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?