Into the Opium Den

When you’re told you can, with limitations, enjoy restaurant foods again, it’s both a welcome milestone and a finger-biting moment. Rich and I decided that given the timing, we’d go out to dinner for our wedding anniversary… a wonderful way to celebrate on a number of levels. But whose kitchen do we trust? What clientele could we take a chance with? This was nerve wracking! The stem cell guru suggested we avoid taking the subway with any ebola patients…. Good thinking. Duly noted. No worries. Right.

The choice made, I was nervous as we got ready…. Going to a public place without a mask and gloves? Eating food prepped in a kitchen not cleaned by me? Using utensils that may have been handled by any number of people? OMG! What are we thinking of?!

As we walked into the restaurant, I wanted to tell Rich not to touch anything. I wanted people to move away from us. I wanted to read out the menu to him so he wouldn’t come in contact with it. I surreptitiously rubbed my silverware to make sure they were clean enough. Is anything clean enough? Have I become OCD about Rich and his environment? Who thought this was a good idea?! Haven’t we seen the show on 20/20 on how dirty restaurant menus are?!?Where are my Lysol wipes??

The entire night felt like one of our kids’ video games with dangers everywhere, just waiting for us to be caught off guard. I’m sure in time, we’ll find that we become more accustomed to being out in public, surrounded by germs, and more able to resist the urge to shove people out of our way… But I could be wrong. Maybe I need to get Rich a portable bubble.

Despite my sudden germophobic tendencies, we ultimately relaxed and enjoyed our meals. There would be no sharing of plates in our cootie-free world, but the restaurant kindly divided things we wanted to share… not the same as the usual picking back and forth, but it would do.

At the end of the evening, Rich was happy but tired. We would rest well.

Or so we thought. Despite the mega doses of lomotil AND immodium, we were up all night as Rich prayed to the porcelain gods for deliverance from this draining hell. Despite ‘round the clock medication, the intestinal disorder , the Big D, continues. The medication is increased yet one more time…. Five lomotil and eight immodium throughout the day, round the clock. Alarm clocks wake us throughout the night so meds can be taken on time. We are both literally dragging our asses throughout the day. We keep in touch with the stem cell team daily.

Finally, we’re referred to a gastroenterologist who stops the pill-a-thon Rich is on and prescribes tincture of opium. Or as he calls it, “The Plug”. And it works. Of course, being opium, the stuff that finally allows you to leave the house and enjoy yourself also puts you to sleep. We add another irony to our list. Sleep is healing and much needed after so many interrupted nights so it is not totally unwelcome. We try to extend the amount of time between doses and there is an almost immediate reaction. And as with all medications, as time goes on, there is less effectiveness. How many more drugs are out there for us to try and which one will be the one that gives a permanent relief? We know we’ll find a balance soon.

An endoscopy and colonoscopy is scheduled for this week to ensure that there are no underlying causes beyond the stem cell recovery for this latest adventure. In the meantime tests and cultures are being done to check for those microscopic clues as well. Also on the agenda is a meeting with the stem cell team. We’re keeping fingers crossed for some of the other restrictions to be lifted, answers to be found, balance to be maintained. At 81 days post-transplant, so much closer to the 100 day milestone, change is coming!

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