Hellmann's ... "Bring Out The Best"... in Hair!
I'm going to do this once a week! I slathered on a big tablespoon and gave my head a good massage. (It wasn't as creepy as it sounds) Then I wrapped my head in a warm, damp towel for 20 minutes. Bonnie said I would smell like a salad when I showered and I kind of did. But I like mayo and I like salads.
Thanks for the tip on hair growth, Bonnie! And thanks Uncle Dave, for putting me in contact with Bonnie. Funny the connections that have been made through all of this!
I've had lots of excuses to miss things over the past months, but I haven't missed much. I've been lucky that no family weddings, reunions, graduations or even funerals have taken place in recent months.
But wouldn't you know, it would end up being a stupid cold that got in the way of a few special gatherings in the past 2 days.
On Thursday, we managed to grab 2 special "long distance members" back in town for a fun little reunion. I don't have a photo of our gathering, because I stayed less than an hour. It wasn't my first radiation from an hour earlier that wore me out. It was the darn cold and trying hard to keep my distance from others.
Former Book Clubber, Anne
But the next day, I got a chance to visit with Anne who was in town for a few days from Florida.
We sat outside, with a balmy October breeze, catching up. We had lots to share and lots of questions for each other.
Anne brought me these beautiful flowers to celebrate my end of chemo. I made her pose with me because I really needed to share her gift...
You see, Anne just completed 12 rounds of chemo recently. She is my hero.
Friday evening I had to miss one more thing... the wedding of my son's best "drumming buddy" from his youth. I wasn't sure of my treatment schedule when I sent my "regrets", weeks ago. But as it turns out the radition/cold combo would have gotten in the way. I'm so glad Scott was able to be there to see Steve get married. They've come a long way from surfboards and drumsticks.
I may have missed out on some of my "reunion-ing" in the past 2 days... but I did get to see Scott and Chali briefly and have a little Lola-patting time! And best of all I was reminded of how grateful I am, that we have a whole year to get excited about a family wedding! A year of getting healthy and excited for all of us!
No Delays Please
Luckily I rarely get colds and they're usually mild head colds. But the timing of this cold was frustrating. I woke up with a slight sore throat, on Tuesday, the day after we returned from our trip. First thought, "Oh no, what if they don't let me do radiation. What are the rules?" I've already highlighted December 14, as my LAST DAY!
That afternoon, I went in for my "dry run" for radiation. By Thursday I had a full cold, when I went in for my first radiation. But I tried to hide my Kleenex and not breath on anyone. I went with the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" approach... determined to get my first treatment behind me.
After waiting a while with a few others in gowns, I got my turn. My technicians were wonderful and they knew it was my first time. I must have looked scared as I laid on the white sheet, because they were so reassuring. I was scared, but not about the powerful machine moving above my head, making strange sounds. I was so darn scared I was going to sneeze. It was done in 5 minutes and I was down right giggling with relief.
"Whew!" I laughed. "I was afraid I was going to sneeze!" They assured me that I could sneeze, if I didn't move anything else. Or I could just holler "Stop!" if I felt it coming on. What good news to know... it was nothing like being in a knife throwing act where a "Wait!!" could get you a knife in the ear.
Yay! One down and 32 more to go!
A Welcoming Monster!
This funny thing will be delivering high energy x-rays to destroy any cancer cells, that think they have a right to still be in my body! 3 wonderful technicians worked away, adjusting me, taking pictures, comparing scans and... decorating me!
I put on my blouse and laughed. I know these marks are important to make sure they target the proper places. But someone should have warned me about wearing a scoop necked blouse. I looked pretty silly walking out.
I'm just glad my 6.5 weeks of radiation starts in October and not sweltering, June. I will be paying special attention to my shirts for a while!
I just had a rejuvenating 5-day getaway (in the window between treatments) to help me forget about cancer. But it seems I was reminded constantly, by the slipping, itching, twisting, annoying things on my head.
If only I'd had the confidence to just greet nature, bare-headed. What an easy trip it would have been. But it was too cold to be bald... and I wasn't brave enough.
Getting the Signal
A nice man on the roof of our B&B offered to take a photo of both of us. I thanked him and ushered Don over. Don gave me "the look" which let me know my wig needed tending. It's kind of hard to adjust your wig when a stranger is waiting with a camera. Sheesh! What would I do without my personal assistant?
