Advice for Riding the Pain Train

I have a friend that was just diagnosed with throat cancer.

Man, that sucks. I got it when I was 51 or so, he’s a bit older. So I’ve been trying to give him advice. If this happens to you, first off read this blog’s No euphoria category. But now that it’s been so long ago I have some advice.

  • You like whisky? Get the finest you can and enjoy it before you get on the train (so to speak). It’ll be the last time you ever drink it again. Oh, you may try, but you’ll learn a hard lesson. After treatment it tastes like burning.
  • You’re going to lose some serious weight. If you are a fit 180, you could be 120 before it’s all over. Go have a steak, high octane ice cream. You’ll burn it off. You may or not taste any of it after, so enjoy it now.
  • You’re going to go to a dental oncologist first. No, your dentist can’t do it. They’ll give you a list. They have to look and see if your teeth and jaws will survive treatment. You’ll have to either get your teeth fixed, or knocked out before treatment. Once it starts, your mouth won’t heal and things can go pear shaped fast.
  • They’ll suggest a port install. Do that. A pick line (the other option) is basically an IV attached to your arm. That’s the alternative. Sucks to have it installed, and it’s uncomfortable sometimes. But it makes chemo far easier.
  • They’ll also suggest a feeding tube. The logic here is that if you need one installed when treatment gets heavy, it’ll be way worse. Better to have it and not need it. I’m on the fence. If you have it, you’ll use it. I think it’s better to drink that “Boost” than inject it. You need to keep swallowing.
  • Whatever you do, do not get the auto feed pump for your stomach tube. Two dudes going through treatment did that. Both got sicker. You DO NOT want to barf with your messed up throat. You get sick, treatment will stop. Worst case? Back to square one.
  • One of my doctors suggested stews put in a blender. My wife made gallons. But I couldn’t stomach them. The thought here is that it’s better nutrition than the medical stuff. My suggestion (for the missus) is serve it in a cup as opposed to a bowl. Spooning something you can’t taste really sucks. It’s a mental thing for me.
  • You’re going to have a conversation with the docs about pain management. They put me on fentanyl patches. I’d avoid these if at all possible. When they wear out, you’ll retch. Bad. And weaning off of them really sucked. It was up there with the worst things I had to deal with. I’m sure there’s a better alternative.
  • Drink, Drink, Drink. Drink shakes, eat ice cream. Keep swallowing.
  • When treatment stops, you’ll feel worst. Seems impossible. But you do. And if they don’t suggest it, get them to prescribe daily saline IVs. You can’t drink enough to keep hydrated. That really helped me. My chemo doc got them to come out on weekends.
  • Soon as you can eat solids, do. Ignore the pain. All those muscles will have to build up again.
  • My radiation doc had a support group. Find one. It helps to talk with others in your same boat.

Hope my buddy does OK. He’s sort of a hero to me. Got the diabeetus and hypertension, is an older gentleman, and one of the first I knew that got the COVID. He said it was like a mild flu. Done with it in a week.

One thought on “Advice for Riding the Pain Train

  1. You and yours also need to talk to a good doc/nurse combo about what you and yours can do and have to do, like how to properly clean all the ports and wounds and how to check for issues before they become major issues.

    Why? Because some insurances won’t authorize daily home care, and when you’re sick as a dog is a really crappy time to drive halfway across town for someone to go, “Nah, it’s just the chemo or the radiation acting up, go home and rest.”

    Going through something like this is the ultimate test of a relationship. And of friendships. And your work, if you can still work while feeling like death.

    As to taste, any chemo or radiation treatment, or antibiotics and some pain meds, will kill or screw up your tastebuds, sometimes only for a while, sometimes forever.

    Feeding tubes? If you’re going to use a medical feed, or even something like Boost, have your doctors check you for soy intolerance. Because nothing is worse than being fed something that will make you sicker.


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