By Valentine’s Day, I’ll have finished a month and a half of borrowed time. So far, so good, although the hormonal fatigue has come down on me like a 10-ton bag of wet cement.
You’d think fatigue would just be fatigue––i.e., you’re just too tired, end of story. But you’d be wrong. I seem to have become an expert as to the many different kinds of Fatigue.
Not Enough Sleep Fatigue: at one time, I could fix that with a pot of coffee but sadly, I can’t. I overdid it and now my esophagous suffers from chronic coffee irritation. The discomfort was so bad I actually gave up coffee for green tea. Then I discovered my problem was only with real coffee, the kind made from ground coffee beans. Instant coffee didn’t produce heartburn bad enough to make me vomit. I now drink instant coffee. There was a time when I’d have called me a Philistine. So I’m a Philistine; I can live with that. I have a secret for making instant coffee taste a whole lot better than it normally does. Still drink green tea; there’s a kind flavoured with pomegranate that’s as close to divine as tea gets. This is actually different from
Poor Sleep Fatigue: believe it or not, the quality of this fatigue really is different from Not Enough Sleep Fatigue, at least for me. Normally, I sleep like the dead––global thermonuclear war wouldn’t wake me. I’ve always been a deep sleeper, which has been enhanced over the last years by my evening anti-depressant medications. I was taking the hormone pills at night because I figured I’d sleep through the side effects. But apparently even I can’t sleep through night sweats. I would wake several times a night, usually because, having sweated and kicked off the covers, I was freezing. Then I was a zombie for most of the following day. Hoping my sleep would improve, I started taking the hormone pill first thing in the morning. Now I spend the better part of each day with the fan on but I’m sleeping all the way through the night, which has made a big difference in how much I can brain every day.
Depression Fatigue: I struggled with this one for years without realising what it was. At the last, before I gave in and tried medication, it was so bad that I could fall asleep at a long traffic light. Occasionally I had to force myself to stay awake in mid-sentence––my own. Later on, it would re-emerge when my medication needed tweaking. Some days I would wake up and realise that staying conscious was going to be a constant physical effort, and I shouldn’t sit it any rooms that weren’t brightly lit, or hold still for longer than ten seconds. It took years before my shrink and I finally found the meds cocktail that allows me to get out of my own way. (Some people handle depression without medication, some need the drugs, and of those, some need more drugs than others. If you need treatment, get it, and go with whatever works for you. Everybody’s different; one size does not fit all.)
Menopausal Fatigue (Ladies Only): If Hormone Replacement Therapy is contra-indicated for you because of a family history of breast- or gynaecological cancers, you’re just going to have to tough it out. I hope you have the support of friends and family. There are herbal and non-pharma alternatives to HRT too. One of my gps told me that Japanese women have so much soya in their diet, most of them breeze through menopause almost without even noticing. You can try over-the-counter soya supplements, along with things like black cohosh and evening primrose oil capsules. Or just say Fuck it and take a nap. By the time we get to menopause, we’re entitled to a little extra rest.
Chemo Fatigue: Being poisoned will wear you out. Rest as much as you can during the worst of it. Different people are affected to different degrees. I know one person who didn’t do things much differently during chemo than he did normally. Other people felt as if they’d been slammed by a cement truck. I felt like I’d been flattened by the anvil meant for Wiley Coyote.
Weird Exhaustion That Comes Out Of Nowhere Seemingly For No Reason: It’s a symptom. Go to the doctor for tests.
Hormone Fatigue: Please don’t make me get dressed. Please don’t make me think about getting dressed, it wears me out. If I can do it sitting down, I’ll do it but really, don’t make me get dressed. I’m serious. I don’t have the energy to get up and take clean underwear out of the drawer. Yes, the cat is in there but that’s not the problem. He’ll let me take anything I want. I just can’t stand up and walk into the next room right now. I’m going to the loo later. What day is it anyway? Already?
I Haven’t Written Enough Fatigue: Well, I haven’t. I’m working so hard and yet I’m not where I should be. It’s making me tired. (I bet I’m not the only one so afflicted.)
I know, reading about fatigue is what you want to do to get your blood flowing and make you feel like running a marathon, especially in February.
Personally, after declaring back in late November that every day would be Party Day, I thought I’d have a lot more zip, especially after completing my first full month of Borrowed Time. But no, I still have trouble finding enough energy for…well, anything. The 25th anniversary of when I quit smoking came and went. And now here we are, five days from Valentine’s Day, which is my last day to buy green bananas; it’s also one week before I need to get my blood test, and two weeks to the day before I check in with my oncologist. Which is giving me The Suspense Is Killing Me Fatigue.
28 February will also mark two months of Borrowed Time, aka Party Time. I’m not so exhausted that each day isn’t a life-savour, as well as a gift. As the old saying goes, that’s why they call it the present.
(What, too corny? I’d have said the same thing before I woke up in Cancerland.)
Actually, I want to stop calling it Borrowed Time and call it Reclaimed Time instead. Because really, it was mine to begin with. But I don’t feel quite steady enough on this shifting terrain to go that far. Yet.