Don’t Worry About Every Little Thing

Spring morning burn pile = instant catharsis.

A week ago Sunday, I awoke early as usual. But the ordinary did not awake with me. Lights glowing on my computer’s printer spun in circles. My forehead was damp. Queasiness played with my belly. I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. Outside, the wind chimes sang with customary sparkle. Their sweet sound helped me find my bearings. I opened my eyes and stood on wobbly legs. Steadying myself against the wall, I cautiously moved out of the bedroom.

Hot flashes, scratchy voice, nasal drip, eye irritation, bruising, nose bleeds, fatigue that floors me, highs followed by lows, dry skin (especially facial), burning feet, numbness that migrates nearly to my knees at night when prone, hairless legs, transient achiness in hips and thighs and one shoulder, cramping (occasionally severe) in my calves and feet, shortness of breath, arrhythmia, and now, something new: an episode of dizziness. Which of these is the cancer? Which is the chemo? Is old age a factor? Does it matter?

For much of the day, my blood oozed like sludge. The vertigo subsided but my energy took several hours to restore itself. By 3 pm I needed to do something, anything to assert my spirit. I filled the hopper of my spreader with fertilizer and treated the lawn to some early spring nourishment. The activity got my blood flowing. I cultivated a large garden space vertically, then horizontally. I sowed wildflowers. I tilled the soil once more to cover the seed. My strength returned and I hauled gravel to fill potholes in our driveway. Afterwards, I shelved the morning’s lightheadedness under the category of anomaly; a category that grows with each cycle of drug treatments.

Party Time! That’s my wife, Marilyn, on the right.

Still, this was no way to begin what was to be my final week of work. On Friday, March 30th, I retired from my job as Postmaster after 34 years with the Postal Service. I didn’t want a party but the community had other ideas. Wednesday morning, I discovered platters of food, desserts, and coffee awaiting my arrival. Throughout the day, customers appeared to nibble, reminisce, and wish me well. They brought wonderful gifts and cards containing heartfelt comments. Thursday and Friday, many more customers stopped by to share their hope for me to enjoy a lengthy retirement. I am feeling well loved.

Realistically speaking, though, I am not entirely in charge of the duration of this passage into the post-work world. Cancer has a way of distilling one’s expectations. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s liberating to finally put your trust in the moment, rather than the future. My body is an experiment for which the mortar and pestle of oncology grinds its concoctions. Can science create a remedy? Perhaps, though I am not attached to the promise of curative solutions.

Spanky, seeking peace and joy in the moment.

Spanky, seeking peace and joy in the moment.

Last week, while trying to make sense of my lightheadedness, I worried if the cancer, simmering in my marrow, was about to boil over. Perhaps, I thought, I should put in writing some final arrangements that are important to me. Such are the broodings of a cancer survivor. For better or worse, we find it difficult to stray far from our fears. Of course, this bit of worry from yet another side effect of my good chemo/bad chemo reality caused me to overreact. Most likely, I was simply dehydrated.

It’s been ten days since my world spun in circles. The episode of dizziness has not repeated itself. I am back where I started: no pattern of relapse, no final instructions,  just the usual suspects of anomalies. Yet, when oddities are all there are, then maybe anything is possible, good or bad. I’ll take that thought into retirement.

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10 responses to “Don’t Worry About Every Little Thing

  1. I’m so happy you got over your dizzy spell, and that it hasn’t returned. As you said, it was probably dehydration. But I know exactly what you mean. Whenever I feel a weird sort of pain or whatnot, my first thought is always: “myeloma.” It’s inevitable. But then my mind tells me to get a grip ;-), and life goes on…
    Happy happy happy retirement, John! 🙂 And by the way, if you’re ever in my neck of the woods, do let me know, eh! Ah yes, that would be an invitation…an official one!
    Hugs from Italy!

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  2. Wishing you a Happy Retirement! I take it from what you did on the Sunday you felt a ropey that it’s not going to be a slippers and feet up type of retirement. ;D

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  3. “for better or worse, we find it difficult to stray far from our fears.” So well put. It speaks to those of us who don’t have cancer, too.

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  4. It took me three retirement parties to make it stick… (you can Google ‘retiredforgood’) and the one thing I am certain of is that making retirement a work of love is one of the healthiest things you can do and it sounds like you are already on that track, sowing seeds for the future physically as well as metaphorically.

    Intending your years are rich with more stories you can share with us and your health continues to be manageable, for the highest and best good of all concerned, so be it and so it is!

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  5. Congratulations, John, on your retirement and best of luck to you. We’ll have to compare experiences and cheer each other on.

    Your complaints and symptoms sound so familiar to me, and they can be distracting, but don’t let them take over.

    Fight back, dear friend!

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  6. Congratulations on your retirement! As always, your thoughts expressed so many of the feelings and fears of other myeloma patients, and their caregivers as well. So thankful you are doing better and it appears to have only been dehydration. Now enjoy your days…full of joy and peace and no 8-5 constraints!

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  7. John, thank you for another inspiring post. Congratulations on retirement. My generation (or perhaps just folks like me) tend to think it’s out of our grasp.

    You continue, through words and actions, to show us how to live.

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  8. Congratulations on a well-deserved retirement!!! As a frequent flier in the whirly vertigo skies, I just wanted to say that, sometimes, all it is is sleeping in a way that kinks the neck when you wake up dizzy. Apparently, there is something with the neck area that can cause miserable vertigo when it’s out of whack. I have issues with my neck, due to an old whiplash injury and pinched nerves and such. I had a TMJD specialist tell me he thinks my vertigo issues are caused by that and the accompanying TMJ issue. Also, nasal/sinus congestion that travels into the ear while lying down can be a culprit, or a migraine-ish type thing too. I go nowhere without Bonine, which I’ve found works wonders. There are many simple things that could have caused it, and it may never happen again. Too many fun things to do now to have that anyway. Enjoy!!!

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  9. John —

    I think it’s time you cut back on the drunken orgies.

    I had to learn that lesson when I got walloped by Melphalan and my stem cell transplant last month. No longer am I burning the candle at both ends. I’m just searching for the wick.

    Seriously, best wishes for a fruitful and enjoyable retirement. I’m amazed you have been able to work all this time, since your diagnosis and transplant. I hope you find, as I did, that work got in the way of living fully. It had its place, but now it’s time to nourish yourself completely.

    And thanks for the link to world music videos, reminders to pause and appreciate.

    Be well and flourish in your extra hours of the day.

    David Bennett

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