Today my heart is anywhere warm and sunny. My body is stuck in Minnesota. And my ass is on the nearest horizontal surface. Because I’ve been hit with that fatigue everyone’s been warning me about since last August when I got a C on a bunch of tests.
What to write about this phase? That’s a tough one. Just looking at the keyboard makes me groggy.
I suppose I could admit that I didn’t much succumb to the lethargy that my care team and other victims warned me about during chemo and radiation. Oh no, I fought through it and got up most mornings and, after getting my daughter off to school, walked a mile or two in subzero temps like some wacko health nut. I rode my torture (bike) machine. I ran errands that could have waited and showed up early for every appointment.
I did the work that crossed my desk, chased the cat, and shoveled snow and chipped away at ice like the characters in Fargo. I ate fruits and vegetables until I wanted to puke. If Dr. Zen told me to take it easy, I made a big project of trying to figure out what that means and then cleaned it up and started all over again. Adrenaline became my addiction.
So maybe it’s just my time. After all, I apparently did catch the flu (or some similarly yucky bug) 3+ weeks ago. And Dr. Walk-in said, “Sorry, but this may drag on for some weeks. Good luck with that!”
That first week brought all the usual symptoms: Clogged nose, worsened by the fact that my breathing machinery remains fried by radiation, so my head just explodes rather than, say, make snot. There were chills that sent me to fill the Jacuzzi for hot, hot, hot. Then would come sweats. My appetite got up and left, yet my stomach would growl like a mad dog. Hallucinations happened. So nights became horror movies.
Hello, nightmares! Every teacher, cop, and animal I’ve ever offended stopped by to wish me hell. One long-lost friend—who used to be funny and a great host—would not shut up or go away for one whole night. And his apparition turned him into a puffy blowhard bore-ass. I could read, pee, get Gatorade, and re-arrange my sweaty blankets. But as soon as I got half-asleep, he’d shuffle back in and say, “Really has been a lovely winter, hasn’t it, Old Sport?” and pick away at his new lame-ass goatee. I still fear he’s lurking somewhere.
Most days featured 1-3 naps. I slept on my office floor. I slept on my other office floor. One unseasonably warm day, I slept for hours on the deck with a towel over my head while a murder of crows, bald eagles, chain saws, airplanes, neighbors’ kids, and tipsy ice fishermen held court and wondered if they should call me an ambulance. (“Okay, you’re an ambulance!” BUH-DUM-BUM!)
I’d start a book and realize 5 pages in that I was completely lost. I’d channel-surf basketball games for hours and think it was all one game. I’d willingly get ready for bed at 7 and lament that I should stay up for another 3 hours. I’d skip that morning walk and instead fall back into bed as if in college and some ravenous lover awaited.
Speaking of college, a favorite (and long passed) English professor also visited one night and resumed his lectures about the main character in All the King’s Men, a book he adored as he’d worked with author Robert Penn Warren when getting his Ph.D. “The Great Sleep” happened now and then to protagonist Jack. But of course, that “Great Sleep” was symbolism for things. I wish my Big Fat Great Sleep were a metaphor for something profound—but I think it was just symbolism for being pooped.
I’m feeling better now mostly. The strange angels and ghosties have left the building. I’m making my body take walks, picking up the mess that somehow happened, and leaving the house routinely. Feeling so sluggish drove me crazy. But this body’s been though enough to warrant some rest, I guess.
I’d tell you more about all that. But I’m going to nap now.
Sleep: I got this.
Thanks for listening and good night…