A quick post about running

A year ago, on the 13th of July 2021, I started my first round of chemo. I was hospitalised and connected to oxygen at the time (my tumour was so large that it had collapsed both of my lungs, and my lung capacity was well below 35%).
My last run was 1.2km on the 3rd of May 2021, done at a crawling pace on a treadmill. My lungs couldn’t carry me through my runs, and I had started feeling it from April 2021, but tried to push through it as my GP insisted that I was OK.

Today is the last day of July, 2022. This is my running distance for the month:

104.1 km of running in July 2022.

Running was one of the things that I missed the most while I was hospitalised and then throughout chemo and the months immediately after treatment, when my body was too broken down to carry me through a run. Words cannot express what running means to me. They just can’t.

I ran more than a 100 kms this month, lacing up for 21 times, getting back to a baseline of 5k runs five times a week. Despite the heat. Despite the humidity. Despite my lungs and my PTSD.

I only wish there was a way to send a message back to the me that lay in that hospital bed connected to the chemo IV, to let her know where I’d be a year from then.

The Cancer Project: Hair, Part 1

April, 2022

So there’s a whole thing going on with Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars for making fun of his wife’s hair. Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia, which is something that one of my oldest friends suffers from as well. Hair can fall out due to a multitude of reasons, from autoimmune diseases to genetics, traction, poor nutrition and stress. But I’m not here to talk about Jada Pinkett Smith and her alopecia, or even about my friend’s journey with alopecia: I’m here to talk about cancer related alopecia.

The very first thing my doctor told me when she came to my hospital room to talk about treatments was that I’d lose my hair. I was on oxygen at the time because the tumour in my mediastinum (that the middle bit of your body, where your most important veins go, right up against the heart and lungs) was so large it was restricting my lungs enough to make me need oxygen to stay alive. At that point I had barely been sleeping in days, I had barely been eating, the main thing that I was doing was inhaling and exhaling, fighting for each breath. I had been waiting all day for a hematologist-oncologist (that’s a hematologist, a blood doctor, who specializes in blood cancers, which is what I had – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) to take up my case and start taking care of me. I was very happy that the doctor that I wanted took up my case despite her already heavy caseload: she was kind and brilliant, and that’s not a common combination. She came in to my room with the paperwork for the chemo treatments (you have to give consent to getting poison pumped into your system, as chemo is basically poison in a dose that is meant to kill the cancer but leave you alive). 

And the first thing she told me was that she was sorry, but that I was going to lose my hair.

I had read up about the side effects of the treatment that I was about to go through (ABVD chemotherapy), and I was afraid for my heart, my lungs, nausea, getting a chemical burn during treatment,  and neuropathy. The last thing on my mind, the last thing I was worried about was my hair. The mouth sores seemed more scary. 

The hair loss theme returned during my first meeting with the cancer centre’s social worker. An efficient yet caring battle-axe of a lady she told that from her experience ABVD patients didn’t lose all of their hair, they just lost most of it. She was looking at my head at the time, and it was before my 2nd treatment, so I still had all of my hair. My doctor had told me that the hair-loss happens after the 2nd treatment, and she was, of course, 100% correct.

Then there were the women in the closed cancer Facebook groups. I had joined a few, one for Lymphoma patients, one for young adults with cancer. They were a source of information and camaraderie, and a good amount of gallows humour. One of the women in the group, a new member like me, said that she would lose her mind if she lost her hair and asked if there’s a way to prevent it. Another asked about wigs and young children: is there a way to have the wig attached so that they can’t pull it off. 

I thought that they were all being a bit silly. Yes, I know, that’s unkind and insensitive and I’d learn better with time, but I’m being honest here. I was literally fighting for my breath before the treatments, and they allowed me to breath. The side effects were far from being a walk in the park, but losing your hair didn’t hurt (I was wrong), and was just a superficial change (I was wrong), and a temporary one, so why focus on that and not on more serious side effects? (I was clueless).

