I had been looking forward to this little jaunt to the Jersey shore with my nuclear family for several months, knowing that it would be my only real vacation of the summer (save for an upcoming First Descents rock-climbing outing in Wyoming in a few weeks.) So of course, yesterday morning I woke up with a wicked-bad case of the runs (or “ass pee” as my neighbors call it), and by the afternoon I was clearly battling a fever. After a quick morning trip to the inlet up the road, I found myself napping for most of the afternoon. I even missed my own (early) birthday dinner, which I was sharing my 5 year old nephew. How much does that suck?
After dinner, Mike came into our room and (very gently) guilted me into coming down for the cake and presents portion of the evening. Six hundred mg of ibuprofen and several hours of sleep seemed to do a nice job of lowering my fever, so I came down and had a great time watching Oscar open all manner of pirate-themed gifts. I rallied for the night, and managed to stay up almost to midnight. I even scarfed down two pieces of toast at about 11 PM.
Today, I am still not quite right, but I am definitely improving. We spent the morning at the local pirate-themed mini golf course, and then Sarah, Mike, Oscar and I took on the boardwalk. The weather here in Bay Head has been overcast since we arrived, so I don’t exactly feel like I have missed any quality beach time, but I did have fantasies of taking some nice runs here, and instead, so far, I have just had the runs. Tomorrow I am confident I’ll be up for a good few miles.
Yesterday afternoon, before I finally gave into the reality of how shitty I was feeling, I had a pretty serious attack of the blues. I felt this kind of illness-induced melancholia that was all-too-familiar while I was in treatment. I have been almost consistently healthy since last summer when I finished chemo, so on these rare occasions when my body has betrayed me, I find myself going right back to that incredibly dark place – particularly when I thought of my family carousing, having fun, drinking wine, while I moaned and groaned and battled my fatigue and aches and pains.
Since cancer, I have this almost allergic emotional reaction to being in any way incapacitated. I am simply not interested in being an invalid. Anything that stops me from being active and living as fully as I can REALLY pisses me off.
The night we arrived, before the fever hit, I dreamed about my oncologist. She was plying me with medication – steroids, pain-killers, god knows what. I don’t even know why. And as she attempted to administer these meds to me, I became hysterical. “I can’t take any more drugs. I just can’t do it.” I wept in my rage, and my doctor sheepishly continued to insist that it was for my own good, suggesting, however gently, that I didn’t really have a choice.
This dream may have been prompted by the fact that I have been following the treatment of a young woman in the DC area who I met through Imerman Angels. She has just started the first of three cycles of taxol and cisplatin, exactly the same cocktail I had. She and I spoke by phone for over an hour a few weeks ago, just before she started treatment, and we have exchanged a few emails. She is also keeping a pretty snazzy blog, which I have been reading with great interest. She is writing with tremendous energy and humor about the steroids (which she seems to enjoy much more than I did), the tedium of waiting for her chemo drugs after she has been admitted to the hospital, the difficulties of dealing with her mother, you name it. In some ways, watching her go through this nightmare – from however great a distance – is causing me to relive my own treatment experience. Which can be, to be it mildly, a bit unnerving.
I am surrounded by my family for these precious few days, and I do love them. But sometimes, I can’t help feeling a greater connection to those who have lived the realities of cancer.