Tuesday, June 15, 2010

#186: I am a Battlefield

When you come down to it, that's what cancer treatment is. It unleashes  the most toxic collection of chemical, biological, and atomic weapons on the tissues of your body. Last night, I woke up in the middle of a fire fight. My temperature shot up to 101.4 degrees, and I felt as if my whole face and torso were covered with sunburn. Mrs P nursed me along. Gave me some Tylenol and a cool compress for my face and chest. Eventually, we got it back under control, but it gave me a scare. By the morning, I felt as if I were running on empty batteries. I could barely hold my head up to drink my breakfast and the drive to the cancer center seemed to take forever.

The radiation table was a merciful rest. It is strange how something so destructive can be so serene. The machine goes about its quiet business, slowly cooking me from the inside out, but cooking the cancer, too.

Next came a trip to the doctor to talk about  nutrition. In spite of the fact that my teeth are gone and my sense of taste is all but gone, I have to continue finding ways to get energy into me. I heard the most amazing counsel today: "You are past the point of worrying about a balanced diet. Right now, you need as much protein and calories as you can get." In other words, I have begun starving. Fat and protein. That's my goal.

Finally, they drew some blood to find out about this fever business. My blood pressure was surprisingly low, and the nurse had a rough time finding a vein - pretty unusual for me. After they ran my labs, they found that my white count is low, so we'll be adding antibiotics back into the mix.

It is a peculiar sensation to be a battlefield. I feel collateral damage all around the landscape. My mind is mostly clear, though I get very irritated sometimes when people try to help me too much. God how I have grown to hate the question "What would you like?" I would like a nice piece of fillet and a baked potato the size of my head. What do you think I would like?

This morning in the exam room, I felt overwhelmed by a depression - not sadness, mind you, but a complete absence of life. You know the commercials where depressed people sort of fade into the background? I would not have been at all surprised to find myself walking down the hall one minute, then gone the next, an empty space where I had been shuffling along just a moment before. When we finally made it back home, I collapsed into bed and prayed for life to return.

And for a few moments this evening, it has returned. Mum and I had some eggs for supper. Jake got to play in the yard for a while, and managed to drag wet footprints all over my nice cool sheets. Mrs P and the Brothers build a hand rail for our front stoop so we don't have to try to catch one another on the day we inevitably try to topple over into the yew hedge by the porch.

Now, I'm in front of a fan, typing away serenely, hoping for a peaceful evening and some quiet rest. There seems to be a pause in the action for the moment. I know there's a long battle to go before this cancer is dead and gone from me. There will be many worse days and nights to come.

But for now, I'm going to enjoy the setting sun over the Bluegrass. It's what God has given me tonight. I'll take it.



  1. Very powerful metaphor - the battlefield; and vivid description of the depression. I feel there with you in those places - and also in the serene place of the cease fire at the end. thank-you for writing.

  2. I believe that sort of empty depression is part of the properties of the radiation experience, and so is irritability.
    Low white count is a symptom of RAD and so are face fevers. I wonder if you are being given an iodine supplement.
    I say this because I was accidentally exposed to lower levels, but over years, @ a former work place. Then, I had no idea what was making me so sick.
    After I learned this and left, I did lots of research on natural treatments. I'm by no means well--but better than when I was.
    Still, as I learned about this stuff, even as I was angry that it happened--it was weirdly fascinating.
    For you a cure is loss. Our prayers remain h you daily!


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