Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mixed Bag

This Thursday, I woke up extra early, took the 5:25 am train in to Boston and went for a run on a gray last morning of February. Beats waking up early for chemo.

Instead of the steroids, I was full of adrenaline (and coffee) and I had a good, relatively fast run. Always hard for me to gauge my speed because I don't really know distances when I'm running on the paths in an around Jamaica Plain and Brookline. But I know that I went out in just over 14 minutes and came back in under 13. That's always a good sign.

Then this afternoon, I took off for a normal Saturday run but felt like someone pumped heavy sand into my legs. Pretty sluggish - confirmed by my split times for various half-mile stretches.

What to make of it?

I'd like to be nonchalant and write it off to just a slow day, a mediocre run; they happen. I could also point an accusatory finger at my diet - the effort to eat better and shed a few pounds may have left me with a little less energy this afternoon. But in the back of my mind, I'm always wondering if this is still the lingering effects of chemo (the drugs do stick around in the body for a couple of months) or worse, the effects of growing lymphoma.

I know the chances of the latter are slim, but it doesn't take much for the weeds of anxiety to start to grow. In the process, they threaten to choke out the confidence you need to continue living normally - to live in the present without worrying about what the future brings.

I always write with music playing in my ears. It's the way I've done it for 20 years or so, to the point where I find it hard to write without music on. As I wrote this post, Another Day shuffled on to my playlist. It's an argumentative duet from the Broadway play Rent. Part of the chorus goes like this:
"No other road.
No other way.
No day but Today.
I can't control my destiny.
I trust my soul.
My only goal is just to be."

I like that song.

* * * * *

Someone asked me recently whether I sit down to write with a specific idea or if it just sort of came out. The answer is: both. I sat down with the intent of writing about how this week felt; how people often feel uncomfortable leaving treatment because they leave the active fighting behind, they leave the support of their care team behind. And I was going to write how I don't necessarily feel that. Part of that is because I don't really feel like I'm done with treatment -- not until I get scans and see Dr. L in a little more than a week. Part of it may also be that I still work at Dana-Farber so I never really leave my care team behind.

In fact, I was in a 90-minute meeting with Dr. L and others yesterday. Ironic, isn't it? I've seen her every four weeks for the last six months and the first month that I don't see her, she happens to be in a meeting with me for the second time in five years, on the very day that I would have seen her if I was still in treatment.

I was also going to write about how it feels odd when people say "congratulations" for finishing treatment. While I know what it's meant to convey -- good wishes, celebration, maybe even relief -- I still feel weird accepting congratulations when I haven't don'e anything extraordinary. Sure, finishing treatment is a good thing, but it's end is not the result of anything I've controlled. I've simply taken a bunch of drugs, hoped they do their job, and tried to carry on as close to normal as possible.

And like any normal life, it will be filled with ups and downs. Good runs and bad. Tomorrow is another day. One that will start with another run.