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Friday, January 30, 2009

Emotional Rollercoaster (Blog 13)

On Tuesday, December 2nd, I had a meeting with the spa owner to solidify details of the position as part-time, temporary consultant (to likely become full-time & permanent Executive Director once I’m in remission). Looking back, I admit that the confusion originated at this point, as you shall soon see. We evaluated the short-term and the long-term, discussed the big picture and the minutiae, and talked goals and salary. It was a whirlwind of a 2 ½ hour meeting and I left physically and emotionally drained, but with a start date of December 8th. Because she knew that I was fighting cancer (and thought I was terminal, for God’s sake), and also because the woman who introduced us informed me that it was her goal to help me secure a good home-based position, I erroneously assumed that the owner and I were on the same page in terms of temporary work environment. My mistake! More on that later…
Adam arrived later that night and, after he dropped his bags and I got lots of hugs and kisses from my sweet and sexy gay Christmas elf, I made him an incredibly caloric and carb-laden dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and entirely too much red wine. Despite my efforts, he did NOT fatten up like a prize Christmas ham. At my insistence, we hit two bars and drank even more, then made our way home around 2:00. I still have no idea what on earth I was thinking (or perhaps I was being deliberately incognizant of my current state of affairs and what I was about to face yet again) and I paid for it dearly when I woke up the next morning. Although we didn’t have much time to lament the stupid decisions of the previous night, Adam and I drank our coffee on the porch to take in the frigid 70 degree South Texas December morning.
With Adam inCancer Care Centers of South TX waiting room
I knew that my doctor’s appointment that day was a big one. I had just had my midway-through-chemo CT scan the previous week to determine how effective the treatment has been and this was Results Day. People have consistently asked how I could wait an entire week without knowing, but it never worried me. I knew, without a doubt, that Dr. Wilks would say that my tumors are gone--I am cancer-free--but would have to finish the chemotherapy regimen as is standard protocol. In anticipation of this positive news Adam and I had planned to celebrate over greasy food and more wine. So, while Adam hung out in the waiting room, I went through the usual pre-appointment process: labwork, vitals, and weight.
To slightly digress: I have asked the MA each and every visit to NOT say my weight aloud as I DON’T WANT TO KNOW IT. I’m not allowed to lose weight on chemo and the steroids make me eat carbs, so gaining is basically inevitable. With my history of eating disorders, which haven’t been a problem in nearly nine years but could forever be lurking around the refrigerator door, knowing the exact number could potentially send me into a tailspin and it thus does me no good whatsoever. As usual, my response to her command to step on the scale was “Okay but I don’t want to see it, hear it, or know it.” She giggled—as usual—then proceeded to SAY IT OUT LOUD as she wrote it in my chart. In turn, I proceeded to shoot darts at her derriere with my seething, poison-dart-shooting pupils. This knowledge will prove to have a lasting impact later in the week.
Skinnier days: Joanna's wedding in 2002
After quietly consuming and digesting my exact poundage alone in the exam room (pun intended), Dr. Wilks entered and wasted no time getting down to business. My CT results were in and, while the tumors have responded to the treatment (read: begun to shrink), they are all—each and every one of them—still there. Furthermore, because the response is perhaps not as fast as expected for people with Hodgkins Disease on ABVD, I may have an additional month of chemo awaiting me. Picture, if you will, a balloon deflating about the room… bubble had officially burst. I was disappointed with my immune system and was planning to have a serious talk with it. I then told Dr. Wilks about my ongoing chest issues: difficulty breathing and, most days, an elephant-sitting-on-my-chest sensation. I expected her to say that it was an unfortunate side effect of the Bleomycin that would dissipate with time (Bleo is notorious for causing lung issues) but she reacted quite differently. Brow furrowed, Dr. Wilks said “I don’t like to hear that from my patients at all. That’s never good.” Sweeeeet. She expressed concern that the Bleo might be causing long-term lung toxicity or congestive heart failure and set me up with both an echocardiogram and a pulmonary function study for the following week.
