Saturday, October 3, 2015

The TIPs & FAQs of ALL.

After giving you an idea of how to deal with Bipolar I disorder, I would like to give you a simple post about being an oncology patient, and how to deal with it.
     In case you are unfamiliar with the acronym "TIP," it stands for Thing Important for a Patient.
     I don't want this to be terribly long, but just enough to give a picture, more specifically of being a patient at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. After visiting another Children's hospital, not a part of Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, I realized that Children's is not the only hospital in its class.
     Anyway, that is not important. A few frequently asked questions might be the right way to write this post, so I'll start with the most prominent ones and go to the less important ones as I go.

Q: What does it feel like to be given Chemo?

A: For the most part not pleasant. Some Chemos are less aggravating than others, like Vincristine and Prednisone, but there are others that make a cancer patient feel—to quote another cancer patient—"Like a bag of dead mice." There are times when I'm on the hospital floor in my room lying on my bed just waiting for it all to be over and I here this question, "How do you feel?"
     My knee-jerk reaction would be to strangle the person who asked it, but usually I mustered the energy to say, "I don't feel well enough to answer that question," as smugly as possible.
     It is true that this is a most ungrateful way to accept life saving treatment, but one must wonder the time of administration if the treatment, that feels like nauseous torture, is really worth it. Well, the fact that I am telling this to you is a sign that it is worth it, so please forgive me, and every other cancer patient who has possibly thought this way.

Q: And speaking of staying on the Hemonc floor of the hospital floor for a few days, what do you do with yourself during that time?

A: The key to passing the time in the hospital is an ingenious new technology called streaming. At Children's they have free movies that you can watch at any time, unless every other person in the hospital is trying to stream the movie you want to watch at the same time, then the server gets overloaded and it becomes really choppy. Then your best bet is to wait till about eleven PM and try then, or watch another movie that isn't so frequently selected for viewing. If you're an older patient, you may rather want to watch a more action filled movie that most of the younger patients, of which there are typically more of than older patients, would not be quite as interested in.
     What makes Children's a little nicer than some hospitals is that it also has a Geek Squad office as you enter on the second floor from the green parking ramp. They'll let you borrow a computer or iPad for a few days while you're staying. With it you can browse the internet and do other stuff. Now that I have my own computer I probably won't need to, but it was probably the best feature when I did need it.

Q: Is the food any good?

A: When you order it the first time, the thirtieth time? Some hospitals may not do this, but Children's lets you order food a la carte. It's good the first few times you order it, but eventually you run out of good things on the menu. I got sick of the breakfast food faster than anything else on the menu, and so I found cheeseburgers a suitable breakfast food from there on out. That and broccoli. One visit it was mashed potatoes every night with extra gravy, which sustained me through nausea and other terrible things. I don't know why, but mashed potatoes are easier for me to eat while nauseated while feeling like I'll throw up.

Q: Are the nurses and doctors nice?

A: Yup. I think the doctors and nurses at Children's are all very competent, but also very kind. Especially on the oncology floor where you get to know them pretty well because you're seeing them for the full three years of treatment, or however long it is for you (I hear that brain tumors take longer), quite regularly. They're all fun and always happy to see you and willing to do anything that will make you feel more comfortable.

Q: Besides watching movies and browsing the internet, what else do you do for fun?

A: Visitors are allowed at any time during the day, and  always greatly appreciated. Good friends would play cribbage with me sometimes and other times the hospital chaplain, who truly is a kindred spirit would come and converse with me on multitude of subjects ranging from theology to computers, two things he and I are both fascinated with. He also would play cribbage with me, usually pwning me more than I would care to admit.
     And then there are those other times. . .
     What is a lot of fun is when the nurse thinks that you're asleep, when in fact you were a few minutes ago, but are slowly waking up because the nurse is putting on another bag of lactated ringers or saline, or something. Replacing the morning fluids. This happened one time, and I will never forget the result. I knew she was there so very suddenly I popped up in bed and said as loudly as I could, "HYAHH!" which isn't very loud in the morning, but it was enough to give her a start. We both laughed about it and I got the satisfaction of hearing her outside telling other nurses about my little escapade.
     I have heard that there is a new teens only room on the seventh floor of the hospital for cancer patients. Unfortunately I have no more scheduled hospital visits as an inpatient, so it may be that I never have the opportunity to see it, however, if I run a fever of 101.5 ºF, I will be required to stay in the hospital until it has passed. If it had been there when I was admitted, then I would have most likely have endeavored to use it by sitting in it and enjoying the scenery, especially if they put in a window since last time I saw the room that they were going to put it in.

