No Wonder Cancer Patients are Tired
I am tired. To be honest, that’s not abnormal for me. I have quite a few things going on in my life but at my core, I am a lazy person. I like to say that I am an expert at wasting time but that’s just a fancy way of saying that I am content to do a whole bunch of nothing. So add a busy life to a personality that likes rest, and you get tired. But the tired I have been feeling recently is pretty intense. It’s a sit-down-in-a-chair-and-nod-off kind of tired. Which is a little odd considering I haven’t even started treatments yet!
I will be soon. Either the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day I will start treatments. They are still finalizing the schedule. Which is one of the factors that leads to my tiredness. It’s been a process! In defense of my doctors’ offices, they are trying to coordinate the chemo and the radiation and both clinics have too many patients. Before this was happening to me, if someone said they had cancer, I would empathize with the treatment part of things. I would worry about how that was affecting how they were feeling. I have seen several people go through it and I know that part is very hard. What I didn’t realize was how much work went into getting it all set up!
Before I started writing this post, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being dramatic, which is a possibility, so I listed everything from the start of this on July 30th: tonsillectomy, oncologist consult, audiologist (hearing test), PET CT, radiologist consult, ENT post op, oncologist consult, dentist, high contrast CT, ENT surgical consult, radiologist consult, oncologist consult, radiologist planning meeting, initial swallow study and an advanced swallow study scheduled for next week. As I looked at my calendar, I also saw multiple training sessions, many Zoom calls (both personal and work), a haircut, two other doctor’s appointments, an oil change and a visit to CNU to take my daughter back to school. Oh and I was working full time. Looking at this, no wonder I am tired!
If it sounds like I am complaining, I assure you I am not. Would you believe I feel blessed? I got some advice from a friend who had a similar cancer and went through the exact treatment I am facing. One of the many things I took from that conversation is confirmation in my plan to keep my life as normal as I possibly can. He worked every day during treatments and recovery. While UNOS is showing more compassion & flexibility than I could ever ask for, my plan is to stay as busy as I can. If I am focused on other things and other people, the likelihood to dwell on the terrible possibilities of my diagnosis is relatively small. It’s been a month since I was told I have cancer and I feel like I have stayed mostly positive. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my share of negative moments of fear, frustration & worry. Recently, I felt like if I had to schedule one more doctor’s appointment, I was going to lose it. I can’t help but think if my life had been quiet, calm and boring that I would be a complete wreck about what is coming for me and all the possible outcomes.
There are other factors to being relatively calm and positive at this moment besides my hectic schedule. You for instance. The collective “you” that are reading this blog and reaching out to me. It means so much. I am continually touched by unexpected messages from both my best friends and people that I haven’t talked to in years. That re-connection has been one of the best things about this process.
It’s weird to say that right? “One of the best things about having cancer is…” But I believe you have to search for the silver linings when you are going through a storm. In my experience, they are not always easy to find but they are always there.
My default silver lining is humor. Let’s face it, there is some humor in almost anything if you look for it. I have laughed in some pretty inappropriate settings: during an exam, during a church service, in a funeral home and most recently, doctor’s offices.
The best example of this is when I was riding to my first radiologist consult with Kelly and Jillian. I was telling them that the night before, I had been sent a notification from my primary care doctor’s patient portal and I wondered if it was the results of my recent PET CT. At that point, I knew I had cancer but I didn’t know how far it had spread. We were hopeful the radiologist would be telling me at that appointment. Instead of waiting, I pulled up the portal on my phone and began reading the results complete with my own opinion on what it meant. I might work for the place that runs the solid organ transplant waiting list but I am not a medical professional. I do not know medical terms and language. After much laughter about my pronunciation, I was able to accurately decipher that the cancer did not appear to be anywhere but my left tonsil area but I had also incorrectly diagnosed myself with a hernia and “old man back”. I am also still convinced that the technician called me fat using very fancy medical language. When the radiologist confirmed the good news I said, “That’s what I thought too when I read it but I have some questions.” The look on his face was pretty priceless.
I don’t want this disease. I wish it would magically disappear and I wouldn’t have to go through treatment. But I can honestly tell you that there are blessings. One I haven’t mentioned is probably the most important: it has given me a chance to get back closer to God. Now, if you look at my life, you’ll see church: regular attendee, youth teacher, praise team drummer, deacon. I’ve shared some scripture here and on social media. On the surface, it would appear that I find following God easy. As Justin, the youth pastor at my church and a close friend tells the youth all the time, the message of God is simple: Love God, Love Others. I can tell you as someone that rediscovered my faith about twenty years ago, I still find executing both of those simple tasks to be difficult. I am human. I get angry. I judge people for doing things that I see as foolish. I am selfish and although my default setting is pleasant, if you are rude to me or someone I care about, or if you slight or ignore me, I will give it right back to you. Nothing can refocus you on things spiritual like being reminded that you will die one day and that day is probably closer than you think. Kinda scary but true. Before the diagnosis, I was feeling generally frustrated with life. I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be in my career, my home wasn’t where I needed it to be, I had too many things to do and not enough time and energy to get them done. This led to me getting frustrated and complaining about any little thing that did not go my way. Whether it was traffic, an email, something else breaking that needed to be fixed or just generally having one more person wanting something from me, it would set me off. Always in my head and sometimes aloud to friends and family, I would complain about things being unfair or other people not doing the right things. I’m not saying I don’t think or feel those things anymore. But they are decidedly less. Why? Why now that I have cancer and I have to effectively run my team and household while dealing with treatments, do I have a better outlook on life? The simple answer is God. People are praying for me. I had a friend leave me a voicemail the other day to tell me that her co-workers had spent time praying for me (Thanks Kassie!) I know some people will think I am crazy but I can feel that. I am much better about starting my day with a devotional. People are sending me verses, YouTube sermons and general well wishes. People are going out of their way to let me know they care for me and are thinking of me. All of this leads me to focus on how much God and my people love me and it makes me want to pass that along to other people. The simple truth of my life is the closer I am to God, the better human being I am to others.
So I am tired but it’s a good tired as long as I stay focused on the right things.
Philippians 4:5–8: let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.