Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monday Night Was Brutal

Monday was Chemo Day. By now, we’ve got a routine. Once the treatment is over, Mike finds he’s hopped up for the rest of the day. It’s akin to that supposed burst of energy that pregnant ladies get just before delivery. So I’ve heard.

Since we are north mostly, perhaps you’re curious about Chemo Effects. So far, except for our initial problem with low blood counts, Mike is breezing through. He has experienced no nausea. And his hair? (Everybody’s interested in the hair) Well, he’s not lost any. The chemo HAS made his hair softer and wavy. Really nice to touch.

We were both in Kokomo; I had a list of errands and finished about the time Mike arrived home from the hospital. As the weather was spectacular, he announced the travel plan. He would take his motorcycle and I could bring up my Caliber, loaded with new projects. He left several hours before me so I could catch up on laundry and so forth.

When I arrived at the lake, he greeted me with a most pained look on his face. “Where have you been?” he asked. “I thought you were coming right up.”

“Ivy was off touring the neighborhood,” I explained.

I thought that it would be no big deal as this would be energy night. Alas, it was not to be.

Mike’s face took me back almost 25 years ago. It was how he looked when he was getting a migraine headache. He hasn’t had one in all these years.

Now, let me explain that I was not always the most sympathetic to headache suffers. I was raised by an Army nurse. At my house, you needed to be bleeding from your ears AND mouth to stay home from school. I’ve learned recently that her hard line was partly for our good and partly because she really didn’t want to have a kid underfoot when she had other projects on her agenda. It’s OK, Mom. It made us tough.

When friends would get to stay home from school with a headache, I’d think, “Give me a break. A headache?”

In my limited experience, I had not seen a migraine sufferer. Until I married this man and he went to law school. I would come home from school to find him utilizing what worked for him: he would be submerged in the bathtub with only his nose and mouth in the air. He would rest there until the headache went away or until he ‘lost his lunch,’ which also seemed to speed the pain away.

Why should Mike develop migraines now?

Since marriage, I’ve increased my knowledge of many things, including internal human anatomy. The only way I survived Freshman Biology at Wheaton was that I sat next to this Red-haired Hoosier who let me, um, copy what he saw under the microscope. I never saw anything but blurs. (Bacterium moves fast!)

I know that you can drive a motorcycle with your left wrist broken in two places. I’ve seen the doctor ‘insert’ a tube into a collapsed lung. I know where heart caths go and what ERCP stents look like, new and used. And the human neck. Fascinating piece of equipment.

Mike might work this into any conversation. “When I broke my neck…..” “My broken neck….” “The break in my neck….” much to the surprise and horror of the listener. I mean, a broken neck? Then, you’re paralyzed. Or dead. But here this guy is. So what gives?

In case you, too, struggled in the sciences, let me speak slowly. If you were to look at a cross-section of the neck, you’d see three openings. The big round one in the middle and two ovals, one on each side.

And yes, Mike broke his neck. His doctor called it a ‘lucky break.’ He cracked one of those ovals. Except for an occasional humid day when tissue swells, he hardly notices it.

How did he break it? Do you have time? About 10 years ago, he was racing mountain bikes with our nephew Caleb. They were each trying to out-do the other. In the woods, on untried paths. Up. Down. Watch out for the tree. You get the picture.

At one point, Caleb flew across a shaky bridge that took you over a stream. Uncle Mike was right behind. But he slipped. His bike went over the bridge and he fell, head first, in the muddy bottom of the stream. That’s when the vertebrae cracked. And as they say, it could have been worse. Had Mike been alone as he often was, he might have drown, stuck in the mud and his head underwater.

Caleb pulled him out and brought him to the cottage. The mud was the least of his problems. He was blue and trembling and sister Lisa knew he needed to get to the ER.

And so, technically, he broke his neck. If he strains it, OTC usually makes it better.

However, Monday, on his mighty bike and the back roads, the hub bragged that he had traveled, um, a bit faster than the posted limit. And, without a wind shield, his face (and neck) took the brunt.

So the pain radiated from the neck to the head, all over.

I filled the tub. I got the ice bag. I grabbed our assortment of analgesics. It was a rough night.
Nothing really touched the pain. And although Mike’s not been nauseous from his treatments, he made up for it, 10 or 15 times.

In between the trips to kneel at the porcelain throne and runs to the kitchen for water, ginger ale, and so forth, he nudged me and I was up. Then back. Sometimes, he wanted me to massage “GENTLY” his neck, right where that break occurred. As the night wore one, I would doze off in mid rub.

Now, I’m not complaining. This is part of the deal, after all. It just was a brutal night followed by a day of feeling like we’re sleepwalking.

Tuesday night, after a clear sky day, the temperature dropped to 55. Windows open and blankets.

Good sleeping. And a brighter day tomorrow.


  1. Brutal sounds like quite the understatement. How perfectly awful for the both of you. I'm glad you were rewarded with a great night sleep on Tuesday though.

  2. Wow, that is rough, Mike is one of the toughest dudes I know. If he's in pain, I would be under the table. Praying for you both. Hope today is a much better day! Morgan was just asking me how you two were doing, thanks for the updates!