Sunday, August 20, 2017

Chemistry Sets, Side Effects, and Curiosity

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite toys was my Gilbert Chemistry Set. I don’t remember much about it other than that it was housed in a nifty blue steel case, and there were test tubes and who knows what chemicals. My scientific experiments usually took place on our garage floor as my friends and I followed the directions for exploding stuff and for making secret potions. 

Holy cow!

As I look back, I am more than slightly horrified; however, when I was growing up, there were no such things as seat belts or safety helmets or other things which we have come to consider to be essential to keeping kids safe.  One of the most important badges of honor in grade school was to be the first kid each spring to come to school in a cast because of crashing a bike on one of the dangerous park paths. While I am sure that my parents must have been worried sick over some of my feats of derring-do, they never projected their fears on me. In fact, I cannot remember being afraid of much of anything.

I am very aware of the possible consequences as I travel through my cancer schmantzer odyssey, and most of the time I am neither fearful nor am I courageous. Much like my scientific experiments, I would consider myself curious, trying to figure out how to deal with what may lie ahead. After my first two chemo treatments, I had some short term neuropathy, which caused my fingers to tingle and which made me sensitive to cold. Much to my chagrin, the sensitivity to cold has now increased, so if I want to take anything out of the refrigerator, I either have to wear gloves or have someone to get it for me. This also means no cold drinks or cold foods unless I want to experience shortness of breath and choking.

In addition to all of the above, I have discovered that since my surgery in May, I have become semi-lactose intolerant. At first, I was dismissive of the lactose intolerance because I could eat cheese and other milk based products, but I am learning which lactose-containing foods might be bothersome. Sadly, the double whammy of cold and lactose has made having my occasional visit to Zesto (for ice cream) an impossibility.  This could be a good reason to create a 10th Circle of Hell.

When friends ask how I feel, I liken my experience to the As Seen on TV ads for the Clapper. 

Clap on! The week after my treatment,  I feel pretty doggoned good.
Clap off! During my chemo week, I am learning how to manage the nausea and fatigue.  

Obviously, cancer schmantzer would not have been my first choice for my life options; however, it is the hand that I have been dealt. 

As a certifiable control freak, I have come to the startling realization that much of what happens is not in my control.   

I can choose how I will respond, and I choose to be curious and unafraid.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Birthdays and Other Things For Which I Am Grateful

To give a little context about my view of birthdays, my mother made a major deal out of birthdays. I never much cared about birthday cakes because my mom baked both a rhubarb and apple pie for each of my birthdays. For whatever reason, she loved planning  “surprise” parties for me, and as an ungrateful kid, I complained about how I didn’t like surprise parties until I got really surprised when there was no surprise party, and I moped for most of the day. So birthdays have always been a big deal to me.

Given my current cancer schmantzer circumstances, my birthday on August 7th marks one more journey around the sun for which I am quite grateful. Originally, my 3rd chemo treatment was scheduled for Monday, but since I had no intention of spending my birthday hooked up to IVs, I rescheduled for the next day. 

The good news about Round 3 is that I am learning how to cope with all of the new stuff that has been happening. As much as I hate taking meds, I have finally realized that I need to be pro-active about taking the meds if there is even a hint of nausea. I now keep gloves by the refrigerator because sensitivity to cold (which feels like sticking my fingers into an electric socket) follows for few days after a treatment. I have also learned that it is okay to feel like a slug for a few days after each chemo treatment.

Since today's blog is all about me and my gratitude for yet another year to wreak havoc and to raise awareness,  if you want to do something to help me celebrate my birthday, here are some suggestions.
  1. Write a letter to someone you love (family or friend or whoever is important) letting them know why they are important to you.
  2. Register to vote. Then do your homework about the issues. Find and support candidates (both financially and energetically) who most closely reflect your values.
  3. Write letters to the editor about issues that are important to you.
  4. Talk to someone whose world view is different from yours with the intent of listening and understanding.
  5. Donate to a cause that is dear to your heart. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Network for Public Education 
  • Ark Animal Rescue, P.O. Box 131, Howe, IN 46746
  • Matthew 25 Health and Dental 
  • Community Harvest Food Bank
  • Habitat for Humanity 
  • Planned Parenthood   
  • Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana                   
Do something unexpected and fun. 
  • Go to the zoo
  • Play miniature golf
  • Go to a playground and try out the monkey bars (or zip line)
  • Go to Zesto (or any ice cream shop) and treat a kid to an ice cream cone
My mother instilled my love of birthdays and my love of celebrating the passages in my life.  When I was young, the goal was to open as many presents as possible. This year I am grateful for all all of the lovely people who have touched my life in ways both large and small and for the kindnesses that I have experienced.  I am grateful for all who have made me smile.

In the words of Elinor Wylie, "In masks outrageous and austere, the years go by in single file; but none has merited my fear, and none has quite escaped my smile."