Its a week.
Or one round of chemo.
I'm writing this with one dose - about 12 hours - left to go in round two.
And from where I'm sitting, one week feels like a very, very long time.
* * *
My mom is a teacher, so summer breaks found my brother, sister, and I home with her for long stretches of time. I remember complaining about how long the days felt. How slowly time moved. "Wait until you grow up," she would tell me. "You won't be able to stop time then."
This had been true in recent years. The time was flying and there were days I felt I couldn't keep up. My friends' kids were growing too fast, trips were passing in the blink of an eye, holidays seemed to be here just as soon as they concluded.
And then chemo started.
And then time just about stopped.
* * *
What does a chemo week look like?
Day one is pretty normal. I went to the office. I felt a little queasy, but it was manageable. I ate breakfast. I didn't eat much else. I drank four bottles of water - a win these days.
Day two things start to slump a little. I'm definitely queasy, but since I go in to be drained today I chalk it up to that. I manage half a granola bar before the procedure. My favorite nurse brings me early-morning ginger ale. After we're finished he sneaks me an extra package of Oreos and reminds me to try to eat them all. I go home and sleep until a girlfriend arrives to spend the night. Another group of friends brings dinner a few hours later and I eat an entire baked potato and some ice cream. Plus five bottles of water. Still winning.
Day three is infusion day and generally where the wheels come off. Like last time, I need the back-up anti-nausea medicine before we even get to the hospital. I don't think the medicine has much impact on me, until the next day when I realize I sent a whole lot of texts I don't remember. I am hungry by the time we leave and request pizza from my infusion night chemo buddy. I eat two slices. Water has already turned on me, so I sip on a ginger ale.
Day four starts with a miracle - I am not nauseated. I manage a two mile walk with my neighbor and get to one of my favorite meetings. I come home and nap. I eat the sandwich a girlfriend brings me and a handful of fries. Then, in an ill-advised bout of confidence in my stomach, I inhale the milkshake she also brought. Enter nausea for the remainder of the day. I do not eat another thing, or drink any water. I feel so bad by the time bed comes that I fall asleep sobbing.
Day five - I am very nauseated all day. I alternate nibbling on blackberries and candied ginger for most of the day between multiple naps. I sleep every two hours or so. I eat a bit of macaroni and cheese and half of a dry BLT for dinner. I still can't manage water and am elated when a girlfriend spontaneously drops off some seltzer water she was telling me about the day before. I am out for the night by 8:30.
Day six - My nausea has gotten more or less under control, although I still wouldn't say I have much of an appetite. I snack on whatever is around the house throughout the day. The worst part of today is the bone and joint pain - my wrists, fingers, ankles, toes, and knees feel like they could break apart at any moment. I am still tired - napping twice for long stretches. Seltzer water is saving me.
Day seven - I'm frustrated because I had hoped to go into the office today, but the pain in my body is still too intense to let me drive. I work from home for a bit before needing a nap. I can tell I am on the upswing, but after seven days of not feeling myself, my patience is a little thin. My body is done.
* * *
A week of staring at the same four walls will start to get to anyone. As I told a few girlfriends over the last few days - seven days of chemo is a really long time. It feels like the never ending week. But it will end - in a few hours, in fact.
I like to think of myself as an optimist. At my heart, I truly know there are blessings in this mess beyond my wildest imagination. I've already seen some of them. But even knowing that so surely, a week of chemo will send me to the brink. It will dunk me into despair and moments of wondering if it will always be this way. If I will never again enjoy eating out, be able to drive to see my dear ones, or practice yoga and pray in the ways that were once so central to my life. Will everything always be in this state of upheaval? Last minute doctors visits and plans made tentative contingent on how I feel. Will normalcy ever settle over this place again?
Yet I know that it will. Even in the last few hours of these seven days - when it hurts just to type these words - I know the psalmist spoke the truth - weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. And its on its way.
Just four more rounds of seven days.