Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Need a Vacation

I need a vacation, but I don't mean that in the traditional sense. I'm looking forward to going to work Monday morning. I miss being in the office and around my colleagues. The vacation I need is from my second job - beating cancer.

While in the hospital, I read a post on a leukemia discussion board that resonated with me. At the time, the patient was partway through his ten weeks of the daily Arsenic Trioxide drip. He wrote that instead of viewing the daily regimen as a nuisance, he was treating it like a job. His job was to get better. Each day, he would show up on time to the appointment, keep a positive attitude, and take responsibility for his health.

Over the past five weeks, I have mirrored his approach.
I arrive on time. I remind the nurses and doctor what tests need to be done and what prescriptions to reevaluate. I weigh myself to make sure I haven't gained five pounds in a week, which is a symptom of a serious syndrome that can result from the arsenic (though after the holiday weekend, I did skip the weigh in...). I stretch out my arm when the oncologist enters with the infusion bag, and I take the needle jab like a champ. The infusion room has become my office away from the office.

Like with any job, at some point, a vacation is needed. When the head oncologist at the cancer center laid out my treatment plan, I found it curious that this arsenic course has a two-week break in its middle. Now I understand why. The drug has had a cumulative effect on me. In the early weeks, I had little to no side effects. Now, I am fatigued and nauseated all the time. I don't need an exotic change of location or to be pampered in a hotel. I just need a break from the drug and the daily needles.

Tomorrow will be the end of my fifth week. Then I will be "on vacation" for two weeks (with the exception of some blood tests). I won't be snapping photos at tourist attractions or sending postcards of palm trees. Monday morning I will go to my regular job, and relish feeling normal.

On second thought, maybe I will send a postcard from my office or ask a colleague to snap a camera phone pic of me with a PowerPoint deck or my HP calculator. On April 8th, I was told I might die within the week. Why would I not commemorate this first opportunity to feel normal again? Although my parents weren't the ones enduring the physical pain, my condition was just as hard on them. Ever since my little brother, Matt, stopped drawing dinosaurs equipped with missile launchers, their refrigerator door has looked a little bare. A postcard from my normal life might look nice on it.