Friday, April 25, 2008

"This is getting old"

That's what my brother says almost every time he takes me for chemo. That, and, "This is bullshit," are his two favorite comments. We were waiting for Dr. Popular to see me before my Taxol infusion yesterday. There is nothing so sobering or grown up than this experience. You think buying a car, or a house, makes you a grown-up. No. Making decisions like these makes you grow up.

The doctor let me know my white counts, while not dangerous, are getting lower every time I get Taxol. Now I have to go twice a week for a shot of Neupogen, so the white count doesn't drop so low that I am not well enough to get chemo. Now that's three times a week I must go to the Cancer Volcano and look in, dammit.

You know that expression, "Dum-dum-dum 'on steroids?'" Now I know what that is like. On steroids. It is crazy. It is hateful.

I forgot to mention for the last three treatments I was on just 2 mg of Decadron, as opposed to 20 mg during infusion, plus the massive oral doses I was taking. This has made a big difference, although I still don't sleep well for several days after infusion. By Monday, I am at my nadir and have experienced a big crash. My hip joints are a little sore, and I think this must be due to my white blood cells attempting to fight against the toxin currently streaming through me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Follicle Files

Don't fib. I know you want to know. "What is the hair situation with her, underneath those dreadful bandannas and that wig?"

About a month ago, I noticed little sprouties of white hairs peeking through my scalp, as my A/C regimen was ending. There's a bit more fuzz now. It mingles with the tiny, short pieces of dark stubble that's still clinging to my skin from when I had my husband shave my head. The stubble was a real problem, as it clung to headwear and irritated me when the follicles got rubbed the wrong way.

Finally, I slathered a washcloth with Clarins skin cleanser in the shower and rubbed my scalp with it, which removed most of what was still hanging around. But at no time has my scalp been 100% bare. Right now I look — and feel — like Zippy the Pinhead. No one other than my husband and child have seen me with my head uncovered, and I only started doing that about two weeks ago.

I feel practically no need to say much about the "other hair," not being of the generation that grooms it so. (I REALLY want to know where this obsession originated.) I stubbornly had not waxed my legs since December, hoping that hair would rub off when I bathed, but nothing doing. I broke down and waxed my legs about three week ago, and they seem to be staying relatively hair-free for a while.

With Taxol, Dr. Popular said I "shouldn't" have more hair loss, like my eyelashes and eyebrows. Ha. My lashes are getting very sparse, as are my eyebrows. This pisses me off, as my eyelashes are one of my "things," a thing I was born with that I really like about my physical self. A friend who has had treatment before said, "I felt like David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth." I'd like to amend that to read, "I feel like The Woman Who Fell to Planet Cancer."

A few nights ago I had a dream that I woke up, ran my fingers through my scalp and found that all of my hair had come back, exactly the same length it was before all of this crap started to happen. I felt relieved about it, but I also felt a loss, and wondered if I'd made the most of my time being bald. More about this struggle in another post.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Worshipping at the Temple

Whole Foods is the temple, I've said before. If they don't got it, you don't need it, especially if you're a patient.

Most people who know me know that I am an accomplished homemaker, when I am really on my game. I clean, cook, sew, garden (used to), repair things, and raise children with the best of them. I still believe Martha Stewart is a bloody genius for creating an empire around this pursuit. I wish I'd understood as she did that there was big money to be made if you were smart and ruthless about it.

Anyway, especially in the early years of my marriage, when I was child-free and pinching pennies (anybody remember TRIPLE COUPON DAYS at Tom Thumb? I say, give a shout out for triple coupon days!), I cooked at home a lot and liked to try lots of recipes. The grocery store held lots of interesting possibilities, even though I was on a tight budget. What could I do with pork on special? How to improve beef stew or pot roast? Make salad dressing, don't buy it (too expensive). Make desserts, don't buy them (cheaper and better tasting). I rarely bought convenience items (too expensive, probably unhealthy, not as tasty). Everything started pretty much from scratch, whether I was making chicken salad or Thai curry paste. It's the self-sufficient, DIY nutjob in me. It's better that way. It's cheaper. It's more pure.

