October 21, 2010
Dark Days arrive...
I woke up Saturday morning long before sunrise. I knew that I had to be close to the end of the honeymoon with the chemo. It was only a matter of time before the side effects of the chemo and the medicine they gave me to stimulate white blood cell production would hit.
My medical team seems to always address this moment with calm almost tender tones that, while gentle, do not pretend to down play what lay ahead. Interestingly, when I looked into their eyes and watched the body-English, I could sense something that must be nurse-similar to the uncertainty I was feeling. I could sense them internally going through a check list of things as they mentally arming themselves up to deal with what lay ahead for me; a new patient whose body had not yet revealed how it was going to react. Their eyes, masters of silent communication, said, “We do not know what you have coming BUT whatever it is, (1) we have dealt with it before and (2) we will deal with it again for you.”
I wrote the above words Saturday morning. Not long after putting those thoughts down, my runaway train like slide into an abyss of side effects occurred. If scoring side effects was an Olympian game, I suspect they would have given me the Silver because I got virtually every one of them except debilitating vomiting and tingling in the extremities.
All my chemo juices come with a warning sheet listing possible side effects. The sheets always measured the likelihood of occurrence. One of those measurements reads something like “All but 30% of the patients can expect to experience XXX”. My family and I discovered over the next few days that I was a 70 percentile winner because, if it was possible to have a side effect, I got it.
Today, Wednesday evening, is the first time since then that I am having a “good moment” – a phrase now used by me and my family meaning I am reasonably alert and aware of what is going on around me without excessive discomfort – long enough to try and get some words in the blog.
Chemotherapy Cycle One is essentially over except for the healing. I feel so awful about what strain this cancer put on my family as I recall the unbelievably long hours that made this past week feel like a month. The strain on my family was so terrible to watch through my foggy mental state. After dealing with a disgusting or frightening reaction to a side effect, I would hear them in the living room. I heard them quietly laughing as they relived this episode or that with a bit of survival humor sprinkled in. And then I would hear the sobs mixed in with the laugher. Only woman have ever truly perfected this oh so powerful coping tool. And my heart would pound and feel like it was going to tear apart for them.
I have vague memories of lying in my bed like a rotting vegetable clinging to a tiny string of mental determination to win another battle to overcome the powerful urge to vomit. It didn’t bother me one damn bit to have quiet tears rolling down my face as I listened to my family, who didn’t think I could hear them, dealing with their fright and other troublesome feelings. I hate hat hate what MY cancer is doing to others. Me, that’s one thing. But, the others...it is not going to be possible for me to ever come to grips with making others cry or be filled with concern and fright.
Aching bones and nausea are telling me that I have used up this good moment. Since the ol' toilet bowl and I have become such close friends, I think I will stop by and say Thank You for the Memories and then get under the covers and see what nonsense will manifest itself tonight!
PS: I lied...I got to thinking about you and the hundreds of others who have sent me their own private message. I sit here choked up with wet eyes yet AGAIN....but it feels good...these are good emotions. I hope that when I finally get this behind me, humility will rule me so that I do not ever forget all of the incredible people from all corners of the planet that have made my life so full thus far. God by whatever name you chose, Higher Power of choice....I will ask that entity, Him or Her, to touch you with a moment of warmth for your kindness towards me.
at 3:33 AM