Meltdown

 

This essay was originally published on April 7, 2015.

Life has been very interesting since I last posted, mainly because I had a complete meltdown following the conclusion of roasting. I didn’t realize that, like the roast you let rest on the counter after removing it from the oven and tenting it with foil, you keep cooking after you’re cooked. Yes, as bad as I felt the last time I blogged, I started to feel even worse a couple of days later.

I went back to see my medical oncologist the Friday after I had the CT scan, and that disastrous cardiac ultrasound. Thankfully, my scan was clear and my heart is fine. The rest of me, however, was a huge mess. I was in horrific pain, and I believe I had a slight cold/flu, because I had a runny, stuffy nose and a fever. He took a look at my left chest/underarm area and promptly wrote me prescriptions for a strong antibiotic and painkillers. I was also supposed to receive my first jabbing with Lupron, but on top of everything else, I could not handle being thrown into menopause. I went home and spent the remainder of the weekend on a merry-go-round of chills, sweats, and nausea. It felt like someone sneaked more chemo into my lemonade. I was begging for mercy, and a few times, the phrase “kill me now” crossed my lips. The high point was when I barfed up a roast beef sandwich, mere moments after consuming it. There are no adjectives to describe the frustration you feel when you’re hungry, and your body rejects what it craves.

Happily, I am feeling better, but there is still residual discomfort from roasting. To say that I was rendered well done, and extra-crispy, is an understatement. Again, I know it is impossible to predict how one will react to cancer treatments, but like the overachiever I tend to be, I went above and beyond expectation. Sure, I heard all the waiting room-gossip about the horrors of radiation, and my hubris got the better of me. “I’m no wimp”, I kept telling myself. “I am strong like bull!” The truth is, no one here gets out alive.

When I was in high school, all the big Doors fans read that Jim Morrison biography (it was first published in 1980). You were beyond cool if you were seen carrying a copy of it with your school books. Not being the biggest Doors fan, I passed. I still haven’t read it. I have no intention of ever reading it. It’s a snappy title, however, and a solid aphorism when used to give perspective to what it’s like to go through cancer treatment. You have to literally kill off parts of yourself – physical and emotional – to get through it.

My grace, humor, dignity, and general “fuck you” attitude towards cancer seem to have collectively left the building. I’ve reached the point where giving a shit is too bothersome. This is an inevitable phase of the experience, and I’m not quite ready to claw my way out. I’ve postponed menopause, at least until the end of the month. I am, however, going ahead with the immunotherapy study, and am scheduled to receive my first Herceptin infusion this Thursday. Despite my current attitude, I feel I still owe a debt to all the people who have helped me, and to all the people who might have to get on the same merry-go-round. Now is not the time to be selfish or self-destructive. I can say it, but part of me doesn’t mean it. Sometimes, it’s easier to just be weak.

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