, too, has a reputation.”
       Kaitrin was having trouble taking her eyes off the pair.  Gwidian was laughing, leaning intimately toward his companion, who bent closer in response.  She knuckled him playfully on the forearm, inclining her head sideways.  He raised his right hand, slipped it around the back of the woman’s neck in a seemingly practiced gesture and ran his fingers up into her hair.  Her head bent a little farther forward with the pressure.
       Then Gwidian’s glance shifted and he saw Kaitrin looking at him.  For a moment their gazes cleaved together as if no one else were present in the crowded dining room.  Then his hand dropped back to rest on the table, his glance slid away, and Kaitrin lowered her own eyes in confusion.
       “What now?” asked Luku.  “You have that where the blood goes to the face.”
       “He saw me looking.  He has the most intense eyes.  Damn.  Let’s finish up here and get back to the lab.”

Chapter 11 (The first spontaneous "date" between Kaitrin and Griffen is going swimmingly, until one of his old flames shows up.  Another example of how to suggest character through body language and how to merge into suggestive or sarcastic dialogue.  This and the previous example also show how you can use clothing to delineate character.) 
       “Griff!  Imagine running into you over here!”
       Gwidian’s face gathered into a frown.  Kaitrin looked up to see a dark-haired woman standing at his elbow, glancing between them.  She was clad in a low-cut yellow leotard and black mesh tights.
       “Margit,” said Gwidian, looking sideways at her.  “It’s been a while.”
       “It certainly has.  Have you lost my relay code, Griff?”
       Kaitrin sat frozen, staring at this interloper with the amused black eyes and suggestive smile. 
       “I’ve been off-world,” Gwidian said.  His voice was tight.  “Asc. Oliva, this is Margit Terrie.  Margit, Asc. Kaitrin Oliva, a colleague in my latest project.”
       Margit cocked her head at Kaitrin, swaying her hips slightly.  “A colleague!  How special!  Too bad you can’t use a dance instructor in your projects, Griff!  Your latest one requires a visit to the Arts campus, does it?”
       “Asc. Oliva and I were about to view the faculty art show.”
       “I didn’t know you were so interested in art,” said Margit.  “You never told me that, Griff.”  She gave him no time to answer.  “Message me some time.  I never went away.”
       “If I can,” replied Gwidian coldly.  “I’m going off-world again.”
       “Again?  Too bad!  And, Asc. Oliva, you’ll be going off-world with him?”
       Kaitrin was never sure afterward how she had replied.
       “Well, I’m so happy I ran into you, Griff.  Asc. Oliva, nice to meet you.  Good luck on your expedition!  See you later?”  With a little flurry of hip and shoulder, she was gone.
       There was a glacial silence.  All the rapport, all the warmth, had departed with Margit Terrie.
     Then Gwidian muttered something unintelligible and pushed back his plate.  “Perhaps I should be returning to my office.  I seem to recall a matter that requires attention.”
       “What?  And miss out on nurturing this unprecedented interest in art?” said Kaitrin acidly. 
       He puffed his cheeks, gestured impatiently, and stood up.  “You’ll enjoy the exhibit a good deal more without me, I’m sure.  I’ll possibly see you before the committee meeting."
       Not if I can help it, went through Kaitrin’s mind.  How could I possibly have let down my guard this way with this – this promiscuous stud?
       Gwidian had turned back.  His expression of distress appeared genuine.  “Kaitrin, I feel I owe you an explanation … ”
       Kaitrin was not buying it.  “What for?  Your recreational activities are of no concern to me.  And my name is Asc. Oliva.”
       Gwidian hesitated, then threw up his hands and walked away swiftly toward the door.

       I'm discovering that hardly a chapter goes by without using body language in my writing, and so I think I'll just stop there.  Doesn't every writer use body language?  Anybody who doesn't had better figure it out.

