[cancer] Side effect bingo

Well, yesterday was a spectacularly bad day in the chemo side effects department. This is not me complaining about it, this is me documenting the cancer experience as fully as I can. (If I did start to complain, I’d probably never shut up again, so we’ll leave that one alone.) I am still amazed at how much the aspects of cancer and its treatment ripple through my life.

As I do, I’m going to discuss some things that aren’t normally discussed in public, so this post is under a cut for medical TMI, specifically detailed discussion of digestive health and lower GI issues.


There’s a point in time after I finish chemo when my stomach lining sloughs off. During session one, that happened Thursday/Friday/Saturday, to rather spectacularly unpleasant results [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ].

During session two, this happened yesterday.

Due to the experiences of the previous session, I started tracking my bowel movements in a spreadsheet entitled “The Poop Sheet”. Because, well, that’s what I do. (Once a consultant, always a consultant, I guess.) It’s a way to validate the trends and report my outcomes to my medical team. Yesterday, I experienced fifteen bowel movements and passed approximately 148″ of firm stool. This from a man with less than 30″ of colon remaining, who is eating lightly. (And there was more after midnight, that’s just tracking by calendar day.) It was deeply extreme, even by the admittedly loose standards of my post-operative colon.

I spent about three of my waking hours sitting on the toilet. That’s incredibly disruptive, in a most basic way. (Even so, I got a workday done and about 90 minutes of writing time.) More to the point, I did not get nearly enough sleep last night. I was awakened four times with the need to go — my sleep metabolism, which normally suppresses even my overactive bowel function, couldn’t keep up.

Further complicating matters, a structural issue which has been present in my colon since the surgery inflects the situation. I have a bend or pocket or something in my repositioned colon such that when I lie down in my sleeping position after evacuating my bowels, I sometimes have to get right back up and return to the toilet — that particular pose unkinks or releases additional gas and stool. Last night, I could not go back to sleep, because every time I got up to the toilet, on returning to bed, the sense of pressure and need would immediately return, keeping me wide awake until I got up and tried again.

Chemo fatigue means I need more sleep than usual. I did not sleep well in general, with one stretch of ninety minutes of wakefulness. I am beginning the day exhausted, which is dangerous for me. I could not get up and walk this morning, which means I don’t have the energy lift from that. I’m quite worried in a general sense that if I let my exercise slip I won’t get it back. (My plan is to spend 30 minutes on the bike later today, but sheer fatigue may keep me from even that.)

So today I’m dealing with the aftermath of massive digestive failure, with the resultant sleep failure, which in turn generated exercise failure. And due to the requirements of chemotherapy, I can’t even take a sick day from work without financial impact, as I’ve already overscheduled my paid time off for the year.

Even the little things can make me crazy. Maybe especially so.

One thought on “[cancer] Side effect bingo

  1. Sän says:

    I feel the urge to commiserate, though I’ll spare you the details.

    “Because every time I got up to the toilet, on returning to bed, the sense of pressure and need would immediately return, keeping me wide awake until I got up and tried again.”

    I know EXACTLY what that feels like.

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