I have been looking at my husband’s pickup truck sitting in it’s usual spot, unmoved for 6 weeks now. I can’t drive it. I don’t want to drive it. It’s doing no one any good just sitting there and I said from the start I wanted to sell it. But I kept putting it off. Today I grabbed my camera and the keys, gathered all the information I needed and placed an ad on craigslist. I was very thorough, mentioning the mileage, work it needed, any features I could think of and within minutes I got an actual inquiry in my inbox. “What is the engine”? Engine? I’m pretty sure it has one. I don’t want to look. What if I find a large hamster wheel under the hood? I’m not ready to deal with all of this. Shit.
My youngest daughter (sometimes known in my on line circles as Thing 3) and I took a trip to visit my older daughter (Thing 2). We had plans to see She and Him in concert at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston. My husband had bought these tickets shortly before he passed away. The girls and I love the band. He wasn’t a huge fan, but just loved music of any kind (except country!) and spending time with his kids. The girls and I had a nice time. We rode the T and did a lot of walking and entertained each other with memories of his running commentaries during such excursions. He was a big guy with a lot of aches and pains. His complaints were legitimate but his delivery was so funny that it was hard to take him seriously. One year he and I went down for the 4th and walked around for hours with Thing 2 and her roommate. We all had sore feet but he had “no ankles and no ass” after walking for miles and then sitting on a concrete curb for hours waiting for the fireworks.
When we arrived for the concert we were approached by a young lady who works for Live Nation. She was very engaging and friendly and we were laughing and having a nice chat. Out of the blue she asked “Where’s the mister”? The girls and I just looked at each other and finally she said.. “Oh, I guess it’s not his thing”. Why would anyone ask one woman in a group of three where her husband is? I bet I could have ruined her night with an honest answer.
The concert was great. Camera Obscura opened. I had never heard them. She and Him played all of my favorites and did an a capella version of Unchained Melody. It was amazing. I had a few weepy moments. He would have loved the concert, the time with the girls, all of it. Having to take 2 buses and 2 trains to go a few miles, not so much. However, he probably would have contributed some real gems to the family quote book.
Two full weeks out from my final radiation treatment, I feel well. Still kind of tired at times. Lately I am in bed between 9 and 10 pm, where I have a standing date with Barnabus Collins via my little Kindle Fire (I still have not read one book on it and my pile(s) of hard covers continues to grow). I usually last through one or two episodes, then it’s lights out. I wake up feeling refreshed, no aches and pains until mid afternoon when I start to walk like I’m 90 years old. A cat nap fixes me right up. All in all, no complaints.
Yesterday we had a celebratory lunch at a restaurant owned by a close family friend. She and her daughter told me how good I looked. That I glowed. My response was “that’s the radiation!”. Later that evening I was blaming my “glow” on hot flashes. I imagine it’s a combination of the two. Or it could be that my new feeling of wellness actually does show on my face. In any event, it was nice to hear. Even if family and friends are contractually obligated to tell you how great you look at the end of cancer treatments.
I have been losing time again. As in I have to look at a calendar several times a week to remember the day of the week, date, etc. I don’t think it’s remnants of chemo brain so much as time this past year, particularly the last two months, has ceased to exist in any meaningful way other than how many more months, weeks, days to the end of treatment and how many days, weeks, and now months, it has been since my sister passed away. I’m trying really hard not to focus on how many years (!) until I can truly say I beat this and be certain.
Today I wrapped up treatment for breast cancer after 9 long months. I still have to take Tamoxifen for 5 years and have regular followup visits with Oncology, but the biopsies, surgeries, chemo and radiation are behind me. I celebrated by reading and baking in the sun for 30 minutes until that tiresome little voice in my head (which sounds annoyingly like my med oncologist) reminded me that my skin had been damaged enough for one summer and I get more than enough Vit D in my supplements and diet. I will celebrate more this evening with a bottle of champagne and this weekend with the family at a concert. Then it’s back to more fun. Colonoscopy on Wed (btw, don’t ever mention rectal bleeding to an oncologist, even in an offhand … it only happened once, weeks ago.. kind of way or you WILL get your ass reamed sooner than you had planned), then catching up on routine health care that has kind of been sidelined, a physical, dental visit and eye doctor. By mid-October I should be all tuned up.
