The Wall

I’ll admit I’ve found my strength and determination sagging in the last few days. This should be the beginning of my “good week,” or at least the week in each chemo cycle when I feel the most normal. But here it is Tuesday already and I’m far from normal. I feel haggard, worn down, sick to death of being sick, sick of innumerable trips down to the cancer center, sick of trying to keep track of umpteen different pills and the varying schedules for taking each.

My last chemotherapy with all three chemo drugs was two weeks ago today. I should be celebrating by now. But I’ve been too sick. Trying to force more liquids so I don’t get dehydrated (forcing a drink is not enjoying a drink, but they all taste funny anyway). Sticking to BRAT foods to deal with the diarrhea (I now pretty much hate everything in that diet except toast, because it’s the only one that doesn’t taste funny). Trying to find some normal foods that taste good and have some appeal but don’t cause too much gas, don’t have too much fiber. Eat your favorite foods? Lots of luck. At least 80% of them will taste funny. I’d kill for a good steak or a platter of tacos — provided they taste like they should.

Of course, the chemo induces fatigue and weakness and this will be exacerbated if you don’t eat enough. One of the drugs they give you will cause your ankles to swell, but if you take a diuretic, you’re robbing your body of the fluid it needs to keep your gut functioning properly. And if you take too many meds to stop the diarrhea, you’re likely to end up constipated, which is probably even more uncomfortable.

While struggling with all this, I see on the calendar that tomorrow is my first appointment with the radiologist. I’m not ready for that yet! I need more rest, more strength to face that. I’ve a million questions and expect not to like most of their million answers. And hell, yes, I’m scared. They’ll be shooting radiation at my chest, which happens to have my heart and lungs in it right behind the tumor site. I’d really rather they not do that. Especially when I have a nagging cough that nothing seems to control. (Can they hit a moving target?) And there were those two little glowing nodes in there on the first CT scan so long ago. The first doctor suggested they been disturbed by the biopsy, the second that they were perhaps inflamed from the surgery. To me they just looked like two little pearls of cancer in a very difficult-to-access location. Will they show up on the next scan? Will chemo have wiped them out? Or will they still be grinning like two little cheshire cats, daring the radiologist to get to them?

I don’t know what the radiology schedule or treatment will be, precisely, but I keep reading 5 days a week for 5-6 weeks. How grueling can you get, given it’s almost an hour’s drive down and back each time. I don’t know what the side effects will be. And frankly right now I don’t feel I have the wherewithal to face it all. I’m just so damned tired …

And if that weren’t enough, a week from today I’m supposed to report for my first Herceptin-only treatment. That’s one of the three drugs they’ve been giving me, but from now on I’ll be getting just it, every three weeks, for a year. They say there will be fewer, milder side effects, no steroids before and after, no Neulasta shots, no nausea medication. Yeah, right. Except for the fluky side effects I experience, because, after all, every case is different.

I really broke down last night. I was in tears. I don’t think I can keep doing this. I’m not ready to see the radiologist tomorrow, or the oncologist next week. I just want my life back.

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9 thoughts on “The Wall

  1. disperser Tuesday, September 08, 2015 / 12:34 pm MDT

    I hope you have access to survivors who went through this and can offer moral support. I know there are boards online geared to doing specifically that, although when I was on them I saw a lot of praying and things that I would find useless. But, they did also have information, hints, and useful comments. I’m speaking of boards I visited for other conditions when my wife was struggling, but I imagine there are similar boards for various types of cancers.

    I think you had mentioned there are survivors support networks and I wonder if you are making use of them.

    Perhaps you also need to revisit the “why” you decided on this course and recapture your original desire to fight the cancer instead of succumbing to it. That has to involve more than food. That has to involve more than physical comfort. Books, music, movies, friends, pets or whatever made life’s struggle worthwhile before the cancer is still there, is still worthwhile, and this is just another obstacle to overcome.

    I obviously can’t speak from personal experience, but I know that survivors of both physical and emotional ordeals did so by keeping their eyes on what comes after the struggle.

