With my hand on the wheel and my brain in neutral . . .

Post Numeral #24

Go to FIRST post –> Diary of My Death, Post #1

Chemo infusion #22 (two weeks later)

Treatment Days 289-296, 41 weeks

I did not receive my third scheduled treatment with the new chemo med, Abraxane, because my blood platelet count was too low.  I was sent home until the following week, and that extra week of “detox” worked out well.  Some energy returned (I learned that blood platelets contribute to that, which surprised me), and I found I was getting a bit bored.  That’s a good sign because it means you are exiting Zombie Mode.  I was able to move some tasks from the Not Absolutely Necessary Right Now list to the Daily To Do list, and being somewhat productive felt very, very good.

I did a little canvas work for the marina owner’s 100-foot power yacht, mostly just patching and adding abrasion protection (pieces of a cut-up old inflatable!) to some pieces I had made two years ago.  It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a start-from-scratch-and-create-something project: it was useful.  Also, two days’ work (slower than usual) was plenty tiring.  The evening I finished and put away all of my equipment, I sat down inside my boat (home) and mentally said, “Oooph.”  I slept well that night, better than I had in I don’t know how long.  When I was carrying scraps to the dumpster I ran into some people I knew, and one asked me why I was working.  Without thinking I answered, “Because I can.”  After weeks of zombie-hood, it felt damn good.

Okay, some general observations of what cancer and chemo have been doing to me:

Starting months ago, I noticed that I was occasionally, involuntarily taking several sharp breaths, possibly replacing yawning.  It happens once, twice, and you don’t pay much attention or attach any significance, but then one day you realize that it’s a new behavior that’s here to stay.

Similarly, people from way back in my life – like high school! – have been showing up for cameo roles in my dreams.  I’m sure it’s simply my subconscious sorting through my life and preparing to close up shop, but after the surprise of the first one or two, it’s giving me a weird feeling that I can’t yet articulate.

And some more specific, recent events:

I’ve mentioned that a side effect of chemo is neuropathy, commonly manifesting in tingling, numbness, and cold sensitivity in my fingers and toes.  At first – many months ago – the cold sensitivity kicked in only when I would touch something actually cold, such as something taken from the fridge.  However, it has worsened, and a month or so ago I realized that for me cold is now defined as anything less than body temperature.  It’s now summertime, and even in 80-degree weather my fingers and toes feel cold, the kind of cold you felt as a child who played with increasingly wet gloves for too long in the snow.  It’s a real bother.  So, recently, one night I went to bed with cold fingers and toes, and the strange thing was that even under my bedding, and wearing socks, they did not warm up.  I woke up several times through the night, with my fingers and toes freezing.  It happened only that night, so I hope it doesn’t become common. 

Also, I’m thinking that it is not only cold sensitivity (pick up something from the fridge and it feels like it’s from a deep freeze) but also just any tactile stimulation.  After all, it is summertime, so very few things that I touch aren’t at least room temperature, usually about 75 degrees inside, 80 or 85 outside.  I touch my fingers to my cheek, and my cheek does not register cold even though my fingers feel like they’ve been iced.

Lastly, I saw the therapist again.  She helped me see that a recurring and currently lively frustration is actually something I’ve been struggling with for a long, long time: personal boundaries.  The frustration sprouts from interactions with people who are taking my time, using my energy, for what reason I’m not entirely sure.  For example, several acquaintances repeatedly say to me, essentially, “I know you said you don’t like being unnecessarily reminded of your dire circumstances, but really, even though we’re not close enough to have each other’s phone numbers, and I’m too lazy or interested enough even to read your blog, somehow I am special, so how are your treatments going?  How are you feeling?”  They’re more curious than caring, for sure, or maybe they just want to make themselves appear (in public or to themselves) to be more caring or less clumsy than they are.

I try to politely remind them that I asked them, then told them to ask me only about the weather or whatever, but sometimes I have to stop myself from allowing my quickly-changed mood to make me shout at them, “Shut the fuck up!”  I’ve come up with a new policy: if a person, during the past 11 months of my treatments, hasn’t offered help in any way (such as bringing me a meal or running an errand), I’m not answering his questions.

By coincidence I came across an article on the web, My Friend is Dying and Has Asked Me Not To Contact Her.  It’s in an Advice Column format, and the reply to reader’s letter is a pretty good description of what goes on inside the head of a terminal illness patient.  I suggest y’all take a look at it now (or soon) because you might remember some of it when you have a terminal patient in your life.

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