Just a few days after my 50th birthday, I realized the following: (1) I was still in a lot of pain, despite taking more drugs (2) I was bored and wanted something to do (3) I was exhausted, so taking naps became a favorite way to “kill” time and (4) I still wasn’t sure if I would be returning to work, any kind of actual work.
The pain was still at a high level despite my medications and the involvement of a pain specialist. That feeling of having a “rock” sitting in my chest was ever present. When I took a breath, it was still difficult to feel like I had taken in a full breath. The left chest area, just underneath my breast, did not necessarily feel any different to the touch. But internally, I could tell the difference. The heaviness made simple breathing almost unbearable. The only relief was sleep, and now that I had a hospital bed that could elevate my head to any level needed, I did find some comfort. Sleep gave me the only true pain relief of the day or night.
Being bored out of my mind was another daily issue. Since I was still at home (living in a small three bedroom apartment on the second floor) there was not much I could do. If I wanted to go outside on my own, the only option was the balcony. There, I could sit down and look out over the lovely lake ... viewing the fountain and the endless array of fish, turtles and birds. This was my personal place of solitude. I often turned to this location when I was lonely or sad. It uplifted me to see the turtles resting on the side of the lake. Or, I could see the fish swimming back and forth -- waiting for someone to toss in a breadcrumb. I often grabbed a loaf of bread and spent time tossing pieces into the lake or lakeside -- watching the birds fly in for a piece, the fish fighting over a small slice in the water or the turtles making their way to a breadcrumb, moving quickly in the water or slowly across the grass. I enjoyed these moments of quiet. It was peaceful and I savored these hours of personal reflection.
Adrienne was starting college soon, so she needed some clothing and supplies. She took me to the local mall to do some shopping. This got me out for a few hours. My only other regular outing each week was to visit the physical therapist, not exactly a fun-filled activity. (It was a necessity although at times, it added to my pain.) The therapist was also concerned about my breathing problems and noted that she would be suggesting respiratory therapy, if the problems continued.
When I was able to get out for a meal (lunch or dinner) that, too, was precious time for me. Eating out was always a favorite family activity, so as difficult as it was to accomplish, Edward certainly made the effort to make it happen as often as possible. (Physically getting me out and down the stairs plus the financial challenges of just having enough spare money to eat out made this difficult.)
I was now on chemo #10. It was August 23, 2002. I was still exhausted and nausea was still a common problem. There were good days; there were bad days. This was one of the “not so good days.” If a small problem occurred, my mind blew it out of proportion. It was suddenly a major crisis. It didn’t matter what it was or who was responsible, I would become highly agitated... my blood pressure would rise. I would be all upset and if asked how I felt, my loud, shouting response would be, “I feel like shit!” I got all shaky and out of control. It was extremely common now for me to be upset over the slightest issue ... tears came streaming down my cheeks on a regular basis. With little or no provocation, I was angry and frustrated. My son and daughter saw a side of my personality that, quite honestly, even scared me. I often wondered if they understood what I was thinking or how I was feeling.
While it may have felt good to get these bursts of anger out, I was not sure if it was healthy or not. I was sleeping later and later each day, and even then, still suffering from fatigue. Taking life one day at a time was the only solution for now.