Note To Self: Don't do Job Interviews Six Days After Chemo

Today Kaitlin reminded me that I have a blog and that I should maybe write an update. Good thing I've been taking notes each day.

On Tuesday I woke up with a stinging in my mouth and throat that made it extremely difficult to eat, drink, talk, and swallow. As you know, chemotherapy is intended to kill rapidly growing cells, i.e., cancer cells, but many good cells in the human body also divide and grow rapidly, including the cells that line the inside of the mouth. Unfortunately these healthy cells are also damaged by chemotherapy, which makes it difficult for my mouth to heal itself and to fend off germs, which can lead to sores and infections. I ended up filling my prescription from the cancer agency for magic mouthwash, so I didn't get any sores and infections, but it didn't help with the pain. In my daily log I wrote "my mouth and throat are hurting so much today that they're all I can think about."

I went to the cancer agency on Tuesday too, and the nurse taught me how to do a subcutaneous injection, in other words "stab myself with a needle." Check out my post Chemo Round #2 for more on why I now have to do this. I don't really like needles so it was hard for me to actually stick myself with one the first time. As a matter of fact, I got it about half a centimeter into my stomach, and then pulled it right back out again while exclaiming "Ouch! Why doesn't it hurt this much when you give me needles?" The nurse laughed and informed me that I went too slowly. "You're going to have to commit! Just give 'er! Jab it in there nice and fast!" she said. I did, and it was fine. Each morning since then hasn't been a problem, and today was the last day of neupogen subcutaneous injections until my next round of chemo.

I don't remember what I did on Wednesday, but I wrote the following in my daily log: "Experiencing body aches and pains today. Felt crappy, tired, and head-achy all afternoon. Mouth still hurts to the point where I cry out in pain upon drinking, eating, or yawning. Also lots of muscular jaw/facial pain."

On Thursday morning I had an interview for the TOC list with the Greater Victoria School District. Well... I was supposed to. A lady from the human resources department had called me on Tuesday to schedule the interview and I accepted it partly because I wanted to maintain the optimism that I would actually be well enough to carry through, and partly because I had already been hired as a TOC by the Sooke School District for September, and thus, what did I have to lose? Yes, I realize I have bragged about this a lot already, but come-on, it's exciting for a recent graduate such as myself!

Thursday morning rolled around however, and I wondered if it was a mistake to accept the job interview, given the intense aching pain, confusion, and exhaustion I was experiencing, never mind my increasing inability to engage in complex thought processes. I tried to call to ask if I could reschedule, but I was unable to get through, and the end result was that I some how got it into my head that I should just go for it anyways. How bad could it be, right? Well... it turns out... pretty bad.

I was led into the interview room, and after the introductions, I mentioned that I had gone through chemotherapy less than a week ago. I explained that because of this I might need to have some questions repeated, and it might take me a bit longer to process and answer them, because the side effects of chemotherapy include confusion and difficulty with thought-processes. The two interviewers were very understanding, and with that, we began.

Interviewer: "Alright Christopher, so here is the first question. Tell us about a lesson you taught that went really well, and why it was so successful."
Christopher: "One of the best lessons that I've ever taught was the first lesson in a recorder unit during my practicum last year. I.... ummm... well... I remember that I was wondering how I was going to teach recorder to a bunch of rowdy kids in grade two and three, so I called up my old elementary music teacher to ask her what she would suggest. She gave me all sorts of tips and tricks and it was so neat to talk to her. She told me to introduce the concept of.... ummm... I forget... but... ummm... the lesson went well... ummm... I love teaching music and I'm pretty experienced in it... so the lesson was pretty good... but... ummm... what was the question again?"

I don't even think I was half that eloquent.

I could feel myself starting to blush, and realized that this was all a terrible mistake. I couldn't think properly. I couldn't put sentences together. I couldn't remember the question. I couldn't understand what they were asking. I couldn't even look them in the eye. My mouth was so dry. What had happened to me!??

At this point, one of the interviewers looked up and gently said "Okay. Christopher. There's no way we are going to put you through this today. You shouldn't be here right now. When would be a good time to reschedule?"

I spent most of the rest of the day in a daze.

On Friday (yesterday) I felt a little less confused and my mouth hurt a little less, but the fatigue had really set in. I made a grocery list and went to Thrifty Foods, a mere one kilometer walk from my house. It took ten minutes to get there but once I had two loaded grocery bags it took 25 minutes to get home. Apparently I underestimated how weak my body is right now, as I had to keep sitting down on the side of the road to rest. When I got home I collapsed on the couch for half an hour. I managed to make muffins in the morning, and after napping for a couple hours and going for a walk in the afternoon, I made enchiladas for dinner.

Today I have been up and about, but my energy is sapped. I feel completely and indescribably exhausted, even just sitting on the couch typing this post. I am also starting to experience some very intense aching in my bones, mostly in my lower back. The nurse told me on Tuesday that this is a side-effect of the neupogen injections, and it means that my bone marrow is just working overtime to produce my white blood cells... so that's a good thing... but right now it feels awful.

I'm going to eat dinner now, and perhaps I will go for a short walk before an early bedtime tonight.

Thanks for reading,



One last thought before I sign off for tonight: I hope that I don't come across as pining for sympathy in these blog posts. I'm handling everything pretty well, I think, and the last thing I want is to sound like I'm saying "Look how much life sucks right now. Pay attention to meeeeeee." I haven't actually had anyone approach me with that sort of feedback, but I feel the need to mention it; I suppose as a method of maintaining my self-preservation and pride. The reason I describe my tribulations in such detail is so that hopefully I can remove some of the "mystery" of what it is like to fight cancer, because the impression I have gotten so far is that it is still an uncomfortable and unknown subject for many, many people.

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