Catching up with me

Tommy Roe DizzyI missed my book club meeting tonight. It’s nice to feel some semblance of normalcy to my life, and that includes getting out once in a while and socializing. I’ve been lucky to be able to keep up with my pared-down calendar for this long; but now that I am smack in the middle of my chemotherapy schedule, it has become clear I can’t keep on doing it all. It’s caught up with me. I need to limit my activities, especially if they involve anything physical, and that is the new normal.

As I’m fond of saying, if this is as bad as it gets, I’m very fortunate.

So, fatigue is the main thing—no pain, no nausea, nothing horrendous, just a lot of sleep. I did have a health adventure last week pretty much unrelated to the chemo: extreme dizziness, which turned out to be Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Have you heard of it? Apparently, little calcium crystals live in our inner ears, and they can get stuck in the wrong position and impede the flow of the liquid in the semicircular tubes that tell our brain where we are in space. I was thrilled to be diagnosed for once with something beginning with the word “benign.” Better still, it was cured (!) by a simple physical maneuver that took all of 2 minutes to apply. Best medical success story since being told my liver would grow back in 6 to 8 weeks!

I’ve completed the first chemo infusion of Round 4, which, if you think of my chemo schedule as an LP—which, of course, I do—means I’ve just flipped the record and played the first song on side two. If I’d thought of this metaphor sooner, I’d have had time to explain the nearly week-long or two-week-long gaps between the songs, but I’ve got nothin’. The record is skipping? I’ll work on it.

Vertigo soundtrack coverIn any case, I’m now officially in the second half. Some say I’m on the homestretch. I appreciate the optimism, and am pretty optimistic myself, but that’s kind of like heading to LA on the I-5 and thinking you’re almost there when you pass that big, smelly cow ranch. I’ve got to practice patience more than ever and just know that even though it doesn’t feel like it, this is healing. And it will be over soon in the overall scheme of things.

There will be celebrating, to be sure—a big party for all the kind people who have helped me through this, at the very least. But for now, I’ll continue to take it a day, an hour, a moment at a time.

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I forgot

John_Travolta_Bubble_BoyAs you might have figured out even before I did, this ride ain’t over. The funny thing about it is, I always knew there was a chance—a good chance, even—I’d have to do some chemo, but I had really and truly almost forgotten. I was so fixated on healing from the surgery, and so excited to be putting my life back together and feeling good and weighing 140 pounds, I just forgot. I really did.

So, it’s not a setback or a disappointment (though to be told I would be fine without any chemo would have been fabulous), it’s just the next step in my recovery saga, a step I had temporarily forgotten about. I’d like to think that shows the power of my mind and not its feebleness. As I’m fond of saying, we get to choose our beliefs; so, I’ll go with “powerful mind.”

The routine comprises IV infusions of 2 drugs—one the first Tuesday, then both drugs the following Tuesday, then a week off. Each 3-week cycle constitutes a “round,” and I’m to do 4 to 6 rounds (probably all 6 if I’m tolerating things okay). This is mostly preventative, to wipe out any small traces that might have been left behind after surgery (even though all the margins tested clean post-surgery, you never know) and to ward off an emerging recurrence. Better safe than sorry.

These drugs are known for all the side effects you’d associate with chemo, and will leave me with a depressed immune system, so I need to be careful to avoid sick people and old food and germs, kind of like The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, if you’re old enough to get that reference. (Wasn’t that John Travolta’s first big film?)

Another part of my ongoing treatment will be periodic CT scans. I had my baseline scan last week, and it did seem to show some suspicious fragments, which just goes to show the doctor knows of what he speaks. I’m fortunate to have one of the country’s (if not the world’s) leading sarcoma specialists caring for me. My initial visit with him lasted 2 hours, which felt like a luxury. Great guy. I got a copy of the post-visit report he sent to my regular physician, and in it he called me a “delightful man.” Well, well. I feel delightful, but I don’t think I’ve ever been called it.

Deee-LiteIt’s not clear yet how this will affect my life for the next 4 months. I may be able to work on a reduced (more reduced than I already work, that is) schedule, or work from home, or maybe not work at all. I expect I’ll do pretty okay. I’m hoping to keep teaching at the meditation center on Mondays. My energy level is likely to drop, but I expect I’ll still be up for lots of visits and maybe out-of-house socializing as well. Lucky for me, I love lazing around on the couch reading and napping and welcoming visitors.

So, the adventure continues. I’m approaching it with a sense of curiosity and hope, not dread and doom (kind of like my approach to the presidential primaries, come to think of it). It’s what I’ve got to do.