Fall colors are gorgeous here in northwest Oregon this year. The most brilliant yellows, reddest reds, a wide variety of greens and some leaves so orange they seem to have been invented on purpose just for Halloween.
Me too. I'm feeling all dressed up and ready for a party or, at least, some ice cream. I feel so much better than I felt all summer.
Summer was bad but the odd thing is, I didn't realize it at the time. I thought I was okay if I didn't count the pain. Isn't it strange how it can take some distance sometimes to understand what was going on.
In July, I compared my cancer predicament to that of the characters in the TV show M*A*S*H who were stuck in a war zone:
”It is easy with a diagnosis of terminal cancer to feel despair,” I wrote, “wishing even that the wait for the end be over soon. But after watching M*A*S*H, which I do two or three times a week, I feel empowered to persevere, that there are people I love I want to spend more time with, books to read and this blog where you, dear readers, allow me to hold forth on whatever crazy ideas I have.”
Yes. But it turned out to be not that simple.
For the pain, I was using extreme dosages of over-the-counter medications which worked only to a degree plus they made my head fuzzy. Mostly I managed to keep up this blog but little else. Social life almost disappeared; I didn't have the energy.
It felt like I was winding down. Day by day, I was gradually accepting the idea that I did not have much time left. When I looked at my medical calendar, I wondered if my doctors just took off for the summer. It seemed that way with hardly any appointments scheduled compared to winter and spring.
At any other time in my life I would have been happy to have doctor-free days and weeks. This time I felt abandoned and there were moments when I wondered if absence was the doctors' way of telling me I was done for.
When the pains finally were under some control, my mind cleared a bit and what I noticed was a deep malaise, and a dwindling interest in just about anything that took more mental effort than watching a M*A*S*H episode.
At an excruciatingly slow pace over August and September, the pains subsided. Some are still with me but less like pain and more like a presence. I no longer need pain medication.
With the end of summer, the number of medical appointments has picked up. Earlier, I had been diagnosed with COPD in addition to cancer and now oxygen therapy has been prescribed. (What a huge load of equipment that entails.)
A physical therapist gave me some exercises that have helped with the remaining pain and stiffness in my hands and fingers.
Last week, the pulmonologist suggested a course of physical therapy meant to teach me how to live more easily with a breathing difficulty and yet another physical therapist gave me an excellent list of ways to conserve energy so that even with less than optimal breathing, I can still do much of what I want and need. All good.
The most profound change has been my mood. I'm me again and it took so little to make the difference: realizing that several professionals, who work with a lot of patients who share my kind of predicament, think I'm healthy enough to use precious resources that will improve my quality of life.
Having figured that out, I drove home from last Friday's appointment wearing a grin as wide as the whole outdoors. The fall colors blazed brightly and I wondered how I had allowed myself – pain or no pain – to become so dejected over the summer.
Few people with pancreatic cancer live more than a year or so after diagnosis. There was a time when staying alive long enough to see the Mueller Report was enough for me.
Well, that was a dud and now I've gotten greedy. I want to see the results of the 2020 election. Whether President Trump is impeached and removed from office or not, this is an election like none of us has seen before. I hope not to miss it.