So here are some wig looks that I'm not happy about. Don and I celebrated our 37th anniversary while in Tahoe. As our server took our photo, we clinked glasses and I had no clue that my wig was slipping down over my forehead. Not a good look.
Happy As Can Be... About My Forehead
I was smiling pretty big, so I clearly didn't know that my wig was slipping backwards in these photos! In the chair pose, I was actually wearing a hidden band to prevent slippage. (That band will not get used again) The other photo shows my snappy scarf, that I was feeling pretty good about... until I saw the photo. Obviously neither helped keep my wig in place.
Half Wig Time
I grew weary of the wig issues and decided I needed to just wear my half wig and hide under a hat. Purchasing a hat was a trick in itself. I am letting Betty-Lou my wig holder, demonstrate how the bald head works with the half wig. It's a little scary. I had to do some swift work inside the souvenir shop to try on hats behind display cases... so as not to shock my fellow shoppers.
Wind and a Hat
That afternoon I felt more comfortable wearing my new hat and halfie, as I walked along the sand at Zephyr Cove. But the wind was whipping a bit. I was standing right next to a woman when the wind blasted. Luckily my reflexes are still good and I slapped the top of my head, just before that hat lifted and flew. Which would look crazier... me chasing the hat with my halfie-Bozo-head, or me tying down the hat-n-halfie combo, with a silk scarf?
But after we met up with Billy in Tahoe, I was glad we'd made the effort. Connecting with people over these past months has been healthy. I have to push myself, but I always feel better.
Picnic With The Little Guys
That was refreshing. But as we sat at the picnic table I discovered a new concern. 3-year-old Colden got playful with Don. For some reason he thought it was such incredible fun to grab Don's hat off his head, repeatedly.
San Fran Airport
I didn't realize how smart that decision was until we stood in the security line and noticed travelers being asked to remove their hats. Whew, I suddenly liked that wig on my head.
Maybe I'll get another chance to travel by air before my hair grows back. It would be just a little fun, to give those TSA folks a big surprise!
My eyes have been watering since I started chemo and a change in environment really gets them going. Yesterday, I carried tissues through the airport and dabbed my weeping eyes throughout both flights. I was seated by unfriendly non-talkers on both planes and that was fine. But I kind of wish I'd had a chance to explain that I wasn't an emotional basket case.
Today the weather is gorgeous in Lake Tahoe. It was in the 20's this morning. Luckily my clothes are warm enough. And lucky it's not any colder or my cheeks and eyelashes (the ones I have left) would be frozen. The chill adds to my eye drama. I've stopped dabbing my eyes, I just wear sunglasses and hide my wet, swollen eyes.
I still can't believe I am on my way to Lake Tahoe. This seems incredible that Don and I will spend a few days there. We booked way before my diagnosis.
Now there is a window of less than a week between appointments and start of radiation. I'm in the San Francisco airport right now, laughing at how hard I can make things.
Yesterday I was just packing for me. No baby strollers, wheelchairs or even giant instruments to pack. But my mind was boggled just the same. What head gear do I want? Wig, half-wig, scarves, hats? Wig shampoo in case I sit by a smokey bonfire?? Thermometer, since I'm still in the med study... water for hydration... Kleenex for my constant eye watering... so much over-thinking.
Don is already there, since he went with our son for the earlier half of our rental time. So, my travel buddy is not with me. That's okay, I've flown on my own many a time. I even flew with young tots alone to Europe. (Of course I did faint on the plane and needed oxygen, but that's another story) So, it's just 2 weeks since chemo 4 and I don't trust my fuzzy brain to remember all the things that Don does without even thinking... like setting the alarm and tipping and checking us in at the terminal, super efficiently.
When I was going through security I had a flashback of the last time I said good-bye to my mom at an airport. It was just before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and I watched her in line putting her items in the bin. I wanted to be there to help her take off her shoes and place all her stuff in the bin, but I could only watch from a distance. Impatient folks stood behind her and I cringed. But I saw her calm face, taking her time, folding her sweater and New York Times, without a care in the world. And I think I probably looked just like Mom today. I didn't trust my chemo brain, so I took lots of time to ponder the schedule and my ticket. Don is so super efficient, I usually rush along with him, but I dawdled at the check in kiosk. I took my time putting on my shoes and checking to see that I still had my ID. It felt good to be slow.
