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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Progess

Thought that I would finally update about what has been happening.

I saw the oncologist in Jan and still had an open wound that was leaking fluid and constantly getting infected. He said that it probably would never heal. Wrong!! And I was out to prove him wrong.

After much research, I've come to the conclusion that the many drugs I was on, primarily the Cymbalta, was why I had cancer to begin with. Yes, I know, many people will disagree and argue with me, but that feeling was very strong. My research indicated that Cymbalta can trigger both Lymphoma and blood clots, both of which I had. I was having such awful side effects from the Warfarin (sleep problems, nightmares, night terrors, food tasted awful, high anxiety... in addition to what I already had). I was okay taking Heprin and Warfarin for a few months for the blood clots, but totally rebelled when a doctor who didn't even know me prescribed it "for the rest of your life". Uh, I don't think so.

It was then and there that I decided I was going to get off of all of the drugs I was on, and there were many. I immediately threw away the Warfarin and the Soma. It took me 4 months to taper off of the Cymbalta, but I was able to stop taking Ambien and Vicodin at the same time, and most of the extra drugs I was taking for chemo, mostly anti-nausea and digestive stuff. That left Oxycontin and Lorazepam. And I knew getting off of the Oxycontin wasn't going to be any kind of picnic, especially at the dosage I was taking. Although I've met people on much higher dosages, 120mg a day is still quite a bit. During chemo, the bone pain was so bad, I was taking this along with Vicodin, 4 7mg of hydrocodone, every four hours and it was just barely took the edge off of the pain. After I finished with chemo, the bone pain gradually decreased, and after more than a year, it's just barely there. As long as I was taking the Oxycontin, stopping the Vicodin was fairly easy.

These drugs (especially the Cymbalta and Oxycontin) also tend to make you suspicious and distrustful. I was afraid to go back to the doctor because I was sure they would try to force me to take the drugs against my will. I was an easy patient and always did was I was told to do. I never got upset, not even when I was told I had cancer, which is weird, because I should have been upset. But I think I was so drugged up and compliant, it never occurred to me that I it was okay to get upset or angry.

I think two things helped me to find my voice.... Chemo made me loose my hair, all of it, except for my eyelashes and some eyebrows. The lose of hair triggered childhood memories of being sexually abused. Now, I knew I had been, but I had buried the details of it all. With this lose of hair, they all came flooding back and I knew I needed to talk to someone about them. I spent all last summer seeing a therapist weekly dealing with three episodes of molestation and rape. The other thing was being told I needed to take yet another medication. I had fought the doctors for the past 6 years about drugs they insisted I needed, but I knew I didn't. And the times I relented and took them, they either didn't work (because I didn't need them), or they caused severe side effects. After much research, I realized all of the "symptoms" I had were a result from side effects from the medications I was on. Some I had been on for 6-12 years, and none of them were meant to be taken that long.

After successfully getting off of the Cymbalta, which I had been told by many people is one of the hardest drugs to stop taking; at least for some people. There is even an online forum just for people trying to get off of Cymbalta and I learned a lot from those people who had successfully stopped taking it. But because of my trust issues with the doctors who I felt had betrayed me, I didn't feel I could go back to them for help getting off of the Oxycontin. I did hours of online research trying to learn how to detox on my own and go through the withdrawal at home.

I finally felt ready, mostly because I was running out of medication and prepared myself for the worst. I lasted three days and I thought I was going to go crazy. I got on the phone and called local mental health clinics that basically referred me to each other because they didn't deal with drug detox. I finally found one guy who talked to me for a while and said he couldn't give me medical advice because he wasn't a doctor, but did caution me to not try to do this on my own. He convinced me to get help, so I took a 60mg dose of Oxycontin and the next morning went to the emergency room of the hospital. I had no idea what they would say or do with me, or if they even would consider this an emergency. But they treated me with kindness and respect, which really surprised me and the ER doctor spent several hours talking to me about my options and my fears. In the end, he convinced me that my doctors would not force me to do anything I didn't want to do, but would help taper off of these slowly like I need to do safely. And he was right. I ended up seeing the PA at our regular clinic, and she did take the time to listen to what I wanted and needed. Spending the time with ER doctor allowed me to vent so that I didn't need to do that with Kim, I could get right to the point and tell her what I wanted to do, and she was all for it.

At the same time, I found a man in town who runs a counseling clinic for drug and alcohol dependency. He also had a class for pain management, which is why I was taking Oxycontin to begin with, so I signed up for this 16 week class. Patrick told me that roughly 10% of the population will become addicted to drugs like Oxycontin and Cymbalta and will have a hard time getting off of them. I was one of those 10%.

I also found a massage therapist and acupuncturist at the clinic Tim was going to for chiropractic treatments. Ironically, massage and acupuncture are two of the non-medication treatments recommended in the pain management class.

I started the classes, weekly massages and acupuncture treatments and a Oxycontin detox schedule in March.

In that time, I've learned many ways to cope with the pain I was having, most of which by now was caused by the withdrawal process, and have graduated from the class; I've gone from 120mg of Oxycontin a day to 20mg and next week I transition to the last leg of getting off of this drug for good. I'm still getting massages and acupuncture, and with all of these wonderful progress, not only has the leaky wound, that Dr. K. said would never heal, healed, but it's completely gone. No sign of the either of the cancer tumors at all and the discoloration from the radiation and infections is slowly fading.

I now have no doubt that my cancer will not return, especially since what caused it is now out of my system as well. I am sleeping without medications, other than some herbal remedies occasionally (Kava Kava and Chamomile tea), and no more nightmares. My so-called high blood pressure that they insisted I needed medication for is perfectly normal. Food tastes good to me again, and while my diet isn't great yet, it is balancing out.

It's been 31 months since I was first diagnosed with cancer and I was pretty sick to begin with. It's been 15 months since I ended chemotherapy, and I spent 5 months during chemo being even sicker. It's been 10 months since I finally woke up and realized what was making me so sick. According to most doctors, I should be dead, but I'm healthier than I have been a very long time. I know it's still going to take some time. The affects of both chemo and drugs can stay in your system for up to two years after stopping. I have one year done on the chemo and will start my first year of being clean after drug dependence, exactly a year after I decided to change my life.

It's all been a learning experience. I realize now that if it hadn't been for the cancer, I would not have woken up and saw what I was doing to myself. I've healed from the trauma and no longer suffer from depression and PTSD. The anxiety issues have vastly improved and getting off of the Lorazepam will be next, but compared to the Cymbalta and Oxycontin, I think it will be much easier.

Looking back, I've survived a lot of things... the car accident, Courtney's death, cancer three times, and drug dependence. I've proved to myself that I can survive these things and learn some important lessons in the process. And that's what it's all about.

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