With that distressing news (most distressing on my bank account in anticipation of more charges yet to come, not necessarily my actual physical condition), I fetched Adam from the waiting room and we made our way back to the chemo room. Sadly and as per usual, it was full of patients getting infused. We waited a few minutes for a deliciously comfortable pleather recliner to become available and, when it did, it was in the far back corner thus allowing us to be as silly and talkative as we wanted. Patti was my nurse and, even though I’d already had two successful non-reactionary chemos since my last encounter with her, she insisted on giving me Benadryl while on her watch. I put up a weak argument that I did NOT need preventive medication….I was FINE now, thankyouverymuch. I could sense her discomfort and finally relented: “If you would feel more comfortable as my nurse I’ll take it--but I really don’t need it anymore.” She insisted and I was therefore drugged into a stupor. I successfully absorbed the Adriomycin (dubbed “the Red Devil” for its ominous kool-aid red hue) but when they gave me the Bleo (the “B” of ABVD) I started to feel funny. I first noticed that I had a heavy chest and slightly labored breathing and later felt that my respiration was starting to really struggle. I told Adam that I thought I was having a reaction and, together, we flagged down Patti. She took my pulse and, noting that it was over 100, flashed me that I-told-you-so look and proceeded to give me more Benadryl to counteract the side effect. Oops on that “I don’t need no stinkin’ Benadryl” statement.  The consensus among the nurses and Dr. Wilks is that I had yet another allergic reaction, this one of an entirely different variety. Why then? And why after all that time of not having a weird Bleo lung reaction? Dr. Wilks reminded me that the chemo is progressive and, as it accumulates in the system round after round, old side effects intensify as new ones develop. This reaction may be an indication that I do, after all, have lung toxicity OR it could be a short-term direct effect of the Bleo that will dissipate as quickly as it came.

Adriamycin, aka “The Red Devil”
One elderly woman who was stationed across from me was all-consumed from afar by my Granny blanket. Hooked up to her fluids, she hobbled over to my chair and fondled my goods, inspecting the weave and technique. Had I not been on Benadryl I’d have been slightly offended (I’m an old-fashioned girl who doesn’t crochet and tell), but by that point I was more concerned with getting through my own treatment. Instead of taking my subtle—and then blatant--hints at leaving me alone to sleep, she continued to tell me and Adam about her Adventures in Sewing and Basket Weaving Escapades. Her son and husband had wisely left to purchase lunch and I therefore assumed that she simply got lonely very quickly. That is, until she announced that this was her first chemo and she was on Ativan and Benadryl. Ah-HA! Say no more, I thought. She launched into a diatribe about how her doctor and nurse wanted her to use this time to sleep but that, unlike other people around us with a more fortunate ability to doze, she couldn’t seem to relax. I could empathize, I told her, as they had loaded me up on anti-anxiolitics and Benadryl when I was a chemo virgin as well. She nodded with interest and asked me more about my experience at the clinic. It was then that I realized I was now a veteran.
Despite my drug-induced state of lethargy, I was still very aware of my nurse’s annoying insistence that I “cheer up.” Cute, really. “You’re half-way done now, right??” She asked.
“Yes, but I have just as much ahead of me,” I mumbled in a fashion meant to demonstrate exasperation but apparently came across as an invitation for further pep talks.
“You’re being a brat,” she teased.
“Yes, yes I am,” I conceded.
“Remember, attitude is everything!” She trilled.
“Uh-huh,” I responded, restraining myself from also reminding her that I’m HUMAN and HAVING A BAD @#$%^! DAY. This conversation repeated itself about five times over the course of the next two hours before I was deemed fit for release.
Officially high as a kite, I handed my car keys over to Adam and he took me home when treatment was over. We were in the process of inhaling Chinese take-out when a very strange thing happened. I couldn’t keep up with our conversations. Adam would ask me a question and I would start to respond, then forget what we were talking about….and what I had literally just spoken, for that matter. I felt completely disoriented yet strangely aware of the awkward situation—enough for it to become disturbing and worrisome to both of us. At one point I looked down at my plate to take a bite and, upon looking up, felt dizzy and confused because I was sure that I had been sitting with my back to the kitchen, yet I was suddenly facing it. I told Adam that I was a little freaked out and gave him strict instructions to phone the on-call doctor if I start to act bizarre, don’t know my name, etc. Then I had a flash of recognition and Googled “disorientation + chemotherapy.” Duh. What I was experiencing is a very real syndrome called Chemo Brain. Cancer patients frequently  joke about this phenomenon, as in “I totally forgot where I parked my car….I have such chemo brain” or “I bought another jar of pickles when there are already two in the pantry –blame it on the chemo brain.” Yet what I experienced was the real deal. In extreme cases, people have been known to forget where they live, burn down their kitchens after forgetting they’re in the middle of cooking dinner, and become afraid to leave their houses. While I was not overly excited to read that Chemo Brain can last up to three years AFTER the completion of chemotherapy, I was relieved to identify a cause for my bizarre behavior.