Me, the Passenger
The guy next to me, in high tops and plaid shorts said nothing. He shut the shade and closed his eyes. "Hey!" I wanted to say. "The new me is enjoying life now and I want to see the view!" I waited for him to snore, then lifted the shade and gave myself a view. Then, I avoided sleep since I figured my wig would twist around funny.
While waiting in my Space Age chair at the San Fran Airport, I spoke with a woman who only wanted to talk about her cats. I think she was a little lonely, so I tried to be pleasant. I took advantage of our friendly encounter to ask her to take this picture so I could text it to my sister-in-law, who sent me this lovely scarf. Sadly the photo revealed that my wig was indeed a little askew. I tried to fix it in the restroom, but gave up.
On to Reno, where Don drives us to Tahoe!
I like some tattoos, just not on me! My kids have tattoos and Don teases me about getting one. I've never been tempted, but guess what? I have 3 now. I have 3 "freckle tattoos" that felt like bee stings. I have more tattoos than my kids now.
Yesterday, I lay on this black platform when I got my stings. There is a lot of marking that goes on to make sure the radiation is accurate. Besides the bee stings, this "simulation" thing was a breeze. I laid on my back while adjustments were made on the blue form, to keep me stable during radiation next week. There were some scans and some photos and some pleasant chit chat with my very nice technician. Mostly I just relaxed and shut my eyes and reminded myself how much nicer this was than my 45 minute MRI, last June.
And most of all I'm glad I did not have to have more than 3 freckle tattoos. Too bad they're so small I can barely see them. 3 tiny stars would have been much cuter!
Don left me, to go off to Lake Tahoe with our son, Scott. (This photo of Lake Pontchartrain, will have to do for now)
Am I sad and lonely?
Absolutely not. It's quiet, but I'm happy. Happy for many reasons.
I'm glad Scott is getting to finally see Lake Tahoe. It's his fall break from Tulane and he's making good use.
I'm glad these two are spending time together. They've always been good buddies. Knowing they're together makes me happy.
I'm glad we're actually able to make use of a condo reservation that Don and I made 6 months ago. Even though chemo ended, I still have had appointments and recovering to do. I'm thrilled that the condo wasn't wasted.
I'm so glad to give Don a break from me.
I don't think he's exactly been suffering, but he's been doing a lot of giving, since the end of May.
Don's driven me to every appointment and tended to my ever changing needs and moods. He's cooked and shopped and best of all he's never complained about how much Turner Classic TV, I seem to need to watch.
And as I happily spend time in the quiet, I've started to miss that guy and all the things I forget that he takes care of. I keep forgetting to pick up the mail and take the trash cans out...
And I'm extra glad to know that after keeping my fingers crossed for good health reports, I will be able to fly out and join Don on Wednesday! We'll stay a few days and I'll return to start radiation. Who would have ever guessed the window between treatments would fall like it did. I have been trying not to get my hopes up, but all is falling into place!
Yesterday I was pondering... "I know my hair will start growing back soon, but I want to begin with a blank slate." I have prickly hairs that came back during chemo and I know to expect surprises in color and texture with new hair growth. But, I want to start fresh. So this is what I did!
Richmond Barber Shop
At 8:00 this morning, I met A.D. at his barber shop in Richmond, Texas. I told him on the phone yesterday about my situation. He seemed delighted to help me out, but he said he'd only be there in the early morning before his grandson came in at 8:30. He actually arrives most mornings at 6 or before!
I heard about A.D.'s shop 10 days ago, when I went into the antique store across the street. It was the afternoon of my last chemo and I was in good spirits. I spent time with the chatty owner talking about Richmond history and she mentioned the barber shop across the street.
Cure for the Blahs
I drove out on Highway 90 this morning. Fog was hanging over the railroad tracks and the ranch land, beside the road. I was feeling pretty giddy, because I love an odd adventure. I had no idea how welcomed or awkward I might feel, but I needed to shake it up. The day before I was in a grumpy mood realizing I needed over 6 weeks of radiation, not 4. I needed something fun to lift my spirits. I could have done a spa treatment... or gotten a tattoo or anything. But the barber shop was my choice, to cure the blahs.
My Buddies of the Morning
A.D. and his buddy, Silven were waiting for me. They both greeted me with smiles and handshakes. They look pretty serious in this photo, but that's because A.D. told me to feel free to take photos. They didn't know they were in this one. There must have been 500 framed photos. And I didn't even get a photo of the saddle or Elvis by the door.
