Post 2: The flu shot

So I will take one more kick at the flu shot and then move on.  It’s a personal decision as to whether one gets the shot and so it should remain.  (However, and notably, one of my sisters who works in a hospital not too far from where I live informed me that it is not an option for employees at that facility, they are required to take the shot.  I have to think that there is a huge human rights violation in this stance, it just hasn’t been challenged.)

It hasn’t been hard to fill the time that I have been off – all my body wants to do is sleep.  When I am awake I try to do something that gets me out of bed and that’s not a bath, the two things I craved while I was away (my bed and tub) just don’t have the same appeal.  So over the course of the last week I thought that I would look up the product monograph for the flu shot in general to see if the warnings or contraindications had changed much over the years.

What probably surprised me most was that it wasn’t easy to locate the individual monographs. I’ve spent years doing this stuff and have a whole assortment of ways to search.  In a nutshell, going to big pharma and reading about their trade name flu shots gives you some information and generally the PR version as to why the shot is necessary. Most websites usually refer you to the product insert in the packaging for more details.  Hmm that’s not very helpful.  Even when you get the shot, the nurse or doctor doesn’t say “oh and here’s the product insert, be sure to read it.” Actually, it’s one of the few instances where you get nothing detailed. In Canada when you pick up any prescription it is always accompanied by lots of paper outlining potential contraindications.  So no product monograph on the couple of individual sites I visited.  No problem.

The information has to be available to the public and it is.  Even better, it’s nicely captured on one website:  The list includes those pharmaceutical companies supplying this year’s product.  I’m not entirely certain what vaccine I got, because I got nothing when I had the shot, but I tend to think a GlaxoSmithKline is most likely.  Interestingly, in this instance, on this centralized site, the GSK link to a product monograph doesn’t offer up the information immediately, rather the link takes you to a request page. Anyway, lots of the others are available, read a couple of them, they are all formatted in the same manner, so after a while you can skim through them.

One common element is the following clause:

Nonclinical Toxicilogy:  Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

“TRADENAME” has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or for impairment of fertility.

This is a mandatory disclosure in Canada, and I am sure if it wasn’t big pharma would have that out of there in the blink of an eye.  Regardless, I get that it is a seasonal product and therefore long term evaluation of the effects of the specific product are problematic due to the changing composition of the vaccine. But likely there are some elements that are constant, how and in what is it suspended and preserved?  My rational mind says we are playing with fire here.  Shooting ourselves up with a vaccine that may or may not help based on a scientific guess as to what the flu will look like.  Creating a man made version of it and then hitting up half the globe with it because people are frightened of what could happen if they don’t get it.  Regardless of where we live, we all start to hear the media buzz – the stories start in September every year about how this could be the worst year ever.  Hmm, wonder who may have a special interest in getting that messaging out?  We are sheep, just a flock of sheep.  Drive us straight to the edge of the cliff and watch us fall over.

My thoughts have tormented me on this.  When did I get sucked in?  I got sucked in when Kevin got sick, I didn’t want to expose him to anything, so I got the flu shot.  I didn’t get sick while I looked after him but it had nothing to do with the shot, and everything to do with the measures we implemented and the diet we maintained.  Feet are firmly planted back on the ground, it only took this hellish experience to get me there.  Enough on this, so much more to cover relating to the cruise.


Christmas Passed

Daphne the Christmas Pooch!

Daphne – All dressed up for the occasion.

So we are through part one of two for the holidays.  Christmas is now over and we have New Year’s to get through.  This new phase in our lives has meant some significant changes to how we “do” Christmas.  In years past we would go carolling up and down the street or get together with friend’s at our house, their house, it changed from year to year.  We’d have a nice Christmas Eve dinner – usually surf and turf, drink Bailey’s and watch The Christmas Story.  We go to bed late, and get up late the next day.  Christmas Day would be turkey with all the trimmings and generally people arriving throughout the day for appetizers, drinks, carol singing, dinner and later on games.  We’ve always been sure to take pictures and plenty of them.  This year was a much different affair.  We managed to do a bit of a drive around our city to look at the Xmas lights on Xmas Eve, my husband and I along with his sister, two of the kids and two couples that are dear friends of the family.  The next day we had more family, including our two grandchildren, stop by but it was for a few brief hours, no meals, no games, no drinks.  The only consistent thing from years past is that we took pictures, and lots of them.

