Not many people have seen me in the past two or three weeks. If you had, you'd probably say, "Derek doesn't look so good." And you'd be right. After the high point of my living wake early in March, I took a turn downhill.
Soon enough, I found it difficult to get myself out of the house for such simple tasks as walking our dog Lucy. Right now I don't have the strength to do even that, and I don't feel comfortable driving anymore either. Going out for dinner with the family, or friends? Out of the question.
A drag of a morning
Here, for example, was how a series of simple tasks went this morning. I dragged myself out of bed (a pure mind-over-matter exercise against my body), put on my bathrobe and slippers, and had Lucy come with me. I opened our back door so she could go out in the yard, and I followed her. Half-way down the back steps I had to sit down on the stairs: I didn't have the energy to get all the way down to the back yard in one go.
A few minutes later I managed it, walking down the rest of the steps and into the yard, and sat on our lawn chair while Lucy ran around and did her usual doggy business. Ten minutes later it was time to go back inside. I propped the chair up again the wall of the house and walked, very slowly, back around the side of the house, up the stairs, and into the kitchen. Where I promptly had to sit down again on the first chair I could grab.
I had planned to make myself a bowl of corn flakes, but such a simple task seemed daunting. Instead I went to lie down in bed for 15 minutes to recover, after which I was able to prepare the cereal—but before I was able to eat it, I puked in the sink. Afterwards, the cereal went down fine, and I followed it with a Ritalin, which I hoped might push me into the realm of "not completely exhausted" later in the day.
A slightly better afternoon
Sitting up in bed, I browsed a few websites and listened to CBC Radio. At some point I nodded off for half an hour while my wife and kids were out looking for paint colours for the kitchen. But I did wake up feeling perkier. Right now I'm on the back porch typing this in the vaguely-warm spring sunshine, with the dog once again snuffling about. I feel like a tired but functional version of myself, rather than the depleted and worn-out lump I did this morning.
I saw my family doctor yesterday, and he told me that is the pattern for cancer patients: the two major debilitating symptoms are pain and fatigue, and my pain is under reasonable control. He encouraged me to move around as much as I can—which is what I was trying to do during my sit-on-the-stairs experience today—and to keep my mind active. At my lowest, sometimes that in itself can be difficult.
I wonder how long it will be before I can no longer walk unassisted? Before I can't make a sandwich? Before I'm pretty much bedridden? No one knows the answers, not my doctors, not me, but the time will come. That's scary.