cu·mu·la·tive (kyo͞omyələtiv,-ˌlātiv)

Increasing or enlarging by successive addition.

It’s funny how you can know a word for so long, maybe toss it occasionally into conversation about poverty, racism, oppression, pot smoking, acid rain or banking, where you might switch it out for the word compound. But mostly you pass it by, satisfied you won’t get caught off-guard clueless as to its meaning.

Like any other word, unless you have to, you don’t stop and pull it on – like an ill-fitting coat or a hair shirt. I think I’ll wear this for a while. Some people do, as an experiment in empathy, or a scientific test to prove a hypothesis like: this is what happens when you only eat McDonald’s for a month. But most of us don’t. Why should we?

I’m now living in the world of cumulative effects. At least I think they’re cumulative. I have to say it’s a bit of a mind fuck. If I was put on the stand in an episode of the Good Wife (I’ve watched 30 of those in the last few days so I feel I can comment) I couldn’t offer proof of accumulation. I think I feel worse than I did the last time or the time before but I can’t measure that. Memory is unreliable. Memory of discomfort, cloudy. Human beings, suggestible. Just tell me it’s cumulative and off I go accumulating.

Just finished my 3rd chemo. You’ll be happy to know they’ve already booked the 4th, before checking my white blood cells. Good to see they are working to correct past oversights. Unless my blood is uncooperative, it’s a go for the end of the month.

For the moment I’m negotiating the post-chemo haze.

Monday morning I got out of bed to use the bathroom and ended up lying on the floor beside the tub, unsure whether to faint or throw up (thankfully opted for neither.) That’s new. Eating has stopped being fun. Last week I allowed my memory of pleasure to push me through most of an oversized Toblerone and finally realized it just wasn’t worth it. Mouth sores are now in constant competition with my appetite. That’s new too. Is there a difference between new and cumulative?

It’s complicated to be torn between wanting to know what to expect and not wanting to know what’s coming.

Cumulative scares me – as a concept. But today feels better than yesterday, and despite the impact of the supposed accumulation of toxic helpers, feeling better day by day has been a constant. That’s good. And as long as Netflix distracts me, I shouldn’t worry too much.

So far I haven’t met anything I can’t deal with – not that there’s an alternative to dealing.

On the bright side of cumulative - the opposite of fatigue and dizziness, there is patience (or something that looks way more like patience than anything I’ve ever been before), cancer community (that I didn't even think I wanted), ability to tolerate the unknown, the depth of people’s support, empathy for what hard is all about, and the many forms it can take.

Cumulative is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just an adjective. You can do what you want with it.

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