Monday, April 28, 2014

Chemotherapy Side Effects

This week I have finally realized simultaneously, several of the common side effects of the Vidaza injections that have invaded my body over the past three months. Frequent dizziness, blurred vision, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, extreme fatigue, memory loss and even some hair loss is happening, now. Some of these have been there all along but this has been a more difficult week compared to previously. A good way to look at it may be that something must be working for me to feel this way. The chemo has to be working if almost all known side effects are happening. This is certainly not a medical opinion but just my way of hoping.

My body also looks and feels like a pin cushion but with bruises and knots at many of the injection sites. That's 42 injections plus 1 injection with a broken syringe on Easter. Additionally, five blood tests were taken in the JOA clinic, two while in the hospital and the infusion of two units of Red blood cells, later the infusion of platelets. That's about 50 points of needle injections that at one time or the other have been very irritating. Probably the insertion of a big needle in my lower back/hip for the bone marrow aspiration and biopsy would have been the most painful had it not been for the excellent anesthesia I received. Once that wore off it was felt even now. If you didn't already know this about me, I don't do pain well.

On this 1st Sunday after Easter while I sit here struggling to type this, I'm reminded of my favorite Resurrection story in the Gospels. The Road to Emmaus story in Luke, like all the gospel accounts, tells not of the actual resurrection but of the witness to Christ appearing to his disciples, post resurrection. I'd guess the majority of the sermons preached on Easter Sunday use the stories from Matthew, Mark or John and the Road to Emmaus gets pushed back to the Sunday's after Easter. However, it remains for me the most appropriate one for us in the present time to hear and reflect upon. Frederick Buechner's sermon based on this text in his book, The Magnificent Defeat reminds us that  Christ appears to us within life's day to day struggles. 
"So for at least some of the followers of Jesus, maybe the worst day was the third one, Sunday, which for the Jews was like our Monday, with everything around them returning so completely to normal that it was impossible to believe that either his life or his death was going to make any difference to the world at all. When they were suddenly afraid that the whole business of his life had not really added up to much. He had made great promises and great claims, and a number of people had placed all their greatest hopes in him. But now he was dead. Of course there were rumors about the tomb's being empty. The women had come back just after sunrise full of wild stories. But rumors are only rumors, women are always telling wild stories, and for at least two of the people who had followed him, there was nothing left to do that Sunday but get out of town. And where did they go? They went to Emmaus. And where was Emmaus and why did they go there? It was no place in particular really, and the only reason that they went there was that it was some seven miles distant from a situation that had become unbearable. Do you understand what I mean when I say that there is not one of us who has not gone to Emmaus with them? Emmaus can be a trip to the movies just for the sake of seeing a movie or to a cocktail party just for the sake of the cocktails. Emmaus may be buying a new suit or a new car or smoking more cigarettes than you really want, or reading a second rate novel or even writing one. Emmaus may be going to church on Sunday. Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred: that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that men have had— ideas about love and freedom and justice—have always in time been twisted out of shape by selfish men for selfish ends. Emmaus is where we go, where these two went, to try to forget about Jesus and the great failure of his life.
It is a strange story. All the stories about how Jesus appeared to people after his death are strange, and the strangest thing about them is how unglamorous they are, how little fanfare there is about them. If you or I had written them, it would have been hard to resist giving them a little more drama. In the stories about how he was born, there is a whole choir of angels singing "Glory to God in the highest" and kings arriving from the East with precious gifts; the shepherds coming in out of the night to kneel at the manger; and the star. But here, for instance, all we have are two men walking along a dusty road to a town that nobody had heard of much, suddenly aware of footsteps approaching them from behind and being joined then by a stranger who was Jesus but whom they did not even recognize, perhaps because even when he was alive they had never really recognized him, had seen him not as he actually was but only as they had wanted him to be: a hero who would give them a lot of easy answers to all of life's hardest questions, questions about love and pain and goodness and death. So they were joined by this Jesus, whom they did not recognize, and when they reached the village of Emmaus, and because it was getting late, they persuaded him to stop and have supper with them. And it was only then, only as he took the bread and blessed it and broke it, that they knew who he was. And no sooner did they know who he was than he vanished from their sight. Much as they would have given to have had him stay there a minute or two more, they could not make him stay. They could not nail him down. And that is how it always is. We can never nail him down, not even if the nails we use are real ones and the thing we nail him to is a cross. He comes suddenly, out of nowhere, like the first clear light of the sun after a thunderstorm or maybe like the thunder itself; and maybe we recognize him, and maybe we do not, and our lives are never the same again either because we did not recognize him or because we did."
 So on this second week after Easter and second week after my treatments may I recognize him in the witness of the many who give us their abundant love and care.

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