My husband had a poor response to the Zometa infusion and it took him down for about 8 days.  Today, the 28th, is the first day he has had an appetite and been able to participate in conversation with the family.   It was just bad timing for the reaction to the Zometa, but it did make me realize that I had slipped a bit on my research on recommended treatments.  If I had read up on Zometa and chatted through the side effects with my husband prior to commencing the treatments I doubt he would have opted for it.  This is what WebMD states regarding Zometa Intravenous under Common Side Effects:

The following side effects are associated with Zometa intravenous:

Common side effects of Zometa intravenous:

  • Bone Pain –  Severe
  • Feeling Weak – Severe
  • High Blood Pressure – Severe
  • Low Amount of Magnesium in the Blood – Severe
  • Low Amount of Phosphate in the Blood –  Severe
  • Low Amount of Potassium in the Blood –  Severe
  • Trouble Breathing – Severe
  • Backache –  Less Severe
  • Chills –  Less Severe
  • Chronic Trouble Sleeping – Less Severe
  • Cough – Less Severe
  • Diarrhea – Less Severe
  • Dizzy –  Less Severe
  • Feel Like Throwing Up  – Less Severe
  • Fever – Less Severe
  • Fluid Retention in the Legs, Feet, Arms or Hand – Less Severe
  • Head Pain –  Less Severe
  • Incomplete or Infrequent Bowel Movements – Less Severe
  • Inflammation of Skin caused by an Allergy – Less Severe
  • Joint Pain –  Less Severe
  • Low Energy – Less Severe
  • Muscle Pain  – Less Severe
  • Throwing Up  –  Less Severe
  • Urinary Tract Infection –  Less Severe

Click on the link if you want to see the other side effects listed under Infrequent or Rare.  There is also a good site in the UK that I often refer to when looking up this type of information,; it provides suggestions on how to deal with the side effects.

Back to our situation and nope, we definitely would have considered other holistic ways to enhance his bones rather than infuse them with a bisphosphonate.  There is plenty out there too – therapies like mind body healing, osteotapping, Tai Chi, Xi Sui Jing; a wide range of supplements and dietary supports.  We just need to get through New Year`s and then settle back into a routine where there is time to do the much needed research.

The Prednisone Experience

Our little wonder pill - wonder what he will say today!

Our little wonder pill – wonder what he will say today!

Since October 24 my husband has been taking prednisone to assist with clearing up his lungs and getting him back on track.  His initial dosage was 60 mg (12 tablets) with the dosage reducing by 2 tablets every 5 days until he was weaned off the drug.  When he was prescribed the prednisone friends of ours called it a wonder drug and that it would likely make a significant improvement in his breathing.  However, these same friends, who have had first hand experience with this medication for over 20 years, stated there are a few side effects to watch for.  I usually do research on the drugs my husband is prescribed but asked what else I should know since I had the benefit of an actual user advising me.

This is one of the consequences that our friends had warned about and probably is the most problematic for me.  My husband has never been at a loss for words, especially if he doesn’t agree with something or thinks that it could be done a better way.  He has always had an intolerance for stupidity.  One of the lines I have heard over and over throughout our marriage is ‘stupidity is more prevalent than carbon’ (loosely based on a Frank Zappa quote).  Since taking the prednisone it appears to have lowered his filters.  Doesn’t matter If feelings get hurt, he says what he wants to – regardless of who it is to, however, it is usually me.  It’s not that he doesn’t care, it appears to be that he can’t stop himself.  Afterwards he will say that he didn’t know why he said it but it just came out. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it seems to happen at the worst of times.

