I’m in the endgame now. Nine days of radiation remaining over the next two weeks. So, I’ve made some decisions and changed my course a bit.
The 4th week hit me harder than I expected. The local area where the radiation is concentrated got very irritated causing me to be in pain whenever I sat, walked, stood for long times, even lying down in some positions. The fatigue ramped up it’s game as well. Coupled with the tiring nature of pain, I can barely handle the easiest of chores without being completely exhausted. Duncan and I took a trip to the dump on Wednesday and I need a 2 hours nap right after. As a kick in the pants, one of my Facebook memories came up this week showing my bronze medal from the National Championships four years ago. Thinking back to the relentless training I did for six months for that competition and the effort it took on the day I earned that medal is enough to make my cry. I can barely walk a half mile now.
And a new symptom has surfaced. I have a numbness in my feet and the tips of my fingers. It isn’t completely numb, more like the feeling you get when you restrict circulation, but not fully. It isn’t getting worse; it’s just a steady, annoying numbness that unfortunately makes playing guitar harder. That’s one activity I’ve been doing often in brief intervals during the day and I enjoy it.
I didn’t have a treatment on Friday due to the holiday, giving me a three day weekend. It’s Sunday now and I feel much better. The local irritation is still there, but it isn’t constant. I’m not in much pain either. This is making me feel optimistic that my recovery at the end of all this will be relatively fast. But the fatigue is still there, which I find intolerable.
So I changed my game a bit. Last week I decided to take some time off from coaching fencing – something that pained my more than I can convey. We just got back to a regular schedule of classes and I didn’t want to leave. But the evening classes where getting too hard. I couldn’t stay on my feet for the entire hour and half class.
I’ve also taken some time off from work. Even working from home, it’s been hard to focus on the things I need to do, especially writing. Piecing together a coherent, compelling story from interviews is tougher than folks imagine. Interviewees don’t relay information in concise, logical paragraphs. and they often don’t stay on topic as much as a writer would like. So I’m on a leave from work as well.
I’ve got two weeks now with nothing planned but my treatments. I decided it’s time to focus my attention on my health without the distractions of other obligations, despite doctors telling me to stay active and continue my regular routine. I can’t do that right now, but I can fight what’s happening to my body. I’ve started forcing myself to get on the treadmill each day, a task I find shockingly hard to do with my body’s current condition. In addition, I’m doing some pushups and planks to keep my muscles active. The activity wipes me out and I am pissed that I have such little endurance right now. I’m also watching what I eat, making sure to eat lighter, smaller meals and avoid those foods that have upset my stomach or are hard to digest. Deb’s been really helpful reading about and preparing recipes geared toward helping with cancer symptoms. I’m convinced that small, focuses activity, paired with lots of rest and better diet will carry me through the next two weeks.
Sleep, eat right, exercise a few times per day, and rest again. That’s the pattern. I’ve got 9 treatments over the next 11 days. Then I’m done with hazardous waste drugs and cell-killing x-rays.
After that, who knows? I can only control what I do right now.
[Update Monday: The numbness is another form of neuropathy caused by the chemo pills. Doctors were concern that this form, which only occurs in 10% of patients on this particular drug, might become long-term or even permanent, so they have reduced my chemo dosage for the remainder of my treatment in hopes of catching it early and stopping its progress.]