a request

After my first treatment, it was the following Tuesday before I could get out of bed or do much of anything.  Today is Tuesday, and I’m not quite where I was last time.  I wonder if there really is a cycle; a way to predict on what days I’ll feel something like myself.  If there is, I haven’t found it yet.  I also haven’t found a way to manage the fatigue yet; the inability to do anything except sit and hurt.  The fatigue is truly the worst of the side effects.

I want so badly to get up and do things.  I wonder if the fatigue would be so bad if I could set goals for myself.  One load of laundry.  One chapter in a book.

Reading.  I haven’t had the focus needed to finish a book in a very long time.  I used to read constantly.  Since my diagnosis, I find that I just don’t have the attention span to read.  Back in February, before all of this started, I was reading a book by MFK Fisher, the food writer.  MFK was the first food writer, and every ounce of passion she had for cooking and eating pours from every word she wrote.  It’s a rare thing indeed when I can’t make it through a book, but I know I’ve probably read the last of Mary Frances for a while.

I’ve been trying to read “Howard’s End” by E.M. Forster during my clinic visits, but so far, it hasn’t grabbed me.  I consider it a sort of personal failure if I can’t make it through a book, and I don’t want to set it aside, but I think it’s time to look for something else.  Life is too short to read boring books, right?  So I’m going to find something else.  Any suggestions?

21 thoughts on “a request

  1. 1. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series by Brandon Sanderson (Yes, for kids, but…totally snarky, very fun. Sanderson is my favorite fantasy author!)
    2. The Chosen by Chaim Potok (and its sequel, The Promise) – one of my favorite books of all time
    3. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (and subsequent books in the series)
    4. Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales

  2. When my Grandma was going through chemo for breast cancer, way back a long time ago, she’s crochet while passing the time getting her treatments. She made blankets for each of her grandchildren. I still have mine and actually have used it with each of my children when I was breastfeeding to keep us warm in those chilly nights.

    I don’t know whether you crochet or knit, and if you don’t there’s a bit of a learning curve, but after a time, it’s more a muscle memory type of thing and doesn’t really require a lot of concentration. When you’re done with all of the treatments, and look back on your time, maybe you will have made baby blankets for your grandchildren, or small blankets for your kids for when they go off to college and need a memory from home. You will have a something accomplished on top of getting healthy.

    That’s my thought, and with that, I think I need to get my crochet needles out again and see if I still remember what my grandma taught me.
    Love to you.
    Melissa (aka @druantia)

  3. I’m not familiar with either of those books you mentioned but some light reading might be a better alternative so you can just enjoy the book without having to think about it too much. I know sometimes I’d rather read some fluff book instead of something that I have to devote a lot of thought to.
    Keeping you in my prayers!

  4. Aloha Jen,

    If these posts become difficult, may I suggest an audio recorder? Just record the audio and post as a podcast, or maybe Ryan can transcribe for you and post your words. If reading is difficult, it will only be a matter of time before writing is even harder.

    Best wishes.


  5. Aloha Jen,

    I’d suggest some short story compilations or literary magazines to find new authors to suit your tastes. A while ago I read ‘The Barrytown Trilogy’ by Roddy Doyle that has three fun stories in it; all of them made me laugh out loud. T.C. Boyle also has a bunch of ridiculous anecdotes complied into collections that can be worth a laugh.

    This page is excellent, by the way. You’ve got a lot of people cheering for you in the blogosphere (http://goo.gl/B9aDr) and beyond!

    All the best,

  6. Well, I’m not sure if I agree with our friend, Blaine! Brain fog, be it from medications or stress, affects different people in different ways. I had it from medication. It impacted my reading terribly but not my writing. It was even easier to get my thoughts out via writing than speaking them. Anyway, since laughter is such a great medicine, have you thought of watching videos of whatever makes you laugh? For me, Robin Williams sends me into fits of laughter. Maybe you have an equivalent. Just a thought! If reading is an issue during chemo then maybe just put it on the back burner ’til your treatments are over.

    I like your idea of setting simple goals…as long as you don’t beat yourself up if you’re too tired to accomplish one. The meds and your body are working overtime to rid you of all those nasty ca bugs. The fatigue, like the loss of hair, is a sign the meds are working and your body is fighting the disease. You know how exhausted we feel when we have the flu? Just wanna stay in bed and sleep? That’s your body fighting off the virus. No different for the cancer except you have drugs in your system that also add to the fatigue.

    You and Ryan are such movie buffs. If you enjoy movies when you’re fatigued, maybe designate the first week after a treatment as movie week?

    Hang in there, cutie. You’re doing a great job.
    healing hugz…tutu

  7. For light “fluff” reading I suggest the Janet Evanovich series. She has 18 books in the Stephanie Plum series. They are comical and light and don’t require much concentration to follow the plot. Jane Green also writes lighthearted, easy-to-read books. Good luck, Jen!! Love, hugs, and prayers!!

  8. Hi Jen, if you like mysteries, try the Tana French “Dubliners series”: “In the Woods”, “the Likeness” and “Faithful Place”. They are very good and each book profiles a different member of the murder squad – you don’t get the same investigator each book so stays fresh. Think her newest book is coming in July.

