Monday, December 29, 2008

Coming to Life

I have just begun my seventh chemotherapy treatment...I think. Guthrie Clinic provides it's patients guest access to their wireless internet system, which makes it even easier to pass the time during these chemo infusions.

It's amazing how each week after I receive an infusion and return home to rest and trudge through the side-effects, watching movies, football, basketball, hockey - what ever's on - I will judge myself because I'm not working or taking care of the kids or doing things that need to be done around the house. Then when my mind is clear and I start to see through the "fog," I recognize that my feeling sick - too sick to be up and about and too sick to read because I can't focus - is expected. And for me to do only what I can tolerate is equally expected. But the chemotherapy affects my memory and I actually forget that my being in no condition to do much of anything is expected or at least understood and the self judgment arises.

It seems to be just another version of my resistance to rely on Daniela for so much - care of the kids, the home, etc., etc. Yet these emotional struggles and something I am quite accustomed to ever since my treatment began. But it's amazing how the forgetfulness I experience from chemo keeps the cycle of judgment in motion - every other week, the thoughts repeat themselves. I must continually remind myself that I am in treatment, because I literally forget at times. Doing the same thing over and over - treatment after treatment - creates a familiarity with the side-effects and they start to feel like the norm. My mind begins to believe that my experience is who I am. And that does not leave me feeling good about myself.

So I am grateful to have an extraordinary wife, who gently reminds me - often with a bit of a laugh - that all of this is temporary. And as she tells me this, she knows that the next week I will feel great about my life. And that in the week to follow, I will once again be revisited thoughts of inadequacy.

Chemotherapy is a peculiar drug. Accepting that I forget over and over week by week isn't an easy thing because it's not like what I've just shared with you is obvious to those who come and visit or even to myself at times. It's not that I will forget what I was doing or why you are visiting or where we are going. It's a far more subtle experience that shows up in my thoughts during the repetitive and mundane moments throughout the day. As I lay on the couch or in the recliner feeling achey and out of focus, watching basketball or a movie or as I prepare myself something to eat and move about slowly because of the flu-like symptoms I experience, I start to: "think this is my life" - completely forgetting that not only is this not my life, but it's scheduled to be over in March of 2009.

And oddly, it's not disappointment I feel when I realize that I am caught up in the murky fog of chemo side-effects. I actually feel relieved when I realize I am actually doing exactly what I need to do and that it is in fact only temporary. March will come and with that Spring. And as the sweet smell of blossoms and sprouting green plant-life begin to take over the odorless browns and greys of winter, I too will come to life. Chemo will be done and it will be time to experience the energy of a healthy life - one that was so familiar to me only two years prior. I am delighted and even more so for an incredible summer.


  1. Several years ago, a play called Bus Stop had the revealing line... "Just because you feel this way today doesn't mean you'll feel this way tomorrow."
    I found it helpful in my life without chemo, I'll be you find it helpful today.
    love you.

  2. hi bert,
    you introduced yourself to me on my blog! Today when I read your post I made my husband read it because the two of us were just saying how I start convincing myself that who I am today has become ME and it IS NOT ME!!!!! He too reminds me that this will all be over and things will get back to "normal"... whatever that ends up being! I got extremely hard on myself last week when I backed into the garage door while it was closed*** Yes, the chemo has also affected my abilty to think clearly. Today I left $500 in the bank tube and drove off leaving it for the next, thank God, honest person. My angels are doing over time trying to keep up with this chemo deal!! That $500 is not pocket change for a woman who's lively hood comes from doing hair and interior decorating, both of which can't be done from the curled up fetal position in a bed. But I am trudging forward and I will hold you up in prayer too...March will be great! My chemo ends at the end of March also, followed by 6 weeks of radiation... Your family is precious!!!
    Madelene Boudreaux

  3. Bert, I clearly remember that part of the chemo cycles - the forgetfulness, the wanting to be able to do more than I am able to do, and the needing to be reminded each time that my mental and emotional states are side effects of the chemo. They would pass, people promised me, and they did pass.

    If Daniella is anything like MaryGail, she is happy enough to pick up the "slack" because treatment ensures your future together. At least, that's what MaryGail told me! :-)

    March is closer every day, and you will see the end soon. Hang in there!

    Maria Brown