Fatigue, Random Pains, and Chemo Brain

A friend and mentor emailed me yesterday because my blog had been silent since Tuesday, and he was wondering if everything was okay. Yes, I am still alive and kickin', but the only two things I've really been able to do for the last few days are eat and sleep... and even those have been hard.

Let me explain.

I undergo chemotherapy once every 21 days (next one is June 15th) and within that time period there is a reduction in my bone marrow's production of red blood cells, immune cells, and platelets. If you were to graph it, the result would be an upside down bell-curve, with my counts returning to normal by Day 21. I'm not going to attempt to write about why/how this all works, because I still don't quite understand it (maybe Brian can do a little piece in the comments section), but ultimately low blood counts = fatigue, thin blood, and zero immunity. The latter two I will talk about in another blog post, but today I want to focus on fatigue.

Yesterday morning I woke up and had breakfast. After breakfast I had a nap, and when I woke up again, it was lunch time. I ate a grilled cheese sandwich, and by the time I had washed the dishes I was ready for another nap. My eyes opened again in the mid afternoon and I decided that it would probably be a good idea to go for a walk. Apparently the 3 km trail around Cedar Hill Golf Course was too ambitious, because when I got home I needed another nap. It was really hard to drag myself off the couch for a staff dinner downtown at 7:00, but I forced myself to go because I've been missing all my coworkers. By 9:00 I was done for the day, so I headed home and slept all night again. While this might sound like a pretty nice, lazy-sort-of-day, it wasn't. Even trying to sit up straight at the computer right now is difficult, and composing sentences is a chore.

I've been finding it hard to find words to describe the fatigue, but two appropriate choices would be "distressing" and "persistent." It's a sense of tiredness and exhaustion that is in no way proportional to my activity level. It is an ongoing lack of energy; a type of weakness or inertia that I feel throughout my whole body all the time. I slept for close to 10 hours last night, yet this morning I feel as if I have not shut my eyes in a week. Most of you will probably understand how much of a life change this is for me.

Along with the fatigue, there are the random pains. They don't seem to be caused by anything in particular, and I cannot pinpoint exactly where they are originating from, but they could be best described as aches that manifest themselves in various parts of my body (including my head) regularly throughout the day. I don't notice them as much when I'm distracted or moving around, but when I lie down to rest they really bother me.

Update for Sunday, June 3: The fatigue has subsided a little bit today, however; the aches I mentioned have increased in intensity, to the point of where they are making me absolutely miserable. Tylenol does not help, nor does keeping myself occupied.

The last ailment I want to mention is what the nurses call "Chemo Brain". While it is probably impossible to quantify, Chemo Brain is definitely a "thing." For me, it means having trouble keeping track of what I am saying, not being able to find the right words, forgetting what I came into a room for, etc. I phoned my dad the other day with a very specific question in mind, but after it rang three times I didn't remember why I was calling. Kaitlin likes to call this "Boy Brain" (ha... ha... ha...) but joking aside, this is quite a bit worse. I just feel... confused. Maybe it's a preview of senility? Chemo Brain, combined with the fatigue, has turned me into a walking zombie of sorts. During the last few days I have almost felt like I have been separated from my body; I can see myself doing things and hear myself talking, but it doesn't seem like me doing it, and none of it makes any sense.

That's all for now. The sun is peeking out from behind the clouds, and it looks like it might be a nice weekend here in Victoria. I have a wonderful life, and even though my body is going through a rough patch, it's aaaaaaaaaaaaall good. Hey -- The first person to name the book I'm referencing there, wins a prize!

Time for a nap...


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