The past few months have been discouraging. Thanks to pain, nausea, and fatigue—the first two are worse now than during chemo; the third is almost as bad—I’ve done a lousy job of teaching this semester. I’ve managed to do a little writing along the way, but only a little: much less than an ordinary semester’s work product. Bad teaching and not much writing are not what I was hired to do. Frustration and guilt are constant companions.
I wonder sometimes what it feels like to deal with cancer and chronic pain without a job. On the one hand, it would be a great gift not to feel that omnipresent guilt about badly taught classes and unproductive months. On the other hand, were work absent, pain and disease would fill my mind; nothing would be left to elbow them aside. I can think of few worse hells than that.
Which makes me wonder at this fact: the large majority of chemo patients I’ve seen at Yawkey (the Boston cancer center where I go) are well past retirement age. What must it be like to live with this disease and—just as bad—to live with the treatments without a job to occupy one’s mind? I shudder at the question. It sounds strange, but I’m thankful that this disease has caught me while I’m still working. The next thought is less odd: As badly as I do my job these days, I’m more thankful for it than I have words to express.