A good example of
body language at the
moment Ki'shto'ba and
Kwi'ga'ga'tei receive
the Speaking of the Dead.
       But do my termites use body language?  For sure!  The eyed Alates use visual cues to emphasize what they are saying and even the blind Warriors and Workers use postures (for example, threat postures) because rearing up causes pheromones to come from a different location.  Here are some more examples of termite body language.

From The Termite Queen, v.2: The Wound That Has No Healing
 Chapter 21 (Kaitrin is engaged in telling the Queen A'kha'ma'na'ta and her "court" the tale of Ulysses and the Cyclops)
       “The Zin’tei woke up and commenced making such a commotion that it could be sensed all the way through the stone over the door.  Friends who lived in other caves nearby came running to see what was happening.  They asked him, ‘What is the matter in there?  Is somebody harming you?  Who is it?’
       “But, of course, here is what the Zin’tei answered:  ‘It is Nobody’s work that is doing this to me!  Nobody is doing me harm!’”
       As this sank in, Kaitrin experienced a very strange phenomenon.  The Shshi commenced to bounce themselves up and down with little springs of their forelegs, spinning their antennae in wild circles so that any words they were transmitting were broadcast unintelligibly in all directions.  They swung their heads in U-shaped motions.  Even Kwi’ga’ga’tei participated in this exercise, and the Commander Hi’ta’fu was somewhat ponderously caught up.  Mo’gri’ta’tu, however, only gave a couple of tiny hops and held his antennae motionless.
       Clever! said Di’fa’kro’mi.  Most entertaining!
       ‘Nobody’ did it to me – That is quite humorous! said Ki’shto’ba, using a word Kaitrin had never encountered before, but whose meaning seemed clear from the context.
       It was a revelation.  This must be how they laugh!  The Shshi have a sense of humor!  I never would have thought it!  What a gift to discover this!

From The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head. 
Vol. 1: The War of the Stolen Mother, Chapter 1 (Di'fa'kro'mi is droning on about how he invented writing in an image language and his scribe Chi'mo'a'tu gets bored.  Handling body language in a first-person narrative is a little different, because it has to be completely relevant to what the narrator is thinking and feeling.)
       What?  Why are you stamping about and flaring your wings?  I am well aware that you know all this already!  I suppose I am boring you!  But I am not finished analyzing my thought processes.  A Remembrancer should always finish what he has begun to tell – that is a cardinal rule!  That is the trouble these days – you young ones are in too much of a hurry, impatient to be finished.  You have never learned how to pay attention, and words do not have the fascination for you that they should.
Please do not display such indignation, Chi’mo’a’tu – I am well aware that you know how to pay attention.  Would I have chosen you as my principal scribe for this undertaking if I had thought you could not pay attention?

Vol. 4: Beneath the Mountain of Heavy Fear, Chapter 18 (The Companions are visiting the southern fortress of Ra'ki'wiv'u and the fortress's Remembrancer is telling the tale of the Great Bird Hunt [think of The Hunt for the Calydonian Boar]):
Huffing, we all relaxed back into our seating places.  It was a rousing tale and Fi’frum’zei’s animated delivery had enhanced the excitement.  She had hopped around the room, flapping her antennae so wildly that at times her words became unintelligible.  When someone in the tale hurled a spear, she hurled a mock one, and when Thel’tav’a shot her dart, she mimicked that motion.  When Ist’u’mim’zei fell into the hole, she pretended to trip over her own feet and thrashed around on the floor.  A mandible-slash demanded a vigorous shaking of the head.  I had never seen a tale told in quite that fashion – physically imitating the action.  It was quite effective but not very dignified!  I wondered if all the Remembrancers in these parts told tales that way, or if it was an effect of the trol’zhuf’zi| [a fermented leaf]!  If the former were true, I doubted my static delivery style would provide any chance of winning a prize at the upcoming competition.

