Thursday, January 22, 2015

Does taking psyllium husk powder indicate desperation?

The sky was on fire
When I walked to the mill
To take up the slack in the line
I thought of my friends
And the troubles they've had
To keep me from thinking about mine
Warren Zevon

Regular readers may have noticed that I really haven't written much about having cancer recently. How about that. And really regular readers my have noticed I haven't written much about my stomach pain either. So, what's up with that? As usual, you guys ask good questions. Actually, you probably haven't missed hearing about either, but, since the subtitle for my column refers to “my journey through cancer,” I figure it's bad form not to at least keep you up to date on what's been going on.

First, my stomach ailments. I'm not sure where we were when we last addressed this ongoing melodrama, so let me just say where we are now.

You know we'd tried all sorts of things and were getting nowhere. The gastroin..gastrointes..stomach guy, asked me to come in and we did. Whenever we get to see a doctor, Sheri and I both have some hope around the visit. With my cancer, it makes sense because we have had so many positive visits in a row. With the stomach issue, it makes no sense. None. Not any. Look, if we were playing Stump the Doctor, we would be the Ken Jennings of StD (I know. Ignore it. Let's just keep going.), you know- the guy who set all those records on Jeopardy. Well, as my Kilbirnie granny used to say: “If a frrrog had wings, it widne hit it's backside on the grrround everrry time it jumped.” True enough, granny.

Anyway, this time the gastro guy said we probably should take out my gall bladder. He couldn't find anything wrong with it, but he thought maybe it should come out. So, he sent me to yet another surgeon. We thought it was just to set up a date and time for the operation. Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

He said he wasn't going to take my gall bladder out because he couldn't see anything wrong with it either, and, therefore, he had no reason to remove it. My thought was, “Hey. It doesn't really do anything anyway. Out with it!” His thought was “No. If I started removing parts of people because those parts weren't working, I'd be scheduling a lot of brain removals.” As you might guess, he didn't really say that. I made the brain removal part up. He did say no, though, that he wasn't going to remove a seemingly healthy gall bladder.

I wanted to ask him where he stood on second spleens, but for once I kept my mouth shut. The obvious question then became, “Well. What do you suggest we do instead?”

“Fiber!” he proclaimed- seriously, it was like a proclamation, the way he said it- “And lots of it.”

“And 'a lot' would be how much, exactly?”

“Forty grams.”

He was a big believer in fiber and felt that it kept people from having a lot of bad things happen to them. He seemed to think getting that much fiber in my system would not be difficult, so, as always, I said, “Alrighty, then,” and set about researching fiber content in things, beginning with the supplements we see advertised all the time.

I went to the pharmacy and checked out the contents of said supplements, in terms of fiber. “0.5 grams per tablet.” Cool. That meant I would only have to take... Wait a minute... What? That can't be right. I would have to take 80 a day. Ever the optimist, I looked at the details on other brands. They all said the same thing, more or less.

As I considered options, I figured I'd be okay as long as there were discarded Christmas trees by the side of the road, I could gnaw on, but then what? Well, I did find some of things that work and only one of them is kinda disgusting- psyllium husk powder, which pretty much goes down the way it sounds like it would. You dissolve it in water and it's a bit grainy, but I've had to drink worse. And it's seven grams!!!! I do wonder, though, who first saw psyllium husk, and thought, “Hey. Let's pulverize this into a powder, add it to water, then drink it.” In fact, who ever thought about psyllium husk for any reason?

So, I've got the fiber thing under control, but, unfortunately, it isn't working either. My palliative care doctor and I keep missing each other's calls, but that's the next step. Back to him and see what else we can do. I'll probably keep consuming the fiber because... Well, why not?

As far as my cancer goes... All seems to be going well. My blood work has been excellent and wherever the multiple myeloma is hiding, it seems to be behaving itself. So, there's not a lot to say. I mean, good news seems to have a much smaller vocabulary and takes less explaining.

I do have my monthly check-up in a couple of days, and that always creates a bit of wariness. I have my blood work done and get an IV dose of my bone densifier, which sometimes creates some pain, but good pain in that it is helping to heal my bones.

Other than that, we're just trying to bring some normalcy to our lives. We don't talk much about my cancer, not because of fear or denial, but because it is now right-sized. We simply want to be Jim and Sheri, fabulous, must-invite couple, rather than poor Jim and Sheri, having to deal with Jim's cancer all the time. If you must feel bad for us, think, “Poor Jim, having to drink psyllium husk powder every day.”


There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”