The on-going, first-hand tale of a journey through medical oncology... and what happens after.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Weakness and fatigue are facts of life when you are enduring chemotherapy. But to be honest, until recently I really hadn't given much thought to the notion of "weakness" in my life. Sure, I know that I have a small appetite for M&Ms, especially when they are available in the 3-pound bag. And there is that small penchant for dark beers and single-malt scotch. OK, and I'll admit to wondering (every so often) if I'll EVER see the kind of athletic shape that let me play volleyball tournaments for three consecutive days way-back-when, or backpack through the North Cascades for weeks at a time, or even climb mountains. But this chemotherapy stuff has really brought me up short when it comes to this "weakness" thing.

Weakness is wondering if you shouldn't just sit down right now, no matter where you happen to be. Or better yet, stay seated or reclining just a little bit longer before you get up to do that whatever-it-is task. Immediately after the chemo, but especially after I stop taking the steroids three days later, my body just completely crashes. I have found that one of those days is dedicated to sitting still and reading/napping - all day long. Of course, I manage to get around the house, but find myself on wobbly legs and with slightly shaky hands... and far more often than I ever thought I would. It is really humbling. It feels like a real victory to remain upright and engaged for the whole day. But I am confident (and it has so far been the case) that this weakness will pass each time. (As a magnificent Father's Day gift, my wife and daughter got me a very comfortable, portable lounger that allows me to recline nearly horizontally. It moves to wherever I need it - from the front porch, to the TV room, and even to friends' homes - so that I can really rest whenever I need to... and that is far more often than I would like to admit.) So far, this serious level of physical weakness seems to go away about five days after the IV.

One thing, though, about seeing physical weakness in yourself... it has made it easier for me to recognize (and support) the weakness of those around me. I am more certain than ever that this will pass and that the journey is more than worth the trouble. And even though I want to work on my strength all the time, I realize that "staying even" with my weight is a laudable goal. The muscles will recover. The flip-side of the physical weakness - mental toughness? spiritual fortitude? emotional strength? - those aspects of my world are doing just fine. And there are many mountains to climb, races to run, [fill in your favorite cliche here]... and smiles are quite strengthening, you know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ed -- If you want a change of scenery, come and rest in our hammock. It will transport you to places you've always dreamed of going!

- Cesie