Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Just Another Manic Monday

Yesterday was my chemo day, and since it was a Monday, I had steeled myself for the frustrations that Mondays often bring. On Sunday I went to my hospital's satellite lab, hoping that by having my labs done early, I would avoid having to wait for the lab results. After I had my appointment with the nurse practitioner, she told me that my numbers look good, and she said that because I have reached the halfway mark in my treatment, my doc was scheduling an abdominal/pelvic scan for me before my next chemo. So that was good. 

As I was waiting to get called back for my infusion, I had a conversation with a woman sitting next to me in the waiting room about the randomness of the side effects. She told me that she also has colon cancer, and I was happy to hear that her neuropathy had gotten better. I asked her how many treatments she had had. She said 16 so far, and I told her that I have completed 6 of my scheduled 12 treatments. I asked how many she had left to go. When she said, “For the rest of my life--if I want to live” was one of those random, unsettling occurrences that made me feel as though I had been bitch-slapped. While that may or may not be the case for everyone, that certainly is not what I needed to hear, and maybe that was her interpretation but not exactly what the doctors said. However, that set the tone for the rest of the day.

Much to my chagrin, for the 4th time in a row, the nurses had difficulty getting the blood return on my port to work. Despite their gallant efforts, they once again resorted to using a “clot buster” so the chemo can be infused through my port. The purpose of these meds is to get the blood to flow so that the chemo can be administered through the port. Otherwise, if they tried to put the chemo into my veins peripherally, it would be too harsh to infuse through my veins. While they were trying everything to get the port to work, I reverted to a state of silent resignation while I could tell underneath her quiet demeanor, Donna went into a silent rage of frustration...not with my health care team but with all of the random frustrations that both we and my care team experience together.

After messaging with my oncology team, the good news is that they are considering running a routine test using a dye to see if they can figure out why the port is not functioning efficiently.

I am always struck by all of the random ironies that surround me. This time I had my chemo in the “sun room,” the irony being that it was rainy and dreary this morning. 

My lab numbers show that despite the fact that cancer has invaded my insides, I am relatively healthy.  I am also annoyed that after a lifetime of exercise and working out, along with the 30 pounds that I have lost, I have lost most of my muscle mass. 

Looking around at the people who are there for treatment, there are so many who are in worse physical shape than I am; I hope they have a  kick-ass support team of friends and family that I have. It is patently obvious that cancer does not care about who you are or how much you own or what your political or apolitical point of view is. 

Cancer does not care whether you are a warrior or a wimp, so I am slightly astounded when people marvel at my positive and philosophical attitude. I am neither courageous nor heroic. I could curl up in a fetal position and curse the sun, the moon, the stars, and the rain, but I have chosen to put one foot in front of the other and to do my best to get through each of the new random indignities that cancer has dealt and will continue to deal to me.

I am still the same person that I have been all of my life, and I will speak up and speak out about the injustices that I see around me.  I will continue to be a rat terrier nipping at the heels of those who need to be reminded that they need several doses of kindness, honesty, and decency....and maybe a terrier to bite them in the ass will help to remind them.

...and thus, today begins my latest cycle in my cancer schmantzer odyssey: 
                     I will wake up and kick ass and get on with my life.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Side Effects and Other Things

While I have never been known for my patience, in the world of “my new normal,” I am beginning to learn that patience truly is a virtue, especially for stubborn folks like me.

Typically, my chemo day drill starts with getting lab work done at 7:30, seeing my doc at 8:30, then waiting for the pharmacy to make up the chemo cocktails; I then get hooked up to a chemo pole for anywhere between 5 and 7 hours.  However, for my past few treatments, the difficulty with accessing my port has given Job (and his patience) a run for his money.  This morning my blood return was not working, so we went through various and sundry contortions of lying on my side with my arm extended over my head, followed by leaning over to touch my toes; I am now fully ready to gyrate to a few verses of YMCA at the next wedding that I attend.  Always willing to be helpful, I suggested to the nurses that they might want to bring out a trapeze so that the port could be more easily accessed. Fortunately, after numerous machinations, they were able to access my port.  Thus, my new normal seems to be yet another chapter of hurry up and wait.

Before my diagnosis, I assumed that cancer would be painful, but I have found that it is not. However, the unpredictability and the randomness of the side effects are another story. My sensitivity to cold has become more challenging than I would have thought. If the weather is chilly or if I want something in a glass jar from the refrigerator, I need to wear gloves. Much to my dismay,  I was shocked and somewhat bummed the other day as I was trying to bake a cake. I cracked the first egg, but my fingers were so tingly and cold sensitive that I couldn't hold the other two eggs long enough to crack them. As a person who has always been independent and able to do everything by myself, it was very dispiriting to have to ask for help to crack an egg, and yet the random annoyances and indignities keep on coming. All in all, it's just another brick in the wall.

However, I am heartened to know that the people in my world are kind and caring. Since my whole cancer schmantzer odyssey started back in April, I have been touched by the kind words and actions of family, of friends, of former students, and of strangers.

With all of the divisiveness and horror in the world coming at us from all directions these days, it is good to know that one of the unexpected side effects of having cancer is to be reminded that most people are good at heart.

That is why it is so difficult for me to understand those who wring their hands and offer thoughts and prayers for the tragedies that seem to be coming at us daily at warp speed. Rather than offering empty platitudes and rhetoric which signify nothing, I wonder what will it take for us to press our legislators to enact policies and legislation that will demonstrate that they are as good as their constituents?

Do they not see the goodness and kindness of the people who are reaching out to help one another?

Do they not understand the words of Anne Frank?
                     Despite everything, I believe that people really are good at heart.

Disasters, diseases, and tragedies make the world a more level playing field.   Like it or not, cancer does not care whether you are rich or poor, old or young, and it creates a level playing field. My oncology team is doing it best to stave off the cancer that is in my body.  If only we could all work together to create policies to stave off the cancer that has invaded our body politic.