Silven was happy to sit with his coffee and take some shots. I had my paisley scarf for the photo, then whipped it off and took a seat.
My expression doesn't match how I felt. I actually loved that he was using a brush to dab on the lather... cream... what do they call it? I told him I felt like I was in Mayberry. He didn't act at all like goofy Floyd on The Andy Griffith Show.
A.D. didn't act like Sweeny Todd either... thank goodness. He was cautious and gentle and only made me laugh when there was no razor in his hand.
I laughed about all my head flaws that I never see. "I heard there's a mole up there!" I told him. But he just complimented my round head.
We did laugh much of the time. It was hard keeping still because our 3-way conversation was lively. And then another fella came in, waiting for an appointment with A.D.'s grandson.
A.D. introduced us and teased, "Yeah, I messed up her haircut last week and she told me to just take it all off." I told him to stop making me laugh. We 4 chatted till I was done and A.D. cooled my head with cooling towel. He cautiously diluted it, so I wouldn't jump out of my seat. Then he fanned my cooling head. "How's that feel?"
Me and My Barber
A.D. told me that my "bubbly personality" was going to get me through this thing, no problem. He also laughed to Silven that it was a lot more fun having me in there than a bunch of men... and did I want a job? He said it in the kindest of ways.
I asked my new friends if I should put on my scarf before heading out. They told me to go for it with my new head. So I tied my scarf around my neck. I asked A.D. how much I owed him and he wouldn't even discuss being paid. Silven said he was stubborn and don't even try. They both gave me hugs before I left and I promised to come back and show them my hair when it grows in.
I rolled down the windows of my Honda Element, wishing I had a convertible. Then I took a scenic route through Richmond, stopping to pick up some coffee with my scarf-less head. I drove down the highway feeling the breeze on my smooth skin and I smiled. I sort of hoped I wouldn't see any neighbors as I pulled into my drive, but at least my confidence was up... if I did.
My Dammit Doll
My Haitian Doll
This is also not a voodoo doll. It's made in Haiti and I can talk to her, write her notes and request all sorts of things. After my doctor's appointment, I asked her if I made the right decision about radiation. (No this is not praying, it's playful distraction)
Basically Dr Y gave me the choice of 4.5 or 6.5 weeks of radiation. Why not the shorter amount? I asked. There's a little more risk, since one lymph node ended up showing involvement. Seriously, I haven't been thinking about this. It felt odd to be reminded.
And Don was out of town. It was my first doctor's appointment without him. But I made a decision like a big girl. I'm going for the 6.5. Maybe I don't need it, but what's 2 more weeks? I want to know I've done everything possible to keep this cancer from returning. I'm excited about future weddings, grandkids, celebrations of all kinds! I'm planning on being there!
I felt like I was playing hooky on Tuesday. I left town on the 7th day after chemo. I knew there was a good chance I would get a call saying my white blood count was low and they would be sending over my nurse to draw blood. But I kept my fingers crossed and left town with Don and "The Engaged Kids" to go hunting for wedding venues. I'm usually a good rule follower and I'm in a medical study after all. But I lucked out. They never called.
On the first day, we just visited one place in Austin. The weather was lovely, the kind you hope for on a wedding day. But the venue was too rustic.
After a night at the cabin, we got an early start and hit 6 different options in the Hill Country. The air was dry, but the temps were near 90 and I was feeling in a weak state by the 4:00 appointment. But, I got to see them all and there was time to ponder all we'd seen, on the drive home to Sugar Land.
So the Future Bride & Groom, ended up choosing a venue and the wedding will be next fall! They made a perfect choice and I couldn't be happier for them. They have so many things to think about. What an exciting year ahead! Me? I'm just glad I'll have some kind of hair on my head!
Chemo may be over, but I have a long time ahead without hair. I find myself inspired by some pretty creative people out there, who know how to use fabric and tying techniques... Alicia Keys for example!
Little Edie, from the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens is probably the most creative of them all, when it comes to head covers. I just had to revisit the film about Jackie Kennedy's cousin, who lived for years with her mother (both recluses) in a crumbling mansion. It was hard not chuckling at the 57 year old woman, as she pranced about in one odd costume after another.
It's unclear why she lost her hair, but she became very clever at using more than just scarves to cover her head. A sweater, fastened with a broach was a favorite. As I watched this time, I was more focused on the head decor than when I watched years ago. I also found myself more sad watching the dysfunctional pair, living in their odd, private world. I decided i should channel Edie's creativity, but try not to make fun.
