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On vomiting

I’m becoming concerned that I may have given the misleading impression that dealing with cancer is a bed of roses. While I have been able to find a lot to be positive about, there are some things that are simply unpleasant and have to be borne. Regular vomiting is probably my number one bugbear at the moment, so I think it’s worth looking at in a bit more detail. Don’t worry, taste and decorum will be preserved at all times.

I knew, as I think everyone does, that chemotherapy makes you sick. But that just wasn’t true for me. I was fine while the cisplatin, normally the principal offender, was being administered. It was the stent that made me sick. Having the stent inserted meant that bile started flowing from my liver again, into my intestines, as it was meant to. Unfortunately, constipation meant that it couldn’t flow in the normal direction, so it just pooled in my stomach. I am certain that the main purpose of bile is to make you feel sick, … very sick. After a few hours it builds up so much that I can hardly concentrate on anything except the need to hold my stomach’s contents down. But the effort is always in vain. The bile needs to leave, and nothing is going to stop it. Eating a single mouthful of food triggers the vomiting, and it is vile: bitter, brown, oily and acidic. After it went I felt much better, but eating was then the last thing on my mind. I lost weight fast, which was ironic considering how long I’ve tried to diet my way slimmer.

That state of affairs lasted for a while. It started before my first chemo session (otherwise known as my birthday) and continued until the Friday after I returned home from the chemo (otherwise known as my psychotic episode). On that Friday Gillian had slaved over a baked Sea Bass, of which she was justifiably very proud. I took my customary single bite, threw up, and looked miserable. I think Gillian must have snapped inside, as I certainly would have done if I had worked hard at cooking something delicious only to have it turned down after a single mouthful.

“Now you’ve thrown up, you can get back to your meal,” she said, quite kindly I thought, in the circumstances.

y stomach was definitely not sure, but I thought I ought to try. I took a tentative mouthful. It was delicious. I watched my stomach. It watched me back. I could tell, it had that look about it. After a while, the sulky stomach decided that the fish was not too objectionable. I took another bite, this time of the mash and spring onion. The stomach let that one pass too. My pace accelerated, and before long the plate was clear. Well, that was a surprise! But surely this benign state of affairs couldn’t last, could it? Surely stomach would realize that it had been tricked. But no, stomach was now full and happier than it had been in a long while. I had just finished my first proper meal for days, and I was delighted.

Gillian must, of course, take the credit. Twice. First for cooking such a good meal that I was actually tempted to carry on eating after I had thrown up. Second for encouraging me to try again when I didn’t think it would be worth it. Now I know that I can eat an entire meal after I’ve thrown up, with no ill effects whatsoever. That tactic has worked well for me for the last week, and I have used it at least once per day. There is even a bonus: I can take my pills after the meal, knowing that I won’t lose them straight away. It’s a huge relief not to have to wonder any more whether I can take a replacement pill after the first one was thrown up.

The lesson to take away is that there is even something positive about vomiting. My stomach may act like a toddler prone to tantrums, but a little firm handling will make it behave, even when it is distracted by vile bile.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Graham H | 22 January 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi Chris

    David told me a that you are blogging about your experiences. It is good to read that you have been able to do some stomach taming (I have a mental image of you dressed as a lion tamer, wielding a kitchen chair, with the stomach suitably subdued, and Gillian as your glamourous assistant – or is it the other way around?).

    Thinking of you both


  2. icyjumbo | 22 January 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Thinking of my stomach as anything other than a sulky toddler is over-glamourizing it, I’m afraid. It seems to have been brought somewhat to heel now, though, so that’s a definite improvement.

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