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Chemo Treatment #11
This is my eleventh chemo treatment. I’m on a two-week cycle, so that’s 22 weeks, roughly 5 1/2 months. The cycles themselves have become my routine, my normal, but there are differences with each treatment because of the repetitive onslaught of the chemo poison, the rabid persistence of my cancer, and the response of my human body.
This cycle I’ve noticed only a few things:
- I am more amused than bothered by the neuropathy in my legs. When I make myself horizontal, even though I may have my ankles crossed and boots over the edge of the couch, within moments my legs feel shoulder-width apart, straight, knees slightly bent, and calves floating 6” high. And then they detach (no kinesthetic sense.) It’s like when you’re aware of shifting into sleep and automatically dial back awareness of your whole body, except with this it’s mostly my legs and I can be wide awake. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I find it amusing.
- The hair all over my body is changing differently from place to place. On my head, it has not fallen out very much at all, but it has thinned. My beard has thinned, straightened, and softened. My chest hair has thinned, but what’s on my arms and legs – which years ago prompted my niece to nickname me “Uncle Monkey” – is not appreciably different. The one weird, unexpected change is on my lower legs, the sock zone: with a definitive borderline, my ankles are as smooth as a baby’s.
- My appetite is fine; it is unchanged, as far as I can tell. However, my tastes are not the same. Once-favorite foods are becoming unappealing. There’s often a metallic taste in my mouth, and sometimes a sour taste comes up from my throat. This is a direct result of the chemo, which targets fast-growing cells (cancer, hair, and the lining of the esophagus and stomach.) My digestion is just not right, meaning frequent gas and constipation.
- Chemobrain may or may not be something in itself, directly from the chemo, or it may be just a term to describe the mental fatigue from disrupted sleep and general dealing with the changes in life demanded by cancer. Either way, I’ve noticed that I’ve been making (more) mental errors. The errors have been small and insignificant so far, but that “so far” is precisely what scares me.
The last item listed – the mental issue of chemobrain – brings me to the topic of my emotional state. This chemo cycle wasn’t any tougher to take than the others, but . . . well, I am tired. I wonder how much of my fatigue is due directly to the chemo, how much is depression (with, I’ve mentioned, I’ve long been intimately familiar), how much is winter weather, the drain of regular daily life challenges (cash flow, car repair, dental work, etc.), and how much is using it all as an excuse not to rally more effort and be more productive. This is a question with an answer that I do want, but it’s no fun to think about it.
Also on the darker side, I have realized that I will NOT ever again feel “great”, physically. I will NOT ever again feel my familiar level of strength or energy. I know, you say, “Duh.” Like with many things, there is a huge jump across the black chasm between understanding it mentally and feeling it emotionally.
These somber thoughts above took root in the first week of the cycle, when I was most under the effects of the chemo and its resultant sleep disturbance. The second week, the second half of the cycle, I was much more optimistic. Here’s a thought from then:
I’ve responded well to the chemotherapy, so lately I’ve been expecting to have more than the original estimate of “plus or minus a year.” I’ve delayed selling my old sailboat, and I’ve been daydreaming about how to complete some of my longer-range projects. I know damn well that the cancer may metastasize or that other health problems may show up to shorten my timeline, but I am feeling, believing that I will last a little longer and do a few more good things with my life and leave a little more behind. So, that’s good.
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