Saturday, March 24, 2007

Oh the pills, pills, pills, pills, pills, pills, pills

I've been in my third round of chemotherapy since November 2006. When I was healthy the only pills I regularly swallowed were daily multivitamins. My intake of medication changed drastically when I began my battle with cancer. These are the pills that I had to take last week:

Xeloda (pink, elongated): Poison. The compound in these pills is metabolized into 5-fluorouracil (5FU) in the body. 5FU interferes with DNA replication and kills growing cells. The target, of course, is growing cancer cells but it also hits the digestive system and skin. These pills cause pain and peeling in my hands and feet along with slight nausea, fatigue, and chemobrain.

Marinol (brown, sperical): Synthetic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. These help eliminate nausea and stimulate my appetite. I take one before dinner on the days when Xeloda is making me feel icky.

Prilosec (darker, shinier pink): Acid reducer. Prevents heartburn and related nausea from stomach irritation caused by Xeloda.

Immodium (pale green): Antidiarrheal, necessary when Xeloda makes my intestines unhappy.

Oxycodone (white, circular): Pain killer. I received four weeks of radiation therapy in January and February to treat a tumor on my pubic bone. The radiation also caused external and internal burns nearby, particularly irritating my rectum. I've been taking oxycodone about once a day when that area gets particularly uncomfortable.

Colace (shiny, red and white): Stool softener. Helps counteract the constipating effects of oxycodone and reduces discomfort during bowel movements.

Simethicone (large, white, circular): Anti-gas tablets to reduce cramping when Xeloda upsets digestion.

Paxil (tiny, orange): Antidepressant. I used to suffer from associative nausea; whenever I went to or even thought about my chemotherapy clinic I would feel like vomiting. The antianxiety effects of Paxil make me feel a little calmer and greatly reduce associative nausea. As is typical with serotonin reuptake inhibitors, it also suppresses my ambition and libido somewhat.

Norvasc (white, angular): A popular anti-hypertensive to counteract the high blood pressure triggered by Avastin.

Oh yeah, I also get an infusion and an injection during my biweekly chemotherapy clinic visits:

Avastin: Deactivates the body's vascular endothelial growth factor to prevent blood vessel growth and starve the tumors.

Aranesp: Promotes the growth of red blood cells to counteract fatigue.

Two of these medication are actively fighting the cancer. The other nine are needed to treat the side effects. It's tiresome to take so many pills, but I'm impressed that oncologists have so many tools for minimizing the illness and suffering from chemotherapy.

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