Right now I am stretched between my husband and my sister-in-law and there’s not a lot left.   If I am tired or preoccupied I may drop things (actually I’ve always dropped things!), might not find the right word when explaining things, may not jump right on specific requests; I am just generally processing slower. This new “directness,” when it presents, really challenges my restraint, and there is not a darn thing that anyone can do about it – me or him or anyone else.  He is sorry as soon as he has said something, truly regretful and I know it, and I know he wouldn’t hurt me deliberately for the world.  This is just a new twist at a time when we don’t need it.  So we balance the good prednisone does with the temporary challenges that come with taking the drug and I look at the calendar and cross off the days.  Funny how a simple act like that can make things a little bit more tolerable.

The Blood Clot – 2 Weeks On

Well it has been two weeks today that we went to the hospital with his blood clot.  It has definitely been slow going.  His leg and foot remain quite swollen and it is still painful to walk on.  It’s taken a toll on him emotionally.  Yesterday he was quite withdrawn and quiet.  It was apparent just looking at him that he was feeling down.  The visiting nurse came by to flush out his picc line and she chatted with him.  He had hoped that his leg would be visibly on the mend and that his mobility would have improved by now.  She reminded him that it was likely to take upwards of two months for his blood clot to disappear completely.  Looking at his leg you can see certain parts where the swelling is going away, but it isn’t going fast enough for him.  Today he woke up with a nasty headache and I have to think it is all related to how unhappy he is right now.

We’ve had a couple of days of lovely weather here in Ontario and unfortunately it has actually made him feel worse.  To have this great weather and not be able to get out and enjoy it is frustrating.  He continues to be lightheaded, likely because of the clot.  His clot was his whole left leg, from his foot to his groin – and the leg/foot can be quite cool to the touch.  His circulation can’t be great which may be what is causing him to feel woozy.  Blood pressure and blood sugars are checked every day and have been pretty good lately.  So our hope is that when more of the swelling goes from his leg, it means an improvement in his circulation and his wooziness will diminish.

It’s only been two weeks of a fairly lengthy process so we have to hope that the next couple of weeks we see significant improvement.  We had put off his chemo treatment for a week to let the leg have time to heal, and I still think this was a good idea, however, we will proceed with chemo next week to keep up the assault on the cancer cells.  In the meantime my role is to try and get him interested and involved in something that keeps his mind off of his leg.  Easier said than done I’m afraid.

The Dentist Visit

Yesterday we went to the dentist.  Our Oncologist had requested a dental check up as part of the ongoing treatment plan for my husband’s cancer. My husband’s bones are quite thin, brittle and fragile as a result of the bone cancer and the subsequent radiation.  He’s already had an injection of  a bone strengthening agent which he will get every six months.  The Oncologist has also recommended a bone “infusion” as part of my husband’s treatment.  This will be administered at home through the use of a drip.

Prior to commencing the therapy my husband required a dental inspection to ensure that all is well.  One of the potential side effects of the drug can be osteonecrosis of the jaw, which is quite painful as healthy bone tissue in the jaw dies.  Needless to say, this side effect can cause the patient all sorts of grief.  The treatment cannot commence without a dental inspection to ensure that there are no major issues with the patient related to the teeth and jaw.

When I had made the appointment I had advised the dentist that my husband was on a blood thinner as part of the cancer treatment.  This was important and meant that they deferred cleaning his teeth.  When we attended the dentist’s office we went through all the medications that my husband is presently on, after which they did some x-rays and an inspection.  He passed with flying colors.  We also talked about thrush and bacteria in the mouth.  The dentist and the dental technician gave us some great tips on how to prevent mouth sores and keep thrush at bay.  We left with a prescription for a mouth wash in the event he develops mouth sores.  I will hold on to the script and hopefully won’t have to get it filled.

I think the dental appointment was very important – regardless of whether he takes the infusion or not.  It helps to know that your teeth, jaw, etc., are in good shape and that you have no issues brewing there.  So I think it was a good thing, however, I do have questions about the “infusion” and what that means.  He’s getting an injection already for his bone density, what will the “infusion” do, does he need both? What’s the difference?  Are there any side effects to the infusion?  What does it do in the body?  What is the timing for it?  I want his chemo to have optimal effect and not make the body work twice as hard at processing another treatment at the same time.

We see the Oncologist next week – lucky guy – so many questions, so much to learn ..