As I wrote last week, I was sick with some sort of short-lived respiratory virus. Short-lived, but intense. I was sick sick sick. Sick enough that I missed work, which almost never happens. Sick enough that I ran triple-digit fevers that should have sent me to the ER, only I gambled that acetaminophen and sleep would knock them down. (I won that bet.)
Sick enough that it took me until well into this week, as I eased back into work, before I could discern between the remnants of the mystery virus and the perpetual sickness I carry with me. That moment came Wednesday of this week, when in a quiet spot I felt and thought, "Oh yeah, there It is."
"It" is what I have come to call a sickness I carry in me. We—my two oncologists, personal physician, Warren, and I—don't know exactly what It is or why It is omnipresent in my body. The most popular theory, and one I agree with, is It is what twelve and a half years of myeloma and lots of treatment, more or less nonstop for almost five years, looks like. It is not nausea nor exhaustion (which I also deal with on a daily basis). It is a blend of malaise and ill-feeling, waxing and waning throughout the day and night.
Whatever It is, It sucks. And as I age, and the myeloma continues, It takes a bigger toll on my day to day life.
With very few exceptions, lunches with friends or my husband are out. They take too much out of me, especially if I am working that day. I've given up the Mansfield rehearsals (but not the concerts) for the same reason. I put off many coffee dates, missing the camaraderie, but not having the reserves to focus on them. Besides my job (which is simultaneously grueling and stimulating this time of year), my only outside activities are Legal Clinic one night a month and Poetry Night two nights a month. I worry that I may have to cut back on the former at some point; I leave the latter early and come home both exhilarated and exhausted from the talk and the poetry.
Travel, especially longer distances, is becoming harder, thanks to It. (Hell, some days a walk in the neighborhood is a stretch.) That's why my kids are coming here this summer for a week instead of me flying out there.
Well-meaning people, and by that I mean almost everyone, tell me I look "great." People, people. One, I know what I look like and "great" is not the word. I look passable, but give me a break. I know It is taking a toll on all of my body, not just my face.
So what does this all mean? Frankly, not a whole lot. It is not going away. Neither is the cancer. I have learned that if I am deep into something—a mediation, a good book, writing, for example—I can shove It aside for a blessed hour or two. When I am sharing time with a friend or Warren, I can relegate It to the back row. Although It tracks me all night long, I am able to sleep most nights without It taking up the bed space. (I am only aware of It when I wake up in the middle of the night, and with luck I am soon back asleep.)
And I go on, because that's what we all do.
The past several months have been hard on our community and on my circle of friends and family. Yet we all go on. I have come to appreciate that simple reality: we all go on.
Here's to those who simply go on. You know who you are. And I am right there with you.