Vintage deer porn
While I was still at my computer, Adam hit the couch to find something to watch on TV. I love that, after nearly 25 years of friendship but almost ten years of not seeing each other, we can loaf together without feeling any pressure to entertain. That’s exactly what I needed but with a huge dose of silly stupidity on both our parts thrown in for good measure. Example: Adam lingered for a moment on the classic program Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We watched the part where Rudolph leans in to nuzzle noses with his slammin’ new girlfriend and Adam looked up and said naughtily, “That’s a deer kiss.” So I said, “That was hot. Do you think real deer watch this every year for foreplay?” To which Adam replied, “This is deer porn.” For some reason—and I’m guessing you had to be there to fully appreciate the humor—this was hysterically funny to both of us (Note: we MAY have had copious amounts of wine and perhaps other herbal remedies that night). I immediately changed my Facebook status to read: “Sarah and Adam are watching deer porn.” Adam followed suit with “Adam is relaxing after watching vintage deer porn with Sarah.” Vintage deer porn. Awesomeness.
The next day I sent Adam off to play with his friend from college who lives in Austin and drove down to see him (he is dearly loved by one and all). Whereas I needed to rest at home, the two of them had a fabulous sight-seeing day all over San Antonio: It worked out well for both of us. The following two days were typical post-chemo days for me but, for Adam, they were the prime hang-out-and-watch-bad-TV days that he desperately needed (Paris Hilton’s My New BFF, anyone???). I appreciated a major difference after this treatment because I was even more fatigued than usual which, in turn, was starting to (rather quickly) get me down. Furthermore, looming in the near future was the realization that I had to start a brand-new job on Monday but didn’t seem to be getting any stronger (mentally or physically) with the passing days. In short, I was starting to worry. Although he didn’t tell me until later, Adam could sense my fear but didn’t want to contribute by drawing attention to it. I do recall him being extra supportive for my first day (“Do you want me to help you pick out an outfit?” “Is there anything we need to shop for?” “What preparation can I help you with to be ready?”). Despite my being prepped and ready for something that I would normally regard with childlike zeal as exciting and fabulous, something deep within me felt cautious and gloomy. I assumed that my hesitation was based solely on my lack of energy and said as much to both Adam and my mom, but they did their best to convince me that my new boss was aware of my condition and would understand if I couldn’t make it through a whole day. “Maybe you go four mornings a week and work from home all day Friday?” they offered, along with every other combination of mornings and afternoons, both on-site and at home. I was comforted very little by this as THEY didn’t know what it’s like to need to take a rest after a shower, catch my breath after walking the dog, or wear a hot, itchy wig for hours on end (and I don’t care what you’ve heard: even the “good” ones—which I  have—are uncomfortable). I nevertheless responded with a nod, smile, and obligatory “You’re right” while trying to ignore the nagging feeling-–the instinct—that something just wasn’t right.

Our Goodbyes: Sweet Adam Leaves TX; Meanwhile, I'm a nervous wreck!