On Reading and the Tournament of Books

I’ve started a new reading challenge: reading all the Tournament of Books 2022 books. I’ve done this twice in the past, in 2019 and in 2020, and it has been a great way to read contemporary fiction that is not necessarily on the best sellers list or the awards circuit. I would never have read “The Book of Broken Angels,” “Overstory,” “Milkman,” “My Sister, Serial Killer,” “So Lucky,” “America is Not the Heart,” “A Terrible Country,” “The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao,” “Cloud Atlas,” “Wolf Hall,” “A Mercy,” “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” “Nothing to See Here,” or “Girl, Woman, Other” if not for the Tournament of Books lists, and that would have been my loss. And while I generally like the list and particularly the way that books are pitched against each other, I tend to not like the judges’ commentary or choices, so I usually ignore them and create my own rankings. Why compare pairings of books in this way in the first place? It’s usually a way to gain some more insight into the books that I’m reading, which is why I keep the “tournament” aspect of it in mind when I log or review the books that I read.

The Tournament of Books logo for this year.

I read significantly less last year (2021) than I did in previous years, only partly because I got cancer. I allowed myself to get off the “maximum books per year” racetrack, and focused more on reading either books that interested me, or books that comforted me. Some of my reading plans went completely awry once I got sick – I was planning on reading the Tournament of Books Tournament of Tournament books (I still do, as they all seem fantastic), but I just couldn’t face the effort once I started chemotherapy. Books were a huge comfort and a necessary distraction for me during my hospitalization and treatments, but they weren’t literary fiction kind of books. I read cozy mysteries and fast paced sci-fi because that’s my reading equivalent of comfort food. Sometimes that’s what you need in a book, and that’s part of the magic of reading: there is a whole array of “comfort books” geared perfectly for your specific needs, if you only know what you’re looking for. 

I’ve talked to other people who have gone through chemotherapy (they tend to come out of the woodwork once you start treatments yourself), and even the avid readers among them stopped reading during treatments, and sometimes well after them. Chemo brain is a real thing, and it makes reading challenging, and oftentimes you want something a lot more attention grabbing than a book during treatments or while you’re recovering from surgery. That’s what streaming is for, and I thank Disney+’s “Loki” and “The Mandalorian” for helping me out during some really rough nights. But somehow books never lost their appeal to me, despite the lure of endless, easily consumable, entertaining content. This isn’t to condescend on “non-readers,” especially not my fellow cancer patients. It’s just to say that different minds are wired in different ways, and mine is wired in this specific way. Once I start reading I generally get carried away and have trouble putting the book down (unless it’s a truly terrible one). This was useful when I tried to forget that I was connected to 3-litres of poison that was dripping into my veins, although it was a little annoying to my long suffering family who were with me during treatments and often just wanted to talk. Sorry, guys. You deserved better.

Once the 2022 Tournament of Books list was published I decided to give it a go again this year, to challenge myself to read all eighteen books on the list. Unlike in previous years I’m being kind to myself and not trying to rush through all of them by the time the tournament judging begins in March. As I started reading before the brackets were published, and so started alphabetically, I read Mona Awad’s “All’s Well” first. It’s a very well intentioned book that completely fails on delivery for me, and I struggled to finish it. I almost gave up on the challenge entirely, except thankfully I decided to read the book that it’s up against, “The Trees” by Percival Everett before doing so and it is phenomenal. I’m almost done with it, and it is viciously funny, dark, thought provoking, and a fascinating and original read. Everything you hope for in a book, and all this in a book that I’ve never heard of before, from a writer I’ve never heard of before. This is exactly why I put myself up for this challenge in the first place.

My neuropathy is killing me in this weather, and this was a literal pain to write, so I will end here by saying: treat yourself to some book exploration this year, if you haven’t done so recently. You never know what gems you’ll find. 

A Day at Chemotherapy

I’m having my (hopefully) last round of Chemo today and I’d thought I’d document the procedure as I go through it.

4:45 – Woke up and started taking care of my cats, making breakfast, getting ready to leave for the hospital. I need to drink at least two glasses of water before I go, one of then with Normalax. The water is because I have to have a blood test before the Chemo starts. The Normalax is to prevent one of the less pleasant side effects of my Chemo: constipation. As in all the rest of the adverse effects, prevention is easier than treatment.