Creativity at the Cabin
So I kept Little Edie's creativity in mind when we were at the cabin a few days ago. We had some fun, stretching and twisting fabrics onto our heads. Don was able to find a curious internet deal and ordered a set of Kingree Outdoor Multifunctional Sports Magic Scarves!
Taking Our Pick
We each picked a design we liked and had a little fun with the simple, tubular pieces of stretchy material.
We didn't have broaches or fancy textures like Little Edie, but we did our best. I can only imagine how much fun she would have had with these things.
Dear Edie, may she rest in peace. I'm going to try not to feel sad thinking about her quirky behavior and existence. I'm just going to focus on her odd yet positive spirit. Thanks for the inspiration!
Specifically, I'm talking about Lack of Lake Appreciation, but there are a lot of things that don't get appreciated enough.
I used this 5 year old photo for my Smile & Laugh Blog photo, on Sunday. The swan image made me smile and relax. Seeing the photo reminded me that we have a lake behind our house... and we don't make use! The bushes have grown to make it less noticeable, but it is still just steps away. Why do I not make use of the beautiful things around me?
The weather was beautiful on Sunday night. Don and I sat on the patio where we were somewhat enclosed by plant growth. I reminded him about the swan photo and how we used to make use of the lake. When the kids were younger, we fished and even lugged out the canoe. As we chatted about lake memories, the sun lowered. We walked out of the yard and watched the stunning colors in the clouds and water. Don said, "We should just bring our chairs out here tomorrow evening."
The weather was lovely again. Don graciously dragged 2 patio chairs through our back gate and placed them by the lake. I had to laugh. People just don't do that around here. We brought drinks in thermal mugs. The atmosphere made my bubbly water taste like champagne.
There were fewer clouds so less sunset drama, but it felt peaceful and heavenly. It was a reminder to pause and think about what other things surround me daily, that I forget to appreciate. Is there a different place in the house where I could sit and read? Are there fun dishes I should pull out and use? Is there a forgotten instrument, game, or even a photo album that deserves some attention?
Maybe I should grab a lawn chair and drag some of those things to the front yard next time! That would amuse my neighbors at the very least.
Who Was This?
I listened to a voicemail yesterday and it made me worry that chemo brain was suddenly messing with me. I recognized a familiar accent... but I have a few friends with the very same accent. The voice sounded worried, or let down. "Why haven't you been here? Where have you been?" It sounded like I had stood someone up. Did I forget something?
Not only did this special person take care of my mom when she moved into an Alzheimer's residence 8 years ago, she helped me with many of my quilt gatherings in the last 6 years.
Early on, I tried so very hard to cover my bases when I "took leave" of my groups. I called directors, stopped by, sent emails and texts. But these facilities, with their ever-changing staff, are busy places. I am just one person of many who do programs. Since one of my groups involves children and another is a group with Alzheimer's, I knew news would be shared cautiously. But I sure never wanted anyone to think I had just decided to stop showing up... after 6 years.
So maybe it's a little odd to send cards to some of my groups. But it was bugging me that anyone would think I had stopped caring. I contacted my dear friend who had phoned and I filled her in. Then I grabbed some old photos of The Quilt. The photos don't show the quilt "in use" with my groups, but I thought some might at least recognize the colorful old thing.
I wrote a greeting to each group, then included a photo. Yes, I'm wearing a small quilt on my head. I told the groups I hoped to start up in the New Year.
I hope that wasn't a weird thing to do. After all, my Alzheimer's folks aren't exactly wondering where I am. The children at the Shelter who knew me, have hopefully moved on. But it felt good to just throw myself into a card and send a little reminder... that I will be back!
I actually do like the FB notifications that remind me of birthdays. It's so easy to send a greeting and it's a treat being at the receiving end. But today I spotted a reminder for a FB friend, who is no longer with us. I had to catch my breath when I was reminded, to wish Janet a Happy Birthday.
When We Met
I met Janet when her daughter was in my Magic Quilt Class. I soon got to know Janet's sister, when we were on the same tennis team. Janet and I didn't see each other often, but during these recent months, she has been on my mind constantly. Not because she lost her fight with cancer, but how she handled her fight.
