The Treatment Turned on Me

Posted on May 5, 2018.

I got into boxing by simply going to practice with my friend who was already on the Oak Ridge Golden Gloves team.  Boxing was a club sport, not a school sponsored sport, so we weren’t the Oak Ridge Wildcats, and we couldn’t practice on school grounds.  So in a low-rent space near Jefferson Avenue, I was pounding away at a heavy bag when one of the coaches called to me, “Hey, Killer!”  I looked around as if to say, “Who. me?”  The coach said, “Yeah, you, Killer – come here!”  He held out a punch mitt and said, “Hit my hand as hard as you can with your left.  I did, and the coach rolled his eyes.  “Alright, hit my hand as hard as you can with your right.”  I did, which produced a slightly more hopeful expression on the coach’s face. 

Before I knew it I was in the ring, squared off against an older boy, who sort of coached me as we boxed.  “Bob and weave, keep our head a moving target,” he said.  “Keep your guard up.”  “Circle if you are losing ground so you don’t get backed into a corner.”  But then I got him with a punch.  Square on the nose, and it stung him.  After that, there was no more advice.  He pummeled me.  I lasted only into the second of three rounds.  The coaches brought it to an end when my nose started bleeding.  I went home with a swollen upper lip and blood all over my tee shirt and told my mom I was on the Oak Ridge Golden Gloves boxing team.

That experience seems similar to my recent encounter with radiation therapy.  The first three weeks (and 15 treatments) were a snap.  But then something happened.  Maybe the treatments hit my cancer on the nose.  Because the last week and a half (and final 8 treatments) pummeled me.  And the end of the treatments was not the end of the pain and exhaustion.  I think it was Mike Tyson who called his left cross “six months coma” and his right haymaker “sudden death.”  The radiation therapy must have hit me with a left cross, because the weeks since the treatments ended have been worse, not better. 

Eating has been extremely difficult and painful, and I have lost quite a bit of weight, actually to within 10 pounds of my boxing weight at 16 years old!  My oncologist has suspended use of the daily oral chemotherapy I have been on for the past year plus, since it can slow down recovery from the radiation therapy, and getting my weight stabilized and headed back up is critical.  “You can get in a spiral that we’ll have a hard time pulling you out of,” is how the doc put it. 

More debilitating than the weight loss has been the exhaustion, which has been overwhelming.  The church has been very gracious to me, since in the past month or so I’ve spent more time laying in the bed, recliner, or floor than I have at church work – and all that during working hours!  Even when I do manage to get to church, I use the cot in the alcove behind my study frequently.  The doctors don’t seem so concerned about the exhaustion – they expected it, and they expect it to get better, slowly.  Four to six months has been mentioned. 

This week I had a port installed in my chest, for the taking of blood and receiving Herceptin and other infusions.  The veins in my hands and arms have become too degraded and scarred to be serviceable.  To be honest, I probably resisted having the port installed longer than I should have.  I just don’t like the idea of having medical hardware, but I know that it was the right thing to do and that it will make things easier for everybody, myself most of all.

Now a full month since my bout with radiology, I do find my “swallower” working a little better.  Eating sure isn’t enjoyable yet, but I have been able to work down some solid food the last few days.  I think my weight loss is leveling off, too.  My weight was actually up yesterday, but that was the day after they dripped two melon-sized bags of fluid into me, so we’ll see. 

Once again, thanks for your prayers.  The Lord has been very good to me through them.  Pray that my ability to eat will continue to improve and that my weight will stabilize and even increase.  And pray that I’ll get some energy back, particularly so I can get more of my work done.  And of course, pray that my faith in the Lord will hold firm through whatever this (or any other) trial may bring.