Sunday, August 30, 2009

"So How Are You Doing?"

I still get the occasional e-mail asking something along the lines of "How are you doing?" or "How do you feel?". Although I'm tempted to simply direct my interrogator to this blog, I haven't done that, because I recognize that it must be difficult to piece together the big picture from these fragmentary blog posts, which tend to be narrowly focused. So, since I seem to have reached a state that is at least semi-stable, however precarious it seems to me, I will attempt in this post to provide an overview of the situation.

Daily life for me currently revolves around the chemotherapy and the physical therapy. After much trial and error, it appears to me that we have arrived at a set of supplementary drugs that together minimize at least the overtly undesirable side effects of the chemotherapy. The only side effect I really perceive these days is fatigue; I want to sleep more than eight hours overnight, and I want to take naps during the day, usually in mid-afternoon. I consider myself extremely fortunate not to suffer from any nausea or other digestive tract disturbances traditionally associated with chemotherapy. My appetite is pretty good, but not completely up to normal; I don't know whether to attribute this to the drugs or to the cancer itself.

I am still 25 pounds down from my original weight, and my legs still seem quite weak. Although I have begun working with a cane at home, I mostly still use the walker to get around, especially on any expeditions into the outside world. I do perceive that I am slowly gaining strength, thanks to doing as much walking as I can manage, combined with the other physical therapy exercises.
I have much better posture and foot placement when walking than when I began, but I still have some problems with balance, which some of the exercises are meant to address.

I try to do as many things as possible for myself. I dress, shower, shave, brush my teeth, etc. without assistance. I find these activities tiring, but progressively less so as I gain strength and stamina. I can climb up and down stairs, but require assistance if there are more than a couple of steps.
Bending down to pick up anything weighing more than a few pounds is still out of the question. I haven't tried driving yet, but I think my first attempts to do so will take place in a big, empty parking lot.

I am trying to find my way back to work. I have reestablished contact with my old team, and dial into the conference calls when my schedule allows. But at the moment there is still considerable head-scratching going on over how best to utilize someone in my situation.

I emerged from my first hospital stay with a certain amount of numbness and loss of control everywhere from the ribs on down. If my nervous system is routing around this damage by building new pathways then it certainly is taking its time about it. I have come to accept that I will probably have to live with considerable permanent neurological damage.

I do have some constant, low-grade pain, which is being held at bay with low-dose Oxycontin. This is the pain in the ribs on the left side that is the motivation for consulting the neurosurgeon this week.

OK, I'm about played out now, so it's time to end the blathering. I hope what I have written here serves to clarify matters in at least a few minds.

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