Friday, January 31, 2014

Notes from a recliner...

I could say I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to update my blog, but that would be a lie. I haven’t had the energy because chemo is kicking my ass and I didn’t want to admit it. That’s more truthful. And just to give you some perspective on that: The surgery in which they cut off my breasts, then sliced into my abdomen, from hip to hip, in search of fat to use to for stuffing in an 8.5-hour Build-A-Boob Workshop marathon—THAT was a cakewalk compared to chemo.  

On a psychological level, a part of me struggles with all of this because I was declared “cancer-free” after surgery. My chemo is preventative treatment. No big, bad boogey man tumor to target and destroy. Though my lymph nodes were negative, my biopsy and subsequent surgery showed evidence that the barrier to my blood vessels had been breached by the cancer, so we’re shooting in the dark at any rogue cancer cells that may have escaped into my bloodstream. I keep telling myself I’m doing all I can to ensure I’m here for my family as long as I can be, and that’s what keeps me going across the Bear Mountain Bridge every two weeks to continue the vicious cycle.

But let me back up a bit…
It's easy to be super smiley BEFORE treatment.

My first chemo treatment was on New Year’s Eve. Though the anti-nausea meds were supposed to carry me through the typical three-day rough patch, I was sick to my stomach within three HOURS of getting the infusion. This triggered a lot of medicine tweaking. So, the first couple of treatments were really kinda torturous.  Right now, I’m recovering from my third infusion.  I’ve developed sores in my throat, which make swallowing trickier but are eased by a prescription mouthwash. The nausea wasn’t nearly as bad (special shout-out to the drug Emend!) but the fatigue and bone aches related to my white-blood-cell booster shot, which my husband gives me the day after each treatment, were worse this time around. In fact, I have yet to get out of my La-Z-Boy recliner today.

By now you may be wondering, “YES, but what about the HAIR?!!” In between treatments two and three is when les follicles started to unburden themselves. I’d run a wide-tooth comb through, in a vain attempt to detangle the matting, and that’s when I’d feel the sickening release of not only the knots, but the rest of the hair, too. In huge clumps. Till the bathroom sink looked like a small sea of brown waves. It physically nauseated me, and that’s when I shipped the kids off to my in-laws and told my husband that we had a date with the shaver.

If you ever want an intimate bonding experience with your spouse, I highly suggest letting that person shave your head. I sat hunched over in the bathtub, listening to the snip-snip of the scissors and watching lock after lock fall into the stark white tub. To be honest, I didn’t even know I had THAT much hair still attached to my head. And did I really let it get that gray?  Then came the buzz and Sal gently keeping me updated as he changed the guards on the shaver to get closer and closer to the scalp.

Me and my wonderful husband-barber, Sal
Pretty soon there was just stubble.

After 37 years of trying to cover what I presumed to be a massively deformed Irish head—‘tis true, it’s why Irish people are typically “blessed” with full heads of hair—I was now confronted with my very bald noggin. And it was actually normal shaped.  Thank the lord! My fontanels had gotten their shit together!  I got teary-eyed, but I didn’t all-out cry. It actually wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be. My hair was crappy anyway.

I have two wigs on hand to cover up the cue ball, and I only wear them occasionally. Wigs just aren’t my thing. I’ve spent my life with flat hair, and to suddenly have volume? Freaky. Mostly I wear them because Mother Nature, bitch that she is, decided to make this the most friggin’ freezing winter ever.

Anyway, I’m holding out hope for treatments five through eight, which will contain only one drug, supposedly less brutal than the duo I’m taking now. In the meantime, I think I’ll get up from this recliner and get my smoothie from the fridge. You want anything while I’m up?

 I'll be participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life on June 7 in Pine Bush, NY. Will you consider supporting me?
For more information, click here to visit my Relay page.


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