Ob­ser­va­tions

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - BRIAN BLUM

‘Let’s plan a party,” my wife, Jody, said as we left the hospi­tal fol­low­ing my sixth and fi­nal round of chemo­ther­apy. “To cel­e­brate – and to thank all the peo­ple who helped along the way.”

I nod­ded ten­ta­tively. I was still weary from a long day with an IV in my arm and the thou­sand or so milliliters of chem­i­cals that were now con­duct­ing a pro­tracted ar­gu­ment with the white cells in my blood­stream, but I was buoyed by think­ing about the day-af­ter-to­mor­row.

“Then how about plan­ning some trips away?” Jody con­tin­ued. “Where would you like to go?”

I didn’t want to be the prover­bial party pooper, but I felt com­pelled to re­mind Jody that I’m not out of the woods yet; that this is a chronic cancer and even though I’m thank­fully now in re­mis­sion, to en­sure the best out­come I still have two full years of ev­ery-other-month im­munother­apy treat­ments.

Be­sides which, where could we go? Are ex­otic des­ti­na­tions off lim­its while I’m still im­muno-com­pro­mised? What about the cost of travel in­sur­ance – will it be pro­hib­i­tive?

“We don’t have to go over­seas,” Jody per­sisted, keep­ing up the fes­tive mood. “Didn’t you al­ways want to go to that bou­tique ho­tel near Safed? Or the one in Mitzpe Ra­mon, with the pri­vate pools and the un­ob­structed view over the crater?”

My eyes bright­ened as I felt my­self start­ing to get into this plan­ning thing.

“Maybe by next year you’ll be ready for a trip abroad. We could do one with the whole fam­ily, like we used to,” Jody con­tin­ued. “Didn’t you want to go trekking in Slove­nia?”

As I pre­pared for sleep that night, my head over­flowed with ad­ven­tures; vi­sions of hik­ing up water­falls, over­look­ing ma­jes­tic peaks – a well-de­served re­ward for trudg­ing through this gru­el­ing year with as much grace as I have mus­tered.

Over the course of the fol­low­ing weeks, I had the usual post-chemo blues; the stan­dard aches and pains and brain fog, but as with the pre­vi­ous rounds, it started to abate as I passed week three.

Then, bam, mid­way through week four, it all came crash­ing down.

A deep fa­tigue de­scended around me, one un­like any I’d ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the chemo it­self. Climb­ing the stairs to our third­floor apart­ment, I found my­self out of breath, gasp­ing for air. My bones burned like I’d plugged my L-5 lum­bar ver­te­brae into an elec­tri­cal out­let.

I Whats App’d my doc­tor im­me­di­ately.

“Is this nor­mal?” I typed, hop­ing my fin­gers wouldn’t tire out be­fore I was done.

My doc­tor re­sponded that she’s had other pa­tients who, like me, got hit by stronger symp­toms a month af­ter chemo was done. It’s un­usual, but will most prob­a­bly re­solve it­self on its own, she said con­fi­dently.

But the sub­se­quent days got worse, not bet­ter. Not bot­tom-ofthe-bar­rel aw­ful, but enough to make a mock­ery of all that plan­ning.

We had got­ten overly op­ti­mistic when I needed to be more go-with-the-flow.

“Chemo is cu­mu­la­tive,” one of my fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma bud­dies on Face­book com­forted me. “Your body has taken a beat­ing. It needs time to heal.”

But I wasn’t do­ing a very good job of ac­cept­ing the sit­u­a­tion. My post-chemo eyes cov­eted all the cake, not just a piece of fleet­ing choco­late nor­malcy.

“Oof, I just want this to be over,” I com­plained to my ther­a­pist in our weekly ses­sion. “I’m ready to be bet­ter al­ready.”

“Let’s re­view the last six months,” my ther­a­pist said. “Has it been so bad?”

“What are you get­ting at?” I snapped, my de­fenses cack­ling. “I mean, did your cancer keep you from spend­ing time with your fam­ily?”

“Well… no.”

“Did you blow off any so­cial events? Not see friends? Have to skip a lec­ture or class?”

“Just a few.”

“Did you miss any dead­lines at work?”

“Nope.”

“Were you able to con­tinue ex­er­cis­ing?”

“Mostly.”

“Did you get to Tel Aviv to see your son in that Big Band con­cert over the sum­mer?”

“Uh-huh.”

“The point is that, yes, cancer sucks. You don’t feel good a lot of the time – that’s nat­u­ral. There are un­ex­pected ups and downs – also par for the course – but lis­ten­ing to what you’ve just told me, I’d say that your ex­pe­ri­ence has pretty much been a net pos­i­tive. Not ev­ery­one with cancer can keep up such a busy sched­ule!”

In­deed, if I take the 10,000-foot per­spec­tive, my for­est is look­ing healthy over­all – even if some of the trees need ex­tra care. It was more the ex­cite­ment around plan­ning, the pre­sump­tion that I’d feel bet­ter im­me­di­ately, that had been cloud­ing my view.

“Maybe don’t think about what you’ll be do­ing a year in ad­vance,” my ther­a­pist sug­gested. “Take it more day by day.”

Which is what Jody and I did when we were in­vited to a wed­ding. It was for the daugh­ter of good friends and we re­ally wanted to at­tend. We ini­tially RSVP’d yes.

But the week be­fore the cel­e­bra­tion, I was still in my down phase. “I don’t think I have the en­ergy,” I said and Jody called to in­form our friends that we re­gret­fully wouldn’t be able to make it.

The day of the wed­ding, though, I was feel­ing a lit­tle bet­ter. We mon­i­tored my health to make sure this was no morn­ing fluke un­til fi­nally, at 5 p.m. – the very last pos­si­ble mo­ment – we de­cided to go.

We ar­rived just in time for the hup­pah, to the de­light of the bride and her par­ents.

Spon­tane­ity, it seems, can some­times be the best plan of all.

The writer’s book, To­taled: The Bil­lion-Dol­lar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World, is avail­able on Ama­zon and other on­line book­sell­ers. bri­an­blum.com

In­deed, if I take the 10,000-foot per­spec­tive, my for­est is look­ing healthy over­all – even if some of the trees need ex­tra care

(TNS)

‘A DEEP fa­tigue de­scended around me, one un­like any I’d ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the chemo it­self.’

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