6:00 – I leave my house and set out for the hospital. My dad is giving me a ride as there’s little chance that I’ll be able to catch a cab in this weather. I’m wearing athleisure clothes (sweatpants, t-shirt, hoodie and a coat because it’s raining). I never wear jeans to your Chemo, because logistically they’re harder to manage one handed, and depending on where you have your IV inserted, you may have to manage your pants one handed. It’s the little things.

6:30 – I’m at the hospital. At 6:45 the line opens up for the secretaries of the Hemato-Oncology outpatient treatments. The secretaries themselves start working at 7:30, even though the nursing staff is here largely by 7:00. The Oncology secretaries start working at 7:00, and I have no idea why. The Oncology outpatient treatment area is across the hall from the Hemato-Oncology one. Usually when I get here at 6:30 there’s 3-4 older gentlemen already waiting to get a number in line for the secretaries. I have no idea when they arrive (I joke that they must have spent the night here to be first), but they’re almost always here, and once they get their number they start a parliament of news analysis and general gossip. Why arrive so early when at the earliest you can start pre-treatment procedures at 7:30? Because this department has outgrown this building a while ago and the new building expansion won’t be ready for 2-3 years yet. That means that there’s a dearth of seating areas for treatment, and and even bigger shortage of good seating areas. When you spend 4-5 hours at least sitting getting treatment getting a good place is a thing. There are two rounds of treatment – the morning one and the noon one. I’m always here in the morning, and if I don’t get here by 6:45 at the latest, I’ll be 10-11th in line and with little chance for a decent spot. You snooze, you lose. Although this time, maybe because of the weather, I’m the first one here.

6:50 – I’m the first in line! The parliament of elderly gentlemen arrived, but arrived later than usual. A lot of sour faces that I beat them to the punch. 😂 As usual, I’m the youngest person around by a pretty large margin. I only once saw a person my age getting treatment while I was here.

7:47 – got my IV in (from a fantastic nurse), blood test done, got a great seating place (private and near a window), and I’m now waiting for my blood test results and to see my fantastic doctor.

8:10 – The usual technician that analyses blood tests isn’t here, so my blood work is delayed. It’s going to take a while.

8:20 – My blood test results are back and they’re good enough for me to get treatment. Yay! Going into the doctor’s office. My brother is saving my seat downstairs, and will be my escort for today. There’s a 30 minute interval where I’m not allowed to move, and during that time I need someone at my side to help me out and call the nurses if they’re busy and don’t hear the call bell to change IV bags. Also, I need help in general once I’ve started the treatment, and it’s nice having someone around to talk to.

There’s a festive feeling now that it’s the final treatment.

8:30 – done at the doctor’s office, and brought my prescription to the nurses. Took my Akynzeo pill, which is a strong anti-emetic with an effect that lasts for 5 days.

8:40 – first IV bag starts – 10mg of Dexamethasone (steroids). It used to be 20mg but I asked for it to be lowered during the last three treatments. It’s still a lot of steroids. They serve as an anti-emetic and to help me survive the treatment.

9:05 – first IV bag finished. Spent the time talking with my funny and entertaining brother.

9:10 – it’s not a busy day here, so the pharmacy fulfilled my prescription quickly. They prepare the IV bags for me specifically, on the spot. I get a paracetamol pill (only one, because it’s part of the protocol, nobody is sure why), and two nurses cross check my personal details against what’s printed on the IV bags and is the computer. I get connected to my first chemo IV bag, Adriamicin. It’s a red fluid that can burn my veins if the IV isn’t in properly, so my nurse checks the IV. This and the next bag are given without the use of a machine, just gravity and my veins. I’m not allowed to move while it’s being given.

9:20 – second IV bag, also outside of the machine and of potentially burning chemicals. It’s Vinblastine, which is what causes the neuropathy side effect. I’m also not allowed to move during this. My favourite nurse came to say hi, and congrats for getting to the end of my treatments.