    Please understand that I’m not offering comfort; I can’t because no matter how good my imagination on reading your description, I don’t know what you are going through. It could be easier or harder than what other people struggle with, and your own tolerance for it could be less or more than other people.

    All I’m saying is that it’s always easier to give up if one loses sight of the goal and evaluates their choices by only looking at the present.

  2. PiedType Tuesday, September 08, 2015 / 1:09 pm MDT

    I appreciate the words of support. Just a friend reaching out is worth a lot. It’s easy to get down when you feel lousy, and have been for a while. And easier to be anxious when you aren’t feeling your best. I could feel a lot better in a couple of hours, or by tonight, or by tomorrow.

    There are a lot of support groups online but I tend to mostly avoid them. It’s hard to find someone in the exact same position, hard to find someone who sounds comforting without preaching.

    I did manage to totter up to the mailbox — a tiny victory — and pick up a new cap that came in a few days ago. It’s cute, too, if still a bit too heavy for summer temperatures. Wrapped carefully in white tissue paper, tied with my favorite teal ribbons. When I opened it, a silver sticker fell out — “You are beautiful.” Perfect timing.

    If the rest of the day goes well and I get a good night’s sleep, tomorrow will be much different.

      • PiedType Tuesday, September 08, 2015 / 4:31 pm MDT

        Well, I’m not much of a soldier, but forward is the only choice, the only way to get my life back. Quitting is not an option when cancer is the enemy.

      • PiedType Tuesday, September 08, 2015 / 6:48 pm MDT

        “I get knocked down, but I get up again … ”

        Just some days a little slower than others.

  3. Margie Tuesday, September 08, 2015 / 2:44 pm MDT

    I wish there was some way I could send some “Help and Hope” your way! It sounds like your storehouse of these things is just about empty right now…
    I think of my own daughter’s cancer journey as I read about yours. I remember when her daily goals in life were to live another day, to not throw-up, to walk to the end of the driveway, to go back to school, to drive her car, to grow hair, to find a friend…”
    I guess there are as many similarities as there are differences in everyone’s Cancer Journey!

    • PiedType Tuesday, September 08, 2015 / 4:06 pm MDT

      Those are the goals, that’s for sure. The little things. One day at a time. I wasn’t sure I’d get to the mailbox today. Was even weaker and more unsteady than I’d imagined. But I’ve felt better ever since. Guess I’ll try it more often. Of course, today I knew I had something special waiting for me. Keeping dinner down tonight will be my next big goal, since the last three nights haven’t gone well. Maybe my schedule will even allow for a quick foliage drive in the mountains in a few weeks.

  4. philosophermouseofthehedge Friday, September 11, 2015 / 3:38 pm MDT

    Make room for that drive.
    It’s grim and no wonder you’re exhausted and out of steam.
    I can understand avoiding support groups. Those would probably make me cringe and curl up more. My sister-in-law said she didn’t want to see sick people. Horses, dogs, outdoors was what she wanted ( and for her annoying well meaning pushy older sister to leave. My husband went out and basically opened the door and threw stuff in – and ran errand, fed horses – and stayed out of sight – basically what she wanted from everyone. Feeling rotten is feeling rotten.
    The mailbox and the hat. Now that something.
    Wish I could help more.
    Hey – have you seen this lost sheep? http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/offbeat/lost-australian-sheep-yields-30-sweaters-worth-of-fleece/ar-AAdTPpz
    Whew. he looked like a grey big rock! Must feel better without that heavy load now.

    • PiedType Friday, September 11, 2015 / 3:43 pm MDT

      Planning a drive in the mountains as soon as I see what the schedule is going to be for the rest of the month. I have at least established that I can drive a ways. I just can’t walk very far. But that’s fine. I’ll open all the windows and the sunroof and just sit and soak it up. Of course, this time of year there will be lots of company up there, but at least they won’t be sick people. I’m sick of sick people.

      Yeah, glad they found that sheep when they did. Poor guy really needed help.

"You don’t have to say everything to say something." ~Beth Moore

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