The Doctor Will See You Now
The first week of January was difficult. I suffered every day from the side-effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
I ate Jello, pudding, canned fruit, apple sauce, chicken noodle or chicken and rice soup, and various chicken and noodle dishes. I drank water and cranberry juice until I floated in a sea of fluids.
I suffered from diarrhea and constipation, bloody urine and blood clots.
I tossed and turned in vain efforts to sleep, sometimes managing up to two hours of sleep in a day.
My knees were swollen and sore from rising and falling onto low chairs, couches, and toilets. My left hand was swollen as were both of my ankles.
I called the doctor to ask whether there might be a way to ease some of these pains. Once again the doctor told me I needed to accept this pain.
I returned to classes. Kathy drove me to my classes at Naperville and the Loop. I graded more than one hundred student papers that week. Each day we sat down over a final meal of the day and tried to figure out whether it had been a good day or not. We looked for signs of improvement. The truth is that for every step forward there were retreats.
On January 9th we drove downtown for my appointment with my oncologist. I was in terrible pain. I bent at the waist and clutched at my own waist. Kathy stroked my shoulder and whispered words of encouragement. We watched as other patients arrived. Kathy said, “They all look like they know something sad.” I answered, “They look like they are dead inside. Cancer has stolen something from them.” Kathy nodded.
I lost four more pounds. My blood pressure rose to 177/77. I had no fever. My skin burns were scabbing over. I was exhausted. Kathy and I were shown back to an examining room. We filled in Dr. Z on the last few weeks’ events. Dr. H joined us.
The doctors remained shocked that I had so much hair on my head. Dr. H asked me if I had any African American ancestors. None that I know of. She smiled and shook her head. I would need a magnifying glass to find a hair on my chin, but my hair is falling out without leaving any bald areas. In fact, most of what has fallen out was gray. You can barely see the line from my last touch-up. I have eyelashes and eyebrows.
They studied my swollen limbs and put me on a diuretic.
They doubled my dose of Vesicare. It reduces my anxiety over frequent, urgent urination–a little.
They changed my pain pills. I now take Naproxen and Hydromorphone.
They scheduled me for a camera examination of my bladder for the 24th. It seems likely that I have radiation cystitis. It is another side-effect that only time will heal.
I feel so devastated by these side-effects, but it is clear that all I have suffered is still in the range of normal effects. I find it difficult to believe that I suffer from normal conditions. Normal has never been like this, and I do not want to ever accept these effects will be permanent.
It cost me more than $400 to fill my prescriptions. That was with a discount. By the end of the day I understood that the new meds did no better at managing my pain.
I am bruised, scabbed, blistered, and bent. There is no question but that I am engaged in some extreme martial arts event against cancer. My sores and scars show I have not won every round. But the other guy is nowhere to be found, is he? Take that, Cancer! I’m not down or out. I’m still on my feet and ready to rumble.