I’m not sure how I feel today about the “cancer is a journey” metaphor. I think if it’s a journey of some sort, there should be days where there might be some pleasant sightseeing. Or days when you get to sit by the pool. Today, it feels like if cancer is a journey, it’s a journey where, somehow, you get stuffed inside the suitcase. Perhaps some days, the suitcase is thrown into the cargo bay of a jumbo jet and you might feel like you are getting somewhere. Other days, you feel like you are just going around and around the baggage claim carousel. Today is definitely a baggage claim day. I have another tooth issue that I’m hoping will resolve without having another root canal. I have a rash on my face. My taste buds are shot. I’ve gained another 3 pounds. I have a headache. I have no hair in my nose so there’s nothing to stop it from running. My eyes are itching like the pollen count is at 400 and itchy eyes isn’t listed anywhere as a side effect. I’m still on antibiotics for the cellulitis on my arm and it’s wrecking havoc on my digestive tract. I have such bad reflux at night that I have to sleep sitting up and I wake up about every two hour, coughing or gagging. And I’m tired. Really, really tired. So, I’m complaining. That’s what I feel like doing. Complaining. It’s the other C word, and I’m sure everybody will forgive me for indulging myself in it. My flight today has been delayed. Of course, I’m grateful for my peeps for letting me be a bitchy old bag today. I know together we can “handle it.”
They’re gone. Totally gone. Just another one of those things that, until now, I’ve totally for granted. But, my taste buds have decided to take a powder and the one thing I was enjoying (food) has become partof the frustrustion of undergoing this treatment.
Nothing taste sweet, sour or bitter, and everything tastes like it could use a half shaker of salt – and I’m certain it would be best not to add a ton of salt since I’m already retaining water like the Hoover Dam. I imagine the loss of my buds will make it easy to cut down on food consumption. I start out a meal with good intentions and my sense of smell seems to be fine. But take a bite, and it’s clear that there’s nothing going on. After a few bites, I’m totally fed up, or should I say unfed up. Luckily dark chocolate still is getting though, and stuff with texture like mashed potatoes or super crunch like celery which doesn’t have much taste to start with is somewhat satisifying. I always thought I was a person with good taste. Next thing you know I’ll be wearing overalls and listening to One Direction.
It’s Sunday. It’s February. It’s freezing out. There’s a storm coming. I ate too many carbs last night. I’m bored. If I wasn’t undergoing chemotherapy, I know these would all be perfectly acceptable reasons to stay horizontal for the day. And it would not surprise me if half of New England is hunkering down into some good old fashioned on-the-couch Sunday tired.
But it’s four days after my last round of chemotherapy… after finishing the super-hero course of steroids…as my white and red blood cell counts begin to head into the crapper, there’s a level of tired that’s unbelievable. I’d never use the expression “dead tired” which seems far too hyperbolic. And since I own a very active border collie, there is no such thing around here as “dog tired”. But “bone tired” certainly seems fitting today. Maybe even “Bone marrow tired.” Perhaps it’s nature’s way of making sure I can’t do anything but stay confined to my germ-free couch. I’m confident that in a day or two, I’ll be back roaming the aisles of Bed, Beth & Beyond or color-coding my tax files. But for now I’m going to give myself permission to bring all the oars in the boat and just coast. I hope, if you need to do so, you’ll give yourself permission, too.
Hair it is. 18 days after my first chemotherapy and my hair is in the process of leaving my head. It’s not like shedding. It’s more like when the needles fall off the Christmas tree – about four days after you decide to stop watering it! The way it was explained to me, hair has three phases. It’s either growing, sleeping or unrooting itself. Normally, all the hair on your head is in different phases — some is growing, some resting, some falling out. When chemotherapy enters into the mix, it immediately puts all the hair into the sleep cycle – which means it will also fall out pretty much at the same time.
I thought since I had bravely sheared my long locks to the pixie cut and made it through the trying on and buying of a wig, I was emotionally prepared for my impending baldness. Unfortunately, now that that time is here, I’m a little freaked. Tomorrow my genius new master hair cutter Nicky, is going to buzz the rest of it down to a peach fuzz and then that will be that. Never has it been, or will it be more true: Hair today. Gone tomorrow. It will official be Super Bald Sunday.
It’s Monday, January 26, 2015 and here in the Northeast we are preparing for what is being hyped as the most historic, worst possible-ever Blizzard of the Century.
I used to love snowstorms when I was a kid. No school, sledding, cocoa. Then, once I got to be a teenager, snowstorms became more of a drag because your parents wouldn’t let you take the car out and all your friends lived across town. Today, I’m just happy I have nowhere to go because another memory of teen angst has reared its ugly head. It’s called ACNE.
That’s right! I have the face of a 14-year-old. In fact, I haven’t been this broken out since the Carpenters were the number one singing duo in the country. I guess it’s the combination side effect of taking steroids after chemo and having no white blood cells (wbc) to fight infection. I also found out that the large red welt on my arm is something called cellulitis which is also a skin infection I got as a result of getting an IV while producing very few WBCs. So, now I’m on a seven day antibiotic regimen of Keflex. So, I should probably take a probiotic to counter the antibiotic which is countering the steroid which is countering the chemo. Nice!
For me, the take-away from all of this is to never again take for granted that (most of the time) our physical bodies are an absolutely amazing well-tuned system, capable of recognizing and repairing thousands of complex requirements that are happening all the time. For now, I’ll have to accept that ‘It’s gonna take some time this time to get myself in shape.”
i bet you were hoping that I was going to tell you how I went to Target and got some really cool stuff. Sorry. Not the case.
The image is here to represent the big red welt I have right where I got my last IV injection. I figured you’d prefer NOT to see a photo of THAT.
I had to go over to the Infusion Center so they could check it out. Two nurses who have, each, been at this chemo game for more than a decade said, “Mmmm…I’ve never seen anything like that.” Say, what??? How is it possible that I have a 2″ x 3″ bright red target on my arm that’s not on a list of the hundreds of possible side effects of chemotherapy? So, the solution was to outline the whole thing with a black Sharpie – and as long as it stays within those boundaries, I shouldn’t be concerned. Actually, I will happily choose the hot, itchy, skin rash over all the things on those lists of side o’ffects. Yeah, it’s a rash decision.