Seriously?

“The best drama comes from otherwise normal human living and the best comedy comes from awful shit.”  Isn’t that brilliant? I wish I had said it. I was chatting with a friend about television series we both watch and like me, she is kind of drawn to the comedies about illness, addiction, criminal activity etc and she made that comment.  Like me, again, she has recently suffered the unexpected loss of a loved one and had to deal with all that followed.  Today my mother and I went to see about a grave marker.  The lady that waited on us knows us all and was visibly upset about my sister.  We saw one we both liked almost immediately but we did not want to order anything until her significant other could give his opinion. We were just doing the preliminary footwork.  We were standing around chatting and the woman asked how I was doing. I assumed she was referring to my cancer so I said “almost done treatment”.  She looked shocked and I couldn’t help but say “seriously? you didn’t think this hair was a fashion statement did you?”. She laughed and then told me about another woman she knows undergoing treatment whose hair came in gray and curly and how lovely it was. Then she launched into some pretty horrifying stories about people she knows with cancer that now have mets to the brain.  Now my mother has just buried one daughter and the other has cancer. She looked shell shocked.  This conversation went on for what seemed like forever until she paused in her litany of horror to mention how one of them got shingles in the midst of everything else and I pounced on that. I told my mother I needed to look into whether I was at greater risk for shingles having had radiation and after successfully changing the subject we made a hasty retreat.  I had a phone conversation that went pretty much the same way over the weekend.  Someone knew someone with the same diagnosis as myself and they died.  I offered their stage may have been higher, their treatment not as aggressive, etc. and was told “If you can think that way, that’s good!”   Thankfully, as my television preferences will attest, I have a pretty twisted sense of humor and I am able to laugh comments like that off and even make plenty of distasteful comments of my own (about my own situation, I would cut out my tongue before I would joke about anyone else’s cancer), but you gotta wonder what the thought process is when people let words just fall out of their open mouths with no supervision whatsoever. I mean, seriously?

Prior to that fun little field trip I had my radiation treatment.  Today they had to take measurements and make plans for the final 8 treatments that will be just to the tumor bed itself.  The two techs explained everything they were doing and said the doctor would be in to make his recommendations.  My doctor was off today so it would be the “other guy”. I was drawn on and measured and repositioned and was lying on the table when the doctor came in. He said not one word to me. Never made eye contact or acknowledged me in any way at all.  He peered at me and made a few comments to the techs and walked out. I felt like a disembodied boob.  It was seriously the most uncomfortable feeling I have had since this entire thing started.  Seriously.

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Happy Together

Last night we were at a waterfront concert seeing the Happy Together Tour with the Buckinghams, Grass Roots, Gary Puckett,  Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees and Flo and Eddie of the Turtles.  Aside from my daughter I was probably the youngest person there!  When the performers would ask “What were  you doing when this song was a hit (in 1968, 1969! ?)” while most in the audience were in the  service or high school/college I was in the first grade.  I thought it was pretty funny that even with my (new!) gray hair I was one of the babies in the crowd.   We almost missed the show.  Youngest daughter (Thing 3) was in charge of the tickets. She was the one that first heard of it and talked her father out of his credit card to buy them. They were electronically sent to her email account.  All summer we were all thinking the concert was Sat, the 28th.  She thought it was at 5:30, I thought 7:30.  I asked several times this week for her to check. She finally did. Last night at 6:40.  We live an hour from the venue. Her father was out mowing the lawn and was very hot and sweaty. I had been doing housework. In 10 minutes we had both showered and changed while she printed off the tickets and away we went.  I said we would miss most of the show, not be able to park, etc. etc., but we wanted to see at least some of it for the 150.00 we spent on tickets.  We got there at 7:50 and had only missed some of the first group (The Buckinghams) and miracle of miracles there was a (free!) parking space right at the gate!!  We had front row seats.  The bands were awesome. Was Gary Puckett always so dramatic?  At the end they all performed together.  It was a great night out. My daughter snagged a guitar pick from the Grass Roots guitarist and she and my husband both got Mickey Dolenz autographs.   Since we missed dinner, on the way home we stopped off for a plate of eggs and finally got to bed well after midnight.

Since I’m having radiation daily, not to mention the emotional upheaval of the last few weeks, I’ve been very tired. I planned on a quiet, restful Saturday so I would be fresh for the concert and a nice dinner out.  In order for that to happen I didn’t stop all day Friday. I cleaned the house from top to bottom, did all the laundry (including hanging it out), the daily one hour round trip for treatment, did  groceries, and spent several hours at my desk.  Just as I was about to take a hot bath and relax, we were flying down the highway to a concert.  I’m glad I ignored my knee jerk reaction to stay home and just let the two of them go.  All my life I’ve been a planner (and bit of control freak) and I’m sure I’ve missed out on a lot of fun because I hadn’t planned it ahead. I’m the least spontaneous person I know.   Maybe cancer has given me a gift. After all, I didn’t plan on having cancer or spending the better part of a year fighting it, but there it is. It hasn’t stopped me from living my life. I’ve just made room for it (for now).  I didn’t plan on losing my sister in such an unexpected and heartbreaking way, but that happened too and we are dealing with it and going on because we have no choice.  One thing she always did was make time for fun and family, even if it meant letting things go that she was just too tired to do like housework or staying on top of other responsibilities. It drove me crazy at times but I’m so glad now that she knew what was important. Certainly not planning out every minute of your day/week.

Thank you, Debbie, for that. And…well.. Fuck you, Cancer.  (no one really thought I would thank cancer, did  you?)

The Big C

Just finished season 2 last night. Anyone else watch?  I love the show, but it’s not terribly realistic.  For that matter neither is Breaking Bad, which is next on my list. Without giving away too many spoilers.. has anyone undergoing cancer treatment ended up socializing with their oncologist? Been told the only way to know if the chemo was working was by the severity of side effects?  Been asked to speak to a roomful of residents and told them all off? Attended their own funeral?  Run a 26 mile marathon after only 2 days of training while your blood counts are in the toilet?  Started manufacturing meth?  I feel like such a slacker and I’ve only got a little c.  I need to reexamine my life and do something really big. Or not.

On my own cancer front, I’m about halfway through radiation with only some slight pinking (pinkening?)  of the skin on my side.  I was told to put aloe on the “area of radiation”. I was not, however, told how large this area would be. That would have been good information to have from the beginning.  The area I have been treating all along is fine.  All in all, that’s my only complaint and it’s a minor one.  I missed a week of treatments and then the tech who I had been seeing daily was on vacation for a week. When she came to take me back on Monday she walked right past me and then returned a few moments  later for me. It took me a few minutes to realize she hadn’t seen me without a wig or wrap.  I’ve retired them for good.  And my eyebrows! They literally came in overnight. That was kind of weird. I have eyelashes again too. Little stubby ones, but nice and thick and full.  A return to normal, or at least a new normal.

It was always Debbie and Susie

Growing up we were Debbie and Susie. Two sisters, one blond and one brunette, two years apart. Like all sisters we played together, fought bitterly, made up, giggled, plotted, fought some more and managed to reach adulthood without killing each other. I was the master at pushing her buttons until her son came along and installed new ones.  He came along exactly 6 weeks after my first daughter so we experienced first time motherhood together.  As we raised our families the arguments were fewer and further between but we could still piss each other off like no one else could.   We both recently started watching Dark Shadows on Netflix. She was many episodes ahead of me and wanted me to catch up. Watching reminds me of when the show aired originally.  I was 3 or 4 and she was just starting  school. I would stand in the window and watch for her bus.  When “my Debbie!” appeared, I knew it was time for Dark Shadows. We watched together every afternoon.   In the last few years Debbie has gotten to experience being a grandmother to 3 adorable little boys.  It made me laugh when one of them would refer to her as My Debbie.

Debbie was diagnosed with Lupus when she was in her 20s.  She was never exactly healthy, but never really had any of the bad flare ups you read about.  She suffered from terrible migraines, but so did my mother and myself. She had a lot of rheumatoid symptoms and was on pain medication most of the time. But during all that she raised her son, returned to school in her 40s, got her teaching degree after subbing for many years and was excited to land a job teaching 7th graders.  I thought she was insane for picking that age group. She loved every minute of it.

