Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The view from No Man's Land

See, here's the problem.

You get through the chemotherapy, FINALLY, AT LAST. You mark off that last treatment on the calendar, and then you draw a line through each day of the 21-day cycle until you figure it's really over now.

But you still don't feel better. Not really.

Gradually, as the days go by and the longed-for normality refuses to return, you become aware that the poisons that have hopefully seen off the Freeloader's little mates have done some serious damage to your body. Damage that's not going away any time soon.

Your joints still ache. Your fingertips are still numb, and so are the soles of your feet; sometimes it keeps you awake at night. Your scarred armpit pulls and tingles and aches, and you don't know if it's just the chemo messing with your senses, or if the nerves are regrowing at last, or if it's because the infection's returning.

You try to get back to eating real food, instead of flavoured milk and soup and mush. You try to eat some real meat, real fresh vegies with texture and crunch, and your gums are still screaming blue murder afterwards. You try to eat some slightly spicy food, and lie awake all night in agonies of indigestion.

You can't put up with it a moment longer. You go back on the tablets that line your stomach. You feel crushed by that; it's like you lost a battle. You were so looking forward to not having any tablets to take. All you want is to feel normal for a few weeks, before they nuke you.

But normal is a million miles away still. You realise, eventually, that you're damaged; you come to see that you need some sort of recovery programme to try to heal your body.

But suddenly there's nobody there to guide you. You're in No Man's Land, that lonely exposed place between the bottomless trench of chemo and the spattering gunfire of radiotherapy. Nobody is telling you how to deal with this. There's no protocol.

Maybe you should be trying some dietary supplements, or natural therapies- maybe making some lifestyle changes. But you're nervous of doing the wrong thing and counteracting the treatment, or doing too much too soon. You don't want to get engulfed by the gazillion and one bat-shit crazy cancer-curing foods and therapies that pepper your Facebook feed. You wish you'd thought to ask your oncologist about how to proceed at that last appointment, but you were so rapt to be through the chemo that it didn't even cross your mind.

Nor his.

Does it ever cross the oncologist's mind, I wonder, that the patient might need some help recovering from being poisoned?

Nah, didn't think so.


Yet again, it's Dr Rosie to the rescue.

Yes, the iron tablets that Jimmy the Paramedic gave you are a good idea; your last blood test showed you were significantly anaemic. That's probably where your mojo went, the reason you just can't get your head around exercise after all those months of getting on the bike every morning like it was a religion. Your red blood cells are shot to pieces. You're the walking dead.

Yes, you need to be eating good fresh food with lots of vegies; but try not to push the poor digestive system too far too fast. It's had a hell of a horror ride. It'll take some time to recover. Make some vegetable soups...

Soups? screams Ferdinand. Soups? If I even SEE another bowl of soup I'll barf. She's thrown soup at me for five months.

They were thick soups, right? Right. So you just make some broths instead, with chopped vegies in them.

Turkey broth, Ferdi. What about some nice fresh turkey broth?

Hmm... maybe.

You've been poisoned, you see. You can't expect your body to just bounce back. You have to give it time. Rest, and try not to push yourself too hard. Small steps.


But of course, you don't want to take small steps. You want to be better, NOW. You want to get out of No Man's Land before you get shot down again.

Small steps.

You get down on your knees and crawl.

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