There’s tired, and then there’s . . .
Roughly halfway through chemo, I begin just staring off into the distance for minutes at a time. Not surprising. Chemotherapy affects my brain as well as my body. I become slow to think and react, as well as, once again, very tired. This time, naps do not help; I am tired all of the time. Waking up is a chore; I can’t seem to get enough sleep. I’ve only just recovered from radiation therapy.
“Chemo-brain,” as those of us in the know like to call it, is a very real, sneaky, little symptom. Effects are at first subtle. Eventually, I either notice (or have it pointed out for me) that I am no longer connecting my “mental dots” with any particular skill. I am slow to respond to questions, because I am reaching for information that just isn’t so easy to find anymore. I find that I lack the skills to drive, to program my video recordings, and even to keep up with daily conversations. I make decisions that are somewhat lacking
Rule number 5: Keep a sense of humor
In addition, I recall having “philosophical” discussions with my sons about what creates the unique personality. Lack of testosterone plus chemotherapy has a profound effect upon my personality and abilities. I know that I am different, but I can’t do anything about it. The thing to do is to make certain that the people closest to me are aware of it, too—(1) so they won’t worry about me, and (2) so they will help me function better.
I will need their help and understanding.
My wife tells me I am looking “pretty beat up” and gives me lots of hugs. Hugs help a lot.
My wife is an angel; she has never left my side during this whole experience. And at times it has been really ugly.
Rule number 6: Ask for and accept help. You can’t do this by yourself
At my most recent appointment, Dr. Myers notes that I’m showing signs of depression. I say, “no, I don’t feel depressed. I think I’m handling this okay.” And he tells me that what I’m experiencing is what he calls “medical battle fatigue.” And I think, “no kidding. I can buy that.” It is, actually, a type of posttraumatic stress disorder that occurs when you’ve maxed out—physically and emotionally. A mild antidepressant solves the problem.
Here is a neat thing if you are ever feeling depressed; it’s called Right Now. Click on the link below (works best with Internet Explorer 6) or copy and paste this into your browser:
(Copyright 2001, Ralph Marston, Jr)
(Editorial note: You will want to turn your speakers on low, and you will probably need a recent version of Macromedia Flash. Internet Explorer works best, but if you are using a different web browser, you may need to install and run Apple's QuickTime and itunes. Click on the "back" button when finished.)
Rule number 7: Keep yourself in the now and don’t let your imagination defeat you
It’s been three surgeries, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, and chemo. Hormone therapy won’t last forever; eventually prostate cancer becomes “hormone refractory,” or resistant. I do not want to “teach” the prostate cancer cells to mutate, so I hope to stop Lupron shots in September of this year. Testosterone will, I hope, return to normal levels in several months, and my body will function at normal levels also. I may go on and off Lupron for years. I don’t know.
It beats the alternative and is a relative “piece of cake.” This has become my standard response to the query, “How’re you doing?”
"It’s a piece of cake.”
Well, sometimes, not always. . . . We'll talk about costs next.