Monday, June 30, 2008

The View From Down Under

Where have I been, you might ask. Well, it's a short story as opposed to a long story. I have been to the hospital and back. And that's it. That's the short story. But where have I been mentally, that's a much longer story.

First, I checked myself into the hospital last week with the help of Dr. Shaum because the pain came back. The phantom pain. I assume it comes from chemo but it got so bad again that I couldn't manage it myself so they checked me in and did some tests and everything seems the way it should seem for someone with cancer so I didn't get any pain answers. While I was there they gave me a lot of pain medication. The kind you can push a button and give yourself throughout the day. I was very aware of this button and tried my hardest NOT to push it because I am not a druggie sort of person which is one of the problems with my pain because I SHOULD be taking pain pills and sort of hate them but they help so I don't do them when I should and then whamo I am in pain. So now I have to write down when to take them and force myself to swallow the suckers on a four hour basis so I'll feel okay. But I felt really badly when I checked into St. Johns so I pushed that button and when I finally got and came back home last Friday I was hooked. Didn't take long. And for the next three days I was crying beyond depressed and I knew somewhere in my being that it was withdrawal from the pain medication but while you're going through it you can't really go there so feeling the way I did I just wanted to take out all the pills I had in my bathroom and swallow all of them at once because I was so sad and all I could think of were sad things and everything that had happened to me in the last three years and it was one hell of a weekend. But the fire broke yesterday and I could see more clearly and you know I wear pain patches on my body and take these other pills daily and the thought of getting off of all this medication one day is a little frightening. How am I going to do it? Should someone lock me in a room and come in and hug me every once in a while? It is tough, man, I am telling you, it is incidious and it is tough. I feel so sorry for junkies and people who are hooked and don't know it. In some teeny tiny way I know how they feel. And that is awful. No reason to go on except to get some more junk to raise those seratonin levels enough to at least feel almost normal. So the pain is gone but I cannot say it was easy getting ride of it.

And while I was in the hospital there was one uneasy moment with a nurse named Reggie. It was the middle of the night and Reggie came in to give me a shot. Usually they give this particular shot very slowly so it won't hurt. Well, Mr. Reggie had too much caffeine or something because he threw that shot into my IV and pushed the syringe as hard as he could and the medicine raced through my body and HURT LIKE HELL. It was shocking. and then I got all paranoid and started thinking that Reggie didn't really work at St. Johns. That he had just come in off the street and was giving shots to middle aged women and old people and I was going to die or something really weird was going to happen to me like I'd swell up and then my ankles DID swell up and I started to freak out and decided that I had to leave the hospital immediately. But it was the middle of the night so I had to wait until morning and I told Dr. Shaum that I was all better and I wanted to go home. I hadn't finished one of the tests but she sent me home anyway and my ankles stayed swollen for a couple of days and I continued to wonder if Reggie was to blame and what was that painful shot anyway.

Here's what I think is happening...I have been doing chemo for a year now. I think the poison is getting to my brain now and if we don't stop soon I will surely lose my mind, if I haven't lost it already. I believe I have four chemos left. I can handle that. I hope. Then we do a scan and then we see what's shakin'. I hope it's not cancer. I hope they tell me that it's over. That I can move on with my life. My life was good, wasn't it? Will you please remind me. Or am I thinking of someone else's life? That was me who used to swim, right? I liked that. That was me who worked with a tutoring program, right? I loved that. I didn't throw up, did I? That was nice. I wore a size six. I had an ass. That was mine, right?

Can it all come back? Including my hair? Is that possible? I think I'm going to pull out my old datebooks and see what I used to do. I hope they're my datebooks. Hmmmm. I wonder whose house I'm living in.................................

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shuffle Step.......

So I had chemo on Monday and then yesterday I went in for a two hour drip of anti nausea stuff. PLUS I'm wearing this watch type of bracelet that is for people who get seasick or carsick and it puts out little electrical pulses on this acupressure spot that is supposed to keep the vomits away. I think it's working. I don't seem to throw up when I have it on. It's a little disconcerting being shocked every few seconds. Some sort of small torture device. But I don't throw up and that's a good thing. I went to purchase it at a travel store with my friend Katey who told me that I did not look like the Crypt Keeper with my hat on and my hair sticking out, I looked like Dana Carvey in Wayne's World. I'm not sure which is worse. It's amazing I still have hair at all. Seems to be gone at the top and it just sticks out the bottom. But the wig is just fine.

