Having just been there and done that, I have to tell you, it was a gruesome week. Although I’m fine now (I know, it’s a relative description), this past week, I was not. And what specifically I am referring to is, the odd confluence of two recurring elements of my cancer existence: a CT Scan and a chemotherapy infusion. Not at the same time, of course, but at the same place and for the same reason: being an active cancer patient.
The CT Scan (scheduled quarterly), though not a difficult, invasive or time-consuming procedure doesn’t generally result in an immediate interpretation/assessment from my oncologist/their radiologist. Quite the contrary. Typically, I wait up to a week for results (as I’ve occasionally written about in the past). Certainly not ideal, but over time (seven-plus years) and hill and dale, I’ve been able to assimilate the wait into my life and go on about my business, semi normally; it’s been more difficult for my wife, Dina, however, to do so. Nevertheless, with respect to the CT then, the waiting is the hardest part. Its all psychological/emotional. There are no physical side effects, the side effects are all mental: fear, loathing, anxiety, stress, among many similarly impactful affects. It’s not all bad, but it is all consuming. I’m really only ever sure how I’m doing cancer-wise, when I receive my results, since rarely have I been symptomatic.
On the other hand, the chemotherapy infusion, which presently alternates/occurs every four/five weeks, does not – for me, generally, have any psychological/emotional side effects. It is what it is, and whatever it was or will be, I’m way past having any anxiety or stress about the process or the reasons for it. However, there are/I do experience physical side effects (which unfortunately do weaken my emotional resolve): fatigue, lethargy and most significantly, eating challenges which keep me from eating “normally” for up to a week. This lack of food/comfort, results in a lack of energy, lack of interest/motivation, messed up sleeping pattern and a fragile emotional state. I derive no pleasure from eating and my overall mood reflects that very necessary element – for me. As a result, I’m miserable.
In and of themselves, this post-CT-Scan-waiting and post-chemotherapy-infusion-not-eating are difficult, but manageable. However, having them occur during the same week – which had never happened before, was not exactly like being between a rock and a hard place but rather like being under a rock and in a hard place. Not only was there a wait and a weight, there was the inescapability of it to consider. I had no place to go emotionally/psychologically. Aside from there being no rest for this weary stage IV lung cancer patient, there was no respite or reprieve, either. I couldn’t stop myself from going down, so down I went.
And there was nothing I could do to stop it, although there was everything still needing to be started. But all I could do was sit tight (literally), and sure enough, as is the pattern, about six or so days later on the Thursday afternoon following the preceding Friday infusion and the Wednesday CT Scan, I received an email from oncologist with the news” “CT looked good. Brain MRI clear.” “Great news,” as I replied, “with which I can live.” Coinciding as well as it usually does, with the eating fog beginning to lift and the transitioning from not eating to eating a bit to eating normally beginning to occur.
It was a bad week to be sure. Not only was I whipsawed, I was undercut, too. I had nothing to hang onto, not even my hat. I just had to endure and try to remind myself what my Auntie Irene so often said: “This too shall pass.” And as of Saturday night at 1:53 am, as I sit and write this column, it mostly has. Thank God!