Cancer Lesson #62: Chemotherapy Has a Long Tail

Rosa's Long Tail

Cancer Lesson #62: Chemotherapy has a long tail.

I’ve been lucky. My cancer lessons could have been much harder learned. Soon after I finished treatment, however, one slouched into my brain forcing me to comprehend that exhaustion – sheer debilitating fatigue – had become a part of my day.

I’d never felt so feeble, even during chemo — probably because I was at home during most of that time and could rest whenever I wanted.

You see, I had access to both my accumulated sick time and the library’s sick bank, which meant I didn’t have to work during that period. Plus I was between positions so there were no worries about how my department was functioning without me.

Returning to work made all the difference. I discovered I couldn’t work and do everything I thought I needed to, let alone everything I wanted to do. And I was only working part-time!

Most evenings I came home and stared at the walls.

It was weird to feel mostly healthy when you’re not yet completely recovered, but I knew it would get better.

My oncologist told me I was at about 50% of my normal energy level. Chemotherapy, he says, has a long tail.

It’s a great image, bringing to mind a sleek cat slowly disappearing from view. The last one sees is a flick of that tail, and then it’s gone.

I expected my “new normal” to appear as silently as the cat, and it did. One day I realized I felt, well, almost normal. And that was that.

No more tail.

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2 thoughts on “Cancer Lesson #62: Chemotherapy Has a Long Tail

  1. I still have the ghostly tail swooshing across my peripheral vision… I’m still easily tired. I’m far more forgetful and have a noticeable cognitive deficit relating to names and words. I still drop things constantly and trip constantly due to the peripheral neuropathy. I can’t live up to my expectations any longer, and that is simply my new normal. I’d have scoffed if you’d told me two years ago that I would settle for this, but I’m grateful for this, it’s so much better than how I felt during chemo!

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    • You know, I have always struggled to remember names and occasionally words that I know I know – aphasia, I think it’s called. And I’ve always worried it might be an early sign of Alzheimer’s since both my dad and grandma had it. I’ve noticed it more lately. Maybe it’s a belated gift from chemo. As you say – I can live with that because I’m just so grateful to be one of the lucky ones who is still here.

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