9:30 – Scary IV bags are done. I get a vein wash and am connected to Bleomicin, my third IV bag, this time through a machine. In 10 minutes I can move and go to the bathroom.

9:50- had my first bathroom break. It’s always a bit of sensation because the pee comes out red because of the first chemo bag. I didn’t know that the first time so it kinda freaked me out. I will be getting two litres of water as part of my chemo (the chemicals are diluted in water), and I’ll be drinking at least another 0.5 litre this morning as one of the chemicals really dries my mouth out. That’s on top of the two cups of water and one cup of coffee that I had this morning. So lots of bathroom breaks in my future, though I won’t be documenting them.

Not a great view outside but at least it’s a view.

10:05 – third bag done. Now waiting for the nurse to change my IV bag. The last chemo IV burns when you get it, so they administer it slowly, and I might need a hot compress on my arm if the vein is narrow.

10:10 – connected to what is hopefully my final chemo bag. Decarbazine.

10:18 – the IV hurts so I get a hot compress (a water IV bag heated in the microwave and placed in a pillowcase) to press to my arm and expand the vein. The alternative is to lower the IV rate, but as it is this bag will take 1.5 hours.

Me and my hot compress.

11:00 – still on my last chemo IV bag. There will be a water IV to rinse out my veins in the end. Got my compress reheated, and I’m reading “Harlem Shuffle” on my Kindle. I’m still using only one hand, so the Kindle is the best for reading under the circumstances.

11:30 – finished the fourth and final bag of chemo. Waiting for an IV flush.

11:45 – I’m done. One of the fastest treatments yet. 🎉🎉🎉

Weekly Update: Haifa, Nazareth and Too Many Pens.

This week started with a well deserved three day vacation in Haifa and Nazareth. We were practically the only people at the hotel in Haifa, and in the Hula natural reserve, and we took a private tour in Nazareth, well before the holiday rush. Everyone was triple vaccinated, almost everything was outside, and we all got a bit of a break from a very tough year.

Water buffaloes in the Hula reserve.
Nazareth Christmas tree.
Haifa at night.
Ramat Hanadiv garden.

Health

The week started on the rough side. I couldn’t taste anything on Sunday and Monday (due to chemo, not Covid) and my taste only started to gradually return on Tuesday (sweet coming back first, then salty and the rest) and it still hasn’t returned to anything like normal. It’s like someone turned my tastebuds way down. An interesting experience. Neuropathy was also very bad at the beginning of the week, but started improving at around Wednesday.
Next week is my 12th and (hopefully) final treatment, and then my body gets a bit of a rest. It’s carried me very well these past six months through all the treatments, and I’m grateful for it (yes, even though it has cancer).

Reading

I’ve finished reading “Everyone Has a Podcast (Except You)” by the McElroy brothers. I was planning on starting a podcast before I got cancer. I’m not sure whether I’ll move forward with my podcast idea now or not.
I’ve started reading Colson Whitehead’s “Harlem Shuffle” and it is riveting. He’s such a fantastic writer, bringing people, places and past times to life with elegance and style.

I’ve taken a look at the 2022 Tournament of Books shortlist and unlike last year’s list which wasn’t appealing to me, this year I plan on reading the books on the list in my own version of the Tournament of Books. That’s 18 books, of which I have already read the fantastic “Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Writing

Creating an Inkvent post a day has been really time consuming, and I’ve gotten a sizeable amount of writing homework from my therapist. I’m also running a backlog on my journalling because of a combination of vacation plus neuropathy. We’ll see how next week goes.

Currently Inked

Too many pens, because of Inkvent. Also, a few machined pens have arrived and are waiting patiently for me to try them out. Thankfully I have a lot of writing to do, so hopefully that will help me bring things under control.

Other Things

The rest of my advent calendars are now on hold because a daily post for the Diamine Inkvent one is such a lot of work. My usual resolutions/yearly goals plan is officially off as I’m working with my therapist on planning ahead when you have cancer (doable, but tricky). Once I’m done with that I’ll have a dedicated post about it, because I have the feeling that it could help other people in these uncertain times.

