Sometimes, when you have a chronic illness and you’re doing a pretty good job of living around it, living your life fully and well, it comes roaring back to remind you just how sick you are. In these times, simple things will become impossible, everything will hurt, and it will absolutely be too much to keep your eyes open. In these times, you will be unable to forget or ignore your illness.
I started back on chemo last week with infusion on Monday. Infusion went pretty well, and I wasn’t feeling too sickly when I left. Within a few hours, though, the nausea was hitting hard. For the first half of that night, I woke almost every half hour, sitting up in a panic as waves of nausea crashed over me. I’d lean forward over my bent legs, heaving and trying to catch my breath, until I could finally lie down again and immediately fall back asleep. Then, for the second half of the night, the nausea was like a constant wave and I couldn’t get back to sleep. It was like a demon inside me was trying to rip its way out through my esophagus, but another demon was holding it back, keeping it angry. I don’t know, that metaphor doesn’t make any sense. But I’m still very much in recovery right now, six days later.
I emailed my doctors Tuesday morning to see if they could suggest anything I could do. They advised me to go to the chemo urgent care center at Hopkins. This made sense, but I had to figure out how to get myself there. I called my parents to tell them I would drive myself downtown, but they urged me to call an Uber instead. (I’ve been wary of Uber so I’ve never tried it before, but I managed to create an account and call a ride through my stupor.) My grandparents drove up from Annapolis to meet me at the hospital, and they arrived right when I was called back into the chemo suite, after waiting in agony for a while.
In urgent care, they accessed my port and hooked me up to IV fluids, then gave me successive doses of Zofran, Ativan, and Phenergan, all of which did alleviate my nausea slightly. I’m not sure how many hours I spent there, because I was just sleeping in a haze of chills and medicine and the worst nausea of my life (and that’s saying something). My poor husband came straight to the hospital from his first day of the new school year (he’s a middle school teacher), brought me home and took care of me. The next day, I went back to urgent care for more of the same, and by the end of that day, I was finally feeling somewhat better. Or maybe not. I’m still so confused right now that I’m not a reliable narrator.
Since then, I’ve literally been sleeping and trying to eat, that’s it. And this takes all of my energy, in fact, more energy than I have. I’m at a constant deficit. But it’s so hard to eat, so so hard that I’ve lost probably six or seven pounds in just as many days. I can keep things down, because I seem to have lost the ability to vomit, sometime when I was a child, sick in the hospital. I used to dry heave so much then that we’d lose count of how many times in a day my stomach contracted on itself. Somewhere among all that, I think the valves closed off or something, and I’ve never been able to throw up since then. But now, it just causes me so much discomfort to eat, that I really have to force myself.
And I need to force myself, because I’m dangerously weak. I took a shower yesterday morning and almost passed out. The effort was so taxing, my body was so depleted, it was stunning. I know this is all very dramatic, but this has been one of the worst experiences my illness has caused in the last year. All I want to do is cry about it, but I don’t even have the energy for that. This all makes me feel pathetic. This makes me think I’m crazy for even trying to work, part-time or full-time. This makes me think, what if it’s like this after every chemo infusion? That’s impossible, I simply won’t do it. There has to be an alternative. I can’t live through this again.