After chemotherapy: A week on

My first week post-chemotherapy is winding down. I have reached a level of tiredness that goes beyond what I would have ever called ‘tired’ before. It’s almost like I can feel myself physically breaking down internally, and there is nothing much I can do about it but ride out the wave until I reach the shore.

But let’s back up a bit.

Monday was chemo day. I already told you all about that. Tuesday was my first recovery-from-chemo day, wherein I stayed home and relaxed. I went out for an hour with Adam to run errands and felt reasonably well, all things considered. I declared Tuesday a resounding success in handling chemotherapy, and decided to go in to work the next day.

Outside the hospital after my chemotherapy on Monday
Outside the hospital after my chemotherapy on Monday

Wednesday morning, I woke up on time and took my meds, and then made it out the door in time for my train. I was in a good mood; going to work made me feel like things were still somewhat normal, even if they’re not. The anti-nausea medicines did a great job of managing things. The first weird side-effect I noticed was that, after riding the commuter train in to work, my ears got blocked up and wouldn’t equalize. It lasted for about an hour and then went away.

Taste had already started to go away by this point, but it wasn’t completely gone. I went for a meat-fest of lunch with my co-workers at a Southwestern BBQ restaurant, and did my best to increase my protein and iron intake. It was good. The after lunch food coma was partially due to the amount of meat ingested, but by 3:00 p.m. Internally, my mind was muddled and my brain felt sluggish. I was feeling drawn and tired, so I abandoned my post and fled for home.

I still felt all right enough to go in to work on Thursday morning, however. Once again, the train ride made my ears block up for an hour. I noticed that food was remarkably flavourless, including strong flavours like goat cheese and bacon, but I enjoyed my bacon breakfast sandwich anyway. My day went by, and I was tired early and fled for home once again. I noticed that my mouth was hurting a bit, although I hadn’t developed any mouth sores thankfully – there was just a dull ache in my gums and jaw. And I was more tired than I had been the day before.

Friday, Adam and I had plans to meet at lunch and go for a tour of the TRIUMF Cyclotron at UBC, so I went in to work for the morning. I was noticeably more tired by mid-morning on Friday, and the plugged up ears kicked in and didn’t go away for the majority of the day. By the time we had arrived home after what turned out to be a very long day that included eating at wonderful Burgoo, I was completely exhausted.

Approaching limits

Saturday was harder. My energy has hit an all-time low. I honestly can’t remember a time when I felt quite the way I do now; I suppose that’s because I’ve never been here before. I made pancakes and sausages for breakfast, ate with the family, and made my way to the couch where I lounged until it was time for a children’s birthday party.

The birthday party was easier than it could have been. I played wallflower and sat on the floor while Adam chased Pandra around and Lyra played along with the party games. It felt a little weird for me, though. Parties are already awkward and strange, and feeling listless doesn’t help so much. I was beyond the point of feeling like the stealth cancer girl anymore.

At home in the afternoon, I lounged on the couch some more while my children ran amok. It was beyond exhausting, so that was about all I managed for the rest of the day.

That was the first time, really, that I felt like things were difficult… that I really felt the potential for this process to become a challenge. Finally, everything had started to feel really hard. I was sluggish and and tired, and I didn’t care if anyone could tell. I didn’t have even have the energy to feel guilty about Adam single-parenting our kids for much of the day. At some point it just doesn’t have any impact anymore.

Sunday fun

Fortunately, I feel a lot better today than yesterday. The underlying exhaustion hasn’t gone away, but spending much of yesterday resting means that today I don’t feel as immediately wrecked as before.

This is a good thing, because this afternoon we’re going to have a party and shave my head before the hair starts falling out on its own in clumps. I have a lot of hair, and it is very thick. I’d rather it not clog my drains… plus, I have always wanted a good excuse to shave my head, but I’ve never had the nerve to follow through.

I like throwing parties. They are generally haphazardly planned, often without much lead time for guests, and they always seem like they could easily be a huge failure. Somehow, though, things work out in my favour: people show up, and there’s enough food and drinks, and everybody has a good time. I take the ‘if you build it, they will come’ approach, and so far it hasn’t steered me wrong.

That’s what today is. I’ve invited random people (and probably forgotten some, oops) and said ‘just show up and bring some food, or don’t bring food, it’ll be fine.’ My head will be shaved by whomever wishes to make the attempt (multiple times, maybe) and if anyone else feels like shaving their heads they can (although that’s not the point).

We’re getting together to celebrate. I won’t let a bit of chemotherapy and cancer prevent me from having a good party with my friends. Moping about never solved anything.

Of course there will be photos.