Energy management

I’m beginning to wish the human body came equipped with a dashboard. When your car is running low on fuel it’s easy to monitor with the fuel gauge. You know approximately how far you can get before you run out of steam, er I mean gas.

As I learn how to navigate through melanoma treatment, it’s become necessary to recalculate how much I can get done before I run out of steam. Ideally, a few hours of work would be followed by at least 30 minutes of rest – kind of hard to do in a newsroom with deadlines three days a week (on average weeks). Then throw in some family activities that involve something more than sitting watching cloud formations or dragonflies. Put it on a week too soon after a treatment and you’d swear someone is siphoning your tank – every hour.

Throughout my life I’ve pretty much stunk at taking it easy. My to-do list always stretched way beyond the hours in any day – or week for that matter. I was always trying to stuff 15 pounds of stuff in a 10-pound bag, sometimes even a 5-pound bag. I always had energy to spare and man could I get the stuff done. Relaxing consisted of doing something that required, or allowed, sitting.

Now I can’t. On the worse days thinking is a struggle let alone filling even a 5-pound bag. I may sit with a stack of books I desperately want to read but instead it’s the clouds or dragonflies that get my attention since it requires no effort from me.

The president of the company I work for is going through chemo for a recurrence of breast cancer.

“The fatigue is the worst,” she told me. “I usually just head for bed and sleep it out.”

The fatigue is the worst. My schedule on the weekend of treatments needs to be as empty as possible because sometimes even sitting requires too much effort. Each day over the proceeding two weeks gets progressively better, till I’m almost feeling back to normal – and then we do it all over again.

Thankfully, I’m halfway through the infusion stage of the trial. By the end of the summer, the treatments will stretch out to once every 12 weeks, which hopefully means more energy for longer periods of time.

Right now I’m perfecting the fine art of nothing (more on that in another post), hoping it doesn’t condemn me to laziness. As I complete my treatment, I know I need to learn how to put eight pounds in that 10-pound bag, for my health’s sake.

I come from hard-working German farm blood. It has served me well all my life and gotten me to where I am today in my career. While I take great pride in that, I also realize cancer doesn’t play well with stress and cancer treatment doesn’t play at all with heavy workloads. In the quiet moments as I sit alone and watch dragonflies dart, clouds roll overhead and (like now) listen to thunder grumble and the rain’s steady rhythm, I know I have to simplify my life. Until I reach that point, I keep tapping these darn dashboard gauges trying to figure out how to get the best mileage on each tank of energy I have.


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