I have been blessed with a very strong body, but in the course of my chemotherapy my strong body has become emaciated. I'm down to my essence. I ask: can I really do this? I get winded and my heart races going up stairs. I weigh 90 pounds. My faith is shaken, because my body is not strong anymore. I'm a featherweight.
I have finished Consolidation I and the Central Nervous System portions of my treatment and am currently in the midst of my week break before beginning Consolidation II, this thursday. Nothing has gone wrong. The protocol is simply aggressive and relentless. I remember at the outset meeting the two gents who are ahead of me. What I saw when I met them terrified me. I said to myself, "When I am there, I will not be like that." While it is true my complaints and despair are not like theirs, I am in my own valley of shadow and confusion.
Consolidation I began in January and was composed of three, three week cycles (A, B, and C), each progressively more toxic and each featuring different types and combinations of chemotherapy over two weeks with a week break in between. By the end of Consolidation IC I was spending most of my day in bed, neutropenic, appetiteless, and nauseated, but certain this was as bad as it could get.
Let me tell you about the Central Nervous System treatment:
- Day one chemotherapy (Doxurubicin, Vincristine)
- 8 doses of radiation to the brain
- 4 intrathecal doses of chemotherapy (Methotrexate, Cytarabine, Hydrocortisone)
- Bi-weekly chemo PEG Asparaginase
- 2 weeks oral 6MP
- roughly 8 days dexamethasone (a steroid).
I despise writing about this. By doing so I reveal my weakness and how I am feeling sorry for myself. I know many cancer patients with much longer lists and scarier possible outcomes. I know attitude is everything. And yet, this is what I have endured, when I believed I had already hit bottom. I confess, I don't think I could have handled even a fraction more! I'm not sure I've handled it yet! Over the past two weeks I thought to myself, "Can't I just sleep until this is over? One way or another I want this over!" I think this is a veiled way of saying, "I quit." But I can't quit. There is no out of this reality, only through.
What I am facing is so much more than cancer and chemo side effects. I'm dealing with myself, at my core. Who is experiencing this? Who will survive it?
What I must accept is so far in this battle I've been hiding behind my strong body as if it were a fortress and have neglected stabilizing and fortifying my soul. Now that my fortress has crumbled, well, I'm lost, naked, bony, pale, and exposed. Ew, like Darth Vadar, or the Wizard of Oz.