Friday, March 2, 2007


The last few days have seen a flurry of changes—none of them for the better. First was the long languishing oxygen finally being put to its intended use. It was rapidly replaced with an oxygen concetrator to guarantee my dad a constant flow of oxygen. Two nights ago, I saw him use his his walker for the first time. Yesterday was a watershed: A wheelchair arrived along with a motorized hospital bed to replace the flat queen bed that has been in his bedroom for 37 years. He will sleep alone; my mother moved into my sister’s old bedroom down the hall three weeks ago when co-sleeping became too difficult. The bed is motorized, eliminating the physical efforts of two or more people that have been recently required to ift my father from a prone to a semi-sitting position such that he can watch television or talk to visitors.

He continues to slide downhill, growing skinnier and weaker each day. Much of this decline I attribute not to the cancer but to his a simple lack of adequate nutrition, hydration and salt. Remember that just a few weeks ago there was unexpected and significant regression of his primary tumor.

He complains that he feels nauseous and cannot keep down food or liquids. I think he is starving and thirsting to death as much as or more than the cancer is killing him. My mother and I were in Dr. Canin’s office when he admonished my dad that it was very important that he eat—and that was at the very beginning of this whole experience.

Where does the salt come in? Well, high sodium levels (sodium being one of the two consituent elements in table salt; the other being chlorine; hence its chemical formula of NaCl) are contributory to hypertension and many other problems. But low sodium levels, such as occurs when someone ingests too little salt can be equally or even more problematic. Sodium is an electrolyte: a chemical that helps conduct or hold an electric charge. Electrolytes are commonly found in batteries. And in you. They are essential for proper operation of your nervous system; the propagation of electric impulses along your nerves and within your brain. You are an electrochmemical machine.

Hyponatremia, polyglot Greek and Latin for ‘low sodium’ is a condition where there is insufficient sodium in your blood stream, and consequently throughout your body. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache and malaise [weakness and lethargy]. (At its worst, hyponatremia will kill you.) Sound familiar? Those are my dad’s principal symptoms. In fact, I think my dad is hypo-electrolytic: probably not the exact diagnosis but close enough. He is lacking adequate electrolytic salts (including other than sodium chloride) and essential metals, and indeed other essential minerals for his body to function well.

Why can’t he keep down liquids? Because they will further dilute the increasingly miniscule amounts of sodium necessary to keep his nervous system operating so his body rejects it. I’m off to the store to buy Pedialite, (yes, it’s for children, but a physician prescribed it for me a couple of years back when I had a several gastrointestinal bug) Gatorade or a similar beverage!

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