Friday, February 18, 2011


This has been a stressful week.

After my hysterectomy, Dr. Laudi prescribed a drug called Effexor XR (extended release) to help reduce my hot flashes. Effexor is classified as an antidepressant and it helps with hot flashes by somehow interfering, intercepting or rebalancing the chemicals in the brain that cause serotonin and epinephrine to transmit a hot flash.

With any drug, there are always potential side effects. The side effects of Effexor XR vary from headache, anxiety, and (ironically) increased flushing and sweating to bizarre behaviors, impulsiveness, and (ironically) worsening depression. So I scanned the list- whatever, whatever, whatever- and moved on. But, after taking it for awhile, I didn't like how the drug made me feel- I'd rather live with the hot flashes-so I asked Dr. Laudi how to wean off of it. I learned that people weaning off of it can have the worst side effects.

Mark, as usual, studied the side effects list like someone cramming for a final exam. This checklist memorized, Mark follows me from room to room or sits in his desk chair, swiveling round and around to observe and monitor me.

So, what was the biggest contributor to my pissed off, bizarre behavior? Effexor XR? Or getting burned by my husband's magnifying glass? If it was only that easy...

While Mark points his finger at the drug and refers to me as being "Effexored-Out" at times, I desperately need peace and understanding. Typically, Mark reacts to my diagnosis and my treatment in terms of how it affects him. It's like everything I go through is filtered through him first and becomes his in the process. Maybe this is just what happens when you love someone deeply- the lines between you become so blurred you are like one person. My pain IS his pain. My joy IS his joy. A beautiful thing in many ways, but sometimes I just need him to back off- to be accepting and supportive of ME... without first and foremost contemplating how things will affect him.

Mark refers to me in terms of "the old Sarah." The Sarah he fell in love with. The Sarah attached to him at the hip. The Sarah filled with fun, always up for an adventure, his partner in crime. He reminds me of how little I resemble "the old Sarah." The Sarah who didn't have breast cancer.

Cancer has a way of taking a lifetime and condensing it into cliff notes... For example, we live in a 2-bedroom townhouse that we bought when Natalie was a baby and we had only planned on living in for a few years. Then, Mark had an opportunity to start his taxi business, which he runs from our home (phones ringing constantly, people in and out), so moving has been pushed further and further into the future. When we only had 2 children and I had energy to run around and go places all the time- it didn't seem like a big deal. Now, we spend more time at home, our world is smaller and some days I feel like it is closing in around me. Mark is aiming for his "dream" home in 5 years. I feel an urgency to simply move into a bigger house now. (Effexor?) This week, I cried uncontrollably as I explained to my mother that I just want my children to have rooms of their own, rooms that we would decorate together, where they would remember me tucking them in at night, where they would think of cookies we've baked in the kitchen, or snuggling under blankets to watch a movie together in the living room or exploring nature in our own backyard. A place where memories of me will be with them, around every corner... even if I am not there. (Effexor?) This week, I screamed swear words and tried to spray Mark with the kitchen sink sprayer as he critiqued me from across the room. (Effexor?) I am short-tempered and lashing-out or I am empty and hopeless. (Effexor?)

For today, it's easiest to just point at Effexor.
So for today, Effexor gets the finger.

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