Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Me" Time

Sudden, scary illnesses require that you find a new way of living. You must negotiate a new normal for yourself, or else a solution will be thrust upon you. My many nice friends and acquaintances have urged me to remember to put myself first in all of this. "Just take care of yourself," they say. Yes. Yes. That is a good idea. A really good idea. I'll do that. Put myself first, and hang everything else. That's the only thing that makes sense.

But very early in this process I discovered this is more easily said than done. In the weeks preceding my first chemo round, I was subsumed daily with what I called "cancer errands." Appointments galore, and they didn't schedule themselves, either:

Going to the new surgeon, going to the new oncologist, going to the nutritionist.

Going for an echocardiogram, a CAT scan (which required advance preparation and a trip to the lab the day before), and blood work.

Going to the pharmacy to pick up all my drugs that I take at home. Going to the hair stylist to buzz off my hair. Going to the wig store. Going to Nordstrom for comfier bras. Going for day surgery to install the port in my chest. Going to Whole Foods ("The Temple," I call it) for provisions. Going to People's Pharmacy (which I call "The Chapel") for the pile of supplements I now take. Going to the chiropractor to loosen up for the battle my body is about to undergo. Doing laundry, even all the "delicate wash" stuff, and paying bills.

Surely after all that, the just taking care of myself could start. My preparations completed, I was ready for all that self care I was encouraged, nay, ordered to perform.

It hasn't really worked out that way.

Right now, because I am complaining, I feel I must guiltily and hastily affirm the help and care I have received from my brother and the fellow parents in my child's school. They do a lot of the leg work for me, picking up my child from school several times a week and taking her to the places she needs to go. The parents pack my child's lunch one day a week, and bring us a dinner once a week as well. Their care and generosity have released me from some of my usual obligations. For this I am in their debt, I do not know how I will ever properly express my gratitude. It's guilt-inducing for me to even think that despite their invaluable contributions to the war, I am still losing the Me Time battle.

Maybe it's useful to stop and imagine what a near-perfect, healing, me first life would look like. First, I would never worry about what is or is not in the refrigerator and whether I have had enough of it for today, and no conversation about it would be necessary. Next, every bit of discarded mail and trash would be stowed without reminders in its proper place. Our books, magazines, and catalogs would all have a place to live and stop competing for space on all the horizontal surfaces in our home. The bills and household business would be concluded in a few short minutes, rather than days. Laundry's done. When I am feeling energetic, the bulk of my time would be spent in daily moderate exercise and body work and of course, my sewing. I would even have time and energy for fun and frivolous things outside home (those things to be determined later).

A friend wrote me yesterday: "I have been a bit concerned that your blog has been idle. We're
hoping that means you are busy with other things besides thinking about cancer." Why yes, I was, I was shoveling paper all last week, working with my checkbook, getting ready for taxes, filing all my medical paperwork into a labeled accordion file, and looking for summer camps. I cooked dinner, I picked up the house, I did laundry. I did a little sewing on Sunday.

This doesn't fit into my picture of self-tending. This feels like I have to add cancer to my list of errands and tasks. I am failing at doing my cancer the right way.

Monday, February 18, 2008

On the A/C

Old hands at the cancer ranch already know this, but the first part of my regimen is known by a shorthand: "A/C." "Are you on A/C? I'm on A/C."

This stands for Adriamycin and Cytoxan, which are brand names for the cancer drugs. They both make your hair fall out and make you feel like shit. I find the abbreviations kind of funny. In-group slang for cancer patients. What would a sociologist make of this, I wonder?

Anyway, my next infusion was Feb. 7. I had a different nurse this time who decided to give me my Aloxi (anti-emetic) in an IV push instead of in a drip. Whoa, head rush, and it was not nice, and it didn't stop for about three days. I really barked at my oncologist last week about this, I think it was just the nurse wanting to rush my treatment and get off her shift (I now have chemo on Thursday afternoons at 1:30). A lot of good her efficiency did. I had to wait a goodly while for my Adriamycin anyway, head spinning. I was told there was a new guy who was preparing the drugs and thus, the backlog (oh, yay, beautiful). Finally, I said, "Where is my Big Red? Gimme my Big Red!"

This crimson poison has been around for ages, and even a little reading online seems to say that one day the medical community is gonna back off this stuff for some folks and go to a less heinous drug. Or even skip chemotherapy when it really isn't necessary. Of course, you want to hedge your bets with something as wily as cancer, but after this last round of chemo, I kept thinking, "THERE HAS GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Okay, now it is happening

I know it's pretty irresistible if it is not happening to you. You are wondering, "When will she start losing her hair?"

Well, friends, that day is TODAY. It's dropping out like needles from a Christmas tree (an apt comparison because my hairs are just about that long). I'm currently containing the shedding with one of those adorable stretchy caps I bought at Pat Painter's a few weeks ago. Yes, no more pretending I am just starting a "new look" with my cropped locks. I'm Cancer Gal now.

Tomorrow I am scurrying back to Pat's so Celeste can style and clip the wig I bought there. Pat said on the phone they can finish the job with my hair, as well. Oh, it's just not going to be as hilarious as it was the first time I went in there. The first time, K and I snickered and giggled. Ooh, silly wig, sexy wig, soccer mom wig. No laughing this next time. Not funny anymore.