Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What Chemistry Is Doing to Me, Part 4

I wrote the other day about the vanishing of my libido--caused by the Lupron injections (every three months) that commenced on July 26 of this year. Lupron--one weapon in the battle against prostate cancer's desire to spread throughout my body. But there have been other side-effects, as well, and I want to end this series with them--and then move on to write some things a little more ... amusing. Lighter and brighter.

I've written here before about the changes in my body temperature--changes that some have called "hot flashes" but which in my case, more accurately labeled, are "hot suffusions." Not long after the first Lupron injection, I began to experience them--about one per hour (day and night). When they happen I feel unusually warm, especially in my face, and then, as if my skull had a lid, I feel as if something molten were being poured down through my body. I feel hot all over--head to toe--and I perspire heavily. Fortunately, they do not last very long (five minutes or so?), and they don't really stop me from doing what I want to do.  In recent weeks I haven't noticed them so much--perhaps because I'm used to them? I usually get a doozy about an hour after I'm up each morning--and I notice them at night (because, you know, I'm not going anything else but read or watch The Rockford Files for the ga-zillionth time). Oddly, right now (7:38 p.m) as I type this, one is commencing. Face aflame ... here we go ...

TMI PARAGRAPH: I'll mention an uncomfortable one right now: "digestive issues." Let's just say that the drug has made more difficult something that most people do every day. Much more difficult. Until I discovered a happy cure: sugar-free butterscotch hard candy. Eat a few in the morning, a few in the afternoon. And life becomes more bearable. Much more bearable.

One of Lupron's nicer side effects: I go to sleep easily--and stay in SlumberLand, except, of course, for the two or three times a night when the Old Guy part of my brain awakens me with the intelligence that It's time! I've learned not to ignore those messages. But when I return to bed, I'm unconscious almost immediately. I also seem to be having more vivid dreams--but more about that another time.

But this deep-sleepery has a Dark Side, too. It's affected my working hours. For many years I got up around five a.m. and was in my classroom by six--prepping for classes, grading, copying, etc. I maintained that schedule until recently when I could just no longer do it. I try now to get up at 6:30, but I don't always make it. I don't usually go past 7, but I could--and easily. But my Puritan Conscience will not allow me to linger abed too long, so I get up, even though I could easily go till 9 or 10. In this sense (and this sense only) I resemble my adolescent self.

Oh, and I can't stay up much later than 9:30 or 10, either. If I try, I fall asleep anyway, so I figure I might as well do it on purpose!

And my energy has declined markedly. Out at the health club, for example, pre-Lupron, I could ride the Airdyne bike for thirty hard minutes (not stopping at all), burn around 500 calories and cover (while going nowhere) about 10.5 miles. And post-Lupron? I can't do thirty consecutive minutes anymore; I can't do twenty minutes. I do three bursts of ten, with a three-minute rest between them. And I'm happy with, oh, 420 calories and 9.5 miles. Afterwards, I am far more exhausted than I used to be after a thirty-minute ride.

I see the energy drain in all that I do--the reading, the writing the walking. I just don't have what I did as recently as early last summer. Sure, I'm 69 years old now, and no doubt some of this is due to my age. But lots of it--I know--I can attribute directly to Lupron.

I'm depressed a lot, too. Some of it, surely, is due to my knowledge of what lies ahead--but also, I think, Lupron is culpable, as well. Some days I can barely force myself to say a sentence to anyone except Joyce, for whom I never run out of words. I never was (in private life) much of a chipper, chirpy person. I'm perfectly happy if no one talks to me in coffee shops or grocery stores or wherever. It's not that I dislike people, though; I just want to be alone, even in public. I don't want to be rude--and I try never to be. But I know that my manner and mien and demeanor do not invite much, uh, intercourse.

Finally, I cry a lot now. I've always been a weeper (I think I did a post about that a year or so ago). Movies, books, TV shows--all can set me off. But lately it takes very little to tap the vast aquifer of my tears. An example. We are having a bit of painting and other remodeling done around here, and Joyce and I (well, almost entirely Joyce) are weeding things out--giving things away, throwing them out. The other night I went upstairs to get ready for bed, and I saw that Joyce had laid out all of my neckties (a couple score of them). The tacit message: Don't you think you could get rid of some of these?

Understand: Joyce has never and would never do anything to hurt my feelings. Such things are beyond her. In our forty-four years together she has not ever said or done anything whose intent was to hurt me--in any way. But when I saw those ties on the bed, I fell apart. I dropped to my knees and wept like a little kid who's just learned the hard way that puppies don't live forever. I can't really explain it. Maybe those ties represented--what?--possibility? I mean, if the ties are here, then I could wear them when, you know, I ... I ... what? Returned to teaching? (Not going to happen.) But if the ties are gone, then ... then ... then ...

I wept for half an hour--sobbed--Joyce trying her best to comfort me. I tried reading some Tobias Smollett: That usually focuses my attention (long sentences, massive paragraphs), but I read his words through the blear of tears.

Later, I thought about Daisy Buchanan and Gatsby's colorful shirts ... remember?

He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them one by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher--shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly with strained sound Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.

"They're just beautiful shirts," she sobbed ... (97-8).

I remember talking with my classes about what this scene shows us about Daisy. Some saw it as a sign of her love of beauty; others, of her superficiality--her passion for things. But my own experience has given me other ideas. The shirts--the ties--signs of life's evanescence.

I threw most of my ties away--keeping a basic black one and a few other standard colors--and a couple of "literary" ones (a Poe tie, a Shakespeare).

And I also kept a tie that Joyce made for me in 1970. How could I possibly throw that away? I wore it the final day of my career. For her.

Lupron, the drug that's simultaneously keeping me alive, weakening me,
preventing me from doing so many things I love.

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