NPR logo Good Days, Bad Days

Good Days, Bad Days

On the bad days, I get tired. That's one of the side effects of the chemo: You just feel worn out. I try to fight it and lead as normal a life as possible. But some days, one thing — just one thing — is all I can do. One business lunch, a trip to the office, something like that. Afterwards, I'm just beat. I hate that.

I used to walk a lot. On the good days, I go down to the park along the Potomac River and walk five miles or so. Can usually do it in just a little over an hour. But on the bad days, I know I'll never make it that far. My chest feels tight; I just don't have the wind I used to. On the bad days, just walking a couple of blocks can be exhausting.

It's not sleepy tired. A nap really doesn't solve the problem. It's more just physical exhaustion. I tell myself that it's just my body, using its resources to fight the disease. I hope that's true. But there are times where I lie down for what I think will be a short nap and wake up hours later.

But it's more than just being physically tired. You get tired mentally. You get tired of fighting sometimes. Tired of telling yourself it will be OK. Tired of telling your friends that you're fine, and acting like it's true. Just tired of dealing with it all: the doctors, the shots, the pills, the cancer.

OK, so much for feeling sorry for myself. There are good days, too. Those are the days when you feel like yourself. When your body can do all the things it used to do. When the cancer's not weighing you down. Those are the days you treasure.

It's funny — the hospitals try to prepare you for all this. They give you notebooks of material, there are books and Web sites and meetings... you name it. One of the problems with the books is that they have to be written for all cancer patients. And we are not all the same. Some of you have written in to this blog talking about cancers I've never even heard of. I'm pretty sure you hadn't, either, before the diagnosis.

But we all react differently to the cancer, to the treatments. So the books will say things like "you'll be lethargic, or have plenty of energy." "You'll have no appetite, or you'll be famished." "You'll sleep most of the day, or you'll have insomnia." Sounds pretty much like life to me.

Good days and bad days — that's what our lives are made of.