After Adam and Lola said their long, heartfelt goodbyes (they really bonded), I dropped him off at the airport on Sunday and gave him a big goodbye hug and smooch of my own. I half expected to feel a surge of inspiration to get ready for work the next day, but a greater sense of dread filled me on the ride back. I called Mom and attempted to engage in idle chit-chat to lift my mood, but sooner rather than later I was crying. I explained to her for the umpteenth time that something didn’t seem right and that I didn’t think I could make it through a day of work based on my energy level and other side effects. She continued to ask me why, after being reassured that I didn’t HAVE to make it through a full day of work, I was still struggling with this decision. I continued to respond that I didn’t know. Before hanging up I decided aloud that I’d feel much better once I spoke with my new boss on the phone and expressed my concerns (spun in a positive light of course) with her directly. Not having her personal phone numbers, I e-mailed her and asked her to call me for a quick talk. Feeling somewhat empowered and not one for self-pity of any significant length, I tried to calm my nerves by physically getting ready for work: picking out and ironing my clothes, getting dinner out of the freezer and making a sandwich for lunch the next day, preparing the coffee, etc. I then decided that popping a Xanax and reading chapter in my book (A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving—very good) followed by a nap would be the solution. After waking and feeling little comfort, I took a long bath and then practiced some “soothing” yoga moves. None of my efforts worked and, as per usual when I’m feeling down, I found myself on the phone with my best friend Judy crying into the receiver. The conversation was a repeat of every previous discussion I’d had regarding the new job (Groundhog Day much???) and I therefore accomplished nothing other than experiencing the physical release of tears and emotion. Still, I didn’t seem to feel any better. Mom called later that night before she went to bed and I repeated the same conversation I’d had with her, Adam, and Judy, somehow producing even more tears than I thought were physically possible. Mom and I collaborated to talk the situation up (“It’s gonna be GREAT!” “Yes, you’re right….everything will be better in the morning.”) and she made me promise that I’d call her on my way into work. I took a sleeping pill (not only would I have needed it under this circumstance but chemo is notorious for rendering a full night’s sleep difficult to impossible), and woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 4:00 a.m., only to simmer in my anxiety for three hours.
On my way into work—looking FABULOUS, mind you, in black pants, yellow cashmere turtleneck sweater, black jacket that ties with a ribbon at the waist, black stiletto boots, and her Majesty Noreen the Wig--I called Mom to reassure her that I was okay. Yet, her keen motherly instincts could sense that I was still fiercely choking back tears. Still, I plastered on my professional facade and positive attitude, rolled my shoulders back, and marched into the spa. The owner and I spent about three hours reviewing paperwork and documents that she had prepared for my benefit. I boarded a rollercoaster of emotions (undetectable by the human eye) as I dizzily gauged what I could accomplish at home, what needed to be done in-house, and how much was so critical that I would be foregoing rest in order to ensure it was done…and done according to my high professional standards. At one point she stopped and said, “Oh, and I got your e-mail earlier this morning. I meant to ask you if everything is okay.” I took that opportunity to reiterate that I would need to ease my way into a full day’s work and that much of it would be done at home until I regained my strength. I swear I saw her eyes glaze over as she nodded absentmindedly. That wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement but I also didn’t hear any protests…good enough for me! The next hour was spent in an in-depth office tour of every drawer, cabinet, folder, file, document, office and spa supply, cache, etc. It was nothing short of exhausting. Just as we were wrapping it up (by this time I had adopted a bobble-headed “uh-huh” and “gotcha” response to her unveiling of the staff bathroom and paperclip drawer) she suggested that I meet with every employee that was available for a one-on-one getting-to-know-you session. This normally would fall under the first-day-routine for me but I had NOTHING left to give. Nothing. I opted to casually converse with those restocking the supply closet and schedule formal meetings with the staff for later in the week. Just as I was enjoying my conversation with one of the male massage therapists, a female employee entered the room. I had a flash of recognition that I was forewarned about her tough attitude, sordid past personal life, and general mistrust of authority. Normally, this is where I would enthusiastically shout “GAME ON!” as I launch into professional, poker-faced management mode. Instead, I extended my hand and introduced myself while she suspiciously, weakly shook it, narrowing her eyes at me as though I could be an imposter ready to take her job and steal her husband (she is my age and has seven kids so that would not be an option in hell, thank you). I offered her the same introductory info as the others: I have an open door policy and believe in clear, frequent communication but do not micromanage as I trust everyone to utilize their specific expertise and respect their skills; and please come to me if you have questions or concerns. In turn, she replied: “I have a problem with you already if your being here is going to affect my pay. I don’t trust you.” Niiiiice. With that, I suggested that she approach the owner if she has concerns about her pay, then politely said goodbye to everyone and left with a full stack of folders and files in both arms.