At The Store
I'll never forget the day I bumped into Janet at the grocery store and she shared her news of breast cancer. She had learned very recently and her attitude was sincerely upbeat. I was stunned by her honesty. She just wanted to get that news out there, so no one would be uncomfortable with learning the secret through the grapevine. When I learned my own news, I couldn't get that encounter memory out of my mind. I had been blown away by Janet's brave spirit then, and I was determined to learn from it.
Janet's fight with breast cancer was just the beginning. I'm not even sure how long her good periods were, but even when she was back to battling, she showed up at the tennis court to watch our team play. She chatted and laughed with her dog at her side. I marveled at how she put us all at ease.
So this morning, I clicked on Janet's name and I saw her profile picture from a few years ago. She was laughing with her husband, revealing her perfectly smooth head. Instead of feeling nervous that I was confronting the fact that we all don't survive breast cancer... I was reminded that she lived those difficult years with lots of fight AND tons of joy.
I sent Janet a FB message and it didn't feel strange. I knew her family was celebrating her on this day, but I wanted her to know that many who didn't know her that well, were also honoring her. I wish I could have told her in person how much I admired her. What a silly way to do it, with Facebook. But oddly, it didn't feel silly when I clicked "Post". I have a feeling Janet got the message!
Yes, chemo does it. Even though I've been able to carry on pretty darn well, I still feel 15 years older when I climb (not dash) up the stairs. My eyes have aged and I think like an old person, with a bit of a dragging chemo brain.
But mostly I feel old because my baby girl is turning 30!
I was about Heidi's age when she came into my world... so I guess that makes me old! But as always, we turn the focus towards the positive! All is good once you turn to celebration!
We planned to celebrate at our Hill Country cabin the weekend before. Don and I arrived Friday night and I suddenly realized I didn't have my old hosting energy. Don mowed, knee high grass (it's been a while) and I just ignored the cobwebs and dust. I did manage to throw up some decorations, though. 30 photos with captions about what we love about Heidi... some serious... some silly.
The air was perfect by evening, with all windows wide open. We took in the sunset from the upper porch and all I could do was sigh. I haven't been out of town since chemo started and here I was just days away from my very last treatment. Lots to be thankful for.
Heidi and Jamie arrived Saturday morning and we picnicked at the lake. Chicken salad and games and a National Inquirer to laugh at! It was so simple and pleasant, just spending time.
In the evening we sat on the deck and Heidi opened gifts. We toasted with champagne and Don did an amazing job with filet mignon!
Candles and cupcakes and games into the night. I love my birthday girl!
Then on Sunday, Heidi and I had Mother/Daughter Day in Austin. We were able to walk from the apartment, which was lucky since there were ACL Festival parking/traffic issues.
Coffee to Spa
We started with coffee and muffins at Patika. By 11, we were at a spa for facials, which was a piece of heaven for us both. (Mine was modified for health reasons)
Dressed for Lunch
Back at the apartment, Heidi and I dressed for our late lunch. I brought my wig, but Heidi pushed for us to both wear scarves! We walked to the amazing Wu Chow where Heidi guided me through the process of various Dim Sum options. I managed to bite off the tip of my Soup Dumpling without having it explode!
By 4:00, we were back at the apartment and Don arrived to drive the 2 of us back to Sugar Land. I thought I'd sleep in the car driving home, but I giddily talked the whole way. I never would have believed a few months ago that I could have enjoyed so much while undergoing chemo. In fact just days earlier I had been stressed thinking I might not have the energy.
Thanks to my Birthday Girl (and Don and Jamie) for the celebration!
Day Four is here and it is my worst day, as expected. My eye lids are puffy and I can't stop my eyes from tearing. I opened the door at 9 to my nurse, Augusta and stuck out my already bruised arm, to have my blood drawn. It took 2 tries. My veins are tired of this. My mouth feels numb and my teeth feel like they're not in the proper place. When I laid down for a bit, my body felt like a bloated, sunken ship, sinking into the couch. I can't read, because my eyes won't focus.
But my eyes can take in the oranges and golds on the table. I knew a few days ago that i needed to put out some "fall" to give me a boost. What a treat to have a new season. And of course best of all, this BAD DAY, is kind of IT. I will feel somewhat better tomorrow and then better and better gradually. This is it, for Bad Chemo Days! I find this hard to believe.
