I’m running out of ways to relate that, with cancer, nothing stays the same. Every stretch of routine and expectation is interrupted by varying degrees of change and difficulty. Sometimes it’s a new surgery plan. Sometimes it’s tumor growth or regression. Sometimes it’s a new pain that came from nowhere with no warning. Whatever tends to happen, it’s hard to see any of it coming, and your plans for the future, any future, whether that is years or months, is jeopardized.
This shit gets old.
My latest interruption happened Sunday…actually, IS happening. I had successfully strung together a handful of days of running, gently and calculatedly increasing mileage in relation to my body’s responses. I managed to put together my longest streak of running consistency since surgery and was looking forward to putting in a couple 6 milers over the weekend. Saturday went as planned as I navigated through an increasingly difficult 6 miles in 7:00 / pace, which was a considerable milestone for me since I’m not even 2 months away from surgery. I had no idea I could be back to this effort so quick. Admittedly, the effort left me seriously strained when it was over, but I knew that was part of my progression, the necessity to get stronger, and the recovery would leave me a better runner than before even. I followed that run by another 6 miler, this time easier, Sunday morning, and I was ready to go into the next week with a new determination and effort to go further when the time was right.
Laura and I celebrated our weekend runs with some donuts, errands, and relaxing time reading at the local coffee shop. All was going well as ever. We went home and had dinner, then some snacks, and then…something changed.
A sense of discomfort started to fill my abdomen. It felt like gas, but really bad gas, trapped in my stomach as if in a perpetual state of swelling. I had felt something like this before, but it involved a noticeable food blockage high in my abdomen, coupled with a crippling nausea that left me reeling in pain and vomiting through the night. This seemed to be a little different. I wasn’t nauseas, but I certainly wasn’t without pain. I knew the night was going to be a problem.
I left Laura to sleep alone as I went into my son’s room and slept in his bed, except I didn’t sleep. At all. Not for one hour. I took various laxative medications to no effect and the same held for the ibuprofen. Hour after hour passed as I rolled back and forth in pain, trying to find a comfortable position, hoping this blockage or whatever it was would resolve itself. At some point, however, the pain became overwhelming and I found myself throwing up into the toilet, my only solace knowing that the effort would probably relieve some of the pressure and pain in my abdomen. It did, mostly.
I spent the next day also in discomfort, but a little lessened from the night before. I thought maybe the vomiting relieved the situation, and although I didn’t eat anything all day, I decided to have some softened cauliflower in the evening, not wanting to let my body regress without nutrition as it does after surgeries.
At some point, however, I was breaking down again and complained to Laura in great frustration, “Damnit. I’m sleeping in August’s room again. I’m gonna fucking puke again. I know it. I fucking hate this.”
Maybe I was so incredibly exhausted from not sleeping the night before, but even with the pain in my abdomen, somehow I managed to not puke as I fell asleep soon after going to bed. Crisis averted, temporarily.
I spent the next day in bed, but called my oncologist to tell him something bad was going on, that I couldn’t eat, that I was in pain, that I think this is something more serious. The office confirmed my suspicions and brought me in that day for an X-ray and follow up the next day. I spent the night barely eating again, just trying to get some yogurt and fluids in me to keep from dehydrating.
The next day I met with the oncologist and he explained the x-rays showed that I have a partial blockage in my intestines. As he explained it,
“The best way I can described it is…you have a kink in the garden hose. It’s like when a garden hose gets pulled and folded and the water can barely get through the kinked section.”
Great. But what to do about it. The “kink” is caused by adhesions (scar tissue) that develop during the healing process from any sort of abdominal surgery. My doctor said he was surprised they don’t see them occur more often, but they do occur. Essentially, the space between organs can develop these almost stretchy bands of scar tissue that pull each other together, bending, twisting or kinking various parts of the intestines, which is what has happened to me. The good news is that mine is a partial blockage, so food and liquid can pass, if I’m careful what I eat and take it slowly. Full blockages can be life-threatening, of course. How we need to handle my issue, however, is being debated.
Right now I’m waiting it out. The hope is that the scar tissue breaks up or the blockage manages to open up and all the pain and pressure is alleviated. But, if it doesn’t, I need to go back into the hospital for more focused monitoring, waiting, and then potential corrective surgery. This can entail IV fluids, a GI tube (good god no), and medicines. The surgery, well, I’m not sure what they do and how invasive it is (I’m guessing not that much), but I’d rather avoid it if I can, obviously.
But, everything else has stopped. Most everything. I can’t run, at all. Walking can be problematic depending up on the pressure in my abdomen at any time. Eating has gotten better since Sunday, but I’m still relegated to really easy to digest foods (no fruit or vegetables) and I’m always on edge that what I eat is going to leave me hanging onto the toilet again. The pain comes and goes and gets in the way of the work I need to be getting done for my design clients and runners, and that’s where all this interruption builds into great frustration.
It’s the same story I keep trying to avoid, developing some normal life that I can count on for work and physical activity that gets halted without warning. I’m currently trying to establish solid work, build myself back up physically, while also managing a couple running goals and responsibilities I’ve committed too…but having all that put into jeopardy because I can’t predict what my body is going to do from one day to the next. That’s the worst of it. I find myself wanting to give up on everything, to stop trying, to stop planning, to just…wait, I guess. I know this isn’t how I usually handle these situations, but I’m getting tired, increasingly tired of all this, of these surgeries, these complications, these hopes for a more reliable future…that are met with consistent setbacks or absolute obstacles to achieving any of this. I keep feeling the need to drop everything, to scale back every bit of excess in my life, and just get through doing the minimum.
I know I say all this out of frustration and current dejection, but this gets old. These setbacks continue to build upon one another and maybe I do need to just keep everything as easy as possible. I don’t know. In part I know I need to wait this out, all of it, for now, and then see what happens. In regards to the physical, I have no choice. For everything else, I don’t know anymore.