5. Aftershock

I figured out the cause of my post-treatment shaking. A combination of toxic shock from the chemo drugs and a heavy dose of steroids before and after treatment. The toxicity in my body lessened the more I drank. The steroids took a little longer to recover from. To move the chemicals out of my body, I drank a dozen or so bottles of water daily. This also helped prevent dehydration, a common complication of chemotherapy.

As part of my post treatment, new meds were introduced into my body: more potent anti-nausea pills as well as magnesium tablets, designed to protect my kidneys. My nightstand became crowded with prescription bottles and boxes. Keeping track of when I needed to take any particular medication became a pretty complicated exercise.

But after a couple days, I could function almost normally. By the following Monday, May 9, I felt good enough to venture outside. I went for a walk and did a series of muscle stretches, attempting to keep my body reasonably strong. Fitness and strength would help me offset the damaging effects of the chemo drugs. When I was strong enough, I would go for walks.

I spent the rest of my time talking with or emailing most of my family members. I have six siblings, both parents still alive, and one sister-in-law, all worried for me. I talked through my condition with Bob. Kate convinced me to get on Facebook so I could reach the nearly two dozen nieces and nephews of mine. Eric texted me to see how I was holding up. Being a cancer patient can be a solitary experience. So I was glad to have all this early communication.

Sensing that I needed to take my mind off things, on Tuesday Kate took me to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game. (The Washington Nationals, my home team, was on the road.) Going to baseball games is a great form of relaxation and entertainment for me. I love the look of the big green field. I enjoy watching great players perform and rooting for my team. I get to spend quality time with Kate or Michael, my usual baseball companions. And a lot of the seriousness of everyday life seems to fade away.

Things seemed to go well this particular evening. It was a beautiful spring night. And for perhaps the first time since I was diagnosed, Kate and I didn't spend all our time talking cancer. Hmm, I thought, I wonder if this is the pattern: rough few days post treatment, followed by recovery. I would soon find out. Because I needed to get prepared, mentally and physically, for the next treatment that Friday.

Bob had great advice on how to handle the mental side of this. A positive attitude affects physical health, so get in the right frame of mind. Because of treatments, I'm only getting better, Kate would often say. "There's no reason not to believe the drugs aren't working," she said in circular language I normally use; hey, she's stealing my act!

Bob's other advice: just focus on today. If I tried to process the entire experience I needed to go through -- months of chemo, followed by radical surgery if I'm lucky, followed by who knows what -- it would overwhelm and depress me. No kidding.

Friday was now here. Time for treatment number two. It would completely dispel any notion that recovery wasn't so bad.

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