Pills, Pills, Everywhere

“Where did I put that sulfa?” I said to myself and the dog.

The dog of course didn’t answer. I didn’t know the answer myself. That’s why I was asking. I thought that maybe my question would conjure it. But surprise, surprise. No luck.

Sulfa is sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim, or as it says on the label, sulfamethoxazole-tmp. The trade name, Bactrim, is at least easy to pronounce. The bottle for some reason seems to levitate and land in various spots. I found it on the dining room table, took a pill out, and put it down in the kitchen, where I found it today.

It, of course, doesn’t migrate by itself. And I would save myself the trouble of looking for this one and some other wanderers if I kept to a system of filling my pillboxes on a regular basis. Sometimes I’m disciplined about doing it. Other times, it gets away from me.

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I take Bactrim as a preventative against a nasty kind of pneumonia that transplant recipients can get. The Mayo Clinic explains that it is used “to prevent or treat pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia or pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a very serious kind of pneumonia. This type of pneumonia occurs more commonly in patients whose immune systems are not working normally, including blood cancer patients, transplant patients, and patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).”1

My big bag of pills

I keep most of the pills in a bag. For too long, I used the paper bag that the nurses filled when I was leaving the hospital. I was superstitious about holding onto it. It got so ratty that a friend bought me a nice bag because she was tired of looking at it. The bag was too small, so I finally got another.

Filling the pill boxes

It is a real project to fill the boxes. Sometimes I stop before finishing, and the feng shui of my den is thrown off. I lay out the pill bottles on a stack table and fill them while watching TV. It can’t be a TV show on which I have to concentrate too hard.

I sit the big bag of pills on the couch and start to fill the pillboxes. I had to get an oversize set. Each one has two mornings and evenings, so I do two days at once. If I can find all of them, I lay out all seven. Sometimes I run out of something and don’t finish. Then I need to get to CVS. Since I have already started, I don’t want to pack everything up. The bag of pills, and stray pill bottles, mess up the couch.

Forgetting to do my routine

Occasionally I go through I stretch where I don’t fill them at all. Then I end up sifting through the bag to get the morning pills just as I’m running off to tennis. It would take less time just to fill them, and I vow to do better. It’s like procrastinating on anything. The time that it took me to pull the weeds out of my garden this summer was much shorter than the time I spent thinking about why I didn’t want to do it.

Togetherness is filling boxes

Isn’t this romantic? Sometimes my boyfriend says, “Let’s do pills.” He sits on one side of the stack table, and I sit on the other. We fill the boxes together. My parents were fond of a Yiddish saying that phonetically goes like this: “file hent makhn di arbet geyn faster.” The translation: “Many hands make the work go faster.”

I can’t always ask him, though.

I’ll tell you, not in any particular order, what these pills are for.

  • Until recently, they included prednisone, which I took for 12 years to tamp down the graft vs. host disease stemming from my last stem cell transplant. We’ll call that pill #1.
  • Pills #2 and #3 are Bactrim and Valtrex (valacyclovir). We already talked about Bactrim. The Valtrex protects me from certain viruses. Eventually, I hope to get off these two.
  • Then, 5, 6 and 7: Neurontin (gabapentin) for neuropathy: three pills, 300 milligrams each.
  • Number eight is folic acid to aid in healthy cell growth. Sometimes when I take it, I flash back to my hospital stay after my 2003 diagnosis. I asked the physician’s assistant why I was taking folic acid. “You’ll need it for the rest of your life,” she said, after explaining its purpose. I was pleasantly surprised that she thought there would be a rest of my life.
  • Nine is amlodipine for high blood pressure.
  • #10 is Trintellix, an antidepressant.
  • Then a multi vitamin (two of them) for #11 and #12.
  • Plus two calcium pills, #13 and #14.
  • A probiotic, #15.
  • And niacinamide, #16, a form of Vitamin B3 that may cut down on skin cancer occurrence.

The feeling of reaching for a pillbox and finding it full is so much better than that of scrambling to find the pills that I vow to do better.

If you take a lot of pills, do you have a system? If so, please share. I could use some help.

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