I have finished my fourth round of chemotherapy. The therapy has been a weekly event, and has been going on for the last sixteen weeks. Every Thursday, I take 20 pills for breakfast. I then drive to the hospital, where I receive a needle in my stomach. Does it sound like fun yet?
Swallowing 20 pills isn’t the easiest thing for me. I have a very active gag reflex, so there were days where I was coughing and retching, as I struggled to swallow the required medication. It wasn’t a pretty sight I’m sure, but it was what was required every week. I did sixteen weeks of this and swallowed every pill. All 320 of them!!
The amount of medication in pill form I have been prescribed in the last year is staggering. If I did a quick calculation, starting with my initial rib injury in March 2021 to February 2021, I estimate I have swallowed 2200 pills on ‘doctor’s orders’! If they were hot dogs, I would have exploded by now! That quantity of pills, is probably more than I had consumed in the previous three decades as a result of a medical problem. I realize that 2200 pills aren’t really that many pills over the course of a year. I’m sure there are people out there that have Nutritional Supplement OCD, that pop back north of 10,000 pills. But I’m not one of those people! I don’t even take Flintstone Vitamins! Sure, I self-medicate but once the problem is gone, I stop swallowing! Twenty-Two hundred pills are a mountain of pills to me!!
When it comes to the pills I take, the quantity is not the worst of it for me. The worst is that I can’t connect the dots between the name of the medication and the function it preforms on my behalf. This is due mostly to the fact that I can’t pronounce the name properly and I get so hung up on trying to pronounce the name, that I forget what I’m taking it for. I feel like an idiot any time I need to explain to others, what medication I’m taking. Especially, when the other is a doctor! I usually say things like “Hydro… Val… Cyclo…”, and let the physician finish my sentence. I don’t even try to tell them why I’m taking it; I just sound stupider! I also figure, if this doctor doesn’t know why I’m consuming a certain drug, I’ve got a bigger problem than the name of the pill I’m taking.
It has taken me mostly all of the sixteen weeks to learn how to pronounce the drug and identify what it is for. This isn’t bad when you consider it took me two years to learn to pronounce ‘Eye-Bee-Pro-Fen’ (Ibprophen). I think I’ve done okay. The problem appears that with the next stage of my treatment, the “harvesting” stage, I will have a new bunch of drugs prescribed. Now I will have to learn a whole bunch of new words!! And their meanings!!
It doesn’t seem fair that I have to know these words and meanings, when I’ve been told there is no cure for Multiple Myeloma. I’m having to learn to pronounce new drugs and procedures, that I know don’t work against what I have!! It’s like cruel and unusual punishment!!
Even though none of these unpronounceable pills is a cure, they are beneficial. They are meant to make me feel better and that I guess is a bonus. So, for now I will take what pills they give me, and pretend I understand the names and the purpose for the drug and I won’t say the names out loud, to avoid looking like an idiot. Next week the ‘harvesting’ procedure will begin with a six hours IV drip and then a week of gagging down pills each day, and stabbing myself with a hypodermic needle filled with… whoa!! I have to stop, I almost tried to say cyclophosphamide out loud.