Drugs, Hugs and Losing My Jugs: A Breast Cancer Journal - June 20, 2015 - I Am Sisyphus
This is the twenty-fifth entry in a 31-day Breast Cancer Awareness Month exclusive series featuring the real journal entries of breast cancer survivor, Jessica Sliwerski. Read the previous entry here.
I noticed yesterday that my tongue is white and ruffly looking, as if smothered in a layer of Greek yogurt. My tongue has never looked like this before. It feels like I drank scalding hot tea and burned my whole mouth. It feels like I have severe dry mouth.
It feels as nasty as it looks.
And now I feel dirty, which I know is wrong, but I feel like I have an STD or something. Concerned, I consulted Google, searching “white tongue chemo” and that is how I learned that I don’t have an STD but I do have something that, to me, seems just as gross — oral thrush.
“What the fuck is oral thrush?” you may ask. I know. That’s what I asked, too.
Basically, it’s mouth fungus.
Thrush is a yeast infection. It is also called candidiasis. It is “a fungal infection typically on the skin or mucous membranes caused by candida.” Candida is yeast.
Sick, sick, sick. I have never had a yeast infection and now I have one and it is in my mouth.
Fuckin’ chemo, man.
It’s unfair of me to solely place the blame on chemo. Oral thrush is a side effect of chemo and the steroids, which caused an overgrowth of the fungus. Because my immune system is utter crap right now the candida is unregulated and taking over my mouth. The antibiotics I’m on aren’t helping matters, as they kill off any of the good bacteria that could be helping to keep the fungus in check.
Since it’s the weekend, I don’t want to bother my oncologist. I think I need an antifungal mouthwash, but that would require a prescription, so I’ve been self-medicating with my Magic Mouthwash and generous helpings of See’s chocolates. The Magic Mouthwash numbs my mouth and makes me feel like I’m doing something while I wait for a legit antidote. The chocolates just make me feel better period because 1) I can sort of taste them and 2) I’m sad.
I drank about half a bottle of Magic Mouthwash in the last 24 hours. I’ve consumed two boxes of See’s chocolates. But, I didn’t consume all of the chocolate in each of the boxes, as I spit out or threw away the loser flavors (like anything with coconut in it).
Regardless, I am absolutely certain that once I am finished with chemo I will never want See’s candy again.
Meanwhile, I am mad at myself for so easily forgetting how shitty chemo is. There is nothing remotely fun about this. It is downright awful.
It is excruciating bone pain and muscle aches and chills and sweats and nausea and no taste and head pain and exhaustion like no other and dehydration despite drinking so much water and broken, bruised veins.
It is waking up and feeling hopeful today will be better and then getting knocked down by some new symptom.
Yesterday I was strong enough to get 10,000 steps on Fitbit. Not my Fitbit because I still don’t have my Fitbit, but my mom’s Fitbit. She was with me and she got 10,000 steps and didn’t go anywhere I didn’t go so I got 10,000 steps by proxy. I was so proud of myself. I thought, I’m on the upswing!
But I wasn’t.
Last night I had severe nausea and thought I was going to vomit three separate times. I awoke each time drenched in sweat and feeling like my insides were going to explode all over the floor next to my side of the bed. I had big plans for being productive today, but then I slept like a rock until noon. I never once left the apartment.
It started to rain this afternoon and I was grateful. The dreary weather matched my dreary mood and made me feel less guilty about spending the day doing absolutely nothing except alternating between rinsing my mouth and stuffing it with more chocolate.
I feel defeated right now. I feel like a loser. I do not feel like a warrior at all.
While I was getting IV fluids (more hydration) on Thursday my therapist came and sat with me.
“I feel like I just can’t win,” I sobbed after telling her about my recent trip to the emergency room, my fevers, the antibiotics and the multiple hydration sessions that week.
“You must remember everything that is happening is evidence the chemotherapy is working.”
“My body is betraying me,” I wailed. “I’m a chemo failure.”
“Your body is not failing. It is reacting to the chemo the way it is supposed to,” she told me. “The chemo is working. It is killing every last particle of cancer.”
So now I will finish my glass of water, take a final swig of Magic Mouthwash and I will go to bed trying not to cry because I hate this, but because I am grateful the chemo is working.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
All photos courtesy of Jessica Sliwerski