1. You know it’s been a long time since your last post when you have to sit for a few seconds in front of the login page before you can remember your password.
2. Somewhere along the way– possibly after my second chemo treatment– I lost my sense of humor. I prefer to think that it fell off in small chunks at first, then collapsed in total chaos right before the final treatment. I’ve been wandering around ever since, collecting little pieces and trying to glue them all back together.
3. There may be signs of actual peach fuzz growing on my bald scalp. The color is a beautiful shade of “Less”, as in “colorless”. I am both impressed by this non-color and dismayed that it will be next to impossible to find a colorless-enhancing shampoo.
4. Meanwhile, I alternate between wearing no hat, light hats, heavier hats and wigs in this season that, in the Eastern United States is called Early Summer but in Seattle is indistinguishable from Gray and Misty Alternating with Sunshine But Never Temperatures above 69 Fahrenheit. Luckily, the flora and fauna of this region flourishes, and our eyes can feast on its beauty even as we huddle in our raincoats.
5. During my chemotherapy I often read about side effects of Taxol. I smugly reminded myself that at least I wasn’t taking that drug. Turns out Taxol is just another name for Taxotere and yes, I was taking that drug. One of the side effects is neuropathy (nerve damage) in the fingertips and toetips that will likely last for weeks if not months. This means that all twenty of these tips have increased sensitivity, tingling and numbness all the time, but especially if you try to do something with them– like type (or play) on a keyboard, for example. Have you ever tried to get by without using your fingertips?
6. Another long-lasting side effect of chemo is called “capillary spillover”. The capillaries (small blood vessels) basically get over-intoxicated, say “oops, I must be full” and spill fluid out into the rest of your body. The evidence is much swelling, especially in the legs and ankles, but also noticeable in the hands and other parts of the body. “They” told me I should wear compression stockings. Try putting on compression stockings when you have (see above) neuropathy in your fingertips and toetips.
7. Bone pain (which feels a lot like muscle pain to me) is ongoing, as is fatigue. Imagine that you have just worked out on a weight machine (or with barbells) and you did the very last repeat that you could possibly do. That’s how my arms and legs, neck and back feel whenever I move. To combat this, I have adopted a contrarian attitude and go for at least three walks a day of about a mile each around my neighborhood, which has small rolling hills. It is a masochistic habit, but I like to think that it will help with the swelling and bone pain and that eventually I will be the victor over my own body. Since I was a couch potato so long that I was starting to sprout, I am grateful that I feel well enough to force myself to do this.
8. I have begun my radiation treatments. Every weekday I drive down to the clinic (which takes about a half hour with traffic), get four zaps of radiation which last about five seconds each (two on each side of Letitia Lefbreast, one that hits near the surface and one the hits deeper into the tissue), and then I drive back home. So far, I have no noticeable side effects from the treatments, but I do treat my skin with three different potions three to four times a day in an attempt to prevent radiation burns.
9. I had my buddy the Port removed last week. This was done with local anesthetic only. After enough Lidocaine had been injected around the port (near my right collarbone), my surgeon made an incision over the scar that was there from the insertion. As she prepared to make another cut, scalpel hovering midair, she casually said to me “I was doing some research on the web and came across your blog.” This, my friends, is why if you say anything about anybody on your blog, it had better be nice! It had been, and my opinion has not changed.
10. When the Lidocaine wore off, my body somehow decided that having a 1.5-inch slash in the skin and several stitches in the chest wall hurts as if you had a poison-tipped spear thrust into your upper torso. Either the pain lessened after a day or so or I’ve gotten used to it, but the incision site still lives right under the strap of a certain undergarment and reminds me of its presence.
11. I remind myself daily that all these complaints are temporary. I know that in the future, that these complaints, as well as complaints typical of my pre-cancer past, the kinds of whines I used to have about meaningless and selfish things, will be much less frequent. I mean to live, laugh, love and enjoy. I hope you will too.