Weekly Update: Winter Cats and Yayoi Kusama

We’re still not getting a real winter yet, but I did get some new Rumpl blankets in this week and that was enough to get my cats into full winter mode. Hopefully there will be some rain next week to justify their need for winter cuddles.

The gentleman.
The lady.

I dared to venture out on the day before my Chemo session, because I really wanted to see the Yayoi Kusama retrospective in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. I arrived when the place was relatively empty, and wore a mask the entire time (as did almost all of the other visitors). The curation of the exhibit was phenomenal, and I enjoyed it very much. I loved seeing Kusama’s early sketches in her sketchbook, as well as her later sculptors and rooms. There was a new room, created specifically for this exhibit, the “Galaxy” room, which was my favourite:

Inside the Galaxy room.

Walking through the museum became a very colourful and oftentimes surreal experience. There’s nothing like being dwarfed by pink tentacles:

Pink tentacles in the atrium.

The penultimate room was phenomenal, with a steel ball exhibit on the floor that toyed with people’s need to view themselves (so many people lay down on the floor to take selfies), and two mosaics of Kusama’s paintings: one colourful and one in black and white, on opposite walls. It was very striking.

With my treatments getting progressively harder, flu season (yes, I’m vaccinated, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that I won’t get sick), and a new Covid variant on the rise I doubt that I’ll be going out much for the next few months. That just makes my visit to this colourful, interesting and joyful exhibition even more precious to me.

Health

I had my 10th Chemo treatment (the second treatment of the fifth cycle) on Tuesday, and this time I asked to get less steroids. So instead of a really, really, really, really, really large amount of steroids, I was given a really, really large amount of steroids. It was a risk (the steroids serve as anti-emetics and general boosters to help me get through the treatment), but so far it has paid off. I could sleep better and longer after the treatment, which helped me feel a little better. The treatments are getting harder, and as I suspected I now no longer have a break in my neuropathy. As I’m typing this, I feel about four out of ten fingers. The secret to typing like this is to be like Wile E. Coyote and not look down or think about typing as I type 🙂

Reading

I got less reading done than I expected this week, and I’m only about a third of the way through James S.A. Corey’s “Cibola Burn” (the Expanse #4). I also need to dedicate some time to update my Goodreads reviews. I have a few notes on books that I’ve read that I’ve yet to publish there. Luckily my reading journal is still around to help me keep track of things.

I’m enjoying the way that the Expanse novels unfold, with 3-4 viewpoints in each one, and large systems of government, military and industry are made human without being overly simplified.

Writing

I journaled a lot this week, but other than that I didn’t get any writing done. My neuropathy meant that holding a pen has become virtually impossible since Thursday evening. I really miss holding and using my pens.

Currently Inked

I’ve been focusing on my standard pens this week (while I could still hold them). The Retro 51 Typewriters have Monteverde gel ink refills installed, and I’m really enjoying them (I don’t like the standard Schmitt refill). The Karas Kustoms Periwinkle Bolt V2 has a dragonskin grip and a cerakote finish and is gorgeous. The other Bolt is the steampunk one, which I love and use regularly. The Tactile Turn Nautilus is the most unique and gorgeous of my standard pens, and the click mechanism is a lot of fun to fidget with. The Uni Jetstream Edge was a pen that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy very much, but I ended up writing the most journal pages with it this week. I can’t explain why I love writing with this pen so much, but I just do. The same can be said of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C next to it, which I’m about to run dry (a pen achievement, if ever there was one). The barrel is cracked, of course, but somehow the tip has remained intact and the gel ink refill hasn’t yet inexplicably stopped flowing.

From left to right: Pilot Hi-Tec-C, Uni Jetstream Edge, Tactile Turn Nautilus, Karas Kustoms Steampunk Bolt V2, Karas Kustoms Periwinkle Bolt V2, Retro 51 Typewriter green, Retro 51 Typewriter copper.

Other Things

I’m hoping that my neuropathy improves next week, so that I can get back to journalling. I’ve started working on some long term projects and with the encouragement of my therapist I may actually get back to planning more than two weeks ahead.

