Monday, September 28, 2009

Troubled Waters

Briefly, I am now on Ritalin to boost my energy and strength. It works, even though it makes me a bit shaky. I have been eating well - thank God! - and have gained a bit of weight. My big fight at the moment is that I am having panic attacks. I have never experienced them before and can't seem to control them. We go to visit my palliative care Dr, who is great, tomorrow to see if they might be caused in part, or solved in part by medication..
Today we saw my medical oncologist (chemo) and the plan is to start steroids tomorrow to see if they help the swelling and to also start one of the new bio-drugs, Tarceva, a kinease inhibitor, which is designed to block cell tumor cell growth by targeting the protein called the Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor. Along with that, we will restart the Gemzar that I was on before as it did have a slowing effect on the cancer. I like this plan of attack.
Even better though is the conversation we had with the Beth Israel social worker, Darren Arthur, who not only knows the ins and outs of the system to try to get home health care for me, but also helps me identify and understand the source of my anxiety. (3 major sources: abandonment - my birth mother abandoned me and my brother when I was 2 and Diane's return to school after a whole summer off has triggered that; second I am dealing with the first illness in my life that I can't manage a "work around" as I always have; third I am very social and the swelling has really put a damper on my old habits, especially of talking with people, and directing plays, and such) So I feel that I can start to deal with these issues now that I have an understanding of where they come from. Much better than just saying as I did in the first paragraph (that I wrote this morning) I am powerless to deal with them. Don't you think?
Oh! and I forgot to mention that I have gained 4 lbs in the past week. Still 3 pounds short of where I should be for a minimum but it is great that Diane's shakes and our determination to get back to a fighting weight is starting to work.
So while this has been a good day, or more accurately a definite swing in the right direction, I can't sign off with my usual "Yep, it's a great day!" just yet! Though as I write, both Poe (the ginger) and Whitman (the grey short hair feral-come-adopted us) cats are at the bottom of the bed! Good boys!
"Yep, it's a good day!"


  1. Dear Brian,
    I've always found it both energizing and comforting to have a plan of how to deal with a problem. I like to know all my options. It sounds like you have a good plan, with good consultants to help you. I've also been subject to panic or anxiety attacks, and the most puzzling aspect is the timing--they don't arrive with a particular stress, they just show up out of the blue. I know they are connected to my mental state and what is going on around me, but still they always manage to surprise me! I wonder if the Ritalin could be contributing to your own panic attacks? Please stay connected on your blog--I think that will help you feel more socially active! Best wishes, and enjoy the day! --Sandy

  2. Thanks Sandy. I totally agree. I am currently experiencing a shaky, sweating panic attack - but it may just be the ritalin. I can't tell. Going now to see my palliative care doc and hope he can shed some light.

  3. Good luck at the doctor! It sounds like you are good at grilling them and standing up for yourself, so hopefully you will get to the bottom of it. Panic attacks sound like the LAST thing you need to deal with right now! I'll be sending positive thoughts your way!

  4. Cheers, Brian! And cheers to Darren, too.
    It makes me very angry knowing the hoops you and Diane are made to jump through trying to get home healthcare aid when I've seen how it wears you out sometimes just crossing the room. But the weight gain is great news. I'm pulling for Yeats to sidle up with the other 2 boys, though I think a long talk with Darren might be what he needs first.

  5. Hey Brian,

    Hope october finds you feeling more emotionally balanced and still putting on weight. I do love peanut butter and ice cream. I'm not so sure about the oil, though. I had a roommate who used olive oil for all her baking, including brownies, cookies, etc, and you could definitely tell. Not that that stopped me from eating what she made... I imagine you're using something a little less flavorful, though cod liver oil is supposed to be very good for you. :)

    All the best!

  6. Is the swelling lymphedema? If so, have you had treatment for it?

  7. Brian,

    So glad to hear you are gaining weight, definitely a good sign. Panic attacks are no fun, but good that you have identified the source of your agitation. I have always found that focusing on your breathing is a big help. I was never any good at meditation but the controlled breathing is a life saver. Did you get the DVD of Dearly Departed? It is wonderful to listen to -- although the physical comedy, at which you are so brilliant doing and directing, is just superb.

    All my best to you, Diane and the Kitties.



  8. Hi Brian,

    I thank you for your blog. It helps me quite a bit to read what you are going through. You are a wonderful man, and a brave one. I'm not an expert on panic attacks, but I have found that when I had them, prayer worked for me. But then again, I wasn't on Riatalin either. Thanks for the heads up on the previously unforeseen use of the wedding ring.
    Maureen and I send our love.

  9. Hi Brian,

    Odd how those things from long ago get triggered throughout our lives - always something to sneak up and surprise us - as if we are not supposed to get comfy and relaxed - go figure (it is a major frustration)

    I remember once my husband pulling his belt off quickly just to get dressed in shorts to go have fun and it shot tingles up my spine - I had never been beat with "the belt" by my "old-school" father but the older sibs were - I never even knew I had that "trigger point." This life thingy sure continues to baffle and amaze me.

    I share your issues with chronic illness affecting your social nature. I do not know what I would have done pre-cyber world.

    I continue to see HUGE praying mantis in our garden - the tomatoes keep producing - and I think of you each time. Interesting how those amazing creatures are now a "trigger" for me to think of a very courageous man, his wife and felines.

    I hope you are finding tools to fight the battles. Sometimes that is the best thing - finding new tools to take us farther than we previously thought possible.

    I think our family is still living on a huge heaping of "icing on the cake"

    My best to you. Enjoy the day with vigor!

    Love, Amy Patrick
    (Ryan's mom from caringbridge)

  10. I wish you the best,
    from a fellow cat lover..

  11. Brian

    I have always been humbled by the way you have dealt with your life's challenges. Your courage,perseverance and sense of humor has been inspirational to me. I wish you and Diane and the cats continued courage.

    I still think fondly of the days at the Shipyard..

    All the best: