So, let's see. The chemo itself was fine: I flew into San Francisco that morning into a terrible storm, Melissa and Tillie braved the weather to pick me up, and we rowed our way to Garrett's office. I had the treatment, had the acupuncture, talked with the other bald ladies, badda-bing, badda-boom, chemo done. Then I dashed back to the airport only to sit for three hours while my flight was delayed and re-delayed. Finally arrived safe in LA, went home, and went to bed. That's pretty much where I stayed for the next five days, with a few trips to the bathroom to lay on the floor in there for awhile instead.
The unfortunate thing about this past treatment has been that at this point my immune system is basically gone, and so my body is wide-open to a host of charming infections and little irritations that normally our bodies have no trouble fighting off. So, every time I turned around, there was something else wrong. A cyst here, a virus there, an infection that has to be treated with antibiotics that cause another, different infection. I'm like a zombie in a cartoon -- every time I turn around, some part of me is falling off. So I stop to pick up my finger and stick it back on, keep going, and then my arm breaks off. Pick it up, stick it on...and there goes my nose. You get the picture. The worst part is the constant, unrelenting, determined heartburn that I am experiencing, rather like there is an acid bath a-bubbling in my esophagus. Or perhaps like I fell on a letter-opener and it is lodged beneath my breastbone. It's pretty unpleasant. All in all there have been a host of side-effects that have kept me popping Tums and trying different prescriptions and driving to different doctors and applying different salves and generally just writhing around in bed in misery and crying to various people on the phone. So. The worst is over as of today...until Tuesday, when I have my next chemo.
I am sorry to say that my love affair with my oncologist is OVER. Somewhere around day five, as I lay in bed remembering how he assured me that I'd be "feeling pretty icky" for three days and then would bounce right back, I reconsidered my crush on him. Just to be clear, "icky" is how toddlers feel when they get mud between their toes. "Icky" is sticky fingers from Carolina barbecue. "Icky" is "Ugh I ate too much Kung Pow Chicken." ICKY IS NOT WHAT I AM FEELING. So, I began to feel as though I had been misled a wee bit. Of course, everyone reacts differently to chemotherapy, and there's really no way to tell how an individual will respond until they actually do. Perhaps my body is just not enjoying it as much as others. And, to Garrett's credit, when I finally called blubbering and said "ifyoudon'tgetthisletteropeneroutofmybreastbonei'mgoingtothrowmyselfoutawindow," he responded immediately and called me in a new drug for which I have very high hopes. So, while I have definitely wanted to smack him in his cute chipper little face at times over the past week, I do still feel like he is an incredibly good doctor and I feel safe in his care. (But the crush is over.)
I remember in the past I have read about or talked to women who have opted not to do chemotherapy, or who have begun it and then quit because it was too hard on them, because they felt it wasn't worth it to feel that horrible, because basically they felt like it was killing them. I have always thought that it was crazy not to at least try the chemo, not to explore every medically-available option for destroying the frigging cancer. And after my first two treatments, I felt like I knew what I was facing and while it was pretty nasty, I definitely knew I could get through it...but I have to admit that there were a few times this past week when I thought "Okay. I get it. I understand what those women were saying." Luckily those moments pass pretty quickly, and as soon as I start to feel the tiniest bit better, my spirits rise and the "bring it on" mentality returns. But I have seen the bottom of the barrel this time, and it ain't pretty.
However, there is always a silver lining. Here are some of my silver moments:
-I received a healing treatment from a Lakota medicine man named Uncle Jimi. DeLanna, the Native American woman in our company, is his niece and introduced him to me, and our entire company went out to his home and did a sweat-lodge ceremony a few weeks ago, which was a really awesome experience. He asked if he could come and do a healing ceremony for me before I left LA, and of course, I said yes, it would be an honor. It was lovely and inspiring and calming and emotional.
-I got an anonymous check in the mail for $500 for the "chemo travel fund."
-I have had visits from many friends and have received enormous amounts of love from them. Melissa, Jane, Johanna, Jenn, Lisa -- all of them have been to see me and care for me. AND, I have received even MORE love from all of you out there, in the form of emails and calls and letters and packages and texts and Weebles or whatever you call them. And this has truly been an amazing, touching, incredibly wonderful experience, for which I am filled with enormous gratitude. And I take strength from each contact. So thank you.
-I got some really cute new hats.
-I put my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
-I flew to Portland and, through great personal strength and determination, managed not to throw-up on the woman sitting next to me.
And, new developments this time:
-The stubble on my head started falling out a few days post-chemo, which was icky (see, there's a good use of the damn word). Unfortunately the stubble was of two minds and only some of it came out, so I now look rather like a piebald pony.
-Various infections and mouth sores and ouchies and other ailments.
-Even with the heartburn, I have not lost any weight since this whole thing started. (I am a little bitter about that fact.)
-The wig is itchy and I'm finding I enjoy the cool air on my head, so Erica (that's the name of my wig) has been stuffed in her box in my trunk, to be aired for special occasions only.
-I've eaten an entire bottle of Tums. Tropical flavor.
-I think I'm in menopause. I cry at the drop of a hat now. Emails, photos, text messages -- everything does it. The other day I cried at an episode of West Wing. And it wasn't even a sad episode; it was a happy one. Some little kid got to meet Martin Sheen and he was really excited. And I cried. And then I laughed at myself. Which made my esophagus hurt.
And I've heard from people I haven't seen in years, and talked to people I thought I'd never speak to again. So it's not all bad. Chin up.