“I think I’m feeling glum today,” Sheri said early one morning this week.
“Really,” I said. I was sorry she was feeling sad, but I was fascinated by her word choice. Who says “glum” anymore? Yet, by the look on her face, it was the perfect word.
I weighed and considered the tone and words of my response and decided on an old favorite — sarcasm.
“I can’t imagine why you would feel glum,” I said. “After weeks of waiting, on Friday I’m going to be given a massive dose of chemotherapy that is guaranteed to make me feel bad. Bad enough, in fact, that I’m taking pain relievers during the process and, according to someone who should know, absorbing enough fluids to ensure that I pee like a racehorse. One of the medicines is so that my bladder doesn’t bleed. I need to keep chewing ice and taking something that is basically artificial spit to avoid mouth and/or esophageal sores, and we have to be at the clinic for at least 10 hours.”
“I know. I just don’t like the feeling.”
I knew that, of course, but I also knew she needed to feel it and deal with it as she has so many other things. It sucks to realize that, by the way. But, she has her own support system, including God, so I could just butt out.
Truth is, I feel pretty glum myself. I’m sitting here with this major event hanging over my head which, mind you, is only the first step in a long, arduous procedure. And do you know what I find myself thinking about? Pregnant women. Not any particular pregnant women, just pregnant women in general. Weird, right?
The pain women go through to have a child? Yeah, I pass. And they have nine months to consider it, be aware of it. Yes, they don’t know the specifics, maybe, but they know it will hurt.
But here’s the wondrous thing to me… many of them choose to do it again! I’ve asked many women about this and the common answer is that they forget about the pain and remember holding the baby. I’m pretty sure that when I’m done with this my stem cell transplant, I’m not going to go all soft and gooey over my baby stem cells and want to do it again.
So, as I sit pondering this procedure, I realize, once again, I’m far from unique. Sometimes I like to think I am, but I know all of you have had something major hanging over your head that you had to wait to deal with. Maybe you’re doing it right now. I know my fellow cancer sufferers have, and are, for sure. But not being unique doesn’t really make me feel any less… glum.
I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on with me. Am I scared? I don’t think so. Maybe. Probably. Well, a little. There’s certainly trepidation over the chemotherapy, which is what I am focused on right now. The other steps in the transplant are down the road, and I’ll get to them when I must.
But the chemo is only a few hours away. I’ve known the date for weeks, so you would think I might have done some work around how I would feel. De-nial is not just a river in Egypt, my friend.
At the same time, I’m anxious to get started. So far our strategy has been the medical equivalent of the rope-a-dope, absorbing blow after blow. Now we get off the ropes and start punching back.
Of course, the other side gets to keep punching, throwing some major side effects at me: nausea, vomiting, bone marrow depression, hair loss, mouth soreness, bleeding in the bladder. Ouch.
On the positive side: While reading about all the things I needed to know about cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), I didn’t even need to skim the section labeled “Sexual Problems and Reproductive Concerns.” I turn 65 the night before my chemo, and Sheri will be 65 in a couple of weeks. I don’t have to spell it out for you, do I? Didn’t think so.
When this chemo is done, most of my immune system will have been destroyed. Hence, avoiding infection becomes our full-time job. I’ll be taking a couple of new drugs: one to fight infection and one to encourage any healthy stem cells to grow. It means I won’t be leaving the house or hanging around with people for about four months, other than going to the clinic and hospital.
Still, both Sheri and I feel better already. We’re pretty much de-glummed, and moving on. The big thing about all this stuff we are going to be going through, is why we’re willing to go through it: to get me healthy, or at least much healthier. That’s what we focus on and that’s why hope and faith always trump whatever demons may pop up.
A long time ago someone shared this simple truth with me: “When you’re going through hell, don’t stop.” True then, true now.
Note: Our daughters, Jennifer, Alison and Kristie, have established a site through Go Fund Me. If you would like to see photos of us and our family visit www.gofundme.com, and enter my name or Finding the Pony in the search box.
Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.