Since October 23, I’ve been on a repetitive three-week schedule where this week should be chemo week. But since I finished my six scheduled cycles, I’m not starting a new one this week. I’m very pleased about that! But before I have a party to celebrate or even plan the next few months of my life, I have to see how a PET/CT scan I take on March 12 turns out. It will tell the tale as to whether the cancer is gone. I’ll either be done or head into phase II of cancer treatment. Between now and then, I’ll be in limbo-land.
In the meantime, I’ll start working in the yard gradually and taking short walks, and try to get some exercise. My muscles are almost non-existent and my endurance is totally non-existent. I have little energy even on a good day. What defines a good day is not that I have much energy, it’s that I have a lack of tiredness.
During limbo-land, I’ll also send out flyers announcing availability soon of Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known to all the places that carry my other books and see if anyone needs more of them. I have done practically no marketing of my books since September. And with the start of a new season, I should get going on that.
During this past cycle, it took longer to bounce back––10 days. The doctor had warned me that each cycle would be more difficult to come back. I had my black hole of six days where my gal Tres was here to help. That I had planned on. But the tiredness persisted for the next four days also. Since I didn’t expect it and did expect to accomplish stuff, I pushed through and got things done. It was difficult. This past Friday, February 20, the extreme tiredness left and I was so relieved.
Because of all the tiredness during the past two weeks, I slept a lot. That is true each time I enter my black hole. I usually get up about 7 a.m., sleep most of the afternoon, and go to bed early.
Looking back over my six chemo cycles, I did a lot of sleeping. Sleep is very healing. I remember last spring when I had a totally stiff neck. The doctor gave me a prescription for Valium and told me to take all of them because I needed to relax my neck muscles. After one pill, all I wanted to do was sleep. I took two or three naps a day and went to bed early for a week and it worked. Within a couple of days, I could start my neck exercises and get my neck back to normal.
“Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness, and mood,” says Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at the National Institute of Health.
I’m sure all my sleeping during chemo was helpful in fighting the cancer as well as refilling my sleep deficit. The seven weeks prior to chemo between figuring out something was wrong and beginning treatment, was my most difficult time. I had pain that continued getting worse and caused difficulty in sleeping. I slept in short snatches and rarely got more than a couple of hours of sleep each night.
According to research: “Chronic insomnia––lasting at least three nights a week for more than a month––can trigger serious daytime problems such as exhaustion, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.” It’s a wonder I could function at all. I was also on heavy-duty pain meds around the clock the last month before chemo
Chemo took the pain away, but during the first couple of cycles, I still didn’t get good sleep. I slept in one- or two-hour segments and probably got little or no REM sleep.
According to research: “A good night’s sleep consists of four to five sleep cycles. Each cycle includes periods of deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when we dream. ‘As the night goes on, the portion of that cycle that is in REM sleep increases. It turns out that this pattern of cycling and progression is critical to the biology of sleep,’ ” says Dr. Michael Twery, another sleep expert at NIH.
My sleep gradually improved during chemo, and these past couple of cycles, I’ve been sleeping in longer segments and having dreams. So I feel that my sleep deficit is gone, and I’m back to sleeping normally. I think that has helped make it possible for me to concentrate during the daytime for several hours at a stretch when I was editing the manuscript for Devil Cat.
Speaking of Devil Cat, it should be ready to send to the printer by the end of the week. I’ve done the last major go-through and I’ve proofed the designed dust jacket.
When I get the manuscript back in a day or two, I’ll check to see that Bob has put in the changes I found on my last go-through and any changes he’s found. Before he returns it to me, he’ll read the text. He hasn’t read it since he edited it last November. So he’ll be seeing the text with fresh eyes.
Right now, I’m feeling good and excited about Devil Cat but unsure about the future.
I’ll keep you posted.