Getting through the first 60 days of chemotherapy was pretty much a breeze. After Round 3, things took a nasty turn for the worse.
“Black Nepalese, it’s got you weak in your knees,
Take a grease-sick whore add a dirty dance floor,
It’s got your head spinnin’ round,
30 days in the hole…”
(Can you name that band?*)
“Only two or three days…feeling the effects of chemo, and even then they were manageable.”
“Sixty days with chemo drugs coursing through my entire body, battling to save me from the diabolical Lucifer-cells, and very, very few physical problems.”
During days 60-90, all that changed. As I approach round 4 of my chemo I reflect on my last “30 Days in the Hole.”
The “Humble Pie” song referenced above speaks not-so-subtly about drugs and their effects on the user’s mental and physical states. And it appears that the long term accumulation of those drugs designed to incapacitate the cancer cells in my body has finally exceeded my ability to protect my non-cancerous cells from the drugs’ murderous effects. In other words, “I ain’t been feelin’ so good lately.”
The symptoms I described earlier have become the norm rather than the exception. Most of the last 30 days I’ve felt “…weak in [my] knees…” with “…[my] head spinnin’ ’round…” I’ve taken to carrying a cane when I have to walk more than a few steps due to my light-headedness and vertical instability.
The chemicals designed to send my cancer cells into a harmless and temporary hibernation are wreaking havoc on my blood.
During my 28 day chemotherapy cycle, my white blood cell count rises to near normal and then plummets to dangerously low levels. I don’t feel physical effects of this plunge but I could be in big trouble if I contracted an infection. It is the white blood cells’ job to defend me against virulent microscopic invaders. But with them all dead or MIA a virus has free run to infect me and probably send me to the ER. While the cat’s away…
Red blood cells don’t escape the chemo massacre either.
It’s their job to deliver oxygen and with their numbers down I get “weak in the knees” and “my head [starts] spinnin’ ’round.” As I’ve stated before, a trek up 14 stairs can leave my legs feeling as though they’re two big condoms filled with Jello, and “my heart’s beating louder than a big bass drum.” (Can you name that tune?**)
I’m becoming concerned about the collateral damage taking place inside my body and I’ve begun to investigate more holistic approaches to healing. I’m not ready to reject modern medicine in favor of witch doctors and voodoo healers. But I am finding evidence that given the proper circumstances, the human body has an incredible ability to heal itself.
Further, my chemo sessions are limited to no more than five, and #4 starts tomorrow. When they’re done I’ll be sent home to live in remission until Big C emerges from its hibernation, pissed off and even stronger than before; then we start this chemo-thing all over again. Until then my battle with cancer will, to a much larger degree, be my own responsibility.
I can no longer count on “miracles of modern medicine” to save my ass.
Of course I’ve always been all those things, but when you think your time on earth is unlimited there’s less urgency to life. But with a diagnosis of cancer that can change. I’m in no hurry to leave you all; I’ve got places to go, people to see, things to do. So I’ll be taking care of business.
“There is one simple thing wrong with you – you think you have plenty of time … If you don’t think your life is going to last forever, what are you waiting for ?” Carlos Castaneda
* From the song, “30 Days in the Hole” by Humble Pie (featuring Peter Frampton, BTW)
**”Bitch”, by the Rolling Stones.