Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Post Cancer Funk

I finished up radiation treatment in January and am trying to get back to the business of being normal again.  I am back to my normal energy levels and physically feel really good.  In fact, you never realize how bad you actually felt until you are better.  We had gone to Charleston, SC back in December for an Ingress event, and I remember that all the walking we were doing felt brutal.  I ended up driving from place-to-place for some of it and felt like I couldn’t take another step.  I didn’t even want to leave the hotel for dinner that weekend and I think went to bed by 8:30 that Saturday night.  I should’ve been a little nicer to myself given I was only about 8 or 9 weeks post surgery and had started radiation that very week, but I am not one to let myself be sick.
We went away to Washington, DC for another Ingress event this past weekend, and we walked probably twice as far as the weekend we spent in Charleston.  With the exception of one almost blister, I rocked it!  We arrived on Friday and spent the evening walking around the City.  We walked pretty much all day Saturday including walking to a restaurant for dinner Saturday evening, and even went out walking on Sunday before leaving for the airport.
So physically I feel good.  It is the mental strength that I am struggling to regain.  When I go through cancer (and I hate that I’m a two-time veteran), I rally to get through it.  I am very deliberate about keeping a good attitude and not wallowing in the fact that I have cancer.  But once I’m done and better, it leaves me mentally drained.  It’s like every bit of my mental reserve is sucked dry.  And I feel like I’m going through the motions with my normal life for a while.  I have a hard time getting fired up about anything – things at work, things at home, etc.  I know this feeling passes, but I remember after the lymphoma that it took so much longer than I thought it would.  I think it was nearly a year before I felt fully able to cope. I feel a bit like a voyeur in my own life right now.  I’m going through the motions and I am able to function reasonably well.  But I don’t have that spark that I feel like I should have.  I lack confidence and creativity.
The other thing that is driving me crazy is the post-cancer follow ups.  It is always rough that first year post-cancer.  This year I have to get four pelvic exams (once every quarter) and will get scans and bloodwork.  I also am due for a Mammogram and both oncologists (yes I have two, I am that special.  I actually have three if you count my radiation oncologist) said do it as soon as possible.  And I don’t want to do it.  I am terrified of cancer at this point. Yes, I understand the whole concept of early detection.  Trust me, if anyone understands it, I do.  But the mental reserves aren’t there yet.  If I went for my Mammogram and received a cancer diagnosis, not really sure I could rock it at this moment in time. I am just starting to adequately cope with daily life.  A tough proposal at work had me in tears a couple of weeks ago.  Imagine if I found out I had to go through cancer treatment again. (No lectures please, I will go for my Mammogram!)
Anyways, as with anything that is difficult to get through, the typical mantra of taking it one day at a time holds true.  Just need to remember to make the best of each day!  I’ll leave you with a little Pink Floyd…
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Thursday, January 22, 2015

28 Days Later

It is apropos that the title of this post corresponds with a zombie movie.  Because a zombie is just what I feel like after 28 days of radiation.  But it is over and I can finally start to recover from this whole affair.   

This morning I took pastries to the radiation team that worked with me each day.  They are an amazing bunch of women that made me laugh and feel comfortable in a situation that is really one of those life events you hope to never experience.  We would laugh and talk each morning as I undressed halfway and positioned on a steel table while they adjusted my body to ensure that I was in alignment.  They were kind and caring and made a bad situation as good as it could be.   They hugged me and celebrated with me this morning.  We ceremoniously removed the stickers from my body this morning that cover and protect the marks that were drawn on in order to line up the radiation machine.    

I sit here sipping cranberry juice as a type this, because it takes a lot of cranberry juice and water to keep my very cranky radiated bladder working properly.  And my coffee cup is mostly full, because I can’t really drink the caffeine right now.   I get a cup and enjoy the smell, warmth, and taste – careful not to drink too much of it though or my bladder and digestive system will both be unhappy.

And oh the joy of trying to eat food that doesn’t make my stomach angry.  There really isn’t anything at this point that doesn’t cause a problem.  The list of foods to avoid during pelvic/adominal radiation include raw fruits and vegetables, high fiber foods including whole grains, anything greasy, acidic foods, dairy including cheese, rich pastries/ desserts, meats with high fat content, caffeine, alcohol… So basically I’m left with bananas, white pasta, potatoes that aren’t fried, lean proteins, mushy vegetables, and processed cheese.  And now, after 28 days, even those foods are questionable.  But at least I can eat.  I just need to medicate and only eat when I know I can be near a bathroom.  I was chatting with a few radiation comrades this morning that are limited to only Boost and Ensure due to their radiation treatments so I am reminded to be grateful that I can eat at all.

I had been missing Gary, my 8 AM radiation partner.  He had not around all week and I was worried that I wouldn’t get to say goodbye, but he was in the waiting room this morning.   Apparently Gary had been in the hospital for the last five days with double pneumonia and some other issues.  My heart goes out to Gary who still has quite a ways to go before he is done with his treatment.

Today I am elated to close this chapter.  I hope that there was nothing for the radiation to kill except healthy cells and it was all a waste.  I’ll never know if that is the case.   But if there were a few cancer cells floating around, I hope the radiation did its job.  Or all the processed macaroni and cheese I’ve eaten over the last few weeks will be for nothing.

The Oncologist said I should be right-as-rain within two weeks.  Can’t wait to enjoy a salad, some spicy Mexican food, and a cocktail!      

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Today was my 23rd session of radiation. Only five more to go. I was feeling pretty foul this morning as I was headed to the hospital for my session. I woke up feeling tired.  The fatigue from radiation is accumulative and I am definitely feeling the effects as I near the end.  This week has been very busy at work and coming in late everyday makes me feel rushed once I get to work and I spend the entire day feeling behind.

I have the first appointment of the day for my radiation therapy.  They have two machines, so there are two of us that arrive just before 8 AM – me and Gary.  Gary is older than I am – maybe in his late fifties or early sixties.  But he is a spry looking gentleman.  Had I not met him in the radiation waiting room, I would have never suspected he is a cancer patient.  He likes to watch the news in the morning and often chats with patients as they arrive.  He has always been cheerful and I have often wondered about why Gary was receiving radiation.

Today Gary and I finished up at the same time so we rode the elevator down together and had to wait for our vehicles.  Gary was not his usual cheerful self this morning and started telling me about his treatment.  He is not only receiving daily radiation, but is also undergoing chemotherapy right now.  Gary can’t eat at all because his throat is too raw.  I shared with him that I had previously gone through radiation of the neck area and understood his plight.  He said he’s tired, he can’t sleep, he can’t eat, and he feels like he has no quality of life right now.  He said they gave him a 60-70% chance of getting through this and that it had better work because he wouldn’t do this again.  Gary asked me how long it took to get my taste back after treatment.  I shared with him that it was a good 2-3 months before food tasted right again.  He said that his cancer was Stage 4 which is why they are treating him so aggressively.

Our cars arrived around that time so we waved and headed our separate ways.  Gary also goes to work each day after his radiation.  Those of us who fight for the early appointments usually have someplace to be.

Talking to Gary definitely gave me an attitude adjustment.  I have been complaining about being tired, but at least I can sleep.  And I can’t eat the things I would like to eat, but I am able to eat without pain.  And most importantly I am fighting the potential of cancer and not actual cancer.  Gary is fighting the real fight.
I am grateful for Gary and am sending him my hopes for the strength that he needs to get through this experience.  I am also reminded that I need to practice kindness.  You can never tell by looking at someone what they are going through at any given moment.  Life is hard sometimes, and everyone has a rough patch now and then. 
My rough patch is almost over.  And for that I am very grateful.