I called my mom on the way home and glumly told her that I could only make it until 1:00, and even that was pushing it. I explained that the entire day was exhausting, but the cherry on my sundae (my conversation with the disgruntled employee) proved too much for me. As a practice administrator in my previous position I could handle a challenging staff member with dignity and confidence, but I physically didn’t have it in me to play games and/or argue with someone being deliberately unreasonable. She stayed on the phone with me until I was home and could change into comfy clothes.
After we hung up, I crawled into bed with my laptop but I clearly avoided the stack of documents that I had brought home with me to review. I called Judy and commenced my crying spree, then Mom called back a few minutes after we hung up. Upon hearing her voice I began crying again. At one point she said, “Sarah, this just isn’t like you. I don’t understand. You have concerns and they’ve been addressed, so why are you so afraid of this?” I suddenly had an epiphany. Talking aloud, I realized what was wrong: My boss and I were on two entirely different wavelengths. Whereas I was originally presented as a young healthcare administrator in treatment for cancer who needed a solid home-based research and project consulting position where I could utilize my expertise while recovering, she was expecting me to be an on-site administrator with full supervisory and oversight responsibilities. She wanted me to initiate weekly 30 minute meetings with individual staff members (there are 13 total) and begin tracking goals and numbers immediately, whereas I was expecting to be assigned projects to take home with me and return two days later, completed and tied with a lovely bow. Somewhere this got off track. I explained to mom that she even mentioned the teeny tiny little tidbit that I would sometimes be expected to come in early to monitor the staff’s opening process, as well as stay late to ensure a smooth closing at 9:00 p.m. “Oh….well, I mean, you can’t do that!” she exclaimed. “I KNOW!” I responded. “She wants me to have full responsibility over the staff, the budget, inventory….everything!” “Okay, well now you’ve identified what’s been bothering you and you need to talk to her about it,” Mom encouraged.
With that, I dried my tears, dialed my new boss, and expressed my concern. “Oh no, no…I need you here, on-site, all the time. I never needed anyone at home. I’m not sure where we got off track,” she stated. Together, we reviewed the facts. A family friend presented my resume to her professional group, explaining that I was, indeed, a young healthcare administrator in treatment for cancer who needed a solid home-based research and project consulting position where I could utilize my expertise while recovering. In turn, a member of that group secured a copy of my resume and submitted it to my new boss, explaining that I had both cancer and an MHA with no further detail. My new boss then called me based on my resume and experience alone without knowledge of my treatment or recovery needs. I felt so much better after this revelation seeing as I wasn’t imagining the disconnect after all. Thinking aloud, she suggested that I consider a part-time position that would require minimal staff interruption—with regular weekly meetings (which would translate to daily meetings when you do the math)—whereupon the rest of the work could be completed “at a distance.” “But what does that mean?” I asked many times directly and attempted to ask in various ways indirectly. She continued to simply respond that I’d need to be around for the staff but could work on other things from home. Again, I inquired as to what that would specifically require so that I could prepare accordingly, seeing as we’ve already had a history of miscommunication and “be here for the staff” and “at a distance” are both vague terms. Still unable to elicit an answer, I told her that I’d think about it, and then hung up. When I called Mom to provide an update, she simply said that she was in the car and would get back to me later in the day to brainstorm an alternative. I hung up and called Judes, thankful to have a sounding board.
After I hung up with Judy, I received a call from a candidate for the recruiting side-work I do for Ellen, my former Dallas boss. That call kept me busy for a half hour and, as I was sending an e-mail to Ellen, I heard a loud, insistent knock at my door that startled me and Lola. Irritated that someone was interrupting my work and that Lola turned into THAT really annoying barking dog that wouldn’t shut up, I peered into the peephole to view a magnified fingerprint. Now I was really pissed off at this person who was clearly attempting to sell wrapping paper or magazine subscriptions. “Who IS IT?!” I shouted.  I heard a giggle and the finger slid away to reveal my Mommy. I swung open the door, totally speechless, as she breezed in like she owns the joint, gifts and bag in tow. “What are you DOING here?“ I asked in total shock. “I needed to be here,” she said in a loving, sing-songy voice. “You were on the road to see me the entire time you were on the phone with me today?” I asked, incredulously. “To be fair, I didn’t lie. I said I was in the car,” she stated. It goes without saying that I continued my crying spree and clung to her.