Anyway, whilst getting this anti nausea drip I talked to a very nice lady from Connecticutt. She was doing her chemo out here to hang with her daughter. She lived in what seemed to be an assisted living village type of place in Danbury, Conn. Sounded like fun. How frightening is that?!! She was rushing to get her chemo done so she could get back to Danbury for the big tap dance extravaganza she was involved in. Her big number was Pretty Woman...All tap dance all the time. They were doing a play, too...Look Back in Anger. All of this was at the assisted living place. Look Back in Anger? Not the play I would have chosen for a bunch of seventy and eighty year olds but hey, maybe they're all angry. Maybe this is how they can talk to their children and let them know how they really feel about raising them. And this woman who tap danced, she couldn't have been more than three feet tall and she was telling me about her costume and her makeup and I'll be damned if it didn't sound like fun. Wish I was about to tap to Pretty Woman. All dressed in feathers and eyelashes.

And I guess I was realizing that I actually haven't started putting my life back together from what it was before. This cancer thing sort of came up about six months after the man formerly known as my husband left me and months after my son went off to college and my dad died and the dog died and all that stuff that seemed to have happened so long ago. And now I have about four more chemos to they say...And once again I can start all over figuring out just who I am and where I belong in the scheme of things and just what it was I was thinking of doing after my own personal Katrina took place.

Kind of exciting. Love the idea of a new house. A new me. Who is she? What does she do? What does she look like? How long is her hair? Will she tap dance? Who will assist in her living? When will she have a hot dog? All thrilling things to think about sitting under my ceiling fan typing on my oh so cool wireless computer.

Ah, life is good. Oh oh, it's that brain thing, isn't it? The one that allows me to like The Notebook. Don't pay any attention to me for a while. Until I heal. I'm speaking in some type of language that is way to happy to really be me. Where's the edge? Can't be a good writer without an edge. Think I'll watch Wiseguys tonight. That's what I'll do. Watch Wiseguys, throw up a few times. I'm taking off this damn watch thing. That's it. The happy pulse. Not good for me.

Fuck you.

Okay, I feel better now.

Hope I didn't hurt your feelings.

Must be the watch.

Or maybe I just have to figure out who I am......Right now........After the deluge.........................

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Losing My Mind

I think my brain is getting smaller. I think some of the chemo poison is affecting my brain. Missing my last little cancer cells and attacking what is left of my mind. Last night I watched a really corny movie and I liked it. A lot. It's called The Notebook. Now I know that some of you are throwing up just thinking about that movie. It's just a corny old fashioned pull out your hankie love story with overwrought performances. But I was totally into it. And while I was watching it I kept thinking how lucky I was. What a great life I've had. Lucky because I've been in and out of love a few times, I've done stuff I've really enjoyed doing, I have this great son, I live in a nice house even though I'm going to move soon but probably to another nice house and lalala this movie made me feel just so happy about my life and life in general. And that is just SICKENING! I mean my teeth hurt thinking about how sweet it all is and I should be feeling awful right now because I have been through some pretty rotten times as of late. But I didn't feel that way watching that cornball film. So that is why I believe my brain has been affected by all of this poison going into my system.

And tomorrow I get more of this poison. Not happy about that because I'm still sort of reeling from the last treatment. Throwing up and I'm too tired as of late. I don't like feeling tired. In fact I think I drove to the farmers market today with my eyes closed. Or maybe I was having a dream at about mid morning while I was in the car. But I don't actually remember starting the car or picking up my yogurt from the Greek woman at the market but there it is in my fridge so I got there somehow but I don't remember driving or paying anyone. I certainly hope I paid her.

I keep thinking people are staring at my wig when I wear it out into the world. Like today at the market. Do they know I hardly have any hair underneath the hair hat I am wearing? It seemed to me like everyone from the soup lady to the lady picking out an avocado next to me was staring at my head. "Does she think we can't tell she's wearing a wig? It's so phony. Hey, check out that woman with the fake hair. Who is she kidding?" Maybe I won't leave the house until my hair grows back. Seems drastic but I do have a little vanity left. Oh hell, that's ridiculous. Who cares what other people think you?


I think my brain has become lifeless and paranoid and no longer has the portion that separates good taste from bad taste. Of course, I did always like the movie On Golden Pond so that probably proves that I never had taste in the first place. And that makes me feel better.

I miss the beach. I haven't sat on the shore in a long time. Couldn't do it last summer because I started all of this chemo mess exactly one year ago. So I couldn't get to the beach at all. And remember when I thought this year was going to be SOOOO much better than last year? What happened to that thought? Could I even imagine that NEXT year is going to be a good year? I suppose just the fact that I'm alive next year could be counted as being a good year because I'm waking up in the mornings.

