My New Way of Life
DEBORAH AMOS, host:
Leroy Sievers is an executive producer with Discovery Channel. He's also a cancer patient. Doctors have found tumors in his brain, lungs, and liver. His treatment, chemotherapy, is hard on his body, which makes it hard to do his job.
Mr. LEROY SIEVERS (Executive Producer, Discovery Channel): My doctors are trying to kill me. That's how I began one of my first commentaries about having cancer. That was about nine months ago, and they haven't succeeded yet. But I haven't been cured either.
I was talking about chemotherapy. Every three weeks I go into the hospital and sit in a nice chair while chemicals, poisonous chemicals, are pumped into my body. The whole process can take five or six hours. Then it's pills twice a day for two more weeks. Nine months later, chemotherapy has become a way of life -my life.
It's hard for me to remember what I felt like before all this happened. The drugs never really leave your system. Even on my weeks off, I get the nausea. My fingers still tingle, and so do my feet. That's constant. And the effect is cumulative. I think your body does build up a tolerance for the drugs, but you just keep pumping in the next round and the round after that. Your body never gets a break.
So you change the way you live. When I wake up in the morning, I feel pretty good as long as I'm lying in bed. But once I get up and move around, the nausea comes on strong. It takes me a couple of hours to really get going. Eating is the last thing I want to think about, but you have to take the pills with food. So I have to find something remotely appetizing for breakfast, and then fight through the fatigue to get going.
I don't schedule anything early in the morning. No business meetings, no errands. The middle of the day is when I get most of my work done. I try to cram as much as possible into those few hours when I feel pretty good. But even a light schedule - a meeting or an interview, some time in the office - that can be exhausting. Sometimes I'll get home from what ten months ago would have been not a half day, but a quarter day, and I'm just totally spent.
The evening is a repeat of the morning. The nausea comes back. I wonder sometimes if it isn't at least partly psychological. My body knows what's coming so my stomach might as well get a head start on feeling bad. And I'm doing all this to what end? I said at the beginning I haven't been cured. Conventional medical wisdom is that I won't be cured. What all of this is about is buying time.
The new drug I'm taking is supposed to actually shrink the tumors. I'm trying as hard as I can not to get my hopes up. I don't want to be disappointed if it's not working. Okay, I know I'm kidding myself - I will be hugely disappointed. But I'm not looking for pity - far from it. This is just the direction my life has taken. But I do remember enough of how I felt before I had cancer, before my body was filled with poison, to wish every now and then that I could get my old life back - even if it was just for a few days. That would be nice.
AMOS: Commentator Leroy Sievers offers blogs and Podcasts about his experience with cancer at npr.org/mycancer.
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AMOS: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.