       I hope some of you will have found these examples enjoyable.  If you want to read more, check out the covers in the sidebar or  go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.  I'm still trying to get somebody to buy a book at Smashwords.  I only need 10 cents to qualify for a royalty payment.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Chemotherapy 2: Don't Read If You're Squeamish about Bodily Functions

I've got one exactly like this!
       Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that since beginning the chemo, I have not been nauseated at all, which is great!  I've been taking Zofran, an anti-nausea drug that appears to really work.  I was supposed to take one pill morning and evening for four days, and I dutifully did that.  I believe they also infuse you with Zofran while they are giving you the chemo drugs.  After four days, you're supposed to take it as needed, and since I didn't seem to need it, I haven't taken a dose since yesterday morning. 
       It's been a week and one day since I had the first chemo treatment (it seems like fifty years!) and I do have a problem.  It's constipation.  It started immediately after the treatment.  After the anesthesia for the port implant, I had a slight uptick of constipation, but a couple of Dulcolax did the trick, with no cramping or other side effects.  After the chemo treatment, I took two Dulcolax and I had terrible pains in my stomach all night.  Finally I got up at 3:30 AM and ate breakfast, because for me that usually jump-starts the digestive system.  It worked, but the results were rather strange.  I won't go into nitty-gritty details.
       I called the nurse in my doctor's office and she told me I wasn't following the proper laxative protocol, which involves using Senakot-S because it doesn't cramp so much.  So I tried that, but I'm bad at swallowing pills, and the Senakot pills are a little too big for me -- and chewing them is atrocious!  They have a hideous taste that lingers as a bitter aftertaste for an hour, and actually they start to dissolve the minute you put them in your mouth.  Furthermore, you're supposed to take two and if that doesn't work, you take two more, and that doesn't work, then take three and even on to four.  In the meantime you're miserable because nothing is working.  I want something that works fast!
       I did get a slight result after taking four pills, but nowhere near enough, so I called the nurse again and told her I was going to try taking one Dulcolax and see what happens.   Well, nothing happened.  In total annoyance, today at midmorning, I took two more Dulcolax and then for lunch I ate a really big bowl of All-Bran cereal and an 8-ounce glass of prune juice.  And I thought, if this doesn't work, I'll have to go to the ER
       Then I got to thinking that maybe I'd better call the doctor's office again, because the weekend is coming up and somebody ought to know what I'm doing in case it kills me.  The same nurse wasn't there, so I talked to a different person.  Of course, that means getting differing advice.  I had asked about using a suppository because the laxative protocol said not to do either that or an enema without the doctor's OK. The nurse said, no, don't do that because you have a low immune system right now. (Not sure how that applies -- I suppose the idea is, you might introduce some bacteria into the body on the suppository.)  Anyway, this new person I talked to said I should use a suppository.  I told her what the nurse said, and she consulted some other people and said, "No, it would be fine to use a suppository."  You know, it's a wonder anybody survives.
       So I told her I intended to wait and see if the two Dulcolax and the bran and prune juice gets anything going tomorrow morning -- if all that doesn't produce, there has got to be something else wrong with me.

But that's not the whole story!

       I asked my adviser if Zofran might possibly cause constipation, and she said, "Yes, it could."  Arrgh!  If that's the problem and I don't need to take it, maybe once I get through this siege, I'll be OK.  Maybe I never needed Zofran in the first place.  I have another drug called Compazine (also an anti-nausea drug) that she said is much less constipating, which I can just take as needed.  So far, no need.
       I asked a friend who had chemo 30 years ago about her reactions, and she said she was nauseated but never constipated.  I don't suppose they had Zofran in those days.  Anyway, I'm not a happy camper right now.  I just can't focus on anything creative, although I did do some work yesterday on Fathers and Demons.  We'll see what happens tomorrow.

And if that isn't more information
than you ever wanted to know,
I don't know what is!
But maybe this will be useful to somebody else
in the same predicament.

By the way, I still have my hair.

Link to Chemotherapy 1