A New Kind of Tired

I’ve been tired before: Sprinting the last stretch of a high school cross country race, driving down 2 a.m. streets with a load of page flats that the printer would turn into a college newspaper; sitting for 36 hours on a hardseat train in China 25 years ago when the trains burned dusty coal and air conditioning was a fantasy; pulling all-nighters to meet various magazine and book manuscript deadlines; nursing my father as he died of lung cancer; napping my way through the last trimester of pregnancy. But I have never been tired like this.

I’m coming up on my last chemo poison party and my medical team has had five cycles to fine-tune the cocktail of medicines. This time, the chemo side effects have been muted into the almost bearable zone. But they can’t do much for my fatigue. Well, I suppose they could prescribe some speed or crack. But I doubt that would be legal, or wise. Can you imagine medical crack dispensaries?

So this chemo fatigue flattens me. Well, not exactly. I’ve never been one to admit frailty, so I’ll bustle around: get up, get the family’s lunches and get them out the door, tidy up, take a shower, check email etc. and then I’m ready for a nap. I’ll go on an abbreviated version of my mountain hike, do the carpool, nag about homework, prep dinner, and then just collapse. When I say collapse, I mean collapse. I’ll land in the recliner or the couch or the bed and suddenly become completely unable to move or to cope.

That’s what’s different about this fatigue: It is so deep that it makes it difficult to think clearly. It makes it difficult to prioritize the day’s tasks. It saps ambition: the coming months when I hope to be able to work again seem like a mirage. It makes 8 p.m. seem like a reasonable bedtime. It makes an impossible task of remembering which medicines I’m supposed to take at night. Forget about actually finding and opening the bottles.

Well, that’s said. Isn’t it time for a little doze?


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
This entry was posted in Day By Day and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A New Kind of Tired

  1. Amazing! you are an amazing writer Heather. I could feel your weariness bonedeep.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s