As I round chemo corner, half-way through my treatments, I’m running as fast as I can to stay slightly ahead of the side effects. Breathing hard and stumbling on weary legs, I keep seeing these beautiful women, half my size, just ahead of me, wearing their head-scarves, adjusting to life with cancer and I try to man-up and make it through another day.
Each day, I’ve found, is different. Each dawn brings new aches and pains and weariness unlike anything I have ever known. Having never been a napper, some days I can barely crawl back into bed and collapse into a chemically-induced sleep, for five hours or so.
My hair, of course, is almost gone. Wisps and sprigs of what once was a manicured lawn of floppy brown self-confidence now resembles a dying desert determined to take what little is left.
Food, one of my favorite things, has turned against me. Items that look and smell so wonderful, suddenly go sour and inedible in the short time it takes to travel from the fork to the mouth, where unpredictable taste buds reject everything that once my heart desired.
When food first betrayed me, I thought I might starve, save for grits and eggs and Jell-O, which is not a long-term diet plan. But taste comes and goes without warning, as tough a thing for caregivers who cook as it is for the patients who can’t explain the daily differences.
Trudging through chemo’s gauzy fog, I gain strength from the millions of cancer patients before me who make it look easy one day, then hide away the next when the battle raging inside them is unbearable.
It is all I can do to mimic their optimism, their smiles, and try to fall in line behind them as we round the next corner, enter the next valley, climb the next hill.
By: Ken Burger, former Post and Courier sports columnist and local author. Reach Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Ken Burger is writing a series of blog posts about his current treatment for prostate cancer. Missed the first post? Read Milestone Moments now.