Where the light enters

finding meaning in mortality

Tag: living with cancer

Fighting cancer with the yew tree

Today I received my first infusion of the chemotherapy drug, Taxol.  Taxol is a plant alkaloid made from the bark of the Pacific yew tree or Taxus brevifolia.  I find this interesting in light of the magical associations that Druids had for the yew trees that grew in their region (most likely the English yew, or Taxus baccata).  The Druids worshiped the yew, and if this treatment cures me, I may start doing the same.

In order to get the Taxol infusion, you first get an infusion of Benadryl.  This helps prevent a severe allergic reaction to the chemo.  It’s evidently quite a large dose because its side-effects for me were excruciating.  First I felt very woozy, my head bobbling from side to side.  My speech sounded as though it were coming from somewhere far away, my thoughts were all scattered.  I tried to take a sip of hot chocolate from my styrofoam cup, but couldn’t.  But then it got worse.  My legs started crawling with what I can only describe as electrical “jitters.”  It was like “restless leg syndrome” on steroids.  I squirmed and twisted and whined like a spoiled Pomeranian.  I found that if I flexed my leg muscles, it helped.  But how long can you sit with your muscles flexed?  Sooner or later I had to relax, and immediately the feeling was back.  Thankfully, the woozy feeling eventually overwhelmed my senses and I was out.  I slept for over an hour, and when I awakened, the jittery legs had improved enough for me to relax for the rest of the treatment, although I still felt too groggy to read or carry on a decent conversation with Joy, my friend who accompanied me today.

The nurse said that as long as I didn’t have a reaction to the Taxol, she could decrease the amount of Benadryl for my next treatment.  Thank heavens.  If I had this to look forward to for another eleven weeks, I think I might have to consider learning to live with a tumor in my body.

I came home from the treatment center and went straight to bed.  After a nice long nap, I was able to get up and be fairly functional again, puttering around the kitchen and figuring out what to make for dinner.

I haven’t noticed any side-effects from the Taxol yet.  The nurse said that most likely in two days, I will feel flu-like symptoms, such as pain in the joints and muscles.  Also, there can be neuropathy (numbness and tingling of the hands and feet), nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss, and low blood counts.  All very similar to the possible side-effects of the two chemo drugs that I just finished, except for the addition of the aches and pains.

The main side effect that concerns me is neuropathy.  I got a taste of that from my last treatment.  I’ve already lost most of my hair, but I do still have my eyelashes and eyebrows, so I suppose it could get worse.  My blood counts have all rebounded in time for my next treatment except for my hemoglobin levels.

Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen through the body.  Because of my low levels, I’m anemic, but not iron-deficient anemic, so taking supplements doesn’t help.  There’s really nothing to do to improve it without a blood transfusion, and my doctor says my levels haven’t dropped that far yet.  But they are low enough to explain my racing, pounding heart and palpitations last week.  She told me to not perform any strenuous activities until my hemoglobin levels go back up.  And since I have another eleven weeks of treatment, my levels may not rebound for another three months or so.  Great.

When my mother was undergoing chemo, she had to have multiple blood transfusions.  She had a reaction to one of them, causing tachycardia, and had to be admitted to the hospital to slow her heart rate down.  Needless to say, I’m not excited at the prospect of getting an infusion.

Something I am excited about is a class that I took last Saturday called Film is for Everybody Workshop: Screenwriting 101 and Filmmaking Basics.  Taught by Najaa Young, President and CEO of NaRa Films and a professor of digital filmmaking, this class was a fun introduction to screenwriting for me.  I’ve always thought it would be a great project to take a book that I really enjoyed and write the screenplay for it.  Even if it was only a creative exercise that I did just for writing practice, I think it would be worthwhile.

Another thing that I’m excited about is the discovery of YogaAnytime.com.  For a monthly fee, I can take unlimited yoga classes online.  They have many teachers and yoga traditions to choose from.  They also have classes in meditation, the Bhagavad-Gita, and Ayurveda.  I’m hooked.  For the moment, I’ll try to take classes that aren’t too strenuous.  At least until my hemoglobin is back to normal.