In the evening, I ate my Mac-n-Cheese in my cozy house. I stopped thinking about my sluggish self. My worst day was nothing. Hurricane Matthew had been causing "worst days" for thousands in the southeast, all day. My friend in Jacksonville, FL was dealing with decisions of evacuation... and she just recently finished her 12 rounds of chemo. Then I got a message from a dear friend about her mother's sudden death...
My focus is different now. Not only do I have friends dealing with worse, worst days... there are all the people I don't know, in devastated Haiti and the Bahamas... Tomorrow, my brain will be less foggy. I hope I can figure out a way to be helpful.
Don was a cute birthday cowboy years ago. He was also a a fine cowboy-chemo- buddy yesterday.
But today is Don's birthday and I wish the timing was better for celebrating. Don deserves some festive focus today, but our big outing was about my trip to the hospital to get my Nuelasta shot.
Actually our trip to the office was pleasant. It was right after the office lunch break and all was peaceful. Freenea gave me my shot and I didn't feel it. Lala, who had missed my bell ringing after chemo yesterday, came out and insisted we dance and ring a bit.
I even got to sneak some little gifts to some of the nurses and staff who have been so kind.
Then, I realized it was Don's birthday and he should have been in the photo. It's his day to have some attention. I mentioned that he was the birthday boy and suddenly he got some love. It was nice to hear staff rave about how supportive and fun he has been at every appointment, chemo and otherwise. They've seen him playing his support role, more than most anyone. I was so glad for him to get the spotlight for a change.
Next we got to spend some time in the parking garage as witnesses to a couple car scrapes. Some woman in a gigantic truck scraped one car, then proceeded to scrape another, before heading into the hospital. Don had to do his birthday civic duty, talking to security and police, while our carry outs at Thai Cottage got cold.
And then I started to get all worried about this woman in the truck, who ignored the damage she'd done. Was she distraught or in a daze? Who knows why she was heading in the hospital. Now I'm worried about her!
But we made it home without any scrapes and luckily my chemo blahs haven't kicked in yet. We worked on the puzzle. And we'll play ukuleles later. (Don loves both) Then there are some presents to open and some cake, hiding in the refrigerator. I'm just glad for the focus to be on this sweet guy for a while. He's been doing nothing but looking after me. It's his turn!
...When Others Aren't
I was in good spirits, the morning of my last chemo! Don and I are were in festive, not exactly matching get-ups. I mixed it up with my embroidered Mexican blouse from a thrift shop 20 years ago, a Guatemalan scarf and moccasins. Don was straight western from boots to hat to bolo tie. We were happy to go get started.
But before we left, I scrambled to gather something for the other patients. Don had ordered a huge box of these wonderful lemon drops... after some research for best treat for soothing chemo mouth. I tagged them with pink hearts, so I could offer something to the patients who might need a boost.
We arrived at 9 and the office was hectic. My dear friends at the desk were working overtime. Poor Lala wore a surgical mask... shielding us from her cough. My happiest team was tied up on phones and looking rushed.
The lab nurses were in decent spirits. One said she used to do embroidery just like the designs on my blouse. We jibber jabbered so much, that I forgot to warn her I needed extra blood work done for my med study. This lead to lots of fretting 20 minutes later when my study nurse came in and they tried to get samples before chemo and my veins weren't cooperating. I had 2 more tries, including the most painful on my hand, before they switched nurses for a fresh attempt. The 4th poke of my morning, was a winner.
The woman next to me couldn't thank me enough. A couple of men spoke little English, but offered smiles and I saw one nibbling, right away. Don sipped on coffee and I gulped down my water, while we killed time. We couldn't possibly be frustrated at the wait when we looked around us.
I was cleared to go, but it still took forever to get hooked up with my "cocktail". There were so many with special needs around me.
2 different men left the room to be sick. One woman had concerns that she would need a transfusion and her upcoming surgery would be delayed. Another woman was weary, but smiley. It was her last treatment also... she had had 14... and I had only endured 4! I ached for these people.
I didn't even care how long the day dragged out. I was almost done with this chemo stuff. I did't even fret about the rough days that were ahead. I'm game to lay low a while before I start getting back to normal. And mostly I was content to spend quiet time in my funny recliner (that likes to catapult me if I'm not careful with the lever) I flipped through the most incredible book of New York photos and I worked with Puzzle Man Don on a 6 sided puzzle... while at the same time, those drips entered my bloodstream to zap anything bad that might possibly be left in me!