The seeds in my garden have started germinating, which is always a joy to see. Monday is going to be very dry and warm so I’ll have to keep a look out for their health and mine then.

As is usual for a Chemo week, a lot of my time was spent trying to fall asleep and failing, so productivity wise it’s not the best. Hopefully next week will be better.

Weekly Update: Shots and Lego

The weather started to improve this week, and with it my health. The winds from the East stopped blowing dust in, and the terrible heat and dryness broke, hopefully until summer next year. It finally started raining on Thursday, and as the weather cooled off I could start to clear out and replant my container garden.

Health

This week was the “good” week (i.e. the no Chemo week, where my body gets to recover), even though Sunday and Monday had super hot and dry conditions that made breathing miserable and made my nose bleed (a problem when you’re on blood thinners, as I am). But the weather improved and I started feeling better as I made up for lost sleep and the neuropathy started to gradually subside.
I also got a pneumonia vaccine (I’m eligible because of my Chemo trashed immune system), and another shot to keep my blood count where it should be. I used to be afraid of shots and blood tests when I was little, and leery of them as an adult, but now they’re nothing to me. I’ve been pricked and prodded so many times that I’ve gotten inured to the procedure.

Next week is Chemo 10 of 12, and also when I start scheduling my post Chemo tests.

Reading

I finished Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies”. I couldn’t put it down, so I ended up reading it during Chemo instead of starting on something lighter. She really makes Henry the VIII’s court come to life, and Thomas Cromwell is such a fascinating character in a book filled to the brim with fascinating characters. I’m a bit wary about reading the last book in the trilogy, “The Mirror and the Light,” as I’ve been warned that it’s not as good, but I will probably read it eventually.
I started reading James S. A. Corey’s “Cibola Burn” and so far it looks like a fun and engrossing read. They really know how to write entertaining epic science fiction that highlights how the various modern “tribes” of humanity work and how individuals interact with them.

Writing

My neuropathy started improving on Wednesday, and so I could backlog the journalling days that I missed. Hopefully I’ll get more writing done this week, but even if I only journal that will be OK considering the condition of my hands and the fact that I need to type with them as I work every day. Sometimes you need to cut yourself some slack.

From left to right: PenBBS, Retro 51, Esterbrook and Leonardo

Currently Inked

I wrote my Kanilea dry. I really enjoyed using it, although I still believe that Kanilea pens are overpriced beauties. I bought my pen second-hand on the Pen Addict Slack, but as the message was archived and the pen that I got is no longer made by Kanilea I have no idea what its name is. That’s something for me to figure out.
I wasn’t planning on adding a pen to the rotation, but my Leonardo Momento Zero Grande Mother of Pearl arrived and it was too pretty to sit in a box until I got to it. I was feeling nostalgic so I filled it with Waterman South Sea Blue, a really great and inexpensive ink that has now been renamed to “Inspired Blue” which is not a very descriptive or inspiring name.
Also in rotation: my Esterbrook Estie Seaglass with a Journal nib, filled with Diamine Jack Frost. This pen and nib combination is so much fun to use I may return it to the rotation for a third time in a row once I’ve written it dry.
The Retro 51 Wings of the Monarch fountain pen with a 1.1 stub nib filled with Caran d’Ache Saffron. The pen drags a little as it writes so I may try to smooth the nib out once I’ve written it dry.
PenBBS Year of the Ox, a trusty, workhorse writer filled with Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-Ho.

Other Things

There was a local shopping event two weeks ago, and I went a little wild buying Lego sets. I’ve started building Legos as a way to relax and clear my head once I go sick, and they’ve been quite a comfort during the past few months. I can’t build them on days with bad neuropathy, but on good days they really cheer me up. I’m working on the Hogwarts Icons Collector’s Edition right now, and Hedwig is absolutely stunning.

Resilience: A Health Update

While I was taking a walk a few days ago I saw this tree branch grow out of a tiny crack in a solid stone wall and I was impressed enough by its tenacity and resilience to draw it. By chance this drawing is on the opposite page of the one I made for my last health update, which seems appropriate.