Cancer was actually evicted way back in November by my surgeon, but she didn’t get all of her shit out of my body until just now. Tenants have all the damn rights, don’t they? It occurred to me today that the last time my body was held hostage for 9 months, I gave birth to my first daughter (number two arrived slightly undercooked at 34 weeks). This time all I get for my trouble is some scars, gray hair and a little PTSD that I’m certain a weekly infusion of martinis will clear right up.
There were lot’s of congratulations and a few hugs from the staff today and even “we’ll miss you”. I had to say “no offense but I won’t miss you”. There is a Survivor’s Day planned on Sept 8. I receive notices of these events periodically. I have had zero interest up until now. I was told I should attend this next one and how nice it would be to see me in “happier” circumstances. Nice sentiment, but the idea of hanging out at the cancer center for anything now that I don’t have to has no appeal. Even if there is “really good food” and balloons. Maybe I will feel differently when there is a little time and distance between myself and the good folks at the center, but not yet.
Today was also bittersweet. My sister was looking forward to celebrating the end of treatments. I thought of her all day and missed her terribly. I was pretty sure at 1:12 p.m. I heard a big WOO HOO all the way from Heaven though.
All in all this past year has pretty much been a shit storm but I made it.
I’m going to start keeping track of the more insensitive comments around my cancer care. I know that sounds petty, but like I give a shit.
This week’s winner… I was asked to let a man go ahead of me for treatment on Thursday. Poor guy needed a full bladder for radiation and he did not time things very well. Of course I had no problem with it. A nurse who does patient education (and whom I have never seen before) was waiting for him and decided to sit down and chat with me. She asked how I was doing and commented on my hair growth. Then she said “as far as we ( btw.. who is we? are you speaking in the royal sense or is there is a mouse in your pocket?) are concerned you can dye it anytime”. I felt a horrified giggle bubble up in my throat. I have been on auto pilot for a few weeks now and as long as I stay in neutral I can keep my shit together. I managed a weak smile and offered that I hadn’t decided yet and may just keep it as is. She got this frozen smile on her face and sputtered something about how I could probably get away with that, after all I had a young face. She must have missed a few classes on sensitivity. Not that I expect (or want) to be treated with kid gloves, but between the doctor who treated me like an inanimate object on Monday and now this I’m starting to wonder if this is commonplace. I have been so lucky in my interactions up until now that I was kind of unprepared. Or maybe now that I’m nearing the end of my cancer treatments my head is a little clearer and there have been assholes all along but I just didn’t notice.
I’m not nominating the next one for anything because I can’t think of one funny or sarcastic thing to say and this is supposed to be for fun. It actually left me kind of stunned. I saw my medical oncologist for the first time since finishing up with chemotherapy. I had (wrongly) assumed that my doctors all shared information about my treatment especially something like a major change in my family medical history. I missed a full week of radiation when my sister passed away. Yet, apparently there was no mention of it so I had to tell the nurse when she asked brightly how my summer was going. Believe me when I say it doesn’t get easier with each telling. She passed on the info to my doctor who expressed her sympathy as soon as she entered the exam room. After asking a few questions she said she had a patient who just lost a daughter and that was probably worse. I just said yeah, it’s been pretty hard on my parents. What I wanted to say is.. of course it’s worse for a mother to lose a child, but it’s also pretty fucking horrible for a child to lose his mother and a sister to lose her only sibling. Not to mention for a man to lose the woman he loved who he hadn’t had nearly enough time with, three little boys to lose a loving presence in their life, and for their mother to lose a trusted confidant. But I just sat there. Because I didn’t want to make her feel bad.
Honestly, the hospital really wants to stop sending me those questionnaires. I may start filling them out.
“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.