Radiation 23 of 35. Chemo 4 of 7.

The pain was not under control. In retrospect, this has become blindingly obvious, but in the fog of war it was not clear at all. For about two solid weeks, the only predictable thing about my condition was chaos. Everything was touch and go, moment to moment.

Pain management has changed everything.

Upon hearing that I was not able to keep my eating consistent, my oncologists intervened. I had been resisting taking the narcotics prescribed, as I didn’t want to become another strung-out opioid addict that we all read about in the New York Times —yet another statistic. By Tuesday this past week, I finally gave up all pretenses and asked about a feeding tube. I thought if they could just feed me through the tube, I wouldn’t have to endure another searing migraine brought on by trying to eat.

Dr. M had other ideas. He asked me to try a different approach: a skin patch. Over the course of 72 hours per patch, the little sticker affixed to a fleshy, fatty part of my skin would deliver a steady dose of a powerful pain medication, as opposed to the “peaks and valleys” nature of taking pills. The pills are still part of the regimen, but they now fortify instead of reconstitute.

Now, it’s not all quiet on the western front, but the chaos has been reigned in. While I can’t drive, and I still have to limit my in-person interactions with people, I can reasonably expect to feel somewhat normal most of the day. Pain while eating is still present, but switching to soft foods & mostly liquids has helped. The daily migraines have dialed down from a 10 to a three or four. Not great, but way more manageable.

With the pain finally under control, I am optimistic again. With a clearer mind, the coming challenges will be far easier to confront.