Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cycle 1, Day 4: Cancer is a full-time job

The lovely Susan Jones, Joe's nurse at chemo, made us a calendar that details Joe's meds and doses, day by day, morning and evening, for this first week of Cycle 1. I love this calendar so much, not least of which because it's handwritten and I like how her handwriting reveals her upbringing in Holland, but mostly because without it, it would be so much harder to remember everything. It's got almost a totemic quality for me - I look at it and Susan's kind instructions are with us, filling me with calm.

It's 8:45 on a Saturday morning and Joe has gone back to bed. Normally, he'd be suited up and out on his bike with his buddies already, long gone out White's Hill after the meet-up at the Hotty Hut in Fairfax. But he's really tired today, so there he is, sacked out on my side of the bed. He was up just long enough for a bowl of cereal and some coffee, two Prednisone, 1 Zofran and 1 self-administered shot of Neupogen. Normally, I'd be at yoga, in a packed room in Sausalito with my friends, chanting and laughing and sweating and turning upside down. But I'm really tired today, so here I am on the couch instead, thinking about how much our lives have changed so quickly.

We both know that this treatment is short-term. Joe's chemo will be done in the first week of January. But right now if I ask him about it, he just says, "it's going to be a long haul." He never believed that chemo would affect his appetite, but for the last three days he's been largely unable to eat and tending toward the bland -- mac & cheese is really what he wants. It was a small triumph that he was able to eat a Michael's Sourdough #23 yesterday at lunch, at last something that was appetizing and didn't make him sick. And like I said, he's in bed right now on a blisteringly beautiful sunny September morning - that's all wrong!

It would be so easy to let the cancer take everything over. It is, seriously, a full-time job. It's such an interesting situation -- cancer forces a contraction, a pulling-in to hoard energy, a narrow singular focus on pills and survival, in the face of which I keep pushing for expansion: how can we grow from this, how can we get stronger, where is the Good? The answers to those questions are obvious, right, but still the pressure to contract, to get small just to get by, is so strong. If it's a full-time job, damn it, then we're getting paid for it -- paid out in love and the sweetness of simple things (eating a whole sandwich!).

Just now I heard some rustling down the hall and Joe just appeared in his kit, out to try a ride. Who knows what will happen, but we're going for it anyway, always expanding, getting bigger no matter what.

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