In addition to losing my hair, I had one other health ‘crisis’ following my first chemotherapy session. I began to cough and to be quite short of breath again, and was cognizant of the same rattle in my lungs which had been a constant before my surgery. After we called my oncologist, he asked that I come in. Following a physical exam I was given a CT scan of my chest, which showed nothing more than a small area of plural effusion around the lobectomy scar (to this day, I have lobular thickening in that area that is noted on each radiology report). He then suggested that I try using a nebulizer at home. This treatment prompted a lot of productive coughing and gradually resulted in an easing of the breathlessness. I followed up with a pulmonologist, who put me back on asthma medication again. Perhaps three months ago, I finally weaned myself off of the inhaler (Advair), but as I also have allergies, I still take Singulair and Flonase.
And so it went; all summer long. Chemo would knock me on my butt, and then just as I would get back on my feet again, it would be time for another go. Psychologically, it was one of the most difficult challenges I have faced. Cancer is tough that way. While the purpose of the treatment is to make you better (whether curative or palliative), generally it makes you feel a hell of a lot worse, at least initially. However, the will to live is strong, and most of us will do whatever it takes to extend our lives.
In between treatments, I would nestle in the hammock until I was strong enough to move about. Occasionally, bundled up to shield my skin from the sun, David took Peter and I out in our skiff. We lived in a coastal community bordered by salt marsh, and David would guide the little boat inland amid the tall grasses. I took a lot of photos of the marsh that summer, some of which I am using now as reference for paintings.
As predicted, each chemo treatment was harder than the previous one. By my fourth and final infusion, I vomited what looked like coffee grounds; it was actually blood. But I had made it through to the other side. Bald, skinny, and for a time diminished in both a physical and mental sense, I was happy to turn my back on this particular summer. At the beginning of September I would have another scan, and I was oh so hopeful that the report would be a good one.