Some days I just don’t know why I have a good cry. I mean, I suspect the chemo in my system has a lot to do with it — I’m always more emotionally “available” after an infusion, which translates into a rapid response to whatever I am reading, listening to, or seeing. My switches flip readily, often without the usual filters I keep in place having any effect. Usually, I will have a tip off that a trigger is going to fire, but on days like this one I am often caught off-guard completely by something I would normally call a throw-away, an off-hand comment I’ve read before, perhaps, or a quote hidden deep in a piece of reporting. And then I find myself weeping, my head in my hands, just feeling the release of whatever emotions have been mixing it up biochemically with any lagging fears, doubts, or anxieties I haven’t otherwise already worked out.
It is on days like this that I really just want to focus on:
Fun Facts about my Unique Chemotherapy Experience!
December 2014 marked the beginning of my chemotherapy, and two full years are now complete. This already puts me well beyond the “statistical expectation” for continuing to kick around, allowing me to enjoy another holiday season with my family and, for better or worse, getting me closer to my goal of actually going back to work full-time at some point in the (hopefully not too distant) future. A third year on chemotherapy may have seemed like a remote option at one point, something that was a distant hope not to be taken for granted, but now is an accepted part of my ongoing plan, the “new normal” that has been often talked about, what I have simply become quite used to in my daily existence.
So I take a moment to sit in my gratitude for what modern medical science has afforded me. As I write this, I am one day past my infusion, feeling only moderately tired because I woke at 3:30am and was unable to get back to sleep due to the way my steroids get my brain spinning in the night. Ironically, that same effect does not seem to occur during the day, when my mental capacities tend more toward fatigue and fog as the hours progress. Chalk that incongruity up to sleep deprivation, I suppose. The good news is that the steroids will have mostly worn off by tonight and, with any luck, I’ll be back to sleeping — or at least being able to go back to sleep — mostly through the night.
A month or two ago, I had a discussion with my oncologist about how I felt fewer side effects from the chemo, as though it had become progressively easier for me to tolerate over the past year, and especially over recent months. It gave him pause because, he informed me, the body does not generally “learn” to process the chemotherapy drugs more efficiently and patients do not build up a tolerance to the chemicals. If that were happening, for whatever reason, it might indicate that the drugs would no longer work due to being processed out of the system too rapidly. My most recent scan, taken last month, clearly indicated that the chemotherapy is still working the same that it had been — so obviously the infusions are effective at doing what they are supposed to be doing. The observation that I am left with, then, is that most likely I am simply used to dealing with the symptoms to a greater degree. Drilling down a bit more, however, there have been a few changes made in my routine after the infusion, specifically trying to be more active even on my more difficult days. My oncologist confirmed that this approach was most likely responsible for how I am “recovering more quickly” than I had been earlier in my treatment. Continue reading The Chemo Diaries: Year 3 Begins!→
It’s hard these days to get away from the media barrage about all the perks a patient or caregiver gets out of a cancer diagnosis. Heck, with all the promised government handouts, it seems like everyone is going to want to get in on the action. But it is important to realize, in spite of all the hype to the contrary, that there is, in fact, a downside to cancer.
Why You May Want To Avoid Cancer
It’s true that easy access to handicapped parking can make life a lot easier, and a significant progression of disease is a sure-fire way to qualify for fancy license plates or those special passes you can hang from your rearview mirror. Some cancer diagnoses are practically like getting free money thanks to liberal disability benefits. But did you know that to take advantage of these special opportunities, a patient is required to spend literally hours of his or her personal time filling out paperwork? As if it weren’t bad enough dealing with the required documents and dancing through flimsy strands of red tape, the patient must also keep payroll records, IRS forms, and proof of the medical condition. Warning: if you hate paperwork and record-keeping, cancer may not be for you!
While we are on the topic of busy work, it is probably important to mention other ways in which cancer can suck your time away. Treatment is time-consuming. While this well-kept secret is the shame of the medical community, it is undeniable that doctors, clinics and pharmaceutical companies have conspired to generate lots and lots of billable hours in the form of repeated scans, surgeries that require lengthy hospital stays, and infusions that can take up to ten hours at a time — and then have to be repeated over and over again. This doesn’t even touch on going in for biopsies, radiotherapy or any of the ancillary tests that might be required to “ensure a complete understanding” of a patient’s condition. Warning: if you have other things you’d rather do with your time, cancer may not be for you!Continue reading The Downside to Cancer→