I arrived for my second chemo on Wednesday, October 1st with a take-charge attitude. This one, unlike the last, was destined to be different. And that it was…. As ordered by Dr. Wilks based on the first chemo’s anaphylactic outcome, my drugs were administered WITHOUT the bleomycin and, lo and FRIGGIN behold, my skin erupted into huge hives, my lips swelled like a strawberry on steroids, and my eyes glassed over. I looked like a leper on cocaine, or so I’m told. Once again, a flurry of nurses holding syringes pushed mad drugs into my veins and called my doctor into the chemo room. Hands on her hips, she said, "Just what am I going to do with you???" They pulled my chart notes from the first round and discovered that assuming the offending drug was bleo was just that: an assumption. Actually, it was a pretty good (albeit inaccurate) assumption. Even though only 1% of patients go into anaphylactic shock with it, it IS by far the most toxic drug out of the four that I have the honor of ingesting. In fact, we found out that I'm actually allergic to Dacarbazine, which my doctor has never, EVER heard of as causing a reaction (mind you, she is a board certified oncologist/hematologist known for conducting many clinical trials and independent research). Who knows? I may become one of HER research case studies and get those damn bills paid for!!! Anyway, she scheduled me to come back early the next morning to get a dose of bleo, the all-important, highly toxic yet highly homicidal-toward-cancer-cells drug. We thought it would take 30 minutes max, but the nurses are now so afraid of treating me that they LITERALLY drew straws (they were joking and it was actually really funny) as to who "got me." My chemo nurse yesterday was Patti, and she preemptively (just in case, considering my history) diluted Benadryl with a bag of saline, then ran ANOTHER bag of saline, then gave me a test dose of bleo....followed by yet another bag of saline, and, finally, my full dose. Without incident, I left the treatment center the drama-free zone I had found it upon arrival. I slept for a few hours that afternoon and basically lazed around while my mom waited on me hand and foot. As blessed as I am to have her, I feel so guilty for being her high-maintenance vegetable.
Last night, Thursday October 2nd, my mom went to bed early and I followed suit around 9:00. As I went into my bathroom to get ready for bed, I pulled my hair band out and a thick lock of hair fell to the ground with it. Instinctively, I ran my fingers through my hair again and loose, stringy gobs of hair littered the countertops, sink, and tile. I hurried into the guestroom (recently renamed "Jackie's Boudoir" by….well....Jackie) and showed her what was happening, and then gingerly led her back into my bathroom to display the undeniable evidence. I brushed my hair and, as a result, the bristles filled almost immediately, hundreds of extra strands flying through the air. She was so heartbroken for me and carefully picked up the wads of hair, examining and realizing—in her own tactile way—what was happening. I picked up my brush and said, “see? Watch…” and she softly touched my arm and said, “Don’t, baby.” Then, she took me in her arms and cried, saying, “I prayed and prayed this wouldn’t happen to you. I knew it probably would but I prayed that you’d be different. I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry my baby.” She held me tight, sniffling, as I fought back tears and told her, “it’s okay. We knew it was probably going to happen. I guess it was just expected.” Three more minutes of hugging, sobbing, and useless words affirming that it was “a sign of the chemo working,” we had a definite mother/daughter, tearful bonding moment. When she returned to bed, I took a Xanax and contemplated whether or not to open one of the two bottles of cabernet sitting in my pantry. Just as I considered a delightful midnight snack of anti-anxiolitic, red wine, and leftover apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting, I passed out cold into a drug-induced stupor (for about an hour, at which point I woke up, laid awake in bed for 2 hours, and willed myself back to sleep).
I woke up this morning, Friday, October 3rd, to find hair all over my pillow and sheets, and even more hair falling out in my fingers and brush. I jumped into the shower and discovered, given the 4 inches of standing water in the tub, that I had managed to quickly drain. My mom was nervously waiting for me when I got out, and we were both stunned silent at the tendril carnage all over the bathroom floor, sink, and tub.
Herein lies the irony: yesterday while I had a full, intact head of hair, I called my hairdresser to get my mom in for a trim for today since she is now in San Antonio more than Rockport and is desperate for a touch-up. Now I have the distinct privilege of tagging along and asking her shave that $!@^ off. I pray for no Dumbo ears and few noggin nodules. We've named my wig Noreen (I don't know why) so she gets to come along too for her first public appearance. This is going to be one hard f-ing day and waterproof mascara will be involved. And, my dear friends, here is a heartfelt caveat for those of you whose huge best of intentions and goodwill mean so very much to me: I can go without hearing "it's just hair," "it will grow back," "you have a face that can pull it off," "you are not your hair," and the like. I love you dearly but I ask you if pulling a Britney or Sinead would, in any way, be cathartic, therapeutic, or otherwise positive. (More power to you if it would be!!! Right on sister, girl power, and every other befitting cheesy cliché).
I plan to have a SCREW CANCER party next weekend (probably Saturday). Any of you who can make it are absolutely invited, provided that you can hang with the excessive alcohol, greasy food (I madly crave pizza on chemo), and a half-girly, have pissed-off playlist. It will be a good time for all ;) Accommodations at Chateau Brannon are available for family first (with plenty of floor space for the rest of you who don't live in town). Since, with any luck, debauchery will be involved, Mama Jackie will not be here. More details coming soon.
I'll definitely post more when I go q-ball. I will likely be obliterated, but that just makes my writings more colorful.