Cancer Treatment Ends and Recovery Begins

Hi. This is what happened, on some levels, during the last week of my treatment and the three and a half weeks since.

The good news is they all say I’m doing great, except for the medical oncologist, the one in charge of the chemo. She pointed out that I’d lost weight, and that my white counts were low, so I need to do something about that. Well, I have been, gained a bit of weight since then. 

I mentioned that sort of “pilly” vibe to another of the doctors, and was advised that that was kind of par for the course, any #2 doctor on a team was going to tend to go strictly by the numbers. Generally only peers will argue.

When I was a chiropractor working in an office I encountered all sorts of fanciful invisible fences in the way we treated each other that I’ve mostly managed to avoid in most of my life.

Anyway, the last week of treatment and the week after were pretty draggy and uncomfortable, then it started to get better in fits and starts, with regressions, and that is still happening.

I lost 16 pounds. I’ve gained back 2. My white cells were depressed. My liver enzymes were elevated, some of them.

Plenty of people I saw and talked with some who are much worse off than me. I am immensely lucky. An ancestor would have just died. A few millimeters more central and I wouldn’t have been able to swallow. Etc.

So, after the general malaise began to lift there were three lingering symptoms: loss of taste, salivary glands don’t work right, fatigability. The radiation burned out some beard on one side of my face and not the other, the chemo had no hair effects, yet. Who cares, but that’s what happened.

Come to discover that, as one doc said, “almost everyone” gets dry mouth and loss of taste, no matter what kind of cancer they had, if they had radiation or chemo. The literature told me I “might” experience those things. Mild discrepancy. I had imagined I might avoid those things through my preparations, whatever they might have been, but no. Not likely, didn’t happen.

Turns out that chewing gum, for me, has been the ticket to get the salivary glands to work. When I chew they work, when I stop they go back to sleep. I still wake up dry mouthed. (I had that tooth extracted “to be on the safe side” and find myself chewing on the other side unless I deliberately chew on the extracted side. So there’s an imbalance. Have to do something about it some day.)

Taste has been gradually coming back. There is still no sweet. Come to find out that there are taste buds in other parts of the mouth besides the tongue. The situation is analogous to the black and white and color visual cells in the eyes. My tongue has basically conked out and maybe just beginning to come back, it’s actually a bit difficult to tell. Sweet is tasteless. Those other tastebuds under the tongue or wherever they are kind of briefly register some ghostly flavor before going back to sleep. Aside from that, everything tastes like unseasoned tofu.  Probably it’s better than that, three weeks on. But eating is still more of a job than a pleasure.

Just saying. Could have been a feeding tube. Extremely lucky.

The last week of treatment and the next week I took extra hours of naps like every day. There was a lot of staring into space, an associate labeled it “brain fog.” OK, I’ll take it. It was brain fog. That’s gotten better.

I started working significant consecutive hours about two weeks ago, and am nearing, oh, 80% of pre-treatment normal. So I’ll be fully caught up soon. Some of you will have waited an unreasonable amount of time for my response. I’ll apologize when I get to you.

This week has been eating more and more short sessions of more intense exercise. Ran a half mile twice this week. Walked 2 miles 3 times. And other stuff.

About “other stuff,” some of you know I’ve been yoga-y meditation-y for about 50 years now and martial arts-y for the last 13. I made some interesting “discoveries” during this, um, new period in my life. I really like it when I find a concept that when I tell other people they’ve never heard of it before, AND it makes perfect sense to them. Eventually in the past I’ve eventually found someone who had encountered the idea before I “found” it.

In this case it was the concept of organ massage by sound. How and why. I’m going to make a video about it. If a few of you ask me I’ll write it up as a blog post like this.

Otherwise, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this cancer treatment series of posts. If it was going to continue it would likely go toward the “this is what I’m doing in my health care” mode. Getting old is all about things breaking down and going wrong, what to do about it. When I wasn’t old I didn’t pay any attention to what old people were going through, it was their problem. They would have told me if I’d have asked. All of them have figured out how to deal with whatever they’re dealing with. Or maybe they haven’t, but they are still dealing with their stuff.

What do you think I should do?