Most of the time I rock along feeling that I will be here a long time but any change to status quo is unsettling and often fear provoking. I have been through more treatment change-ups than I can even count now and those shifts are unsettling, usually because of uncertainty of the side effects. With as much and as frequent as my chemo treatments change there is a lack of side effect predictability. I never seem to quite understand the rhythm of any given treatment and am left wondering “Is this a nasty, cumulative side effect, or am I getting sicker from cancer?”. I’ve recently switched up and have had two cycles of a new regimen. The first cycle was somewhat as expected, if not a bit worse than I had hoped, but they all are. The second cycle seemed much worse, but it was also complicated by a UTI along with prescribed antibiotics for that. I am out and out afraid of antibiotics – with good reason. Two years ago while hospitalized I contracted C-Diff (clostridium difficile); a nasty little bugger. It recurred quickly following each of two progressively aggressive rounds of antibiotics targeted specifically for C-Diff bacteria. The statistics for future recurrence or chronic condition after two recurrences is quite high. I consider myself lucky to have become symptom free after the third antibiotic round. That said, it is safe to assume that I still carry the bacteria but it is kept in check by the good flora in my gut. When asked what I could do to prevent a recurrence of C-Diff, the GI specialist I was seeing at the time said “Avoid taking antibiotics”. Well, there you go and here is where broad spectrum antibiotics, such as those prescribed for a UTI, are a problem for me. They destroy good gut bacteria allowing C-Diff to dominate the gut. I cannot go back there again. Anyone who has had C-Diff will probably readily agree that it is a very special kind of misery. It is also quite dangerous, particularly if already battling a health issue. I seemed to be getting sicker each day following my second round of chemo and being especially sensitive to the C-Diff reality, I stopped the antibiotics after 3 days and began the probiotic Florastor which specifically targets wiping out C-Diff. I began feeling better after a couple of days. Has my UTI completely cleared? Probably not and only time will tell. I will cross that bridge when I get to it.
This is where fear and reality hit. I may not look it and I mostly may not feel it, but I am fragile. Complications of cancer covers a broad territory, but basically any health issue, even common infections, can spin things out of control. I know this. I’ve seen this. This is not paranoia. Suddenly then, I find myself thinking those dark thoughts of what-if? and will-my-family-be-alright? and telling God that I-am-not-ready. Ha! Then there’s the running list in my head of things that must be taken care of that I keep putting off. That damn list.
I will have my third round of this chemo tomorrow and, without complicating it with antibiotics, this should give me an indication if C-Diff was at play or if the chemo is just rougher than expected. I’m not even sure what I’m hoping for!