Yesterday afternoon and evening were comparatively good stretches. The last bag of chemo went empty with little fanfare. No marching bands were to be seen on the transplant ward. But I felt almost ready to join one. I had plenty of energy and even felt about 80% of my normal self all evening. I slept a very long time last night, but come this morning I experienced the familiar feeling of not being able to get started. The nurses woke me at 7am to hook me up to an IV of antibiotics. After the IV, I was requested to shower while my bed was changed. It was in a heavy morning fog that I went into the shower. I know people for whom that is usual, but it never has been for me, and I found it disconcerting. Breakfast was delivered and I could hardly face it. I forced down the yogurt, juice, and kiwi, but wasted the rolls, cheese, and ham. What I get at mealtime seems to overlap about 75% with what I order. There’s always an element of surprise involved!
After breakfast the nurse always cleans the valves on my tubes. Today that meant I could lie back down, which was welcome. Nausea seemed to be visiting me, really for the first time. And it was a pretty dispiriting feeling. Because the IV tube goes in at my neck, the four tubes that it divides into hang high on my shoulders. I can’t see very well what she does, but she seems to be attending a bit to the dressing, whipping things down, and checking for blockages. She’s talkative, and I like her. Recently she moved to this transplant clinic from another one so that she could move in with her boyfriend. They are remodeling his grandma’s old house together. I started to drift a bit through the story. When finished, she declared that I had about 20 mins before she would hook me up to a bag full of rabbit anti-bodies.
So, with a huge heave and a tremendous act of will I mounted the stationary bicycle. It was the last thing I felt like doing really. But I have been scared by nurses’ stories—they are so devious—of people who nearly waste away in here after 5 to 6 weeks of doing nothing. A sport consultant also came by yesterday and stressed the importance of keeping active. I got 16 mins of riding in before the nurse came back with bag to connect me to. I was managing to ride, but not having any fun. I had dropped my Ipod to the floor, and lest I get deadly germs, I left it there, riding in silence against the tremendous headwind of chemo and to little voices in my head calling me back to bed. I was glad to quit when the nurse came back in. I hadn’t lost, but I also hadn’t won. I resolved that I’d finish up the riding and hit the dumbbells later on today.
After she hooked me up to the rabbit anti-bodies, I laid back down again. I drifted in bed until lunch. The meal consisted of was some sort of white fish and boiled potatoes with white sauce and a side of zucchini brought delicately to the consistency of jarred baby food. I ate it with surprising enthusiasm. And my energy has subsequently come back as well.
The energy ebbs and flows are frustrating. I’ve learned to act when I can, and simply to wait it out when I can’t do much of anything else. Will it be like this after the transplant on Thursday, or am I in for something completely different? I suspect the latter. The nurses tell me that everyone reacts differently. With the mission of destruction over, it will be the beginning of the critical rebuilding mission. I don’t know how long the chemo and rabbit anti-bodies linger, but I imagine my travails will be very different, waiting and hoping for the successful re-building an immune system that will protect me—waiting for my cure.