As I have finished 3/4 of the extra-evil part of my chemo regime, I feel confident giving it a rating of 0 out of 5 stars and a solid 1/10. I am willing to give it a 1 instead of a zero because it is ostensibly ridding me of cancer which deserves a point.
As you likely recall, I am able to categorize chemo treatments, as I have had chemo before. Last time I thought it was bad which is HILARIOUS in hindsight. Last time I laid in my mom’s bed with someone doting on me at all times while I vaped and watched the Great British Bake Off. My side effects were a low grade fever for about 5 days after treatment, sluggishness and a change in taste buds amongst some other easy-peasy things.
This time it is like Godzilla flattening Tokyo. I wish I only had a low grade fever and a disdain for cooked meats.
What also comes with this cancer treatment is crippling anxiety. The stakes are higher. Now that I have had cancer twice, my chances of it coming back, and coming back incurable, are significantly higher. If that isn’t enough to stoke your constant fear, the side effects are so nasty that living through each minute brings with it the anxiety of ‘what horror will befall me next?’
I take 150mg of Effexor which is an SSRI (I can’t explain this, Google it if necessary). It is the type of drug you have to take every day or you will have withdrawals. I have been taking this for at least 5 years, since Cancer Uno. Not only does it help with my generalized anxiety and depression, but it is used off-label for menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. I am cute.
This is a pretty healthy dose. It is not a meager little blip to the system. This background information is important for what comes next.
During chemo it is common to get anti-anxiety meds, for the obvious reason, and to help with chemo nausea. My oncologist prescribed me quantity 20 0.5mg Ativan pills which is a different class of anti-anxiety than Effexor. It is a Benzodiazepine. If you have listened to a hip-hop song in the last 20 years, you have heard of ‘benzos’ (also happens to rhyme with my son’s name, Enzo, which is just a fun fact).
To those of you who live in a headspace clear of demons, that is a very bite-sized dose of a basic bitch medication. To someone like me who has taken anti-anxiety drugs for close to 15 years, it is like handing a Koosh ball to LeBron.
I am instructed to take the Ativan before each chemo and for 3 nights following. M’kay.
How I am taking it, is basically around the clock for the first 3 days cause, duh, and then before each Cancer Center visit, of which there are a lot, and often to sleep. I plowed through prescription #1 of 20 pills (prescribed on Feb 28) and got a refill which I finished by March 1. When I went to ask for another refill I got the cold shoulder from my oncologist. She was not happy with my consumption.
I realize that these drugs can be habit forming. Totally understand why my Oncologist had to say this out loud to me one time.
She strongly suggested that I see a psychiatrist, with which I have absolutely no problem. I used to have one I liked very much, but she left her position and the institution never reassigned me. I have been raw dogging it ever since. The oncologist referred me to the psychiatry group at my hospital system saying she believed them to be ‘backed up.’ Well no shit Sherlock, getting in with a psychiatrist is near impossible in Pandemic Days. I have an appointment for the end of April, but I am simply unwilling to deny myself anxiety medication in the meantime (remember when I asked for bananas? Bananas are now drugs).
I am a full-ass adult in the throes of a second cancer at 41 years old with three kids under 13. I understand the risks and know the seriousness of a Benzo addiction. I also understand that I will potentially LOSE MY COLLECTIVE SHIT if I am not given more anti-anxiety help.
All of this brings me to my point (well shit, that took a while amiright?)… A person (my doctor) who has never had chemo (twice), is just not allowed to tell me to titrate anti-anxiety drugs. Now is not the time to be prudent. Now is the time to let the drugs rain down upon me. I am expected to raise a family, hold down a job and WEAR PANTS all while being viciously poisoned and you are going to tell me that I am taking too many anxiety meds?
Rain. On. Me.