Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Post Chemo Blues

I had my last scheduled chemotherapy last Friday. I’d have posted sooner, but I find that I’m not really in the mood to celebrate, mostly because there was the wave of side effects to get through first.

The chemo did another number on my blood cell counts. Not enough to require another transfusion, but enough to push them to the borderline which meant getting up very early on a Saturday and trudging all the way downtown for a simple follow-up blood test. In more productive testing news, Monday morning I had my post-chemo CAT scan to see if the treatments have had any effect on the size of the tumour (I find out the results next week). They had to put an IV line in to inject some dye, but when the test was over and they removed the line, they didn’t put enough pressure and I didn’t pay enough attention. Thanks to my low platelets, I ended up bleeding all over the floor of the CT room which I though was pretty funny, but that may have been the lack of blood.

Then right on schedule the wave of side-effects hit me yesterday. My brain was filled with chemo-fog and my body felt like it weighed twice what it should. There isn’t much you can do on those days besides nap and feel useless.

Cancer is easy to understand, or at least mine was. There is a tumour so you fry it in chemo then cut it out. It is the side effects of the chemo that scare me. I can’t look down at my swollen, discoloured fingers and wonder what scars the treatments might have permanently left me with. They told me going in that I’ll never scuba dive again or be able to have children. Both took some getting used to, but in the end they seemed a reasonable trade off for saving my life.

What they don’t tell you are the side effects they can’t predict. Everyone gets their own unique set and they can’t tell you how long it will take for them to fade away, or even if they ever will. Will I ever be able to walk barefoot on a hardwood floor without cringing or climb a flight of stairs without wheezing? Swimming through high school and university had left me with a pretty solid set of lungs, but now I get winded after a vigorous shower. If I push it too far, I can feel my body sucking in breaths in ways it never did before and it terrifies me. They are going to be cutting into my chest soon and there are risks associated there as well, so will I ever get back to where I was? Almost forty is a tough time to be starting over.

I’m not really depressed or anything, just venting. On the good days I try to get ahead and plan for the future. On the bad, I do what I can and listen to a lot of Warren Zevon, Today I feel better than yesterday. Tomorrow I’ll take as it comes.

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