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​Sick & Tired

MY KNEES are now the biggest part of my legs.

Then my ankles.
I didn’t think it was possible to lose as much weight as this but it’s par for the cancer course. My friend and chemo roommate Dane has lost 127lbs, down from his original majestic 267. Denise Plummer had to have lost as much, proportionate to her frame.
But it’s not the thinness.
The thinness you could live with.
It’s the attendant tiredness.
Your body stores energy as, inter alia, layers of fat you can deplete as you need, in the winter or when food supplies aren’t dependable, like when the only nutrition you’re getting is from a liquid diet fed to you by syringe through a plastic tube from your nose to your stomach.
Still, your body does an admirable job of regulating itself, choosing which resources to burn first. Subcutaneous fat and muscle last longer than belly fat and flab.
As you lose weight, you lose energy. The more weight you lose, the more tired you feel. It’s exactly when you need to put in your 10,000 FitBit steps daily most that you are least likely to have the strength to do it.
When you’re down to the frame of yourself – your actual literal skeleton if you get down far enough – your resources shrink to nothingness.
I’m a long way from there now.
But I’m probably equidistant from the point where I could think nothing of hiking five miles through the Bajan cane fields every morning.
In the last seven days, I’ve had two main destinations between which I move, slowly, carefully: my bed; and the couch in front of the TV, where I can’t bear the current lying news, but take delight in watching magnificent old films with my grown children. At ages 25 and 23, they’d seen by their teenaged years more quality film than most Trinidadians will have in a lifetime.
And I have dozens of great films still to show them in what is turning out to be the Cancer Film Club. Three Colours: Blue, White and Red, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s trilogy inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, liberty, equality and fraternity. The 400 Blows. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Apocalypse Now Redux. Metropolis. A Clockwork Orange.
Except that I’m often too tired to watch anything but Love It or List It, Vancouver.
Most days, I can’t even handle the tension of Hilary Farr, the original carping Love It or List It interior designer.
For the last couple of weeks, nights have been closer to sleepless than rejuvenating, largely due to the one thing making me more tired than anything else: the coughing up of bile.
Just coughing is by itself tiring. Remember how breathless you were at the end of your own last coughing fit. There is nothing that puts the flourish on exhaustion like sitting on the bathroom floor, hugging the toilet for support and gasping for air.
It may be accurate to say I spend most of my time nowadays just catching myself.
Since either September 23 or 30, when the N-G tube through which I’m being fed was put in, I’ve had almost nothing by mouth. With the fistula between my gullet and my right lung, more than one sip of water can induce debilitating coughing fits that leaves my lungs sucking for air, my eyes watering and my big knees wobbly. I haven’t had my beloved watermelon for a fortnight (and even then, was barred from swallowing it, was just allowed to chew, savour the taste, and spit out). On Tuesday, half an iced lolly (just for the cold and wet sensations) left me coughing for half the day.
So it’s back to nil by mouth.
And so I move between three spaces: bed, where I rest fitfully; couch, where I root for Todd the real estate agent; and bathroom, where I hack repeatedly at my own stomach and lungs, hawking and spitting globs of phlegm that at least don’t taste at all and eruptions of bile that taste worse than the most bitter caraille.
This happens all day long. I’m either sitting on the couch, catching my breath or slumped on the bathroom floor, waiting until my breath is coming regularly.
And then I limp back out to the couch to see what Jillian and Todd are up to.

BC Pires is holding the Chinatown DVD but watching the Cartoon Network

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