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The Balancing Act

Posted Apr 23 2013 4:18pm

A balancing act. The challenge of all Stage IV cancer patients.

How do we balance quality of life against quantity of life? How much treatment are we willing to endure to prevent the cancer from starting to grow again?

I am now off taxol, that traditional chemotherapy for breast cancer that can do a number systemically on all cells. I’m still suffering from fatigue and neuropathy in my limbs and digits. Loss of appetite plagues me. And some other effects that it pains me to enumerate.

Each day I wake up determined to do something productive in the morning, because by mid-afternoon I am ready to veg out in front of the flickering screen of images and sounds designed to entertain. What can I get done? Perhaps scan some old photos into my computer and reminisce about the good ole days. Or reach out to prune or reach down to yank weeds in the front lawn so the neighbors don’t wonder why this woman who looks so healthy can’t keep up a perfect-looking landscape. Or maybe do laundry and clean up a few rooms that I use regularly.

I occasionally attempt to make a soup, which may or may not be a smash hit with my taste buds.

The most soothing things I do now are to play ukulele and read or watch DVDs in bed. Or, as happened the other day, accept an invitation from a friend inviting me to a church party.  I wasn’t planning to come to this event as there might be limited seating or the food might not agree with me. There is always some excuse not to attend a function, especially in the evening when I am at my worst. But I am so glad I agreed to accept her challenge. The laughter, the seating that God provided out on the restaurant patio where the weather was perfect, the band that played all the oldies I could sing along to, the dancing (at least my watching it), the small talk, having the guitarist come over during the break and sit right down next to me.  What a trip!

Yes, I do resemble a clown in the circus. I can just hear the hawking: “Come see the skinny lady manage the tightrope act with no safety net!”  Yet, in many ways I do have a net in case I fall. The safety of friends, including one who puts me up and puts up with me when I have to go to the hospital every three weeks and others who invite me to their homes or other places, and the safety of my faith.

At least for now when the sun wakes me up I get up out of bed on legs and arms that can move, get dressed, and scrounge out a minimally appetizing meal even though I’m not hungry. The continual side effects definitely present a challenge, an adjustment, even a game changer. But so far, it’s worth getting up each morning to make a difference, if not in my own life, then in someone else’s.

Do you have activities that keep you motivated and make you feel alive?

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