5 hours later, I was given the little bell to ring, for ending my treatments! Dr. P and his wonderful nurse practitioner, Alicia, came out to congratulate. Other nurses and staff rushed in to cheer me on. I'd been told about dancing, and wasn't sure if that was a joke. But I did a half minute, subdued jig and cringed at waking a few patients from their dozing. But a few clapped and wished me well.
Chemo is done. More lies ahead with return visits and starting up radiation. But the thing I feared the most is over!
Well of course I'm not upset that it's my last day of chemo, today. I've been awake since 3:30, pondering the thought. (those dang steroids in my anti-nausea drugs are keeping me alert) But I'm just getting the hang of this. Is is really almost over?
I'm so grateful that I have only needed 4 treatments, when friends have had 12 and 14! I feel like I'm cheating, practically. And last night when Don and I tried to decide on our "chemo outfits", I was downright disappointed that I couldn't continue right into fall and winter, with all the costume ideas flashing through my head.
So when we walk in this morning at 9, we'll have to play down the "costumes" a bit. They motivate us and amuse the staff, but we have to be cautious about looking like we're having a party when others are maybe not feeling so celebratory. And that's what I've been pondering over mostly. What could I give or share with the others today. Those folks who doze quietly and probably don't want to be disturbed. I have bags of the most wonderful lemon drops that are good for easing that metallic chemo mouth. Or maybe everyone needs a small pumpkin. It's 6:45 am, is the grocery store open? I don't know. We'll see.
It's not that I dislike them really. I just don't feel comfortable. Spas sound indulgent and I feel like I should spend my money in better ways. But when my daughter and I were looking for some fun ideas to celebrate her birthday together, one of Heidi's thoughts was facials at a nearby spa. Suddenly I was giddy! This was something we both could do. It's recommended that I not have manicures or pedicures during chemo, but at Viva Day spa, I could have a facial designed to my needs, using organic products. And there was no guilt of indulgence. This was Heidi's birthday treat...that I just got to join in on. Yay!
But I felt anxious the day before. Do I walk in wearing my wig, even though It will have to come off. Same with make up... but I look scary without. So, I put on a scarf and light make up and headed out on Sunday. Heidi and I sat in this round calming room, sipping cucumber water as we filled out paperwork. Yikes. Who would I even be dealing with? In a private room I hoped? Stephanie came out and introduced herself to me. She was young and relaxed. I felt at ease.
The room could have seemed intimidating after months of examining/operating tables and equipment. But there was calming music and some peaceful artwork. I wasn't sure if Stephanie had had time to read my requests. I told her I couldn't do the full treatment. I told her I was undergoing chemo and I hoped she didn't mind dealing with a bald head, because I was dying to take my scarf off. "No problem, " She said gently. "This is going to be all about love and healing." She smiled with enthusiasm and sincerity. I loved her.
She left the room and I settled into the heavenly cushioned bed. The soothing music played and Stephanie spoke softly making sure I was okay. For an hour she used endless products with so many lovely scents. She worked those warm oils into my face, shoulders, hands and yes my head! It was odd to suddenly have my head exposed to someone, but I quickly sunk down deeper into the cushions and felt like a trusting child. Her fingers smoothed every worry from my brain. When the hour ended, Stephanie gently asked how I was feeling.
I could barley open my eyes. I sighed. "You have magic fingers... I laughed softly. "No, healing hands." She smiled, back. "Well, I did it all. I even pulled out my crystals and I prayed." I didn't even know what that exactly meant, but it worked! "Thanks for dealing with my head. That felt wonderful."
"You're so brave." She answered. "You're going to be just fine."
A year ago, I would have laughed at such a cosmic approach. I embraced it today and she embraced me before I left.
I met up with Heidi and we shared about our totally different experiences. I have to thank Heidi for sharing her birthday and allowing me to experience the most relaxed moment in the past 130 day. What a treat.
I started this complaining list/blog, in May 2016. I posted 200 gripes about my breast cancer and then I was done.
On March 13, 2020, I started venting all over again, when another disease (starting with a C) interfered with my life. Only this time, it was affecting more than me. I ranted for a year, until I got my vaccine in March 2021.
Coronary Artery Disease was the reason I restarted this blog on September 26, 2021. This time it was Don who was dealing with a worry that started with the letter "C".
Coronavirus and Cancer, Coronary Artery Disease! All are evil, but none can totally get me down... if I vent! I usually end up feeling a little more positive at the end of each post!