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The boringness of apathy

For the last few days I have been trying to blog how I feel. But how I feel has made it difficult to blog. However, this is not for the reason you might expect.

Lost, one mojo

It's been a week since my first FEC chemotherapy.

Physically, I feel mostly fine - 90% fine, I'd say

I took the three days of anti-sickness drugs I'd been given. I seem to get two short bouts of mild nausea a day (like travel-sickness), constantly cold hands and feet, some sleep disturbance and occasional odd sensations in my throat and nose.

I should be very pleased that my side-effects are so manageable. But, in fact, I don't feel much at all.

And therein lies the problem.

I don't feel anything - I'm not feeling low or depressed, I'm just not FEELING at all. I don't feel like doing anything and yet I get bored, even though there are lots of things I could do. There is a constant call in my head to go back to bed and lie down and do nothing.

I look back to a week ago, when I was chatting with the nurses in hospital, and realise that I have lost my mojo: I am not chirpy, I don't feel like chatting and I certainly don't feel cheerful.

Rationally, I know that it's a VERY GOOD THING that I am not barfing, not suffering with constipation, diarrhoea, mouth ulcers, metallic mouth and any of the other possible chemo side-effects I don't yet know about.

I am grateful that I am not physically incapacitated, but I don't feel happy about it. I feel nothing.

I can't complain; I could still get more physical side-effects (some women on the BreastCancerCare forum reckon it's worse after the second session) but it is an interesting state of mind to be in.

No appetite + cravings

Firstly, though, there's the loss of appetite. It's a bit weird as I can feel and hear my stomach rumbling but I don't feel like eating in the sense that I actually would prefer NOT to eat.

I had an idea early on that milk and yoghurt were making me more nauseous and so I've cut back on those. However, I have developed urges to eat certain things and, since I am not eating three full meals a day, I am indulging the urges when they arise.

One has been for a cheese, Branston pickle and crisp sandwich (Branston is a sweet and tangy vegetable sandwich pickle; crisps = potato chips). Now, doesn't that sound yummy? I've been eating them twice a day for the last three days. I've since added thinly-sliced red onion and lots of lettuce for healthiness.

So, off I went to Budgens (the mini-supermarket across the road) to buy a big bag of sweet chilli crisps. They also had small bags of Skips reduced in price (lower-calorie 'prawn cocktail' snacks but really a sweet & sour flavour). I bought six bags.

Then, lying in bed last night I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to eat cubes of fresh pineapple: tangy sweet and sharp wet crunch. Yum.

Sandwich before closing and slicing

I popped over the road again before 'breakfast' today and bought two pineapples. And then I made the best meal ever: the Sandwich using sweet chilli crisps, with Skips and pineapple on the side.

The next people to come over for dinner might very well get this!

Even though I wasn't hungry, this was later followed by two small bowls of cheese and pineapple with a bag of Skips. (Along with the pineapples, I'd indulged in some Emmental ['Swiss cheese'] and Parmesan cheese.)

Luckily, Frank told me to not eat too much pineapple as the enzymes in it would rot my teeth. And so when I tasted blood in my mouth from my gums around my teeth, I figured that perhaps pineapple and chemo didn't mix, despite my urge for tang. Ahem.

Shopping like an Italian

When I stayed with my Italian aunt in Italy in 1980, she'd go to the shops every morning to buy the day's food. She'd come home and make a nice lunch. She'd later cook a good dinner for her husband and kids.

Having moved just off a high street, I can do something similar. I scour the supermarket shelves for items at reduced prices. I can pop over every day if I want to, or if I have an urge.


Lethargy is one of the documented side-effects of chemotherapy. Women on the BreastCancerCare forums also talk about "chemo brain".

Apathetic is the best word I have come up so far to describe my current state of mind.

My day starts with getting out of bed only because I am wide awake and bored, usually at 6am. I don't want to get up because it's nice and warm in bed and getting up would mean I'd have to decide what to do.

I lie in bed and run through a short list of things I could do if I could do ANYTHING I wanted: write to friends, blog, log in to Second Life to chat, make jewellery, list stuff to sell on eBay, read a book - but none of them tickle my fancy.

In the end, I get so bored and realise that I won't fall asleep again (and, that if I did, I'd feel more tired than if I just got up the first time) that I get up to shower and dress.

I don't fancy eating anything (but then I never did on first waking) and so check mail (feeling momentarily guilty that unanswered mail is building up), check Facebook and read the fun RSS feeds.

Then I start thinking about The Sandwich. I go to the kitchen and make it slowly, with a large glass of fizzy squash (orange and mango flavour), even though I know it'll make me colder. I have my breakfast, as always, whilst reading the entertainment news and news news on Ceefax.

Then it's to my office to work.

I have been keeping myself occupied and have tried to resist the go-back-to-bed call. Only once did I succumb, and that's because I became very tired very suddenly. I'm working several hours a day, taking breaks for drinks (I'm thirsty a lot), and time passes.

Come evening, time for a second 'meal' (the Sandwich plus home-made soup), catch-up on TV with Frank. Maybe back to the computer for tinkering with code or reading. But I feel so cold (I've been wearing mittens indoors) that I end up going to bed 'early' (which is around midnight for me) because I am fed up of feeling cold all the time.

I don't have any pressing need to seeing anyone. I thought I'd go for a walk every day but I can't be bothered.

Six sessions, eighteen weeks

I'm ready for my next chemo. But my next session isn't due for another two weeks. I just want to get it over with even though I know I'll likely have more side-effects after the next one.

It feels like the next 17 weeks are going to pass by very slowly. My world's got very small and uninteresting. I don't feel sociable - if I am to see anyone or go out, someone'd have to suggest it and turn up or drag me out. And even then I'm not going to be great company.

I'm miffed that this chemo, the radiotherapy and hormone therapy might not even be needed. But, because no one knows whether any of my breast cancer cells got loose, it's all precautionary.

If my experience had ended when I got the results after my surgery, I'd have had an amazingly positive experience with cancer. But feeling icky just from treatment is annoying.

Finally, I really admire those women who, unlike me, have needy husbands and children to feed and tend to when they don't feel like doing anything at all because of 'chemo brain'. I'm so glad that no one depends on me in that way and that I can wallow and burble about my 90%-okayness.

I'm fine, really. Just boring.


Comments (2)

21 April 2010

I am glad you are not too sick and hope it lasts :). The side effect meds are really effective.

I know what you mean about the apathy. I also found that my energy progessively disappeared as the chemo sessions wore on. But now, 2 weeks after what I trust is the final chemo, I am starting to feel that bit better and more interested in life again. I think the body needs to conserve energy to deal with the strong chemo.

Take care - warmest wishes


23 May 2010

Have strength and courage.

With love, a big kiss from Sandra, Lorenzo, Aunt Nunzia, Uncle Renato and Francesco. We hope you'll feel fine very soon and you'll come here in Treviso.

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