So two things to be excited about this week.   That might be a record, at least for these recent weeks.  Now if I could only be certain that these chemo treatments were working…. That would be really exciting.

The mother of beauty

A few days ago I bribed my boyfriend into taking me to Oakland Cemetery’s fall festival, Sunday in the Park.  I had been once several years ago, and I remembered how much I enjoyed seeing people dressed as Victorians wandering through one of the oldest and most beautiful cemeteries in Atlanta.

I didn’t have the stamina to walk the entire cemetery on this trip (it’s about 48 acres), but I did hold out long enough to visit a good bit of the grounds, sample some tasty Angel Fire 7 barbecue from a food truck, and take photos of some of the spectacular marble citizens who live at Oakland.  I also visited Margaret Mitchell’s grave, and stood over her like one of the mute angels that pepper the landscape, wondering how one shows reverence for a favorite long-dead author.  I ended up taking a quick photo of her headstone like a good tourist and stepping out of the much-trampled grass so someone else could do the same.

Margaret Mitchell's headstone

I also visited the section of the cemetery called Confederate Memorial Grounds, where approximately 6,900 soldiers lie, regimented even in death, in neat rows of nondescript headstones.  Around 3,000 of these men were unidentified.  The Lion of Atlanta, a huge lion sculpted from a single block of Georgia marble, honors these unknown men.

Lion of Atlanta

Lion of Atlanta

There were vendors set up along the paths  selling an eclectic assortment of oddities.  Ghoulish paintings, vintage clothing, and photos of funerary cherubim somehow blended with children having their faces painted and live jazz music.

Ren and Helen Davis, the authors of the award-winning book Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery: An Illustrated History and Guide were there signing copies of their book, so of course I bought one.  Something both fascinating and a little bit creepy to read on these fabulous cool, fall evenings.

It was a great day for people-watching.  A lot of visitors had dressed for the occasion; some were wearing authentic-looking Victorian dress.  There was a flower-seller who looked like she could have come straight out of one of Dickens’ novels.  Some were dressed as dead Victorians.  Some were dressed as Victorians who had somehow had the misfortune of becoming vampires.  Some were dressed in what I can only describe as “gothic skank,” but they somehow fit into the theme of the day.  At any rate, it was highly entertaining to watch them all strolling side-by-side down the old brick-lined walkways.

I had briefly considered dressing up before abandoning the idea for pragmatic (i.e. sane) reasons.  Besides, in my bicentennial scarf, it’s possible that onlookers assumed that I lacked hair for a moribund (and thus spooky-enough) reason.  Which may or may not be true, so far as I know.  My stage-three tumor may or may not be the eventual death of me.  According to statistics, I have a seventy-five per cent change of being alive five years from now.  Which, of course, means that I have a twenty-five per cent chance of not being.

My mother survived just over five years from her diagnosis of breast cancer.  She survived just long enough to be counted as a “cancer survivor.”  And then she died.  Her tumor was also stage-three when it was found.

My oncologist tells me not to compare apples to oranges.  First of all, despite all the similarities, my mother’s cancer was quite different from mine.  Hers was what is referred to as “triple negative,” a cancer that recurs at a higher rate due to its not being responsive to estrogen, progesterone, or Herceptin.  Mine is highly sensitive to estrogen and progesterone, so its recurrence  can be hopefully prevented with hormone therapy down the road.  Her tumor was also of a type that tends to be more aggressive and  metastasizes with more frequency than mine.  If my cancer metastasizes, it will most likely go to my gastrointestinal tract or ovaries.  Her cancer was the type that goes mainly to the brain, lungs, liver, and bones, all of which it eventually did.  She was also quite a bit older than me and in poorer general health, which I suppose counts for something.

I try to listen to my oncologist and not compare my situation too much to that of my mother.  But it’s hard not to at least think about it, as it’s hard to not remember all the things that she went through in those last five years of her life.

So please forgive my morbid frame of mind as I walked the beautiful grounds of Oakland Cemetery, enjoying the loveliness of it all, but quite cognizant at the same time of my mortality.  It makes me think of a line from the poem “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens in which he says, Death is the mother of beauty.  The sure knowledge of our death, and that of every other living creature, is what fills our lives with meaning.   Except for death, we could take all of the world’s beauty for granted, and even with death looming in the background, we sometimes still do.

