Coping With Cancer: Medicine 101

By Margaret Nyman

October 27, 2009

Left brain, right brain, I never remember which side does what. One thing I do know, however, is that I’m not a numbers person. I’d rather write a 50-page paper than add a long column of figures, even if I had a calculator. That’s why keeping track of Nate’s pill bottles and medicine doses is almost more than I can handle. The 8½” X 11″ grid hospice gave me today to write everything down was intended to help but has only screamed, “You can’t!” from its place on the kitchen counter.

The hospice doctor and the head nurse of our team spent 90 minutes with us today, examining Nate and talking over his current pains and frustrations. Nurse Gina volunteered to stay an extra half hour to tutor me on the meds. My slow responses to her drug instructions must have triggered anxiety in her as she feared for her patient. She and I lined up all the containers, which included meds we used to use, meds we are currently using and meds we will use in the future. The minute she began referring to the drugs by their real names, I got lost.

Excusing myself to get a thin-tipped indelible marker I said, “You can tell me what and when, and I’ll translate it for myself on the label.”

She chuckled like I was kidding but bravely started in: “Ondansetron is for nausea,” she said, “and he can have up to three pills, eight hours apart, over 24 hours.” I wrote on the container, “Nausea, 1 at a time, up to 3.”

She continued: “ABHR is a gel you rub on his wrists if the ondansetron isn’t working, and he can have it twice in 24 hours.” So I wrote “Break-through nausea, wrist, twice.” Continue reading