The Notebook. One year from now I'm going to watch that movie again and see what I think. My brain should be stable by then. Maybe I could have some popcorn one year from now. That would be exciting. And a hot dog. And...anything! Remember this date. June 15th. One year from now. Maybe I'll have my own hair. Maybemaybemaybe.......................................

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One Down...

...And five to go. It was strange going back to chemo after three weeks off because I was feeling almost like a normal person for a moment there. Except when I took off my hat or my wig because this head thing is very odd. Some of that is my reluctance to just shave off the whole thing. I have these tufts or wisps of hair coming out of my bare scalp and it's a bit frightening but not too bad and I like these tufts sticking out of the bottom of my cap...So I will keep them until it all comes tumbling down which could be any day now. But the wig is good. You just have to make sure it doesn't creep down below your hairline because then you sort of look like a badly made puppet. Actually, come to think of it, without the wig I look like a badly made puppet.

But I feel pretty good today. Threw up a couple of times. (Is that how you spell threw? Throooo. Hmmmm.) Went to acupuncture today and that was good. Drove myself there and didn't hit anyone so that was good, too.

Someone sent me six little mini laughing Buddhas. What, I wonder, are they laughing at? They're cute but they look a little scarey to me. They are sort of laughing hysterically. You know, they just seem to be a little too happy. Is anyone that happy? Maybe I haven't laughed enough lately and I've forgotten about hysterical laughter. You know, the kind of laughing where milk comes out of your nose because you laugh so hard. Maybe that kind of laughter just happens in high school and then real life hits and it's not so funny anymore. But I like the little Buddhas. And I'm going to try and make sure I laugh everyday at least once.

I just laughed. For no reason. Maybe I'm insane. I haven't had a drink in months. Maybe I need alcohol.

I miss my hot dogs.

I do chemo in this big room with lots of other people doing the same thing. Sometimes we talk, compare diseases or talk about books or just sit quietly and read. But yesterday there was a woman there who talked LOUDLY on her cell phone for at least an hour, I kid you not. And when she was through with a call her cell phone would ring and her ring tone played New York New York and it rang WAY TOO LOUD and then she would talk to Carol or to Connie and she would talk about what's for dinner and how does your hair look and she wants to buy a new purse but they're all so small and blah blah blah and it was so annoying and the rest of us were giving her looks but she obviously didn't give a shit and we were too polite to say anything and we sort of just hoped she would die but she actually might have BEEN dying so it wasn't nice on our part to think that. I hope she's not there next week. I don't mean I hope she's not there because she died. Nonono. I just hopes she comes on a Tuesday. Honestly. That's what I meant.

I miss my hot dogs. Did I say that already? Maybe I just miss Cedric. I miss my old life. But I'll have a new life. With hot dogs and cheese and that sounds somehow very exciting.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Six mo to be exact. Or six MORE if you want to use proper English. Yes, I have six more chemos to do starting Monday. But this is a good thing even though the thought of being sick again and the thought of losing ALL of my hair and the thought of going through what I've just gone through all over again is just so yucky I cannot even think of a smart word to describe it because at the end of those six chemos I will almost be cancer free. And I say almost because I don't think they actually give you that diagnosis until about five years after the cancer is actually considered slightly gone. Dr. Shaum said she would like it if I were no longer a patient, just a person who comes in for checkups every few months.

So starting this Monday I shall begin the process all over again. But with a smile on my face and a lighter heart (and one pair of jeans that fit) knowing that by the end of summer I will be jumping into the ocean in my size 2 bathing suit and swimming out to the Carpinteria float...Just me and my body with no cancer and a friend named Devon who always swims out to the float with me.

Now here are some slightly weird things...First of all, the gastro doctor who did the test on Monday...Dr. Hertz...did not see any gastritis. So I guess that's gone. Strange. No one can tell me why it's gone or where it might have come from if I actually had it. Hmmmmmm.

I have to interject something. Oh, don't you just love interjecting? Here's what it is I am interjecting...Sometimes, I can't spell. Now I know you know that because you read this thing and I know every once in a while you say, "Hey, this chick can't spell." Well, I KNOW THAT. So give me a break. I reread a couple of blogs and it was just awful. I even do spellcheck. So fuck you spellcheck for not knowing everything you're supposed to know...Like gastritis. I completely mispelled that last time. And that is why I never entered a spelling bee.

