The Third 500

Well, it seems like this chemotherapy thing is a microcosm for life- just when I think I have it figured out and down to a reliable routine, a curveball drops into the strike zone. No- baseball doesn't quite work as the metaphor here, though the therapy is seemingly endless.

OK, it's third and six and we're just past midfield. The defense has lined up their third-down rush end, and they're walking up the strong-side cornerback as the slot receiver motions... no, too complicated.

Here it is: I'm in the third 500. For those of you (like me) that never rowed crew, imagine a 2k race, and divide it up into four 500m sections. The first is cake: pure virginal adrenaline will get you through that one. The second you cruise through- you are starting to hit your stride, and you're still pretty fresh. The fourth 500 sucks, but it's the home stretch, and who can't suck it up for a few more minutes?

But the third 500- the adrenaline is long gone by then, and so is the freshness. The start is a distant memory, but the finish is not quite in sight. It's just pure drudgery. And that's where I am.

I was given a little lift a few weeks ago when I started going back to work- just a few nights a week, but enough to make me tired in the good way, and enough to get a little positive cash flow. Sure, I missed being able to do whatever I wanted every night, but it was good to be back in the land of the living, so to speak. But then, on Friday morning, after two impossibly beautiful and temperate days here, the first signs of a cold showed up. The sore throat, the phlegm.

I know, I know- big fucking deal. That's what I would say under any other circumstances. And I would normally just suck it up and lie around on my days off until it went away. But, in my 3 1/2 months of relative good health during chemo, I kind of lost view of the fact that one of the dangers of chemo is that it weakens, and it compromises, the immune system. All of a sudden, during chemo, the kinds of things you would normally just suck up and ignore are not quite as ignorable and suck-uppable.

Not that I am in bad shape- I'm not. I'm just a little under the weather, which has led me to the rare (in normal circumstances) decision to skip work for a few days, which has left me feeling lazy and lumplike and depressed. Which is funny, because who really wants to go to work?

The other side of that is that there is always- always- work to be done here at home, in the form of writing songs or blogs or anything else. The amazing thing about that is it is a surefire way to feel great- just put in an hour or two, and even if you come up with shit, it opens up a whole new realm of perspective. It makes you feel useful. It allows you to plug into something that the greatest minds of all time plugged into. It is never wrong.

But man, is it hard to do on some days. Ever since I have gotten sick, I have found it harder to write, and I don't know whether that is an effect of "chemo-brain" or I am just making excuses. Sure, I have been writing the blog a little, but not really in the grind-it-out-day-after-day way that is necessary when you fancy yourself a real writer.

Speaking of real (excellent) writers, I met Jason Isbell at Whole Foods the other day. That's Nashville for you. For those of you that don't know who that is, buy his album Southeastern, then we'll talk.

I called AT&T the other day to find out why I had been billed on March 3rd, and was slated to be billed again on March 30th. The lady (who was in India, judging by everything) quickly figured it out: my payment always comes out on the 30th of the month. She asked me "Did you notice that February only had 28 days this year?" I told her that yes, I had noticed there was something strange about February this year. Problem solved.

So, the quick update is this: I am ok, but a little sick. Bo Gibbons is coming out here this weekend, which will be sweet. I am dealing more and more with CIPN, which is Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy- tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet. This is a side effect of vinblastine, and it is not necessarily reversible. My hands are ok, but my feet are terrible- I could handle another 8 weeks of this, but not another 40 years.

Come to think of it, I never really gave much thought to any of the long-term side-effects of chemotherapy, which are too numerous to name; I just figured they would not affect me. I am young and strong. I was extremely healthy before this, and I will be extremely healthy after this. Same with the potential side-effects of the looming radiation treatment: lung and esophageal damage, etc. Not gonna happen. It is easy to deny when it is purely theoretical, but much harder when it starts creeping in and gets worse with every treatment. And, much like every discomfort associated with this sickness and treatment, my first instinct is to say "hey, this ain't so bad- I can handle it." Then, after a while, after it gets a little more serious and after I think about the fact that it might never get better, I think "hey, this fucking hurts!"

So their response to that last statement was to lower the vinblastine dose by 25%, and so far there has been no improvement. So I don't know what the next treatment will bring.