A Treatise on Exhaustion

I thought, after my diagnosis, that I’d be able to get caught up on things while working from home because chemo was going to kill my immunity. I was looking forward to doing the training and getting the certification(s) I’d not been able to get done while on travel all last year. I’d also be able to finally get some of the multitude of home projects that have been in various stages of completion  conquered so I could spend more time doing things I enjoy rather than things I had to do. I remember thinking this would all work to my advantage.

I had mono in the Spring of my senior year in high school. I spent my last quarter of school going back and forth between being able to be at school for my 1st period class at 7:30 and not getting there until almost lunchtime. I remember tired. I remember exhausted. I distinctly remember the relapse I had while working on a CCC crew later that summer after being woken up in the middle of the night by one of my crewmates thinking there was a bear outside our tent. It turned out to be skunks and raccoons fighting over our breakfast food that someone hadn’t put away.

In the months before my cancer diagnosis, I found myself coming home from work trips really tired. Mono tired. Unless I had to fly out again on Sunday, I’d sleep most of my Saturday away. I’d get up for a few hours, read or do something else that required no real energy, nap for a few hours and get up again. I’d go to bed at my “regular” time and sleep another 10 or so hours. I was chalking this exhaustion up to stress, traveling and maybe thinking that jet lag had a cumulative effect. That was cancer trying to kick my ass.

The first 2 weeks of chemo weren’t that much different than the weeks before. I was able to do the things I needed to do. I needed a nap almost every day, but assumed that some of that tiredness was due to the stress of everything plus not knowing what the chemo infusion would be like, as well as the excitement of having my sister and her kids here for Thanksgiving. In hindsight, it was both cancer and chemo trying to kick my ass.

The 2nd infusion succeeded in kicking my ass. Roundly. That treatment, and all that went with it, rendered me completely useless. I couldn’t read a book without having to go back and re-read sentences or paragraphs over and over. I couldn’t watch training videos without having to rewind them endlessly. After a couple of days of trying, I abandoned both completely. It was so bad that even Facebook couldn’t keep my attention. I was also afraid. Afraid to walk to the mailbox because it was icy and had snowed. I didn’t want to fall outside. Afraid if I used a knife, or more likely, dropped one, I’d cut myself. Afraid to cook for fear of burning myself. I instead laid on the couch for hours. Bored.

I realized, between the 2nd and 3rd infusions, that I felt like I was under anesthesia those 5 or so days my chemo, and that it was Compazine making me feel that way. By the 4th infusion, my days of low energy and tiredness were limited to the 3rd and 4th days after the infusion. The rest, I felt almost normal. Even on Taxol, I felt more or less normal until I hit the halfway point of treatments.  Napping wasn’t enough. After I got home from my infusion appointment, the tired hit me like a truckload of quicksand. I napped for four hours. I slept 14 more hours that night. That whole weekend I felt like I was back to where I started. One of the women in my support group reminded me that chemo’s effects are cumulative. Ohhh. Shit. Yes. I’d forgotten that.

I’m on Day 3 after the 3rd to last infusion. I woke up sorta tired with a headache today. I’m pretty sure it’s the chemo and not that I’ve overdone it this weekend. Even though I did overdo it just a tad. That said, even though I’m tired today, I’m not plowing through the quicksand or having mono tired like I was 3 weeks ago.

I look forward to a day when I’m not tired and sluggish all the time. When I can vacuum my rugs or make up my bed without needing  top stop for a break. When I can go out for a hike without feeling like I need to stop for a nap halfway through. I don’t know when that will be.

About Pink Ribbon Road

This blog is about receiving and living with a breast cancer diagnosis.
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1 Response to A Treatise on Exhaustion

  1. Renee Gjerde says:

    I think it is great that you can scrape together enough energy to write these blogs, much less do anything else of consequence. You have higher expectations for yourself than other people have of you it appears. You save your energy for whipping the butt off the cancer. Only make the bed if it drives you crazy and you cannot sleep on messy sheets. i don’t have cancer and the bed doesn’t get made, hardly ever anyway. I hope you have a lot of good hours in between those terribly tired times. Hang in there friend. Mary


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