Sunday, February 26, 2006

February 26, 2006 - On the Road: Maryland

It’s been several days since my last blog entry, because I’ve been away. We decided to accept an offer from Jane, a member of our church, to use her second home in Cambridge, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, while she and her husband Leigh were in Florida.

For us, it served a double purpose: not just a few days’ getaway while I was feeling pretty good towards the end of a treatment cycle, but also an opportunity to take our daughter, Ania, to nearby Chestertown, for a visit to Washington College during her school’s mid-winter break. Ania is a high-school Junior, so now is the time when we need to begin thinking about what’s next for her, after her high-school graduation in June, 2007. Since Claire and I both graduated from Washington College, and since a small liberal-arts school is Ania’s preference at this moment, it seemed like a natural place to start. Our twelve-year old niece, Elizabeth, went along for the ride as well.

Jane and Leigh’s home, where we stayed, was more than comfortable, and also offered a lovely water view over the docks and recreational boats in Cambridge’s small harbor. We soon realized the further advantage of staying in a home, rather than a hotel. The reason was fatigue.

Towards the end of each three-week treatment cycle, I’ve generally been feeling pretty close to normal – with fatigue being the only exception. It’s a side-effect that sneaks up on me. I feel pretty good upon leaving the house, but I tire very easily.

This became very evident while we were visiting Washington College. I had a high level of interest, personally, in seeing the campus – not just for the obvious reason of helping Ania begin to discern what college or university may be right for her, but also for the nostalgia, for Claire and me, of visiting old haunts.

We were warmly received in the Admissions Office, and after the informational interview we went on a campus tour, led by a congenial and well-informed freshman. She set a brisk pace across the campus – which, due to enrollment growth that has nearly doubled the college’s size since the time we were there, is a bit larger than we’d remembered. It felt larger in a different sense as well, as we quickly realized that Claire and I were lagging behind Ania, Elizabeth and our tour guide, who were talking animatedly among themselves up ahead of us. With each stop, I needed to find a place to sit down, or at least something to lean against.

Finally, feeling out of breath and with my back hurting, I bowed out of the remainder of the tour. I told the others to go on ahead, took a seat inside one of the campus buildings, and waited there for them to finish the tour and join me there.

This is not the sort of fatigue that makes me want to sleep. It’s more like a lack of physical stamina. I’m fine as long as I’m sitting somewhere quietly, but the least amount of walking or other physical exercise leaves me panting.

During the free time we had in the Cambridge area the next day, we set out to do a little sightseeing, but found that all the museums and tourist sites in this historic, waterfront town were closed (no great surprise, on this off-season weekday). Ordinarily, a walking tour down the streets lined with eighteenth-century houses would have appealed to us, but it was cold and windy and I would never have been able to keep up with the others. At the tourist-information office, we picked up a brochure describing a self-guided driving tour of Underground Railroad sites and locations associated with Harriet Tubman (the African-American slave who escaped her captors and courageously led many other slaves to freedom during the years before the Civil War). That suited us very well, giving us an excuse to explore the unspoiled countryside of Dorchester and Caroline Counties as well as doing something educational with the kids.

Claire did most of the driving – both on our trip down to Cambridge and back, as well as on our circuit through the countryside. When I’m in good health, I usually insist on driving (male ego, mostly), but I accepted her role as principal driver without complaint.

This morning – Sunday – I assist Robin and our guest preacher, the Rev. Susan Thompson, with leading worship. I enjoy a number of conversations with church members after each service, but notice that, as I’m sitting in the chancel during the second service, I’m feeling increasingly tired. I usually feel quite drained after preaching two services – preaching is emotionally exhausting in ways that only those who do it regularly can understand – but this day I’m not even preaching. My role as a worship leader is light. Even so, I go home afterwards and take a four-hour nap in the afternoon.

I’m continuing to find that living within unaccustomed limits – even in times when I’m feeling otherwise pretty good – is all part of the cancer experience. Life goes on, though, and the best thing to do is to try to keep up as normal a routine as possible, making small adjustments as necessary.


James Matthiessen said...

Hello Carl,

A good power has directed me to your blog on a day that is my birthday while I am still reeling from the effects of my own chemo treatment from Thursday. While I have been laid up feeling extreme fatigue and nausea, I have been reading most of your blog from start to finish. I have my own blog as well and I find it to be very therapeutic while keeping family and friends up to date on my health. My fight is with lung cancer however I never smoked. Life has a way of throwing curveballs at you! Thanks for sharing your experience in great detail with your blog, I will continue to read it. While our cancers might be slightly different, our desire to beat it and live on is not. Good luck, best wishes, and god bless.

Mary A. said...

Nice to see pictures of your trip to Washington College -- Ania has gotten even more beautiful than ever! (I was happy to see pictures of Claire, too, but it looks lke she might have joined a fundamentalist Islamic group...)

I'm with those who think you look much younger sans hair, bizarre as it is for you. One of the mysterious joys of seeing people without hair, for me, is seeing the fullness of someone's face, and the character displayed there.

Blessings to you and the gang --
Mary A.