i’ve never been the biggest fan of the spoon theory when it comes to something like chronic illness. as someone who’s been in the grips of chronic illness for a very long time, it never sat right. (spoon theory details here) but radiation is the first time i’ve felt it – far more so with chemo. the exhaustion is very different from a few days feeling spaced out.
radiation feels like an intense balancing act. radiation takes almost all of my days worth of spoons in one foul swoop. and due to it, there’s a cascade effect. eat breakfast at home – preparing food, planning – takes more energy than eating out. but eating out is still tiring. getting up early takes a stack. if i don’t have a nap, i feel rotten, but if i do, i also feel rotten and slightly hung over. the chemo pills drain me and make me feel tired and slow. the weekend gives me a few extras for the week which quickly get used up. read a book? one down. do craft? a stack more, but i feel happier, so i gain one. do some writing, a few, gain a few, does it equal out? it’s a complicated equation and i am trying to get the mix right.
and of course, the consequences of not having the radiation, and not taking the chemo pills, are severe. the radiation won’t save me, but it will massively reduce the risks of the return of cancer to my pelvic region – which is a huge risk with cancers in the pelvic area. so, essentially, it could save my bladder, or uterus, or other chunks of my digestive system.
i just feel like i’m half a person at the moment. i try and take inspiration from the cats, who sleep all day and still seem to enjoy life. it is hard, because i know the surgery is coming up, and i can’t just enjoy what might be my last weeks, my last month, because i am too tired. but i need, need, need the radiation now, and going off the chemo pills risks my cancer growing. i trade energy for life extension. i think this is why, long term, they talk about getting sick of, or choosing to cease treatment. the time you have is completely dominated by illness. your organs are points around which you conceptualise your worldview. my liver is here, my rectum is there, those spots litter my lungs, splattered around, possible scars, more likely droplets of cancer. no matter how many times i remind myself that the mortality rate of the surgery – though lower by far than what i thought it would be, is still pretty high – still stacks odds in my favour at 85-90% survival, i am scared the dice roll is going to be nasty. the chances of me getting rectal cancer at my age are so, so small. the chances of it manifesting how it has? insanely small. chances of me responding so well to chemo? pretty small too. this time, with the surgery, we hope for a bit of ordinary. my recovery can be remarkable, but that’s it.
the other thing i’ve been thinking a lot about is closure. that’s a pretty common thing for people with life-threatening/terminal illnesses do – go back, retrace steps, and closing doors on parts of the past. cleaning up, i guess.