When I got my cancer diagnosis she took it harder than any of us.  She cried so much that at one point I told her to “dry up” or I wouldn’t talk to her.  She didn’t cry in front of me again, but I’m sure she still shed plenty of tears.  The day of my surgery she received a call from her doctor who had been going over some recent lab work.  At that point she had been experiencing horrible infections for months and antibiotics were not working. He suspected CVID (common variable immune deficiency). None of us had heard of it but she met with a specialist who agreed and wanted to start her on infusions of intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) as soon as the following week.  A little Internet research prompted her to ask for a second opinion as this treatment would be administered once a month for the rest of her life.  The 2nd doctor would not agree with the diagnosis until he ran his own tests.  Each time it would take weeks to receive the results, at which time he would decide one more test was necessary, then one more.   By the time the diagnosis was confirmed, treatments were agreed upon and the insurance finally approved them (but only for 3 months) it was 7 months since the original diagnosis. She had two treatments and was feeling better than she had in a long time. Then, one week after the 2nd treatment she passed away in her sleep. It was July 10.

My last entry on this blog was July 9. I was outraged that my radiation had been cancelled and I was going to have to tack one more day onto the end of my treatment.  She read the blog and called me to commiserate.  We spoke for over an hour. She had had a relaxing day reading in the sun. When I saw her over the weekend I had loaned her a stack of books and her plan was to alternate one book for pleasure with one for her curriculum planning.   18 hours later I was standing over her bed where she looked like she was sleeping peacefully, curled up on her side like she had slept every day of her life.  It’s been over 10 days and it still doesn’t seem real.

I returned to treatment Monday, now a full week behind schedule.  I commented how f’ed up it is that cancer treatments feels like a return to “normal”. She would have appreciated that, along with the black “fuck cancer” bracelet I have taken to wearing every day.

I miss my Debbie.

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No big deal, huh?

First of all, let me start by saying incompetence pisses me off. Aside from that, though, anyone undergoing cancer treatments knows what it is like to count down until you are done. Final chemo, final radiation, and later, hopefully, final routine check if you hit the coveted 5 year mark without a recurrence.  Like anyone else I am counting down my treatments.  I stayed on schedule through 16 rounds of chemo. Now on to radiation..  8 down, 25 to go. 5 more weeks of 5 days a week, starting today.  My “last” day is was 8/10/11.  I live 30-40 minutes from the cancer center depending on traffic/weather. I give myself 45 minutes to get there. I usually arrive 10 minutes or so before my scheduled treatment.  Today was no exception. I checked in, got undressed and sat to wait. There was a mishap when a lady fell in the bathroom and was calling for help. There wasn’t a nurse in sight and she couldn’t reach the call button. Unfortunately she had fallen against the door, so I couldn’t open it to see if she just needed help standing or needed a nurse.  Another patient went to find someone while I stayed with her. Once the nurses arrived I got out of the way and continued to wait.  My name was called and the nurse who (I think) is in charge of the scheduling said “I left you a message!”  Okay, but here I am.  She said the machine was down (again!.. this is getting to be a habit, though I’ve never been sent away before) and she had called me to cancel.  I asked what time she called and she said “a few minutes ago”.  Splendid. A few minutes ago, while she was calling my house I was already disrobed and freezing in the waiting room. She informed me the “other machine” was up and running but the  one I was scheduled for was down. I was already there. I was undressed. There were only two other people waiting and one had been wheeled out on a stretcher. Surely they could have squeezed me in even though they were “booked solid” until 5. My treatment takes all of 5-6 minutes.  I debated arguing, but I was afraid if I pissed her off she would turn up the juice.  Then she said I hadn’t wasted the trip because Dr. Jones was seeing his patients today. Well, bully for Dr. Jones’ patients. I am not one of them.  She kept apologizing and of course I don’t blame her about the machine being down or even for being boneheaded enough to call me 5 minutes before my scheduled appointment to cancel. Even if I lived in the parking lot it would take me at least that long to get there.  What pissed me off nearly beyond reason was her flippant.. “oh it’s no big deal.. we just tack the missed appointment(S) on to the end”.  Yeah, it is a big deal to me. It’s a fucking big deal.

I no longer want to know where the missing socks go.

I’ve moved on to a much more sinister mystery. Whenever I leave the house I am sporting two (nearly) matching eyebrows.

However, upon my return, more often than not, I have but one.  Where do all the eyebrows go?  Are they wandering around Central Maine lonely and scared?  Or getting into trouble?   I hope no one can trace them back to me.

Maybe I should have gone with a unibrow ?