  9. Anything by Kelley Armstrong is a good read in my opinion. If you’re not feeling up to werewolves, start with her non-fantasy books “Exit Strategy” and “Made to be Broken.” Both excellent stories that were quick reads for me. For a truly laugh out loud experience, check out “Crazy for You” by Jennifer Crusie and “Agnes and the Hitman” by Crusie and Bob Mayer.

  10. Aloha Jen… I agree about audio books if you can manage it. I also agree with Melissa’s suggestion about knitting or crocheting if you know how. I don’t know if learning to do either would be too much for you or not right now. She’s right about muscle memory, and having something that you created during this hard time would be wonderful to have.

    Keeping a journal like you’re doing here is also helpful. A private, hand-written one could also work; you wouldn’t even have to write in complete sentences in it, you could doodle in the margins, and it doesn’t matter what it looks like.

    When I’ve gone through tough times, I’ve also gotten a stack of magazines and cut out photos and words with no thought of what I was going to do with them; I just cut out the things that drew me to them. Then I’d put them in a shoebox or something, and then later would just start gluing them onto a piece of paper with no goal in mind. It was amazing to see what came out of them… words and phrases and photos taken out of context take on a whole new life this way.

    If you wanted to do it online, there’s a website called http://www.polyvore.com where you can do the same thing. There are zillions of images to choose from.

    You are so courageous; this is not an easy time for you. I hope that you will turn your back on feeling like a personal failure if you can’t finish a book. You are in a battle right now, and warriors just have to rest and take it easy sometimes.

    Much aloha,


  11. Hey Jen,
    Have you ever read any graphic novels? I highly recommend the Fables graphic novels by Bill Willingham. Supposedly, the show “Once Upon A Time” is loosely based on them, because it is about fairy tale characters living in our world, but the books are much more gritty, intense, and deep than the show. There are about 20 of them at this point, and they are little bon-bons of entertainment. Full of cool artwork, intrigue, action, a little romance, and not much brainpower required. They were my first foray into graphic novels, and I was totally hooked.
    Wishing you all the best! Cari

  12. Right now I’m reading “Room” by Emma Donoghue and I can’t put it down. It’s about a women who was kidnapped and has been living in a single room for 7 years. It’s written from the POV of her 5 year old son who was born in captivity. For something lighter, author Jen Lancaster is hilarious. All, but one of her books are biographical. Start with “Bitter is the New Black.” I hope you find something to read you can get into! There’s nothing better for distraction than a good book.

  13. I remember reading that Roald Dahl helped his wife, Patricia Neal, get back into reading after a stroke by giving her childrens books to read. You might check out the Young Adult section of the library. Maybe find something of interest or reread a book from high school such as “Catcher in the Rye,” (or anything by Salinger), “The Chosen” by Potok, or something by Hemmingway or Steinbeck … you get the idea. Pick something familiar, you will soon regain your love for books and reading. Good luck!

  14. Hi again Jen… I talked with two people in my knitting group this morning who are cancer survivors. One said that during chemo she simply couldn’t do anything. It was all too much. The other said that audio books were a lifesaver for her.

    I think you can only do what you can do. You’re not a failure. You’re a warrior!


  15. Jen Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. You are a great writer. Have you ever read any Bill Bryson? I would suggest A Walk in the Woods. It is a very funny account of him trying to walk the Appalachian Trail.

    Please don’t be hard on yourself about anything!!!!


  16. Hmmm…what about cook books from the library. Big, bright pictures. Go through them with a pack of post-its and the faith that, when you’re ready to cook again, you’ll have some cool new things to try. (Someone can copy the chosen pages then get the library books back on time?)

  17. I just posted on Ryan’s FB this same info, and because you’re likelier to read it if I post it here, here’s the message:

    I just came across this e-book on powerreads.com, free for a limited time, that may be of help to you and Ryan by someone who traveled there and back.

    Product Description:
    Elizabeth Glasson was living an ordinary life worrying about nothing more than getting home from work in time to pick up the kids and whether there would be another series of Desperate Housewives. All that changed one fateful summer when she discovered a lump in her left breast and things got a whole lot more complicated.

    Five years on, she revisits the blog she wrote during treatment for an aggressive grade 3, stage 3 breast cancer and looks at the experience with the benefit of hindsight and a great pair of tinted specs.

    A funny, poignant and ultimately hopeful story from a mother, wife, friend and colleague who (nearly) always saw the glass half full…

  18. For books about Hawaii, I recommend Kiana Davenport and Alan Brennert. Her novels reflect the native point of view, while his work focuses on historical, and native, aspects.

  19. Jen, you need something lighter! Howard’s End is an amazing book, but requires too much focus for you right now. Have you read The Magicians by Lev Grossman? Big recommend! 🙂

  20. Have you read all of David Sedaris’ books? I am not a fan of his most recent, but I could read Me Talk Pretty One Day, Naked or When Your Engulfed in Flames over and over! BTW I just finished The Hunger Games! Glad I finally read it and can’t wait to read the next one!

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