Recovery: Days Of Heaven

So, I’m changing my daily headline title now, considering my treatment — the three sessions of chemotherapy and the 33 of neck radiation — was finished four weeks ago. It’s Recovery from here on out, and, to tell the truth, this morning I felt as though I really am getting better.

Last night was a bummer, about as bad as Tuesday night was. The taste in my mouth was so evil it actually kept me awake. I padded around the house, did some crossword puzzles, played a few hands of solitaire, and even engaged the computer in a couple of chess matches (we split). Finally I was able to nod off.

I was confident, though, that I’d wake up this AM feeling well. That’s what happened Wednesday morning. IDK why but it seems the pattern is turning out to be super bad feelings in my throat at night are harbingers of better days ahead. Go figure. I’ll just take it.

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Sure enough, I woke up this morning with next to no green phlegm and as clear a throat as I’ve felt in weeks. Wahoo.

I even tried downing a few sips of water. It worked — I swallowed them, but they tasted terrible, as opposed to disgusting which is what everything has tasted like for weeks. Let’s say the taste of water et al have been like Donald Trump since late Feb. but today the H20 was a little more like Rand Paul. Bad but almost tolerable versus vomit-inducing.

Consequently, I woke The Loved One up and said, “Let’s go to the Farmers Market,” to which she replied with as much gusto as a pre-seven AM wakeup call on a Saturday merited, “Grmmppph.” Which I took for a yes.

A perfect Saturday morning. Brilliant sunshine, Crystal clear blue sky. Plenty of people out grazing for their week’s stash of herbs and sweet potatoes and cheese curds and even hog heads. The politicos were out: Geoff McKim, Holly Harvey, Bob Deppert, Scott Wells, Nelson Shaffer, Efrat Feferman, newly-hired Bloomington utilities boss Vic Kelson, and more. I spied law prof Dawn Johnsen waiting patiently in one line, sans hubby, the Mayor.

Outgoing Bloomington High School North librarian Kathy Loser and her husband, Duane Busick, along with a pal named Denise, hugged me tightly next to some cilantro planting pots.

Overall, I was walking on air, albeit with the aid of my trusty cane. Boy, it’s good to be alive. And to feel alive as well.

I spent a good six hours at the infusion center yesterday. Seems my blood pressure has dropped alarmingly, causing me to reel a bit every time I stand up. Doc Allerton took my sitting-then-standing BP and found my systolic pressure to have plummeted to about 90 in the time it took to hoist my huge carcass out of my chair. Ergo, he ordered me juiced up with a couple of bags of sodium chloride solution.

Allerton’s explanation is my bod is using all its internal fluids like mad trying to keep up with my healing processes. Whereas normal human beings (of which, I like to think, I am not even when I’m in A-one health) need at least two liters of water a day to get by, I need tons more. Okay, so I’ll push fluids even harder now.

Anyway, the nurses at the infusion center asked me to speak to a new patient — let’s call her Mandy — who has cancer of the tonsils, something I didn’t even know exists. She’s had surgery to remove half her tonsils. (Her insurance company wouldn’t pop for a complete job, saying the non-cancerous half didn’t need to go. Welcome to Wealthcare in America.) She’s just starting on weekly chemotherapy sessions (thank the tarot cards I didn’t have to go through that much torture) and will begin radiation next week. She was distraught as all hell. She’s got a feeding tube in her belly and, she said, it hurts. She’s scared. She’s worried about feeling claustrophobic in her radiation mask. And — most pressing right now — she is frighteningly constipated.

Mandy cried throughout our little chat. I leveled with her. “This isn’t going to be any party,” I said. “Keep on crying. Cry whenever you need to. You say you’re scared and you should be. Feel everything. Deny nothing. It’ll be unpleasant but you’ll get through it. You’re making this deal because you’re more frightened of dying than suffering through this treatment. Lay back, listen to your body, and tell the doctors and nurses everything about how you feel, both physically and psychologically. Don’t hold anything back.”

I wish I could say Mandy grinned and said, “Huzzah, what a speech! Bring that radiation on!” No, she continued to cry. As she should.

Hell, I still cry to this day when I think back to what I’ve endured.

I left Mandy with a piece of very practical advice: “Do everything you can to relieve your constipation. Use whatever laxatives and magic potions the docs & RNs suggest. The longer you wait, the more it’ll feel as though you’re passing a bent tree branch. Believe me, I know.” I did have offer her a silver lining: “The good thing is, when that miraculous passing finally does take place, you’re gonna feel as though you’ve died and gone to heaven.”

That’s what we brethren and sisteren in cancer talk about amongst ourselves.

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