I should mention that, although I’d consider myself an emotional person, I’m not a crier. I cried when a friend died several years ago; I cried the day after my Screw Cancer party when I unknowingly had a fever and infection (I do get emotional when I’m sick); and I cried a few weeks ago when I was sick from chemo and playing the “Why God, WHY???” game and wailing that I was “SICK OF BEING SICK” and “Didn’t want to do this anymore!!” I typically feel 95% better after leaking a few hundred spiritually healing tears and am usually able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and forge ahead. That is why my mom was perplexed by my ongoing depression and probably explains why she felt compelled to be with me.
That night, Mom and I walked Lola and discussed the situation. It was pretty clear-cut: Had I already managed this business and staff and was simply returning to its regularities, I could expect some long days but appreciate the familiarity. As it stands, I was expected to start a new schedule, new staff, new expectations, and new industry/business. Even part-time, that’s a tall order for someone learning a new position, particularly with a big, fat malignancy. I therefore left a message for the new boss before Mom and I facilitated our Chachos fajita-eating session. (Of course, there was nearly no food in my apartment and my earlier weight revelation did little to encourage hearty food purchase/consumption).  Later that night, I received the much-anticipated phone call. After explaining that I cannot guarantee when I’ll wake up healthy….and further explaining that any 8:00 a.m. heave session could result in an 11:00 resurgence of energy and inspiration, the boss-lady and I brainstormed a compromise that PERHAPS I could assume the aforementioned research and project-based position. During the surprisingly productive conversation, we discussed the possibilities and she concluded that she would call me soon to review details.
Finally, I could sleep at night.
The next morning Mom and I ran errands, Pier One being a priority of course. On our way out the door, I picked up a package waiting for me in the apartment office. Much to my surprise, it was from Marsha Kay and Bob, my second cousin and her husband. Based on their sense of humor I knew this had to be good. The parcel didn’t disappoint: It was a set of bubblegum pink boxing gloves with an attached permanent marker and personal written messages (to the effect of “I’m in your corner” and “keep fighting!”) from both of them. AWESOME!!!  Mom and I decided that my pre-Christmas chemo would have to entail the following: pink boxing gloves, red wax lips, and red reindeer antler headband. Hell yes.
Mom left on Wednesday and I attempted to pull myself together. After all, I had only ten days until I was scheduled to hit Rockport for Christmas and I had THANGS TA DO. On Thursday morning I had an echocardiogram scheduled at the hospital to determine if my heart has suffered any damage from the chemo. A few minutes before leaving, I swallowed my usual medication, one at a time, grabbed a banana, and ran out the door. On the way to the car I felt a familiar, extremely unpleasant sensation that once plagued me daily in the months prior to my diagnosis and now occurs once every few weeks or so. The pills got stuck, my throat constricted, my chest became tight and heavy, and I felt shooting pains run from my teeth down into my lungs. Assuming it would dissipate with time, I made the idiotic decision to get in the car and head to the appointment anyway. The trip is only about 20 minutes in traffic, but it felt interminable as the pain became unbearable. At the risk of passing out at the wheel, I debated whether or not to pull over or stop at a convenience store for some water. By the time I arrived at the hospital I was in such severe distress and my banana was completely useless at pushing through the blockage. A nurse got me some water and I had about 15 minutes to relax in the heart center waiting room. By the time I was called back, the pain was minimal but my chest was sore all day. I now know that it was once a frequent occurrence because my 6” tumor was impeding my air supply but I have no idea why it continues to happen from time to time today. My neck tumor now measures about 1” x 2” and, since it’s not outwardly visible, must be lodged somewhere within my throat—and perhaps still impeding my air supply.
