The ticking of the machine that released the liquid calories all through the night didn’t cause disturbance, especially on the days I felt overwhelmingly exhausted. I am a light sleeper by nature and prefer complete darkness in the room, but the chemo and radiation effects would allow me to easily tune out the sounds and light around me, and sleep upon request – my body’s request. Often, I’d fall asleep so quickly that I didn’t have time for my prayer, and would feel bad the next day if I didn’t remember saying it.
It was a miracle if I slept all night. Some chemotherapies, or other medications administered during the treatment, are stimulants. In my case, waking in the middle of the night was a common occurrence. I’m not sure if the insomnia was caused by treatment or my mental state, but the on-off sleep habit was frustrating when I was feeling horrible.
If my mother heard me get out of bed, she would come in from her room, which was the furthest bedroom from mine, to check on me. You could tell she was sleepy out of her mind, her eyes half-closed, her voice course but low, and her concern apparent. “What’s wrong?” She would ask, in her Italian dialect, as she stood dazed by my bedside. Maybe she was also a light sleeper. She told me years later that she felt helpless for not being able to alleviate my suffering.
Those sleepless nights were so long. I couldn’t get up and walk around until I was tired, for fear I would awaken every one in the house. Reading wasn’t a habit of mine, so it was far from my mind. Even so, I wouldn’t want to disturb my husband’s rest. My energy was so low despite the sleeplessness, so not much went through my mind. I just wanted to get back to sleep. Should I have forced myself to stay awake later in the evenings instead of running to bed by nine?