Four weeks out of every five, it appears as if I don’t have cancer. Fortunately, I don’t look the part. Nor do I act the part – in my opinion. However, there is one week out of every five when I most definitely feel the part: the week after my chemotherapy infusion, when eating is a particular challenge. The look, feel, taste and thought of food and/or drink is nearly impossible to swallow – literally and figuratively. And though I’m not in any pain during this post-chemotherapy weak, I am compromised nonetheless.
Friends and family who are familiar with my “normal” eating habits (I’d order off the children’s menu if I could) have joked that since I’m unable to eat any of the usual and customary Kenny selections, perhaps I should try eating foods that I would never select: Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, tuna fish in a can, fresh fish on a platter, all condiments other than mayonnaise, all legumes and a million other foods that you probably love. Plain and boring is how I roll (a potato roll is my preference), repeatedly.
The problem is that when I’m post chemo, nothing satiates: salty, sweet or “snacky;” hot, cold or medium; fast or slow; store-bought, home made or restaurant-ready. It’s all merely a variation on a theme where my back stiffens, my head tilts back and down and my eating mind says “no.” It’s been this way for about two and a half years now. And though I don’t look the least bit undernourished, I am overwhelmed by these week-long post-chemotherapy eating fits and non-starts.
Naturally I have discussed this side effect with my oncologist. When asked how long this situation lasts, my seven-ish day struggle seems about average, according to my doctor, maybe even slightly shorter than some other patients he treats who are infused with the same chemotherapy drug as I am. Apparently, there are other patients where the eating challenges last even longer than mine. And since there’s nothing to be prescribed/recommended to affect this eating problem/lack of outcome, all I can do is live with the consequences of my treatment. Live being the operative word. So unless I stop treatment, this eating challenge will persist, presumably. (Although, there’s scan clinical information regarding side effects on stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer patients still living after eight years and four months as we’re a patient population that doesn’t much exist. We’re not exactly unicorns, but neither are we ponies at the Fair.)
Fairness – and normalcy for me was officially gone on February 27, 2009, the date of my diagnosis and the initial Team Lourie meeting with my oncologist. But so what. As of that date, my perspective/orientation became about living forward, not recriminating backward. Sure, the present was important, but the future was more important, and the past, well, it had passed. No more could I afford to consider who, what, where, when, why and how I ended up in this predicament. My goal was to remain positive, take the bad with good, survive until the next drug approval by the FDA (of which there have been half a dozen in the last two years specifically for the treatment of lung cancer) and try not to impose my problems on anyone else.
Which I believe I’ve succeeded in doing. Oh sure, I’ve imposed myself on you regular readers, but what I’ve imposed on you have been my experiences. Considering the context, I’d like to think I’ve shared, not self-indulged. Moreover, I’d like to think we’re all better off for the ‘experience.’ I know I am.