Today it's a little different. My friend K says, "I love to cook but I hate having to cook." I was already in this camp before cancer, but now I'm in another country altogether. Now when I go through the grocery store, each aisle seems to hold nothing but bitter judgment for me. I look at ingredients and think, "I could make this-and-such, wow, it would be fantastic," and then quickly remember I am not a) a newlywed, and b) I have no physical energy to engage in the kitchen projects I once did. I can't be on my feet that long anymore and it would wipe me out if I were.

So I scout out the easy-to-make and ready-to-eat items and hope for the best. Whole Foods' egg salad is delicious (I could make it myself SO cheap! grr) but the chicken salad contains dark meat as well as breast meat, a combination I do not find palatable (again, my own preparation is my favorite). Boiled shrimp is very convenient, a great protein source, low in calories (but doing it yourself is way cheaper). Frozen items still disappoint me, like frozen hamburger patties.

More than all this, getting all Martha on everyone's ass doesn't feel like something I need to do right now. If everything goes the way I'm told it will, I will have many years left to clean my stove.

Halfway There

Today I received my fourth infusion of the drug Taxol. I've had four infusions of A/C (if you don't remember what that means you can look here), and now four treatments of Taxol. I have eight more rounds of Taxol to go. I've been in chemotherapy since January 21. I go once a week, on Thursdays at 1:30.

I have a favorite nurse at the chemotherapy suite, but I don't always get to sit in his station. Today I didn't get to. I had the worst seat in the room. If we were on an airplane, my seat would have been the one right by the lavatory. My LaZBoy of Doom was right next to the entrance, my IV stand perilously close to everyone's path and there are a lot very old and sick people shuffling around.

There are 4 or 5 stations in this big room, and each has four chairs that face each other in a "pod," like group therapy. Other than the time the spouse of another patient decided to blare the TV (Awakenings was on), I've been pretty lucky. I did once refuse on my 2nd Taxol to get treatment in a station that had TV going. Daytime TV is just the worst, such a depressive habit to get into. I know. I was a habitual soap opera watcher (Guiding Light and As the World Turns). I had to quit it cold turkey, like cigarettes. I've never looked back, and I'm far more productive with these 10 hours a week than I was in front of the tube.

Anyway, today there was this OBNOXIOUS ol' guy who would not shut his mouth. He thought he was hilarious. He thought he was a hellava guy! You know, salt of the earth. He orated in booming tones about his ranch, and culling coyotes on his land, how we should turn on the TV to Oprah ("she might have her boy Obama on there"). He talked to my favorite nurse about my nurse's upcoming nuptuals. Nurse intends to take his bride on a surprise honeymoon, perhaps to the Caribbean. Cowboy advised, "Well, tell her she'll have to speak with a black accent, only with an English accent. That'll freak her out."

Oh yeah, it was like that. That sumbitch jus' had to be runnin' his mouth. It was worse when he took a phone call.

"Yuh, gettin' chemo. They givin' me mah rat poison. The rat's dead now," he shouted, and I thought, "Naw, he ain't, he's still talkin." Even through my high tech earplugs I could hear this bastard yapping. For a while he had an audience — another couple close to his and his wife's age were in the seats next to him. That was even worse. Finally, they stopped torturing him with chemo and he left, he stopped torturing me, and I dozed for over an hour, waking a little every so often to my own snores.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

This Side of Dirt

Yesterday I was on the phone with a man of my fond acquaintance, talking about the upcoming business we are to do together. He has had health issues that make mine look like a hangnail. We're talking organ transplant, lymphoma, and more. He asked how I was. I told him I was fine, but that I was very tired of being a patient and I knew I didn't have to explain that to him.

"Well, we're on this side of dirt," he told me.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Vacation From Cancer

"Mom, when you're done with this stupid chemo, we need a vacation from cancer."

Out of the mouths of babes, right?

Yes, we DO need a vacation from cancer, my goodness.

I had a bit of a respite this weekend when my friend came to visit me. (I'm not sure what she was expecting — holding my hand at my bedside? It's not that bad, believe me.) I had really looked forward to her visit and we had a great time seeing each other and catching up with our other two pals. Doing the Sunday South Congress thing, hanging out, ending at Casino El Camino for Buffalo burgers (a high protein item that comes on a whole wheat bun and you can even get these yummy oven roasted tomatoes — who knew??). It was a mini-vacation from cancer.