Friday, December 14, 2012

Random Observations, December 2012

It's time to fall back on the blog chestnut: random thoughts and observations -- which means of course that I'm just not finding a thread to tie together my thoughts. I could blame it on the chemo but as it's Thursday and I'm as clear-headed as I've been in five days, that's a weak excuse. So we'll just dispense with the rationale and get into the observations.

I got a lot of positive response from the news that my chemo was working. That shouldn't be surprising. But the level of relief (measured in the digital lexicon of exclamation points, caps and emoticons) made me to do a mental double-take. I suppose that the option of the treatment not being effective was something I entertained somewhere deep in my consciousness; the chances of that idea escaping the stranglehold that was suppressing it were pretty slim. Whether optimism or naivete, I always assumed that the chemo would work. The reality, of course, is that high success rates are defined by the rare failure. And just to illustrate the point, when I was getting chemo, a young woman (young enough that she had a one-year-old at home) was getting news that her treatment wasn't having the effect they wanted. 

Hello neighbors, I have cancer. As more people know about my diagnosis and treatment, more people will know about my diagnosis and treatment. At a recent neighborhood gathering, one of my neighbors asked Stacy how I was doing. The rest of the group then asked for the missing information. I don't think it fazed Stacy; it certainly didn't faze me -- which is to say we've come a long way. 

I ran across this article about a British researcher and former cancer patient. Her tweet upon receiving her PhD had a familiar refrain to it. It started with a little flavor of a cancer center ad campaign ("Dear Cancer") and ended with a phrase that I've invoked at times -- "Take that."

Exercise is key. These past two cycles, I've made it a point, even on my most fatigued days to at least walk around the block, do a set of push-ups, walk to the bus stop and collect Noah, or some combination of the three. If this past post-chemo is any experience, it certainly helps. 

Salt lick anyone? One of my most insatiable cravings in the days after chemo is salty foods. I'm not sure why - a product of the fluid retention? The drugs? It just screws up my taste buds and many things seem unappealing. Ask Stacy about my aversion to juiced fruits and vegetables. Suleika Jaouad writes about the more intense effects chemo and treatment have had on her eating experience in the NY Times blog, Life Interrupted. (Thanks Andrew at My Lymphoma Journey, for highlighting the post) Once  again, I count myself lucky.

This seems a bit obvious but I'll say it anyway: Chemo is disruptive. For two days of actual chemo, there's a familiarity to the routine of bloodwork, office visits, trips to the dining pavilion, infusion, retrieving the car. We even squeeze in a lunch or dinner without the kids and this cycle, a trip to Ikea. But come Saturday, we descend into a holding pattern as we wait for the storm to arrive. The house is boarded up; we've stocked up on batteries and water and we go about our business as we watch the clouds move ominously closer. As much as we prepare, it's still a disruptive storm. Once it's passed, we clean up from its effects and celebrate the clear, blue sky -- but catch a glimpse of the long-range forecast and know that there's another storm brewing. Only two more storms. 

And staying with the metaphor, it's a persistent storm. Even after the skies have cleared, the occasional cloud or ill wind will blow by in week two, even week three, reminding me of its presence with a passing nausea or wave of fatigue. 

The movies are filled with images of sick patients, who despite how crappy they feel, muster up the strength to be particularly warm, caring, and patient with everyone around them. Remember, most movies are works of fiction. The fatigue seems to sap any lingering threads of patience, particularly with the under 12 age group. 

I've been starting to think about what happens after February. What happens when the chemo is done?  What happens if we make no more progress? What happens if we do make more progress? Do we watch and wait again every three months? Do we live on the edge of our seat waiting for lymphoma to return? Do we get to that place where hours and even days go by where cancer, my cancer is not the dominant thought in my head? And if that's the case: what do I write about? 

Perhaps the difference between now and a year ago is that I may be thinking (and writing) these thoughts, but for the most part, I'm not staying awake at night worrying about them. I'm learning, day by day, that I can't control the future - no matter how much anxiety I harness to try.

And finally, to leave on a more upbeat thought. It's Friday now (though the post started on yesterday morning's commute) one week post chemo and there is nothing like the weekend one week out. It's a blank slate of possibilities and even the mundane events (transporting kids to soccer practice, shopping, housecleaning) present themselves as unwrapped gifts waiting to be opened. 

Happy, happy weekend all.