The waiting game

It attests to my state of being how rarely I post here these days. My mind remains active, but I’m without the energy to take the extra steps I would if I was healthy.

I had a bit of a tantrum yesterday. It occurred to me it was nearly 3 months since I’d had surgery, and I’ve been basically incapacitated since then. And before that, I was suffering from the pain of cancer. All of a sudden, I had enough of it. I was sick of being crook, sick of being weak and tired, sick of the constant wear on me, sick of all the things I can no longer do – such as eat as a normal person does or walk up the street.

It passed soon enough, but in the wake of it came a revelation: I’m always feeling shithouse; it’s just at some stages I’m feeling less shithouse than others.

Right now, I’m feeling moderately shithouse.

The week after finishing treatment was hard. First, I was nauseous and had the general sense of being out of it. Then I started to feel a little better – less nauseous, more alert, more energy. In the general way I like to spin things, I took it as a sign that I was on the way back, which may well be true, but doesn’t disguise the fact I feel pretty awful.

I’ve been pretty well unchanged since then. The main problem seems to be that while treatment has ceased, the cells continue to disintegrate, and the liquid waste from that flows into my nose – my right nostril particularly – where it thickens into a sticky treacle blocking my nose and impeding my breathing. This is constant.

I clear out my nose every 6-8 hours, which is a messy, bloody job, and then it starts again. It’s like having a nasty cold, except with blood. Besides the blockage and the difficulty breathing, my face feels (and is) quite swollen, and there are fine elements of shooting pain.

My cheek is red from the radiotherapy, as if burnt, and my eye is watery to the extent of weeping. I wake up each morning with it sealed shut. And my mouth on the right remains bound together by stitches. It reminds me of the aftermath of a serious dental procedure when you can still feel some of the pain of the procedure – only this has been almost 3 months.

You normalise things. Things become so standard that you accept them almost as normal and shrug off the inconvenience and pain. People ask how you’re going, and you answer fine – because you don’t factor in those things anymore. The real answer is shithouse, but managing.

On top of all this is fatigue. I can sleep at the drop of a hat these days, and it’s an alluring temptation often. It’s easier when I sleep, but I fear being lazy if I sleep too much. It’s part of my generational ethic that you must try to be productive – and you can’t be productive lying in bed. So I resist the temptation mainly or cut short my naps.

Part of my concern is that I’ve got to get the calories into me, and I can’t do that if I’m asleep. I still can’t eat solids and feel as if I’m always drinking a supplement of some sort. It’s never enough.

One of my concerns is that by the time I can eat solids again – hopefully, in the next few weeks – my stitches will not have been released. I can’t eat without that happening.

On Sunday I went out with a friend, to Bunnings, then to a cafe. It felt like my coming out, but it was exhausting. I huffed and puffed in Bunnings, very quickly out of breath. It took me about 20 minutes to recover. Then at the cafe, I sat there with a cup of tea, watching my friend eat a hamburger, wishing it was me.

It’s a waiting game now. At some point, the cells will cease their destruction, and the run-off will stop blocking up my nose. That might allow the swelling to ease and my eye to return to normal. As the cells regenerate, perhaps my taste begins to return to normal, and the healing process accelerates.

I know it will turn – it must. I just have to be patient.

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