Friday, September 26, 2008

September 26, 2008 - Altitude

I've been living, for the past several days, at over 8,000 feet above sea level.

In my capacity as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Monmouth (a position I hold in addition to my pastoral responsibilities at Point Pleasant Presbyterian), I've been attending the Fall Polity Conference of our denomination. The conference is being held at the Snowbird ski resort in Utah: a very pleasant place to be, amidst some breathtaking mountain scenery. Most church conferences I attend aren't at such a luxurious place, but the church got a deal on the accommodations because it's still the off-season.

As with other times I've been at this altitude, I'm really noticing the effect of the lower oxygen levels on how I feel. Walking up a set of steps I'd ordinarily think nothing of, I find myself having to pause at the top to catch my breath.

I suppose this is what being elderly feels like - or, perhaps, what being anemic feels like. The quantity of oxygen circulating in our blood is so crucial to health and well-being. If I were here for a longer period of time, I'd acclimate to the higher altitude and would eventually return to feeling normal. I fly back home tomorrow, though, so the only thing that's going to end my low-level feelings of fatigue will be stepping off the plane at close to sea level.

Back during my chemo treatments, the doctors were closely watching my hemoglobin levels. I was fortunate in that my red blood-cell levels never dropped below normal, which would have made it necessary to take drugs like Aranesp or Procrit to build them back up again. I felt plenty weak, though, even with my blood cells at normal levels.

The persistent feeling of shortness of breath brings back my memories of cancer fatigue - how, during my final weeks of treatment, I found it difficult even to walk around the block.

It's all in the blood - and, as long as I've got a blood cancer, I'm going to find myself wondering, from time to time, whether I'll ever experience such feelings again.

"In God's hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being."

- Job 12:10


Ronni Gordon said...

Hi Carl,
Looks great up there. Love the photos.
I've had lots of trouble with anemia, and when they produce that bag of blood or Araensp shot, I'm always happy to see it, despite the inconvenience. Funny how, once we've had cancer, we derive "happiness" from things that never crossed our radar before. (I think I feel a blog post coming on!) Hey thanks for adding me to your list. I added your blog too. Where did you find all those blogs? I'm kind of new to this and I ever knew there were so many. I've got my reading cut out for me.

Anonymous said...

Because I am just now finishing chemo, I know so well about the fatigue and difficulty breathing. I'm sitting here right now with the oxygen next to me, but fortunately I haven't had to use it for a week or so. I have spent a lot of time in Utah and truly believe it is our most beautiful state. It's well worth the breathing problems. Just imagine if you were snowboarding. Thanks, as always, for your insite.
Bill K....Lymph Notes