Okay, next strange thing...I was really, really sick the last few weeks. I mean wanting to die sick. And then Monday, Will arrived, I had this little endoscopy...and all the sickness went away. AND...and this is a big AND..........................AND I COULD EAT! After all these months, suddenly I ate an entire container of yogurt and some egg whites and an apple and a sugar free cookie and so on and I told the doctor and she had no idea why I could suddenly eat nor did she ever figure out what was making me that sick in the first place. Pain in my heart sick. Throwing up all the time sick. I even stopped taking those pain pills. Haven't had them all week. Call it a miracle? Oh come on, there is no such thing as a miracle and why on earth would it happen to me of all people, a miracle? And did the Red Sea really part? I guess that would be considered a miracle. Mary on a tortilla...That's a miracle. But whatever it is, the pain is gone.

For the moment.

I'll be curious to see just how sick the chemo makes me this time. Does the pain have something to do with the chemo? I have learned during this process that you can ask and answer a million questions that actually have no answer so it's either a waste of time to ask the questions or it's just plain fun but it's all a guessing game although I hope the doctors actually have some real answers to the questions and they're not all just guessing.

Although I think sometimes they are. They're only human...Unfortunately.

So tomorrow I get my wig which I'm going to need although I love my caps but with no hair sticking out the bottom of the cap it is not going to be as fun and you suddenly look like a person going through chemo which is not a bad thing. It just draws attention to yourself in a slightly pitiful way. Don't like that.

What day is it? Where am I? Hmmmmm. I'm hungry. How about some yogurt? Some yogurt and a wig. That is what my life has come down to at this point. Ah, the simple things.

And maybe a small miracle...........................................Although that's what it's really all about, don't you think? This whole life thing really is just a small miracle.

Or maybe not.

Just another one of those questions with no answer. Maybe I should call a doctor.........................

Monday, June 2, 2008

She Said Wha??!!$%&&+!!

Okay, if you smoke, go get a cigarette. If you like Martinellis Sparkling Apple Cider, get yourself a glass of that. And just make sure you're sitting down when you read this, although who actually stands up to read on their computer? Do they even make a computer stand?

But I ramble from the main point.

As you know, the last few weeks have been rather brutal. And that is not an exaggeration. I was in pain. Major Pain. (Which was an awful movie with Damon Wayans I believe, but I didn't see it so what do I know?) Anyway, I was trying to manage the pain because I just felt like shit and horrible shit at that. Can't even describe it. In my chestal area I would say, or Woody Allen would say also in some movie. And, of course, I'd been doing tough chemo which didn't help. So last Wednesday I had a scan, a couple of scans actually. A PET scan (and no I did not bring my dog with me) and a CT scan. Well, Dr. Shaum called last night and left me a message. And for a doctor who deals with these things everday, I must say she sounded slightly breathless. Seems like my scan was somewhat miraculous. Yes, I'm a bit over the top but why not. Although even the radiologist could not believe that I had not had radiation or another operation because the mass, the tumor, was pretty much gone, invisible, as was the second mass. And the two scans plus blood work confirmed this...One after the other. Only a small amount of cancer still existed in a lymph node but the chemo had worked so well that I imagine a couple more zaps and we can get rid of that little bugger. I am assuming that I had a pretty good sized MASS in a tough area and that is why they were so pleased and amazed that it was gone in a relatively short amount of chemo time. (Now remember, I did chemo before and the cancer grew back so even though I am jumping for joy in my skin I hold a little hop in reserve just in case.)

And as for the pain, it seems I have something called gastritius in the lining of my stomach. That can cause infection and vomiting and, of course, pain. I had an endosocopy today where they put a tube down your throat with a camera on the end and check you out from the outside in so I'll get the results of what she saw later in the week. But the bottom line is (love that phrase...bottom line...and by the way remind me to tell you something about my bottom.)...the bottom line is the pain is not from cancer. Gastritious or something like that but NOT CANCER.

Okay, take a puff or a drink and let's all breath for a second..............................


So now I wait for results and what to do next and how many more chemos and must get my wig and here...Here is the most amazing thing of all. I may live the rest of my life, ..................I may live the rest of my life as a size FOUR!

And they called me chubby when I was twelve!

After my test today, when I was still on the slight bit of anesthesia that stays with you after a test, I went with Karen to the bank. And there was a shop next door that sold jeans and since I don't have any that fit me anymore I said we should stop in. So we did and I tried on a pair and since I have no bottom right now I actually fit into a size........Are you ready for this........A size TWO. I never even knew there WAS such a size. So I bought them. The Nurse had told me not to make any important decisions today since I was still on the drug all day but I thought buying a size two was not that important of a decision. Now I'm hoping that within the next year I can beef up to a size four because I liked my bottom and I would like to look like a woman and not a twelve year old...From the back...I do not kid myself about looking like a twelve year old from the front....

So that's my news. Must lie down...In my jeans...

This is not the end. Actually, this may be the beginning.....................................