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Opinion: Column: No Spring in My Future Step
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Opinion: Column: No Spring in My Future Step

I wouldn't say I'm feeling any significant side effects yet from my immunotherapy treatment, but if I'm handwriting these columns to begin with – which I am, I have to do so while holding a pen with a rubber grip (just above the ballpoint). No longer am I able to manipulate without this extra assistance. My fingers simply can't sustain the grip otherwise.

Nor would I say my reaction to my wife Dina's suggestion, as we walked to the car this morning – and looked around "Belly Acres" (our two acres of mostly trees) post wind-storm, concerning what homeowner/landowner thing we should do in the spring: pick up sticks and miscellaneous other debris off the ground – was at all enthusiastic. It was quite the contrary. In fact, I can't think of anything I'm less physically able to do given the side effects I'm semi experiencing:

  • Due to the chemotherapy I've infused – and pilled, for 10 years, the neuropathy in my feet makes walking an enduring challenge and running – even in place, totally out of the question. Related to this difficulty walking is difficulty maintaining my balance, especially when walking on non-level ground like "Belly Acres." I'm not exactly a danger to myself – or others, but if those yellow caution signs were placed strategically around our property, there would be yellow every which way you looked.
  • Because I'm semi overweight (a partial side effect) and definitely out of shape (sort of a side effect), bending over exacerbates the shortness-of-breath side effect I am most assuredly experiencing. Therefore, picking up sticks and stones off the ground may not exactly break any bones, but the names I may be called for being unable to perform this mundane task will not hurt me at all. It might amuse me actually.
  • The preceding task runs directly into yet another side effect: musculoskeletal pain and weakness. My bones ache a little and my muscles quiver a lot.

Add up the deficits and you get the following: I can't walk. My balance is impaired. Bending over is exhausting and shortens my breath, which all together limits my stick picking.

Moreover, carrying the weight I've gained is made more difficult by the weakness and pain I feel in my bones and muscles. This is the trifecta plus one.

I can do many things (activities of daily living, etc.), but the trifecta plus one, I can't. Other than adding a chainsaw ("the most trusted tool in the homeowner's arsenal") and being forced to wear those extremely heavy, metal-toe work boots to the equation, I can't imagine a less enticing spring activity as I gait around attempting to clean up and carry around a season's worth of ground clutter.

Having said all that, I think I deserve a certain amount of credit for knowing my limitations. Granted, such an admission is unlikely to garner any awards or "attaboys"; however, when one's life hangs in the balance (or lack thereof) knowing what not to do may be as important as knowing what to do.

And I know what to do indoors; it's more outdoors that presents the problem.

It seems that the side effects I'm beginning to feel, though not quite life-changing, are nevertheless life-affecting.

But I'm one of the lucky ones: still alive and reasonably well. I can live, still work (sort of) and play (occasionally) and even walk upright (though my posture could use some straightening).

So I have a few side effects which prevent me from doing two acres worth of stick work. I couldn't have planned it any better.