So there are my answers to your FAQs, and some tips of how to deal with cancer while getting treatment. Sorry, it was way longer than a not so terribly long post, but in any case, if you got this far I hope that you enjoyed reading it.



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and as always,

Thanks for reading.





Thursday, October 1, 2015

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

When a family member suddenly has a mental illness when before you thought that your stock was pure it is truly unnerving, made only worse if the ill person is not only a family member but also yourself. It is true, this was the case for me. Two years ago today I found out that I had (and still do) bipolar disorder. At the time it didn't seem like a big deal, but nothing really did back then. I am sure you have heard of bipolar disorder, perhaps you have heard one of your friends make a joke where a person's behavior is compared to a bipolar person's, or perhaps you yourself have made a joke like that. I actually do have it, so I tend not to laugh at those kinds of jokes. I don't find them offensive, I just don't think they're funny.

So today we are going to try together to understand the queer behavior of people who have the disorder.

Bipolar is a genetic spectrum disorder, meaning that it is passed on by your parents, even if they don't  have it. My theory is that it has a lot to do with genetic entropy in play, but we'll save that for some other time. The other part, being a spectrum disorder, means that it affects other people more than some people who have the disorder. I obviously have it, but my body is so sensitive to medication (just ask my oncologists) that it doesn't take much medication to keep it under control.

Usually it happens in adults older than twenty, but there are some circumstances in which teens will be diagnosed, and even in some situations children younger twelve.

In this post I am focusing primarily on helping people with teen bipolar. That is the one area with which I have first hand experience.

Essentially the actual symptoms are partially explained by the name of it. Imagine that every person has their own planet. The north pole of it is beautiful and rosy while the south pole is dark, sinister and depressing. Most people live in the tropics where it is a nice, comfortable and real existence, whereas the poles are where elation and depression reign supreme and to the point where you can't even think straight. Maybe it's something in the water.

In any case, normal people live in the tropics almost all of the time, perhaps making a visit to the poles once in a blue moon, people with the disorder tend to build their homes there, usually both on the north pole and on the south pole, switching every few months or even weeks, and in a few cases days, and in other even more extreme cases hours. The way the symptoms first appear varies, but usually it is defined by a very high and good mood—elation, is what they generally call it, or even, well, maniaaaaaaaaaaaa! Yee-Haw!

I say that a little jokingly, but it must be said that that is the feeling that a person with bipolar experiences during this period of several weeks or months, unless it is controlled with medications or other methods.

The other side of Bipolar Disorder isn't nearly as fun to think about, but it is a fact of life for those who have it. Depression. Some of you, my readers, have had this awful anomaly happen in your brains, the imbalance of chemicals going the other way after an episode of mania. Because depression is so much more common, I won't try to explain it since even Charlie Brown knows what it is.

So there's the first part of understanding it—what it is.

The second part has to do with dealing with it.

If you think you have it, you are probably depressed right now after being in mania, since most people who are in mania will never admit that they are in mania. The first part of dealing with it is seeing a psychologist. They will know whether or not to say that you have the disorder or not.

But you probably don't have it, so we'll focus on how to help someone you know who does have it. You must understand that there are some idiots out there who do not have the disorder that think they know what will be best for those who do. They have some advice, but it is far from complete. No, I am not an expert, but I think I know what I'm talking about having dealt with it on a daily basis for the last seven hundred plus days.

Bipolar people tend to think, while they are in mania, that they are providing the world with new research and knowledge and helping everyone by acting pompous and better than everyone else. Probably the best thing to do with a friend or family member, whether that be a child or sibling is ask them to go on a walk with you to talk about what's on their mind. This simple solution is not talked about in the books that I have read. Just go for a walk and listen to what they have to say. Even if it makes zero sense (Which is what it will do in all likelihood) it should be taken into your heart and mind and used to help you understand their point of view.

Compare the mind of a bipolar person to a small child that has big ideas, but the difference is that a bipolar teen doesn't think he needs permission to act on his big ideas.

I have heard of another family's story in which their bipolar teen decided to build a trebuchet, so he went to Home Depot and bought the wood and bolts, not even using any instructions, just making it up as he went along, brought it home and built it, and it worked, being able to send what he wanted fifty feet away. His father got angry because the teen didn't put away his tools. It was a mess, the garage and the relationship.

I won't say any more concerning that story.

I think that in the end, you will have to grieve the loss of the old person that you knew and loved to this new stranger that he or she has become. But if medications are being used to help regulate his mood then in a few months he should be back to his normal self.

What is most important is trying to understand his views on things the same way you would try to understand a small child's, the same way you would try to see the way they see things.

And as always, Thanks for reading.