As I sit here at my desk tapping out this first sentence, I'd rather be curled up in bed. I don't necessarily need to sleep; I just want to lie down. I am deeply weary.
This is not an unexpected condition. Before I started chemotherapy, the experts at the hematology clinic within the Oregon Health & Sciences University where I am being treated for cancer told me this would happen.
Cancer, they explained, uses up energy – that is, calories – faster than a healthy body and so does chemotherapy, thereby supplying a double dose of fatigue which will increase cumulatively during the six months of my planned treatment.
In addition, tests at the clinic last week revealed that I am “severely” anemic (another not unexpected side effect of treatment). So another source of fatigue, and another pill in my cupboard to treat the anemia.
Now into my third round of chemo, I'm tired all the time. Tired when I wake in the morning, tired getting out of the shower, tired after cooking breakfast or dinner or any one of the other several meals a day I prepare to try to keep up my weight, and tired sometimes just being vertical.
If you ignore the horrible first four or five weeks of recovery from surgery after the Whipple procedure, until now I've been interested, even fascinated by this cancer, the treatment, the reaction of my body, the boundless concern and kindness of the staff who care for me, and the almost daily changes in my sensibility toward life and death.
Certainly it is not easy knowing you have one of the worst cancers. Only lung, colo-rectal and breast cancer kill more people each year than pancreatic cancer.
But it's not something I have dwelled upon much and I suspect, until I find out in March how successful or not this chemotherapy has been, the ranking of “my” cancer will remain of little interest to me.
This, I have noticed, is also true now of having cancer in general. It's no longer a novelty and I'm ready to move on.
Except, of course, I cannot.
As I have said in the past, I am grateful for how lucky I have been: that I was eligible for the surgery, that my chemo is only once a week and takes only an hour, that fatigue is the worst side effect I've faced.
It makes me feel like a wimp to be complaining while knowing other patients have a much harder time than I have had.
It's ironic this week that just as fatigue is becoming difficult to deal with, I have been freed from my the post-op restrictive diet to eat anything I want. Don't go hog wild, the nurses and doctors advise, but there is nothing I need to avoid now.
Yeah. Right. Nice. Except that the more elaborate cooking I enjoyed before this unwanted interruption to my life appeared last June is more than I can usually find the energy for now.
The doctors and nurses at OHSU tell me that depending on my blood work today, they may give me a blood transfusion which, among other things, will temper my fatigue if not entirely relieve it. Hmmmph. Who has ever hoped to need a transfusion. The ironies abound.
A long time ago, I read somewhere that house cats (and maybe wild cats too - I don't recall) sleep about 17 hours a day. That seems a good estimate for Ollie the cat's daily routine and now he's got a companion to keep him company during all those hours he snoozes.