Cancer Fatigue

No, that’s not just when you’re tired of hearing about it, or when you’re tired of having it––It’s being tired because you have it.

Well, the oncologists and the nurses did mention that cancer is tiring and I could expect it to hit me. I came back from Spain buoyed up by the good time I’d had with old friends and new. I could walk farther than I had in years. I did have a few moments now and then when I sagged so visibly that whoever was closest would ask if I were okay. But I managed not to collapse. So I figured after I came home, I’d just slide back into my exercise routine for the next two weeks before carrying myself off to the worldcon in Spokane.

And then wham! It’s a different sledgehammer than chemo fatigue but it’s a sledgehammer. It was almost like cancer ambushed me just to remind me it’s still here.

One of the stages of grief is bargaining and I guess that’s where I am. I realised I’ve been proceeding as if my working hard on improving my physical condition, getting back into shape, and acting like I don’t have anything wrong with me will drive the cancer away. Hell, if my blood pressure, heart-rate, BMI, weight, and general physical condition are all in the healthy range, then how could I possibly have cancer?

Yes, yes, I know––people in peak physical condition get cancer all the time. I know that intellectually. I also know you can’t cure cancer by working out. (If you don’t know this, or you don’t want to believe it, you can either do the research or just take my word for it; just don’t argue with me, I’m too tired.) I also know, because my no-nonsense oncologist explained it to me, that I can’t expect to be cured or to go into remission. The best I can hope for is that treatment will keep the cancer stabilised at a low level and prevent it from growing and spreading for a while; probably not a long while but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

I know this. I’ve said it before, many times. I’ve explained it to friends who have mistakenly thought I’m in remission because I don’t look or act sick. I know exactly what’s going on, what to expect, and what not to expect. And still I’m trying to make secret deals with the universe: If I lose 10-12kg over the next 6 months…if I build up my endurance…if I exercise at least four days out of seven and build up to five…then could I please not have cancer?

Even admitting what I’m doing doesn’t stop it, maybe because bargaining with the universe involves a certain amount of denial. And anger––cancer patients are angry, even when they don’t show it.

Well, what the hell. There’s no downside to being in good physical condition. Or even just better physical condition. I’ll still get hit with the cancer fatigue sledgehammer. But when I’m not tired, I’ll be unstoppable…and despite all evidence to the contrary, still trying to make a deal.

This, too, is part of the cancer experience. Cancer, cancer fatigue, and cancer neurosis.

Fuck it. It’s cancer––give yourself a medal just for showing up. Walk tall. Unless you have to lie down for three hours. Then lie down tall.