Cancer Journal 28, 2019

Food has lost its appeal. I’m no longer in love with the textures and flavors of food. Instead, I seek only enough to survive and keep me from feeling hungry. And whatever I swallow has to give me as little pain as possible. Suddenly, the esophageal pain associated with eating has gotten much worse. I’ll give this turn of events another day or two, maybe until early next week, to correct itself before I ask the radiologist to intervene. I suppose it won’t correct itself; in the hope that I can heal myself, I’ll continue to take the medications he prescribed and will avoid foods that exacerbate the pain.

I thought the worst of it had passed and I was on the way to recovery. I guess the last few doses of radiation, though, broiled the lining of my esophagus. I didn’t help matters, I’m sure, by downing some rather spicy New Orleans style foods. Then, last night, I ate pizza. While it tasted good, it hurt. But, regardless of the pain, I finished two pieces. That was idiotic. This morning, drinking a glass of water is something of a struggle, though I’ve been able to down half a glass so far. But the pain in my chest tells me I’m paying for my dietary indiscretions.

Except for the fact that the oncologist’s and radiologist’s medical staff told me I should not lose weight, I’d look at this situation as an opportunity to lose weight. Water, alone, should do THAT trick. But they insist I should consume ample calories. And they gave me plenty of Ensure to do the trick. The label on the drink, though, as well as plenty of information I’ve received and read from other sources, suggests that Ensure and its brethren are, essentially, massive doses of sugar stuffed with vitamins and minerals that the body cannot easily process as essential nutrients. On the other hand, I’m lazy and tired and don’t feel like doing what I should, which is buy fresh ingredients and make my own nutritious shakes.

I’m counting on the prospect that my present state of mind—an aversion to food—will pass when my esophagus heals sufficiently. It may be just a day or two. It could be weeks. The radiologist advised me to continue his prescribed regimen (of aloe vera juice, foul-tasting tar-like goo, and chalky tablet crushed in two teaspoons of water) for at least two to four weeks after I complete my chemotherapy, which would be about five to six weeks from now. At this very moment, that sounds like an eternity.

It’s amazing how quickly one’s moods can change. Just a few days ago, I was almost elated that the process is nearing its end. Well, “almost elated” might be an overstatement; tired and grateful may better describe my mood then.

I haven’t written much about the effects of radiation on my skin. The treatments have caused a large swath of brown skin, covered with freckles, to appear on my back. And my skin is extremely sensitive across my chest, especially the right side, on my right side under my arm, and across my back (including that large swath). But that sensitivity pales in comparison to my esophagus. And I have at least five permanent ink dots on my chest and under my arms, not that I feel them in the least. But I’m tattooed now with those little dots.

I’d sure as hell like to feel compelled to write about something more interesting and more intriguing than my medical condition. I wish my brain weren’t so foggy. I think my level of “chemo-brain” is considerably less than many people experience, but it’s sufficiently present for me to notice it. And I don’t like it. I feel utterly devoid of creativity. I tell everyone I’m doing fine and making progress, but I feel more like I’m sinking into a vat of mind-numbing quicksand. I hope this sense of…whatever it is…dissipates quickly. I can’t imagine dealing with this for long.

A day or two ago I scrolled through quite a few old posts on this blog and was pleased to find a number of them I found creative, insightful, emotionally charged, and/or intellectually strong. Despite my happiness at finding them, though, I was struck by the fact that they are old. Nothing I’ve written lately—in the last year or so at least—fits those descriptions. I wonder if cancer robbed me of my creativity even before I knew I had the disease. Enough of this. It’s time to try to finish my glass of water and, then, force down a 220-calorie to 350-calorie sugar shake from the makers of Ensure. After that, it’s the aloe-vera juice regimen. Blech.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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