Here are more excerpts from the journal I’ve been keeping since brain surgery in January.
3/1/14. Yesterday was a little hard. Radiation went smoothly, and afterward two nurses gave me some aloe lotion for my scalp, which will soon need it as I grow bald. The usual quick drive home turned into an hour-long ordeal as the roads across the valley were closed for flash flooding (a massive Pacific storm coming ashore along the length and breadth of California). Poor traffic management had the streets jammed with tailbacks at the lights.
|Purple orchid blooming in side yard|
Waiting at a Carl’s Jr. for fast food to simplify the rest of the day, I got a call from the home security company reporting that an alarm had gone off at the house, and the police had been called. As it turned out, there had been no break-in. The stormy weather while we were gone had tripped the system.
All of us, the dog included, were exhausted as the day then wound down, and I could hardly stay awake until 9 p.m. to take my chemo meds for the night. I have begun to respect the fatigue that comes with treatment, and how quickly one burns through reserves of energy.
This morning, the first order of business was loading up the pill dispenser with 7 days of meds. My last attempt at this got me no more than 4 days before I hit the wall with confusion and exasperation. Today, after a full night’s sleep and a carefully written user-friendly chart, I did much better.
|Desert walk in the morning|
3/2/14. I had been warned that I might show some “OCD” behavior on these meds, and there was a surge of that when we discovered that sometime during the day I had misplaced the TV remote. Both of us hunting for it turned up no sign of it, and it was hard letting go of that—although I did find a pair of reading glasses that had disappeared for the past couple of days. I hate loose ends, though there will no doubt be lots more of them. The remote will eventually turn up in some weird place. The obsessive searching, I see, is a way of deflecting other anxieties, when simple denial of them is not working for me.
3/3/14. Yesterday we drove to Costco for what used to be a regular shopping trip of mine, replenishing the cupboards and refrigerator with 1-2 weeks of produce and meals. The larder being depleted after a month of being mostly housebound, I easily filled a cart. We arrived a little late to beat the unexpected crowd, (“Canadians,” the cashier speculated at checkout), so navigating the aisles got to resembling a contact sport. Leaving the cart and carrying things to it—my usual tactic in a crowded store—found me trying to hold onto too much stuff for my newly weak and clumsy grasp.
Back outside, I lost track of where we had parked the car, and I was holding up traffic as I manhandled the cart across the uneven surface of the lot. Unloading the cart into the car was another challenge. I think of Andre Dubus, who wrote after being hit by a car and disabled, that it took 3 times as long to accomplish anything in a wheelchair. The slow down is less for me, but I have a deeper appreciation for what he meant.
|Sky over Palm Springs, at the car wash|
3/4/14. I find the first strands of hair in my watch cap today. Short, thin, silvery strands. I joke that no one will mistake me for Sean Connery now. Yesterday was about starting the second week of radiation, an appointment with the psychologist on the oncology staff, having a talk with the nutritionist, and meeting with the radiation oncologist. Afterward, we were buoyed up by the interactions with people who seemed to perceive us as resourceful and competent.
The psychologist was a bit textbooky and mostly reaffirmed what we knew already. She made one observation that helped me make sense of the occasional emotional roller coaster ride I find myself on—that trauma to the right side of the brain lessens the ability to control emotions, and they slip out more easily.
We then had a sit-down with the radiation oncologist, who seemed delighted by my condition and revealed that being otherwise in good health meant to her at least that I would benefit from higher doses of radiation. She also encouraged me to get started with physical therapy, in the meantime squeezing a ball in my left hand. Using it steadily will remind my brain that I have a left hand and revive the memories of how to use it. We returned home in better spirits than when we left, but it was still a tiring day, and I was nodding off in the middle of a movie when we decided to turn in at 8:30.
We still have not found the remote.