Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Getting Easier While Getting Tougher

Cancer treatment can be a whole world of contradiction for a patient. Because of our individual biologies and the unpredictability of treatments, not to mention the cancer cells themselves, it is impossible to predict the combination of side-effects and body changes that a patient will endure. And switching treatments sometimes opens up an even wider range of weirdness.

Difficult changes in my everyday health

My treatments had been taking me down a very definite road over the past year. During this time, I have lost a lot of weight, much of it in muscle mass, and I had experienced a decided loss in flexibility as well. Perhaps it was due in part to the lack of energy I experienced, enhanced, no doubt, by the diminished muscle. But try as I might, I could no longer reach places on my back that used to be possible.

Along similar lines, I had developed a limp after radiation treatment, and rather than getting better it appeared to just get worse. Walking, in general, was sometimes difficult — and getting in and out of my car required more than a small amount of additional concentration. Even my balance was suffering.

Clearly, all of these issues were related, all tied into my muscle and skeletal structure. None of my joints seemed as agile as before. I was weaker, more fatigued, and generally underweight. It did not look good.

Then came my new treatment

Then I began a new therapy, and this one was a doozy. It attacked my whole body in ways that I had not experienced before. But it was working a certain kind of magic at the same time, surprising me in the midst of new hardships.

While I was dealing with external pain, itching, bleeding, and overall discomfort, changes were happening inside. While I was suffering from lack of sleep and having trouble staying hydrated, the medication was attacking my tumor aggressively and I was beginning to notice other benefits as well.

Suddenly, I realized that I had no trouble reaching those spots on my back — essential good news for me, considering how often I had to apply lotion to every patch of skin on my body. My limp, I realized, had gone away. I even broke into a trot at one point, astounding myself that I could do more than lurch along in zombie mode. And in the shower, raising my leg to wash the bottom of my foot, I was stunned to realize that I was not leaning against anything for support. Indeed, getting dressed, I could suddenly lift my legs individually to slip on my pants without stumbling. My balance had returned.

Taking pride in small steps forward

These might seem like little things of virtually no consequence, but each was profound to me. Noticing the things that improved helped me to deal with the difficulties of the treatment. And it gave me hope that the treatment was working in ways that would have long-term ramifications. The harder the treatment course, the more we expect it to work, even when that is not always the case. Which is why, when some things do get better, it helps to acknowledge them.

And it always helps to keep things in perspective. We have ups and downs as cancer patients. Sometimes it is easy to focus on the downs and live in them, sinking into gloom and depression. But as our treatments are often rife with contradiction, we need to look for those areas that offer balance. Sometimes, in spite of the hardship of treatment, some things just get better.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • wucq
    1 year ago

    Those “little things” can only be noticed by ourselves-the cancer patients, but indeed each of them is profound to us. I have the exact same feeling. Thank you.

    Life has ups and downs, we have to force us to look up.

    I have seen your blogs several times, enjoy reading it. Keep writing.

  • Jeffrey Poehlmann moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks for sharing, @wucq — we appreciate it! I think a lot of us must share this perspective. And thank you for the appreciation, too!

    All the best, Jeffrey, team member

  • tkprice1958
    1 year ago

    I’m right there with you! It’s hard for people to understand ALL the issues we have due to our treatment protocols, and I really don’t want to lay all that on my friends and family. Everyone tells me I look great and don’t even look like I have cancer! I tell them thank you. But I sometime feel like in telling me that, they are invalidating how sick I feel sometimes. Often times I will just say, ” have a lot of issues but I feel pretty good right now!

  • Jeffrey Poehlmann moderator author
    1 year ago

    @tkprice1958, thank you for sharing your experience! Your reply sounds more than appropriate. I hear from people frequently who are surprised to discover that I have not been “cured” already — they expect that I would have either died or just gotten better, apparently, and the way I look sometimes certainly does not make things any more clear.

    I suspect that the best we can do at times is to try and be patient and accept that outside of those who have direct experience with lung cancer, the treatment and consequences remain something of a mystery. One of the reasons I share my experiences is to spread awareness of this disease, so that one day maybe we won’t be judged for looking one way or another, or expected to fit into an overly simplified narrative that stigmatizes patients rather than creating empathy.

    Best of luck to you — and may you continue to look great AND feel great in the process.

    Warmly, Jeffrey, team member

  • Poll