A most precious thing wrapped me up today: a call from my daughter.
Dahlin’ daughter Erin called to give me a report card of how she spent her summer working vacation as a camp teacher in the performing arts. I gave her my report on how I spent my summer AS a rookie performing artist on the center stage of science in my body’s theatre of the absurd.
Ba-da-bing. She knows what that means. She grew up around my sense of humor.
We agreed to share our anecdotal finer points at our next visit, which will have to wait a while longer. Right now, I’m supposed to be resting, avoiding people, and focusing on good nutrition, hydration, and all the positivity I can muster. I love you, too, dear daughter, and thank you for lifting my spirits, as you always do.
But, I’m working hard on the positivity because I know how important it is. I know this from thirty-five years of providing bedside nursing care, which I believe I did well, and forty-two days of receiving it, which I haven’t done well at all.
For me, the biggest hindrance to my healing is me (this is true of most of us in the health care field. No, we’re not selfless heroes, but caring for others and saving ourselves for last is simply how we help fuel the world).
In these first weeks of cancer treatments, it’s been all about the ebb and flow of good days and bad. Tonight is bad, piling up on me --- all the swelling, burning, choking, bruising, vomiting, and pain that this body has never known to this degree (I’ve seen it and assessed it and charted it in other bodies, but never felt it in mine).
Every day, as my self-triage takes another spin of the wheel, I never know which side effect losing number will come up.
Yes, I have plenty of targeted pain management interventions at hand which make all the above at least tolerable, but because “every form of refuge has its price,” and because medicine should adopt that as Part B of the Hippocratic Oath, the side effects then have side effects of the side effects ofthesidedeeffects--------
But, wait! Now comes the big top tent of Rad Chemo, and it’s taken over my midway: fatigue.
It’s all-consuming. It’s concrete shoes in a swamp. It’s a chainmail overcoat. It’s a lead barrel full of anvils. And, like the pains generated by this disease, it’s another siege that I’ve never experienced in me, only witnessed in others.
But, now I know.
This is the sixth day I’ve tried to write about why I couldn’t write about it. When this cancer treatment fatigue moved in, my muse, my best intentions, my grit, my energy, were all washed away like a sand castle.
Some of my cancer course has been “normal,” if there is such a thing. Everything the Docs said would happen to me has happened, but some of what they said might happen, hasn’t (so far). At least not according to the textbook cancer timetable.
When it comes to illness, we each have our own season tickets. Some games we play at home … and some are away. (That may be the best metaphor I can pluck from this fatigue).
I’ll do my best to get back on track, soon as I get this squatting elephant off my chest.
More as we go, El