Jay Lake: Writer

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[Cancer, Personal]

[personal|cancer] Trying to keep up

“Trying to keep up” seems to have been my recent theme. Keeping up with the logistics and details of our forthcoming trip to the antipodes. Keeping up on yesterday’s Kelly Point hike. Keeping up with my sleep. Keeping up with the final read-through of Endurance.

Sleep is all over the map. Along with peripheral neuropathy, fatigue is one of the only chemo side effects still dominating my life, here two months after finishing the FOLFOX/Avastin regimen. (Other side effects still appear in blivets, around digestion, sexual function, etc., but they are not constant.) Apparently, if I have a low-key day, I can sleep six and a half to seven hours and be fine, nearly my old pre-chemo pattern. In those situations, my internal alarm clock has returned. That is to say, my pre-chemo time awareness that allowed me to select a wake-up time and then simply wake up without the aid an alarm. If I have a physically or emotionally stressful day, I can sleep as much as nine hours. In either case, waking is a longer, slower process than the ‘spring out of bed and go! go! go!’ rubric under which I used to function.

Which continues frustrating, to say the least. Much as I no longer take the stairs two at a time going up, I am still missing something that feels like it was an important part of me.

One of the lessons I am currently taking from this third occurrence of cancer, rightly or wrongly, is that I may never get back to that six hours per night, two-stairs-at-a-time life I had. I think I’m preparing myself for cancer to be a chronic condition. That is not to say I’m ceding so much as an inch in the medical fight, but I’ve been making myself crazy trying to be the person I think I should be instead of the person I am.

I do not want to let cancer to redefine me, but in blunt terms, it has. This is the struggle I recently referred to about not accepting limits but learning to live within my limitations.

My surgical oncologist may be right. We may be managing this for years. My medical oncologist is still aiming for a full cure. She may be right. I don’t know. What I do know is this thing keeps Not Going Away, in an increasingly spectacular and invasive fashion. Medical science prunes my body one organ system at a time, then cancer calls around and takes a shot at another one.

So I pursue surgery, second opinions, treatment options, improved understanding. I reorder my writing schedule and life priorities. I wonder if this month right now prior to the next surgery is the best health I’ll ever see for the rest of my life. And what do I do but go on, trying to keep up?

Because giving up is never an option. But keeping up gets damned hard some times.

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