Sunday, September 25, 2011

What's Next?

It is interesting how, having come through the fears of being a person with cancer, of becoming old, of being dead – and receiving assurances that the cancer can be cured, the aging is inevitable and the dying isn’t going to happen just yet – I’m now focused on the process of being ill and getting well.

I didn’t plan this out. I didn’t consciously move from one stage to the next: it just happened.
This weekend I’ve spent a good deal of time pondering why I’m sleeping all day (and not all night), how serious the doctor was in her orders about my digestive tract, and why the pains have changed location, shape and sensitivity? And why my diet has changed.
I don’t need to bore or disgust, but one of the biggest challenges during an illness in which one consumes a strong narcotic for pain is keeping the digestive tract “regular.” “Once a day,” the doctor said, quite adamantly. I have to go see her Monday! What if I can’t – Wait! Stronger drugs!

The knee has hurt pretty much from the beginning of this process. Now, it’s like there’s a metal ring on the left knee, and it hurts like hell if I touch it. What if it – Wait! Stronger drugs!
The principle lump has enlarged and gotten harder. There is some sensitivity to the touch, but no redness (yet). There is no radiation of pain from the lump to further down the leg – though I’m sure the pains are all related and I’m counting on all of them disappearing when the lump does. There is some pain on the backside of the thigh – which I’d not felt before. What if it can’t – Wait! Stronger Drugs!

Dr. Perez-Tamayo has prescribed stronger drugs for me, and told me what over the counter meds I should take and generally assured me that we can get this pain under control. She’s mostly right – though one of the prescriptions she’s given me isn’t doing much good. I wonder if the pains are going to get worse and the drugs are going to have to get yet stronger?

If they do, that’s OK. I’ve become accustomed to weird dreams and half-awake hallucinations. One of my current favorite pastimes is to distinguish between hallucinations and reality. (The hallucinations aren’t so bizarre that they’re easy to distinguish.) Trying to remember what I’ve done and what I haven’t done is a second favorite pastime.

Then there’s appetite. I don’t feel nauseous, but I don’t much feel like eating. That’s probably OK for right now, since I’m not doing much in the way of physical activity. I have a recipe from M. D. Anderson Cancer Center for a protein drink. I should learn to make it and consume it to make sure I’m getting good nutrition.

One of the strangest parts of this is coffee.

It seems that it affects me more now than it ever did. Coffee at 5 pm didn’t used to keep me awake. I had to drink some after 9 pm in order to be awake after midnight. Now, a cuppa after 5 pm means at least several extra hours of tossing and turning at night.

Yesterday I had only one cup of coffee. Day before two, but didn’t finish the second cup. Today I’ll probably have two. It doesn’t taste as good as it used to. That makes me sad. I mean, we’re going to talk “Svenskhet” in two weekends, and what is a Swede without coffee – strong, black coffee?

The family tells a story about Farfar and coffee. After he retired and sold the farm to my uncle Teodor, he and his wife stayed in the house. Farfar was going blind. But he got up first every morning and started the coffee boiling. From “morgonen till kvällen” he sat in the kitchen, smoked his pipe and drank that boiled coffee.

I may be shaming my whole family by giving up on coffee. Then again, once we get past this treatment I’ll return to my regular coffee habits.

I guess we can’t predict, so I’ll just have to include that on my list of things to watch while journeying toward health. No stronger drugs needed!

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