Thankfully, there’s a lot of beauty to treasure in this world that hopefully makes all the fuss over life and death worthwhile.  Again, I think of Wallace’s “Sunday Morning,” whose final lines tell us:

Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Oakland Angel

10 (or 11) reasons to love being bald

It hasn’t quite been thirty days yet since I started chemo treatments, but I’ve already lost most of my hair.  I always imagined it would come out in great chunks like it does in the movies, but it just gradually thinned until it was mostly gone.  At that point, it looked like an old man’s comb-over, which really isn’t a good look for me.  I took a pair of scissors and cut it as short as I possibly could.

I’m as bald as a monkey’s butt, I announced to my boyfriend.  How bald is a monkey’s butt? he asked without taking his eyes off the computer screen.  I didn’t exactly know how to answer that without incurring a strange Google search history, so I went back to the bathroom and played around with my new look.

Anticipating this moment, I’d already bought a few things from a catalog for chemo patients, such as a turban that’s soft and super easy to put on.  I also have a little blue knit cap which can supposedly double as a sleep cap, and a few scarves that I will sooner or later have to figure out how to tie.  I imagine as cooler weather arrives, I’ll need snugglier hats.  It’s amazing how cold you can feel when you have no hair on your head to keep you insulated.

Being suddenly bald makes you ponder the importance our culture places on hair.  Going as far back as ancient times, there are myths surrounding its power.  One of the most famous of these is the story of Samson and Delilah.  Samson’s great strength was bound somehow in his locks of hair.  After Delilah shaved his head, his power was destroyed.  Modern-day Wiccans still attribute power to their hair, growing it long and ensuring that it never ends up in the hands of their enemies.

I don’t know if I’ve lost any power by losing my hair.  I’ve instead focused on trying to figure out how being bald could work in my favor.  After being nearly-bald for a few days now, I’ve come up with several possible benefits:

1. I’ll save a lot of money on shampoo and conditioner.  Conditioner used to disappear into my dry curly hair like Percy Fawcett into a Brazilian jungle.  But I don’t have to worry about that anymore!  I can just take a towel and shine it up like a bowling ball.

2.  The autumn wind won’t bother me this year.  Normally it whips my hair into my face and eyes, and is a constant nuisance.  I’ll be able to enjoy the fall even more than usual this go-round.

3.  I won’t have to carry a supply of scrunchies with me.  I’ll even be able to do some gardening without my hair swinging into the way.

4.  My hair won’t get caught in my boyfriend’s armpit.  I realize this is a weird one, but it happened with disturbing frequency whenever we were working side by side in the kitchen.

5.  I can finally wear the hippie hat I bought in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco without worrying about contracting a vintage case of head lice.

6.  I have a great excuse to dust off some of the other hats in my hat collection and actually wear them.  Imagine that.

7.  I have a built-in costume for Halloween.  Especially if I decide to go as an alien.  Or a Conehead.

8.  My morning routine just got a lot shorter.  I won’t have to wait for my hair to dry before leaving the house, or nuke myself with a hair dryer.

9.  I can leave off taking Biotin supplements for a while.

And, last but not least…

10.  No more bad hair days!

I went into my local farmer’s market/green-grocer shop yesterday to pick up a few fresh fruits and veggies.  The shopkeeper didn’t recognize me, and asked if I’d been there before.  I said, Yes, but I had hair back then.  He quickly came out from behind the counter and told me how he was a cancer survivor who had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease when he was sixteen.   Probably in his fifties now, he showed me a chemo scar on his wrist.  He insisted on giving me a free peach and then a hug.

This may be the greatest benefit of all.  I don’t mean getting free pieces of fruit, but the opportunity to hear the stories of those who have been in my shoes and survived, and are even thriving years later.  It gives me hope for myself, and makes me feel less alone in this surreal experience.  I had been in his shop many times before, and never knew what he had gone through.  And he endured it as a teenager; how terrifying that must have been.  Being bald had functioned like some kind of secret handshake, dissolving the usual barrier that exists between strangers.  It gave us a moment of real connection.

