All my life, I’ve been someone who could operate on a small amount of sleep. Usually 5 hours per night was enough for me to function in a high stress/demanding job. People like my wife Emily, who require 8-9+ hours of sleep, were often the subject of jokes and picking from me.
Pre-lung cancer, I would often get out of bed and see how much I could get accomplished just to make the point about the frivolousness of sleep. I had a sense of pride and achievement in getting lots done before others were out of bed.
Chemo has changed all this for me. Now, on a normal week, Emily and I require similar amounts of sleep. Chemo weeks I’m in bed before her and up after her (and napping in the afternoons while she works).
Through chemo week, God has taught me empathy for those who require more sleep and rest to function. From the start of my treatments, chemotherapy infusions were strategically positioned on Wednesday with the understanding that the sickest and the most tired days would fall on the weekend and the early part of the next week. This would disrupt the fewest number of traditional work days. That schedule gave birth to the term “Chemo-weekend.”
The amount of time I spend sleeping (or wishing I was sleeping) on Chemo Weekend is ridiculous! It’s also a reminder that when you otherwise feel kind of OK, that chemo is no joke. Your body needs time to heal from the chemical assault.
Resenting Chemo weekend- Chemo weekend is the every 21 day reminder that I have lung cancer. So, no surprise that I would resent chemo weekend. I’m guessing this would be true for most everyone- especially if you have a very demanding career. The weekends represent a time to enjoy the “fruits of your hard work”. Since I traveled extensively for work, weekends were a time to go and do fun things in my community or travel to other places with my family.
When Chemo took away 1 out of 3 weeks, I wasn’t happy. I would say things like, “Chemo is stealing another weekend from me.” Chemo was changing my lifestyle and providing me a constant reminder that I’m not 100%. Chemo weekend became an excellent opportunity to sit around and feel sorry for myself. Chemo weekend represented loss- Loss of what was. Loss of opportunity. Loss of time to do what I wanted to do with my weekend. Chemo weekend has become a consistent reminder that I have stage 4 lung cancer and that sucks. The reality is- I need rest. So, I can resist and resent but the need for sleep does not relent.
Accepting Chemo Weekend- Fast forward 12 months… We’ve adjusted to Chemo Weekend. Unfortunately, as time goes on, my body requires more and more rest to recover from chemo. Chemo weekend has become chemo week. We’ve learned to lower expectations and shorten the to-do list. Emily describes it as a year-round snow-day week. For the record, she likes snow days- I don’t. She enjoys having a reason to stay at home or relax on the couch. Just as God has taught me empathy for those who need rest, He’s also given me grace to accept that one out of every three weekends is a stay-at-home restful weekend.
Maybe someday I will embrace chemo week and weekend. For now, acceptance is all I’ve got. Adjusting to life with this disease has been an evolution. I’m grateful for rest and accepting the trade-offs that chemo requires. The opportunity for longer life is worth it.
If you are a cancer survivor, how do you manage chemo and the need for rest? What do you do on your Chemo Week/Weekend? If you are a caregiver, what do you do to make sure your loved-one gets enough rest after chemo?
Ecclesiastes 4:6- Better is one handful with some rest than two handfuls of toil and chasing the wind.
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