Today marks three weeks since I finished chemoradiation. Objectively, I can compare where I am now to where I was last week and say that I’m recovering. It’s slow going though, slow enough that sometimes it feels like it’s not happening. You keep “cooking” for two weeks after you have radiation (not unlike when you microwave food), so it’s not surprising that it feels slow. I’m not a patient person under the best circumstances so you can imagine my impatience with recovery.
I’ve had esophagitis (inflammation and radiation burns in my esophagus) which made it challenging to eat over the past 4-5 weeks. Between that and the physical effects of the chemoradiation, I’ve lost about 50 pounds since mid-November and was below 600 calories a day until around a week ago. Now, on a good day (like today), I can hit 1000 calories but it’s a lot of work. As an example, it can take me 5 minutes to eat a slice of cheese.
I had a long talk today with a good friend about my emotional state. I’ve been feeling really useless lately–it’s super hard for me to focus on anything, and things that take any level of actual brain power sometimes feel like they’re beyond me. I may have actually called myself “an idealess, talentless hack” to Charlie over the weekend at a particularly low point. My friend pointed out that being so low calorie for so long can have a profound effect on your mental state along with your energy level.
The funny thing is that I’ve been here before, only worse. With the tonsil cancer, I lost 80 pounds and was much lower calorie for a longer period of time. Again objectively, I know that treatment was more severe and more difficult than this one. The thing is that I can’t remember recovery at all. I remember being really sick, then I remember going back to work… I don’t remember the middle part. All I can do is tell myself that I’ve recovered from worse… and I’ll recover from this.