Six Months After

Six months ago I had my last patient visit to the chemo lounge and my last infusion of cytoxin, taxotere, and steroids; my last little lie-down on the radiation couch was almost four months ago. My whole mad cancer adventure began over ten months ago, mid April last year.

I am thoroughly tired of cancer and cancer treatment by now – I’m tired of thinking about it; I’m tired of dealing with it; I’m tired of Komen, and pink ribbons, and breast cancer blogs; I’m tired of talking about it, of having it a constant part of my life, of referring back to it always; I’m done. I’m done with active treatment; I want to be done with it all, to put it in the past and get back to my life and myself.

I am incredibly tired of cancer and cancer treatment being the main focus of my life.

And I can’t move beyond it just yet because I’m still in it, I’m still dealing with it on a daily basis; I’m still going through the changes. I’m not in active treatment, I should have my life back – but it’s not quite there yet, the life I got back is an utterly different color and texture than before, it’s not working yet. There’s been attrition, things have been lost. The effects of treatment are still reverberating through my body, through my life. Who was changed and who was dead.

The effects overlap and chase each other’s tails; there’s no clear trail – am I this tired and lackluster because I can’t get quality sleep, or is it a separate and lingering effect from treatment itself? What about the ongoing ennui, general listlessness, and depression? What percentage of those can be attributed to lack of sleep, what to biochemical fuckery, what to attitude? And why does it matter? Can’t I just get over it already? Why can’t I just get over it already?

It’s like my hair – it’s come back, but it’s not the same, it’s an utterly different color and texture than before chemotherapy – and about 10 to 20 percent of it didn’t come back, it’s decidedly thinner (the attrition rate on my body hair has been higher, probably closer to 40 or 50%, and, no, I’m not best pleased about that).

I entered chemotherapy a relatively healthy person – now, six months after my last treatment, I feel decidedly unhealthy.

I haven’t slept through the night in over three months. I go to bed early, I go to bed tired; I wake up three to four hours later, dripping with sweat, and the rest of the night I spend tossed between restless sleep and wakefulness.

I am constantly tired.

My legs burn and ache. The big muscles on the front of my thighs, my calves – this is an after effect from chemotherapy that was getting better, now it’s getting worse again.  My balance is slightly askew. I seem to drop things a bit too easily, they slip from my grasp. My body runs pillar to post, hot to cold, shivering or sweating, never seeming to find its balance.

I have gained ten to fifteen pounds, my clothes fit differently when they do still fit – but worse, my body fits differently. It’s not a comfortable place for me anymore, it doesn’t fit.

I am continually tired, I have no stamina, very little drive, and less patience. Everything seems too much of an effort – from cleaning my house properly to cooking real food to doing anything much beyond the very basic required maintenance. I stay on top of the dishes; I change my sheets and towels and do laundry before the clothes run out, but I haven’t been able to pull off the major work of re-organizing from the home disaster and reconstruction yet (it’s been a year now since *that* started – I don’t really know where anything is anymore).

The laundry list of complaints goes on – perpetually dry eyes, the prickles and aches from the surgery site, the continuing underlying depression, the stiffening and creaky joints, the this and that –  it’s all minor, really. Hardly worth whinging about – and on a very basic level, I hate that I am; I feel I should just pull myself up, stop whining, get over it and get *on* with it – but in true gestalt fashion, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I’m waiting for spring. I’m waiting until I can truly put this year behind me, and find my self again.

Until then, I’m holding on.


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7 Responses to Six Months After

  1. jelebelle says:

    Hold on girl, I hear these things do get better. I’m sick of it too without an end date but there is calm at the end of this road….not sure how the heck I know that but I can feel it. Go ahead and complain, vent or break a plate! Best to you and your health.

    • dropjohn says:

      ty, Jelebelle – I think I’m as sick of complaining as anything else; it does no good, it doesn’t change the reality – but pasting a smile over the cracks doesn’t really work either.

      A sair fecht for half a loaf… and may we both have health.

  2. Carina says:

    Complaining makes me feel a bit better, especially when there are willing ears to listen.

    I’m sorry you feel this way. Cancer treatment is tiring and I don’t have as much experience as you.

  3. dropjohn says:

    O, I love a good whinge as much as the next – but, really, I’d rather have it over. I find it upsetting that the continuing ‘side’ effects of treatment, specifically of chemotherapy, were so greatly downplayed or simply not mentioned.

    It meant I had very different expectations, and the reality is quite a bit harsher than expected.

  4. jelebelle says:

    Indeed, I agree with you…most side effects (except for the hair loss) are never mentioned. Its maddening, The hands are a big point of sadness/anger for me. Ick and painful. My doc said it will take a year to get past most of the side effects post chemo. I had a friend on tamoxfin for 5 years and , yes side effects, but it does get better. Big hug your way.

  5. Being Sarah says:

    Dropjohn – your quote that ‘reality is quite a bit harsher than expected’ is something that resonated for me. Mainstream breast cancer culture would have us believe we can breeze through treatment looking as good, if not better, than before; with the same amount of energy and looking glamorous with our wigs and make up classes to cover up the reality of treatment. Er, excuse me? That’s just not true and I value your voice for telling the truth. It’s long, hard, feels never-ending; you think you’ll never not feel this tired ever again, or that you will never not be a breast cancer patient… sorry it’s so tough right now.
    I don’t have any platitudes for this. It’s crap. Best to you and hoping that spring can bring some vitality into your life. Sarah

  6. dropjohn says:

    Thank you, Sarah… I expected the treatment itself to be fairly craptastic – as it turned out to be – but I really wasn’t prepared for the continuing and permanent effects of treatment. All of that was very much downplayed, or shrugged off utterly – which meant I didn’t make truly informed choices around treatment.

    Roll on spring. And snowdrops.

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