The sicker I get, the more of a stranger to myself I become.
Time used to be measured by teaching days and holidays. Now time is measured by weekly infusions, daily neupogen injections, monthly xgeva injections, teaching days, and recovery days.
I used to stride at full speed down the corridors of academia and now I walk slowly. I’d like to say I walk thoughtfully but that is what I’m pretending to do. I’m actually just concentrating on not making it obvious that I’m completely out of breath.
I stand at the bottom of a flight of maybe a dozen stairs and I wonder who this person is who is drawing on every last energy cell to climb them. This is not the person who, six months ago, could run up seven flights of stairs chatting and laughing. Now all flights of stairs are my Rocky stairs. Climbing them feels like a mile sprint even as I know that I will never sprint a mile again, or even jog one.
I am does not abruptly become she was when we die. I am is chipped away by the disease and treatment.
I walk past a window and inadvertently catch my reflection in the glass. I don’t recognize the ashen face. My pace slows down with each stop and rest but my reflection is a time-lapse played at 100 frames a second.
The pallor from yesterday has given way to the waxen bloodlessness of today. This illness has robbed me of the normality of adapting to my slowly aging body. The morphing of childhood to adult to middle age is abruptly set to fast-forward.
I still go to work and pretend that I can do it all. I’m lucky to still be on the same treatment for 8 months. However, even as the carbo/gemzar combo keeps the cancer in check, it weakens my body. My oncologist keeps saying there are many more treatments. However, the unspoken words are that my body will break down before the treatments end.
In less than two months, it will be three years since my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. I have reached the median survival time. This is my 13th treatment.
I am and she was edge closer together.
We don’t need more treatments. We need better ones.