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.
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.
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.
Previously: View from the plateau