Side Effects

Today I met Karen, a fellow patient who had just received her last radiation treatment. She was a pretty girl and didn’t appear to be very tall as she sat in her wheelchair. She wore a scarf on her head and had the sweetest childlike voice. We started chatting about our treatment and side effects; this was Karen’s first time around getting radiation. When she learned that this was my second time getting radiation treatments, she wanted to know what my previous experience was like in terms of the fatigue.

Karen told me that she has her 80 year old mother come over to her house to take care of her because Karen is so weak. For Karen, just walking to her mailbox is too physically demanding for her so her mother gets the mail for her. Her mother also helped her to get a wheelchair and helps her in and out of it.

My heart just broke for Karen and her mom. I can only imagine the helplessness and fear that they both must be feeling. When my Mom was still alive, my biggest fear was that I would either be too sick to take care of her or pass away and not be here for her at all.

When you’re living in a “cancer bubble”; you just eat, sleep and breath cancer. You go for treatments and sometimes learn about the cancer journeys of the other patients. Sometimes, your story is worse than theirs and other times, you are grateful to only be dealing with the hand that you were dealt. It is a sobering reality that forces you to face the fragility of life itself.

While Karen is fortunate to have completed her treatment, I still have 18 rounds of radiation to go and the radiation fatigue is kicking in big time. I am so tired; I sleep but I awake feeling unrested. I sometimes feel like a zombie as I operate on auto pilot throughout the day. In fact, I’m so fatigued that when I made my oatmeal, I added a tablespoon of canned dog food without even realizing it! I have to admit it was bit of a different flavor that I’ve never quite experienced before and I really didn’t care for the texture. Hopefully, I will be a little bit more alert the next time that I make it!

In addition to the fatigue, I’ve lost a lot of weight and am having a hard time trying to gain it back. I needed to buy pants and actually had to buy boy’s jeans because the women’s were too stretchy and too big.

Here is a little piece of advice to anyone who has ever said to a cancer patient, I wish I had your problem of losing weight…….DON’T say it!!!! Nobody wants to lose a lot of weight unintentionally and not be able to gain it back or have to buy boys jeans because the women’s jeans no longer fit. I’m only 5’2 so I don’t look emaciated but I do want to gain and maintain weight to stay healthy and prevent that from happening.

To help me gain weight, I am raising my caloric intake by eating more healthy foods that are high in calories like peanut butter, nuts and avocados.

Despite it’s nutritional and caloric value, I have decided to take canned dog food out of my diet!

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