A collection of empty pill bottles from all the medications I took while going through chemo, sits on a corner of my kitchen counter. They are there to remind me the agony induced and cured by the concoctions of steroids, antibiotics, pain killers, and nutraceutical pills. Tons of pills taken in the last year alone for breast cancer without counting the chemo infused into my veins. Actually, most of the pills were used to keep chemo side effects to a minimum. As everyone reacts differently with each treatment the benefits which come with the pills outweigh the side effects from taking them. Truthfully speaking, some of the side effects of chemo were truly unbearable.
The concoction of antibiotics, mixed with the steroids, anti-nausea pills I swallowed after my stay 48 hour stay in the hospital, made my body a perfect breeding ground for yeast. The Neupogen shots, after chemo, exacerbated my whole system into having full on thrush and yeast infections for the rest of my treatments. Dr. A prescribed me a special mouthwash they make at PMH for chemo patients who develop thrush and I was told to buy over the counter yeast infection medication at the drugstore to clear everything else up. A young pharmacist at PMH actually advised me to drink the mouthwash, which she noted would taste like cherry flavoured cough syrup – at best. I was never a fan of cherry flavoured cough syrup, and knowing my taste buds were off due to chemo, the pharmacist promised she would make a different flavour up for me next time if I really couldn’t stomach this mouthwash. Ingesting the mouthwash would to help clear the yeast throughout my whole body. I thought she was joking. I was wrong.
Before drinking the mouthwash I had talked myself into thinking it would just be like doing shots of Jagermeister, like years ago at the bar I frequented. Naively, I thought they gave away Jager shots for free because someone on staff had ordered too many bottles of the vile liquor and they needed to purge the surplus before the bar owner discovered the overstock error. It wasn’t until I ended up in another bar, all the way across town, after a late night at work, when much to my annoyance, Jagermeister after Jagermeister kept appearing in front of me. Scanning across the bar to see who was torturing me with these one ounce herbal tinctures I saw Steve, a familiar face from my local, who months ago, he had professed his crush on me to all the carpenters he had worked with only to be briefed by a colleague “Yeah, she’s the one who your brother has been dating for weeks now.” His generous Jager purchases was his way of letting me know I had chosen to date the wrong brother. Regardless of who I was dating, I told him, he had to stop buying me the Jagers as I was only giving them away to others, losing any sentiments he may have intended for me. It was a relief to have learned Jagermeister shots was not a growing trend and Steve learned Jagermeister was not going to win me over.
Anyhow, I rinsed and gargled my mouth with one tablespoon of the mouthwash before pouring another tablespoon to sip, as downing it like a shot of Jagermeister was not appealing. Several mini sips were taken before I gagged. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be downing anymore mouthwash. Opting for nutraceuticals was my way of reducing the chemicals in my body. I was advised by one health food store to take pro-biotic pills. I bought pro-biotic pills, pro-biotic drinks, pro-biotic yogurt, all with little effect in reducing the yeast throughout. My loins ceased feeling irritated, causing anxious thoughts I would never return to feeling healthy again. Convinced there was a natural be-all-end-all yeast infection cure I marched to my neighbourhood Korean health food store two days after my buying all things pro-biotic. Searching the aisle where shelves contained bottles of everything curing acne to detoxing your bowels I was confident my eradicating yeast solution could be found here. Desperately needing assistance I turned to see if the lady at the cash could help me only to see she was chatting with a couple and other people were waiting in line to pay for their tinctures and whatnot. Wait a second, who was that hot buff dude at the far side of the counter. What a cutie?!! I’ll ask him. NO, wait! I’m bald, I have no eyebrows, and I have a yeast infection. Maybe I’ll talk to him in 6 months. But definitely, not now.
Looking around to the opposite end of the store, the owner of the shop noticed I looked confused. She came over to ask if I needed some help. Hastily, I told her I had a compromised immune system due to having had chemotherapy for the last couple of months which had caused full-on painful yeast infections with a bout of thrush. Please help me! It was so promising when she walked over to a section I overlooked while she explained they carried several options I could use. I found the Yeast Busters, my friend, Tamara had suggested the week before. However, trying to lift the Yeast Busters box ever so slightly I was put off with having to lug the 6 month treatment program all the way home. The owner pointed out it was too intense, a treatment for my weak immune system, anyhow. She had some candida enzyme she thought I should try. Scanning up and down the shelves she couldn’t see it, “candida, candida, candida…” she muttered. Turning to yell over my shoulder, something in Korean ending with “Candida Enzyme!” in English, and again “Candida Enzyme!” notifying the whole store, who was familiar with the terminology, I had a common feminine hygiene issue. Nice. I turned around to see who she was yelling to but I knew, with my luck, it would only be the buff cute dude I had vigilantly avoided pestering. He walked past me to gaze at the lower shelves and picked out the bottles the owner could not find and walked back to the counter without noticing me at all.
Dr. A was away for a couple of our appointments so Dr. S would meet with me for updates instead. Upon seeing the types of natural pills I had taken to combat my side effects, Dr. S advised me to stop taking them as they were still drugs, natural or not, which could indirectly affect my chemo treatments. I left my appointment hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with yeast again. Unfortunately, it crept back into my system after another round of chemo. Riddled with angst about drinking mouthwash I went over to Lisa’s who gave me an expired naturopathic prescription for boric acid capsules she had used to fight off a previous infection. It was the first thing offered to me within minutes of realizing another infection was coming on. Irritated, distraught, and riddled with bone pain, it may not have been the most ideal circumstances to decide on using a compound usually associated with cockroach repellant or laundry detergent. However, in my fragile state, all Lisa had to say was, “It works!” to convince me.
Surely, Dr. S would disapprove using boric acid, I thought. How does this sound to a doctor who adamantly tells a patient not to use natural pills? I was in luck. Dr. A was back for our usual scheduled appointments when I told him, “I had another yeast infection. Uhmm, I realized it as I was walking over to a friend’s house where she offered me her expired prescription bottle of boric acid from her medicine cabinet, to help me out. So I took a capsule and shoved it up there.” He looked up at me for a moment and asked if it worked? “RIGHT AWAY!” I told him as I smiled.
The next couple of appointments with Dr. A we discussed taking Tamoxifen, a drug which suppresses estrogen from your body (my cancer fed on estrogen) for the next five years. At our last meeting he also gave me the option to participate in a trial drug study, into the use of a diabetic drug Metmorfin, to cut the recurrence rate of cancer. The research into the diabetic medication Metmorfin was extremely enticing. However, I could not get a read on what Dr. A really thought about the trial drug. He was neither exuberantly pro nor overtly con for the trial study. Just as I had to decide which chemo treatment to go with and deciding whether to do radiation or not, I needed to weigh out the best outcome again. No matter how promising, the type 2 diabetes medication seemed to look, there would be a fifty percent chance I could be given placebo pills. Based on this fact alone, I opted out of the potentially cutting-edge treatment for cancer – and from the little research I looked at, it does seem to be a next big thing for cancer treatment.
Part of me wishes there was another perspective to a plausible five-year drug solution. These two drugs, Tamoxifen and Metmorfin have shown to reduce the recurrence of cancer, greatly. However, they are not cures. I’m wishing for a cure. If a cure for cancer tasted as vile as the mouthwash or Jagermeister and I had to drink it everyday for five years straight, I would do so. In a heartbeat. Tamoxifen is still a great option for the next 5 years, though.