Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chemo sabe

Morning sky
I’ve been sick this week. After a five-day cycle of chemo, my energy level is depleted, and I have no appetite for much of anything, including food. I realize how easy it has been to take alertness and lucidity for granted, as I am reacquainted with bone weary fatigue. I lie down on the bed and feel muscles from head to toe sighing, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Tiredness I learn again is not like lowering the lights with a dimmer switch, or turning down the volume on the radio. It’s about loss of interest in whatever sensory input there is from one’s eyes and ears. The space where thought takes place becomes a cloud chamber; sleep beckons. While I know the experience is temporary, maybe 4 – 5 days, I begin wondering how long I could go on like this.

Chemo robs you of something you don’t know you have, the desire to be present, the eagerness to pay attention and welcome the touch of the passing moment. I find myself explaining to someone that chemo is a poison you take to counter the effects of another poison. Either way, the life goes out of you.

Morning sky
So, no morning walks with the dog this week, no enjoying the strength that has been returning as I climb the trails in the desert. I have to wait a day or two for that, if I’m lucky, as chemo runs its course, and I can rediscover the adventure of being human.

Part of that, I trust, will be a return to blogging, which I have lacked the energy to do over the last week. Yesterday I didn’t even turn on my laptop to check email or FB. That I attribute to lack of curiosity and lack of caring, two other symptoms of this malaise. And I promise myself to appreciate both when they make their appearance again. One way to describe chemo is to call it chemically induced depression or, maybe more correctly, pharmaceutically induced depression. Either way, I’ll be glad when it’s over.

Meanwhile, I read and listen with the volume low to the jazz channel on DirecTV, and sometimes nap, thankful for my chief care giver who has health issues of her own, a complaining knee that won’t behave without a brace and ice packs, yet who has time for me and TLC I could not do without, plus the best comfort food—scrambled eggs and toast—when I can’t think of anything else I’d care for.

Increasingly, we become a team, as she hands me a shopping list and stays behind in the car and I go into the grocery store, calling her on my cell phone to confer as I search the shelves for what she could probably find in an instant, e.g. a substitute for a low-sugar apricot jam, the right brand of cake mix, the large or small container of chicken broth.

Looking out
Between these calls I’m reaching for green beans on the top shelf for another shopper riding in one of those supermarket go-carts. A year ago, I probably wouldn’t have noticed she needed help. Cancer changes everything. You can chisel that in stone.

Meanwhile, in the course of each daily round I often think of friends and family for whom the week was not a good one either, as they struggled with losses, illnesses, and emergencies of their own. Becoming acutely aware of others’ pain and fear is another side effect of cancer they don’t tell you about. Several people reading this will know it’s them I’m thinking of here. Please know that I have you all in my thoughts, and I’m quietly saying a benediction for all of us.

I’m closing again with a jazz video suggested by a reader. This one is Miles Davis’ “Freddie Freeloader” from what happens to be my favorite jazz album, Kind of Blue.

Any other readers with jazz favorites of their own, links to them are welcome.


  1. You know just how carefully I am listening now.

  2. Since Lana never wrote of her own experiences with Chemo, I'm learning more about how it impacted her from your blog here. I observed all those things you're talking about, though. The bone tiredness, loss of appetite, and so on. I so wish it was something you didn't have to go through. "Chemo Sabe," btw, is a bit of inspired genius.

  3. "It’s about loss of interest in whatever sensory input there is from one’s eyes and ears." Chilling description, Ron. As for jazz, I'm still on a Thelonious Monk kick. Here he is with Trane:

  4. I don't believe I could describe or explain the results of chemo as well.
    Perhaps as you explain the synapses work much slower (and I remember that they did and to a much lesser extent, still do) but they are still working and allowing you to create a very good post.

  5. Kind of Blue, I remember well. I bought it in 1959 when it came out. I was 17 and I wore out the LP. Miles, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball, all favorites of mine. Great Jazz and I have to believe it is one of greatest albums ever.

    1. My copy, if I still have the LP, dates from back then, too. I recently read a poll which voted it the all-time best jazz album.

  6. Ron, like Patti, I'm listening carefully, too, to your voice of wisdom and to your understanding of life. Your journal has forced me to think about a lot of things, especially things I have been taking for granted.

  7. Thanks,Ron, for putting on Freddie Freeloader. Guess I'll pick up my feet and go off to thrift shops, looking for stuff to sell on eBay. I think your title is great, too. Still thinking, man, as Miles Davis might have said.

  8. Kind of Blue might be my favorite too. Another suggestion, sax man Joshua Redman (solo and with his quartet) --good albums are Beyond and MoodSwings.

  9. Thank you for sharing all this with us, Ron. One thing I do know. In my life, I will return to your blog time and time again. There may be many months when I don't, but you have so beautifully articulated loss and the tiny little things we all take for granted in our crazybusy lives, that your blog is like this beautiful reminder and comfort that we are not alone in our pain. Thank you thank you thank you.