Later that night I attended book club at Iris’s beautiful home in Stone Oak. While I had neither read the requisite book nor brought a book for the Christmas exchange, they still allowed me to attend the meeting, although I did have to sit in a far corner wearing an apron, attentive to the refill needs of the cooperative guests. (Remember, “books” and “reading” are our fronts: We really just need a socially acceptable front to consume copious amounts of wine and talk about wildly inappropriate things. This was evidenced by my suggesting—and the book club approving and reading--the November book about a year in the life of a stripper). Side note: If you’ll recall, I once ranted about others’ idiotic comments to the likes of “You’re lucky to have Hodgkins Disease” and “That’s a good cancer to have.” One of those commentators was an internal medicine nurse who belongs to book club and she did not disappoint that night. The others were interested in how I first discovered that something was wrong, what treatment is like, etc. when she interjected and chirped, yet again, “If I had to pick a cancer I’d want Hodgkins, Thyroid, or Cervical.” Not one to keep my mouth shut for long, I responded: “Well actually that’s sort of a pet peeve of mine. We do have a good survival rate but there’s a specific reason for that: the treatment regimen is notoriously brutal. In order to get to the 80% cure rate we have to go through six months of acute, high-dose chemo that’s more intense than most other cancer treatments.” She sniffed, nodded, and took a bite of food. I replayed my defensive tactic and felt slightly guilty, particularly since she was noticeably quiet throughout the remainder of the evening. Was that too aggressive? Should I have kept my mouth shut?  I didn’t have long to ponder whether or not I’d be sticking my foot in my mouth. Just as expected, I was going strong for the first two hours when, with the sudden ferocity of my miniature dachshund attacking her pink stuffed hairdryer, my energy level plummeted. After nearly falling asleep in the chocolate fondue, I abruptly announced that it was time to go home. They had no way of knowing that 9:00 is past my bedtime these days.
The next morning I had the lung function test to gauge whether or not the Bleomycin has caused any lung toxicity—long-term or temporary. The echocardiogram will be interpreted by a cardiologist and the lung test will be read by a pulmonologist so, at my next appointment on Wednesday, I should have the results of both. I was originally a little freaked out by the notion of either heart or lung problems but now I’m back to playing the odds. In this case, I’ve determined that the odds are in my favor that my breathing issues are a direct result of the chemo drugs and will subside once I’m in remission.
Today (Sunday) I woke up at 9:20 but was absolutely SHOCKED that it was not actually a very bright 5:00 a.m. I felt as tired as ever, but decided that I needed to go to church one more time before Christmas seeing as next week I’ll be in Rockport. It took everything within me to get out of bed, shower, get ready, and drive the few miles over there. Once seated, I realized that staying awake would be a challenge—and it was. I had assumed that being around others would lift my spirits and boost my energy level, but when it was over I could only manage to drive home and crawl into bed where I slept for three hours. It was then that I had another one of my strange dreams about my hair--a nightly occurrence since first losing it almost three months ago. In the beginning weeks, I would dream that my hair had miraculously grown back and I would therefore revel in its length and luster. I’d wake crestfallen and silently chastise myself for being so stupid for believing the evil trick my subconscious played on me--again. After some time, those dreams would morph into absurdity as I would look in the mirror or run my hands through my gorgeous hair only to find that I’d re-grown---wait for it----a mullet: still bald on top but with straggly locks from the base of the skull down to my shoulders a la Ms. Joe Dirt. After a few consecutive nights of this I started to realize that I was only sleeping and would acknowledge the fact that I have no hair, cannot grow long hair overnight, and would be waking up at any moment. Furthermore, I found myself taking advantage of the dream by playing with my hair as much as possible before waking up—pulling out clips and headbands, twisting it into chignons, etc. This afternoon I dreamt that my hair reached my waist. I reminded myself that I was only sleeping but nothing would wake me up. I played with, tugged on, and marveled at my sudden, newfound waves (waves? My locks have never held even the slightest undulation) but couldn’t rouse myself from sleep. I started to actually believe that I was awake, making plans to get it cut and styled later in the week. A sudden, disconcerting shock of vibrations shook me from the dream—it was Lola shaking the sleep off of her—and I opened my eyes to accept once again I was bald as usual. I actually hope that tonight brings the return of the mullet so that I can perfect my trailer-chic look.
GI Jane in her bedroom beckoning Adam back to Sarah’s boudoir. Wait. He’s gay and she’s straight….aaaahhhh details….
My extreme fatigue leads me to believe that my blood counts must be very low. I intend to eat lots of iron-rich foods and continue to ATTEMPT yoga, although I cannot guarantee a yogi-approved Downward Facing Dog or Proud Warrior in this condition. Mom is due early next week and I get my test results on Wednesday. I still haven’t heard back about the revamped spa position but I’ll report back on everything soon. Enjoy the holiday season, everyone!!!

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