I underwent a PET CT on the 9th of September, and thankfully the results were good. The treatment is working, kicking my cancer’s ass and not just making me feel bad. I went through another round of Chemo on the 12th, my fifth round so far, and the side effects are stronger and taking longer to fade away between sessions. This is to be expected, as the Chemo’s effects are cumulative, but I’ve decided to be like that tree: resilient. I’m making minor adjustments to get me through the post-Chemo days, working out ways to help me ride out the pain and unpleasantness of the worst of the side effects. It’s hard to pick up a pen or brush in the first days after treatment, and I sometimes lose fine motor control. So I’m using larger and lighter pens, and I take photos of things that I want to draw instead of working on location. At home I can take my time while sketching, take breaks, experiment with looser drawing. The drawing above isn’t large or complicated, but it took me two days to complete (one for line work and one for the watercolour).

Resilience. One treatment at a time.

Health Update for the New Year

It’s been a while since my last update, so I thought that I’d write a new one. On August 24th I had my fourth chemo treatment, and it went rougher than the ones before it in terms of side effects. The worst of the bunch has been my neuropathy, which until now has been not so bad. This time however, both my hands were numb and tingly, and the tips of my fingers actually hurt. It’s been hard typing, holding a pen, drawing. It’s not that I’ve stopped doing these things, it’s just that it’s been a challenge to overcome the pain, to focus more to get my hands moving the way that I want them to. But I haven’t given up, and I’ve managed to type, write with my pens, and even create this drawing:

Not bad for someone with semi functioning fingers, right?

My hands have gotten better with time, but they are getting better slowly, and they still haven’t returned to normal. I’ve discovered that lighter fountain pens with bigger barrels are the best in terms of being easy on my hands, and although my handwriting has suffered a bit due to the pain, it is still recognizably my handwriting.

What’s next? On Thursday I have a PET CT which will determine what the rest of my chemo treatment will be, and on Sunday I’ll have the fifth chemo treatment. I’m not looking forward to either of these things, and as the PET CT is approaching my anxiety levels are rising (I really need good results on it). Meanwhile I’m trying to distract myself with work, books and season 2 of “Ted Lasso”. Here’s hoping for good results, and less pain for the Jewish New Year.

An Update on My Health

Since my last post on the subject about a month has passed, and boy did a lot happen during that month.

The super traumatic biopsy I went through didn’t yield results, so I had to be hospitalized again (for the third time) to get a mediastinal biopsy under full anaesthesia. My first ever operation.

The procedure went well, but my recovery took more time than planned, and the results of the biopsy took two weeks to arrive (hello, Grey’s Anatomy with your very realistic “8 minutes for a biopsy result”). By the time the results arrived I had more and more difficulty breathing, to the point where on the day of their arrival I came into the hospital to be hospitalized for the fourth time, this time because I just couldn’t breath.

I never thought about my breath so much as I did during those few days. I was connected to oxygen and pumped full of steroids and still had to consciously think and struggle for each breath, for every inhale and exhale. You can’t talk, you can’t sleep, you can barely eat, you just breath, breath, breath.

Luckily the biopsy results were better than any of us could anticipate: I have Classic Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s very treatable, and though it requires chemotherapy, the course is less intense than I had anticipated.

Two days after my biopsy results arrived I got my first chemotherapy treatment (ABVD, for those interested), and an hour and a half after treatment I could breath independently. I didn’t need oxygen. I could speak in whole sentences. I could be released home.

View of succulents and other plants with the sea in the background.
I have to replace my runs with walks now, but luckily I live in a place with nice walking views.

I have a chemotherapy treatment every two weeks. I’m slowly rebuilding my routine around those treatments, and so hope to start posting more often now that my life isn’t a complete chaos of hospital/home/hospital/home. There are things that I won’t be able to do for a long while (such as running, which is a heartache), but luckily most of my hobbies and all of my work are things that I can do indoors, at a computer or a desk.

Take a good, long, deep breath for me and appreciate it. It really is precious.