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Days With Cancer Don’t Always Go to Plan

Carole started her chemotherapy fourteen months after her sacrectomy, the surgery that replaced with lower back with titanium.

A “healthy” patient typically receives chemo on a three-week schedule (one week of chemo, two weeks off). Because of Carole’s weakened post-surgical condition her schedule was modified to half-doses in week one and two followed by a week off.

Even this proved to be too much for her. She managed to complete a few rounds of chemo but the suffering and the complications were weakening her further.

Mercifully, her oncologist gave her a few weeks off to regain her strength (and the weight she lost) and introduced a new schedule. Carole now has a two-week schedule (a half-dose on week one followed by a week off). This has proven to be much more tolerable to the patient and hopefully still just as intolerant to the cancer. As of this writing, Carole has four more half-doses left before she completes her entire regimen.

This new schedule makes my wife’s days almost predictable. She has her chemo on Tuesdays. Wednesdays are “normal” days (as “normal” as our days are lately) and the hammer begins to drop on Thursday.  Thursdays are the day that she begins her decline and the poison takes hold. Friday through Sunday are very tough days for her but by Monday she will have started to bounce back up. She will continue to gain energy up until the day of her next chemo.

It’s sad to watch. By the time her body has processed out the chemicals it’s time for another dose. Up until the point that the meds start dripping into her she is back to her genuine self, that person of such great humor and intelligence I knew before the word “cancer” became so overused in our lives. Once the meds start their slow drip she turns inward; she speaks and smiles less since she knows what’s coming.

On those Thursdays the hammer drops we arrange for her to have a caregiver in the house while I am at work. I stay home on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday because that’s where I feel I belong, and because I am just arrogant enough to believe that no one can care for her better.  I know, you’re thinking that arrogance is a sin, and you’re right, but I will march into hell with a smile on my face knowing that she was well taken care of on her worst of days.

I’d like to say we have a system, but I’d be lying.  Chemo, cancer, and just life in general conspire to make every week different from the week before. I often imagine getting through a chemo week the same way a soldier gets through a mine field with a fork, very slowly and especially carefully.

I would like to publicly thank those special few who volunteer for the Thursday shift.  They are retired nurses and they watch Carole carefully without intruding too much. That is a gift and I thank you from the bottom of both our hearts.

For the next three days I get a ringside seat to my wife’s decline and resurrection.  I promise you that it’s difficult to watch but there is no place else I belong.  My hope is buoyed by knowing that she will bounce back up, and that she only has to endure this a few more times.

Of course, that is if the scans after chemo come back clean. If they don’t, we’ll repeat this until they do.

You see, days and dreams with cancer don’t always go to plan.





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