Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bon Courage

Just like anyone, I have good days and not-so-good days. Today has been a rough day. There’s just no way around it. I’m tired, I hurt, and I’m just feeling it all today…and in reality, I’m only at the beginning of this adventure. I’m not sure if it has something to do with moon phase, the change of seasons, or the coming end of the month when quite a few of the medical staff rotate to their next assignment. There were three student nurses training alongside regular RNs today attending me as well. So, the white coats and the nurses seem to have been fruitful and multiplied. Add to that my regular chemo was scheduled to start at 10:00 this morning, but as soon as the IV pump turned on, I knew something was wrong.
I could actually feel it inside my chest, which was odd.  It wasn’t uncomfortable, but I shouldn’t have felt anything at all. When I brought it to the attention of the staff they got me down to X-Ray and found that the PICC line had somehow turned upward toward my jugular vein instead of toward my heart as it should have. This isn’t entirely uncommon, but it’s not a good thing. It started to make sense as I did have a bit of a headache after my Tuesday night round and I could actually hear and feel the saline flush when the nurse disconnected the chemo for me to get x-rayed. That was a weird feeling. The not-so-good feeling was them putting a new PICC line in my other arm. There is some numbing in the area near where the incision is made for the catheter to be inserted, but it’s a bit painful as there’s a dilator that allows the actual catheter to be put into the vein. Several hours later, I still feel a bit achy from the procedure. And in just under an hour from now, I get the fourth bag of Cyterabine infused into me.
The doctors tell me about the side effects of chemotherapy in physiological terms, but when it comes to brain chemistry, I don’t really know and I haven’t researched it simply because there are always assertions on the Internet that will certainly support my or someone else’s suspicions or it may lead me down a rabbit trail to make what I’m thinking worse. The Internet is a great resource, but it’s also the hypochondriac’s playground as I’ve said and although I’m not prone to self-diagnosis, I’m looking for answers…and it looks like they’re going to have to come in the old one-day-at-a-time way. After all, there’s no sense in fretting over something I don’t know about. To quote the French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne, «Qui craint de souffrir, il souffre déjà de ce qu'il craint.» or “A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.” As for the here and now is certainly another matter.
The here and now is tempered by a few realistic things. A walk up and down the hallways and in particular today, a trip down through the tunnels. In a hospital, it’s not hard to find someone who is in the same boat as you (especially since there are so many navy veterans, even in this land-locked state!) and it’s just as easy to find someone who is in far worse condition and put things in perspective. And while the pain and the constant toll that cancer takes on your emotions makes it difficult to keep upbeat and positive, there’s something that I recognize I just can’t lose while walking through this figurative valley of the shadow of death. And that, quite simply, is hope.
Ironically, hope comes from giving it to others. It has come to me from those of you who have done extraordinarily small things as well as well as the things that I wouldn’t have imagined. It comes from sending words of encouragement as well as the Facebook postings, the jokes, the text messages, the things you may not consider at all, but matter a whole lot to me. In my wanderings today, I came across a little booklet in the convenience store tucked away in the tunnels near the cafeteria by a guy named Nick Vujicic (pronounced VOY-a-chich).  He’s not someone you’d very likely ever heard of before.  He’s not a famous guy, nor glamorous nor someone who wields political power. What he does though is wield influence in such a powerful way that it takes your breath away if you’ve ever seen him. You see, Nick Vujicic was born without limbs, yet offers the kind of hope that is inexplicable. He can go into a room and without even speaking the same language as his audience captivate and impart a feeling that doesn’t require the spoken word. He communicates hope…and while I recognize full well that I can’t always wear a smile, I have to keep hopeful deep down somewhere inside like Nick does.
I’ve found that the best way to foster generosity is to be generous; and naturally the best way to be hopeful is to offer it to someone who needs it. I suspect I’ll come across that person when I least expect it and in return find that I’ve been unwittingly bolstered myself. There’s no sense in being disingenuous about offering what you don’t have in order to somehow manipulate this intangible thing called hope, but to quote the guy with no arms or legs, “You may not control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond.
As difficult as it has been to face this long-term, painful disease called cancer with all the unknowns, I have to respond with courage, determination, and of course, hope. The French term, Bon Courage, that I entitled this post isn’t just for me, it’s for any of you who are going through it. Whatever it happens to be, bon courage! Dependinf on the context, bon courage translates to: good luck, hang in there, be of good cheer, be strong and courageous.
Sois bien, gardez fort, et beaucoup d’amour à vous tous…et bon courage!