• Mark Pajak

Taking It To The Limit


Limit: A point or level beyond which something does not or may not extend or pass

When diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, I needed/wanted a method by which I could measure myself physically. I was looking for a quantifiable mean/indicator of my physical well-being other than blood numbers. I settled on this: Once a month, I would time myself in a mile run at the high school track.

I was never a great runner. I enjoy the experience of running however it was never my forte and quite frankly it was not always high on my list of ways to stay in decent physical shape. None the less, I really liked this idea of timing myself once a month in the mile. It gave me a quantifiable look-see as to my stamina, my strength, my ability to push myself, etc. It was/would be easy (4 laps around track) to keep track of, easy to record and the only equipment I need was my cell phone which has a stopwatch. So, I began to run the mile. Last February on the least windy day in wintery-Laramie, I ran a 10:24.

In October of this year and after the end of the first cycle of my new chemo protocol, I ran the mile in 14:47. How is that for progress? It is all relative – to what I do not know. I just know that I was slow and feeling terrible.

Back in March of this year we tweaked my existing drug protocol to see if we could make it work for a bit longer. About five months later, with a monoclonal peak number that kept rising, we decided it was time to try something more than just tweaking.

I was switched to a protocol that now involves two chemo infusion for three consecutive Mondays followed by 14 days off and then a new cycle begins. To date, the results have been ok in that the first monoclonal peak number at the end of the first cycle indicated a slight decrease.

This new protocol however just wipes me out. Nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, nausea, fatigue, nausea, etc. Recently, during yet another trip to the bathroom, I began to consider this word “limit.”

I began to question what I was doing and whether it was a valid course of action. I began to try and quantify what my limit would be/is in the paring of survival against non-survival.

Trust me when I write that I am aware of most of my limits. I will never be the next Van Gough or the next Cary Grant. I am not Einstein or Fermi. I will never be the next Babe Ruth. And I will never be the world record holder in the mile. Limits – I get them. I have them. Fortunately, I can easily accept most of my limits.

But what is the limit that I will place on myself as it applies to continued treatments, more pain and additional drug side-effects for the sake of seeing tomorrow’s sunrise?

Tough question. At this point, unanswerable – I just do not know.

It is difficult for me to let go of the lifestyle I enjoy. Being with my wife, having relationship with my sons, having an extended family that is both caring and loving are first rate. Having friends who care and being a positive contributor to what goes on around me (as I define positive) are all present in my life and much enjoyed. I am grateful for these gifts. At this point in my journey, I am not ready to set a limit.

However, for the first time in my life, I have begun to be more aware of this issue of limits and the likelihood that most of us with cancer/MM will at some point need to quantify where our limit resides.

Look, it is not easy to be sick at night while others sleep peacefully behind closed bedroom doors. It is not easy accepting the need to avoid/minimize traveling or attending events or gatherings for the sake of reducing the interactions with strangers who may be carrying additional germs/flu/un-detected covid. The reality of nausea, lack of sleep, fatigue or any other chemo infusion related side-effect is not fun. Laying on a couch for the better part of two days after an infusion stretches the definition of the word “living.” And here is the kicker, a steady dose of this reality significantly impacts the time available for the desired activities that contribute to the desire for moving forward and keep going.

For the first time in my life, the thought of “setting a limit” regarding cancer/MM treatments and protocols has crept into my head on a more noticeable basis. How or when that will be resolved is yet to be determined.

For the most part, there is no way of knowing what comes next.

I suppose you take it to a “limit” and then one day you say no.


PS: My November time for the mile was 12:28

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