As I was leaving, he reached for my hand, and I gave it to him.  This would have seemed odd to me a month ago, but all I felt as he squeezed my hand was strength.  And power.  As though he were willing these traits to me in the middle of his small shop of jams and produce.  And I think he probably was.  His eyes were full of true compassion, and I felt a palpable transference of some kind.

I didn’t think too much about it until I got home and put away the groceries.  But the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that, unlike Samson, I didn’t lose all that much when I lost my hair.  And  quite possibly, in its place, I acquired something pretty spectacular.

 

The gift of friendship

I guess you never realize how many friends you truly have until something happens.  And by “until something happens,” I mean until something bad happens.  Like being diagnosed with a disease that is going to suck for at least the next six months, maybe longer.

I feel very lucky to say that since my diagnosis has “come out of the closet,” a lot of people have stepped forward and proven themselves worthy of the term “friend.”  Very worthy, I must say.

I have had so many sincere offers of help in the past few weeks that I feel overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed in a good way, mind you.  But the outpouring of concern and aid has really surprised me.

But why am I so surprised?  I obviously have had the good fortune to know a lot of really fabulous, good-hearted individuals.  I think that working at a non-profit has helped introduce me to many kind and wonderful people (not that kind people don’t work at for-profit companies, but non-profits seem to draw them like flies to a cow’s patootie).

Many of these wonderful co-workers put together a gift package for me last week.  It’s somewhat of a misnomer to call it a “package” because it consisted of a large basket and three gigantic overflowing bags of goodies that they so thoughtfully curated for me.  There were far too many items to remember to list them all, but among the treasures were a snuggly plush blanket, a lovely soft wrap that buttons in front, a wine-colored scarf (that perfectly matches a new shirt I just bought), several books (including an inspiring one on friendship), a meditative coloring kit, a very cool water bottle by S’well, magazines, snacks, supplements, a beautiful soft-pink orchid, numerous lotions, shower gels, soaps, mouthwash (to battle the dry mouth that chemo will inevitably bring), drinks, a variety of teas, hand sanitizer, tissues, skin care oils, and many other items that I’m sure I’m leaving out.  Whew.

I think I’m fully prepared for any contingency that chemo can bring on, thanks to these awesome people that I’m so happy to call my friends.  They’ve fortified me physically as well as emotionally for what may come. When I returned to work on Tuesday, there was even an adorable felted animal on my desk with a note saying, “Just for you — a very rare southeastern bat squirrel!”  He even came with his own equally adorable felted pumpkin.

felted squirrel and pumpkin

That’s not to mention the offers of help… offers to accompany me to appointments, to cook meals for me, to clean my house, to just sit and talk, to be there.

Many times I have found myself wondering how can I ever repay these friends?.  Not that friendship can be calculated like a tit-for-tat scorecard, but really, what could I ever give them that could come close to what they’ve given me?

The short-story writer, Katherine Mansfield, once wrote in a letter to a friend, “I am treating you as my friend, asking you to share my present minuses in the hope that I can ask you to share my future plusses.”  My friends are sharing my present minuses like connoisseurs of tribulation.  Maybe one day, when I have successfully followed the crumbs that lead out of this dark forest, I will have “plusses” that I can share with them as well.

Wiggin’ Out

I feel like I just bought a new car.  That “I just paid a lot of money for something that I’m going to have to live with for a while, so I hope I made the right decision” kind of feeling.  Only this purchase doesn’t come with that new-car smell (or at least I hope it doesn’t).

I just picked out a wig.  Because in a very short period of time, my hair is going to start falling out in clumps (or so they assure me).  My boss told me to pick something fun, like maybe a pink mohawk.  I don’t think a mohawk is really my style, but I did have pink hair in the tenth grade, so I thought about it.  But in order to not look freakish at Thanksgiving, or on my new driver’s license when I renew it in a few months, I figured I need to have a hairpiece that kinda sorta maybe looks like it could be me in some alternate universe.

Jennifer Green at Hair with Care in Atlanta has helped me realize this goal.  Or I should say is helping me to realize this goal, since buying a wig is quite a process.  Choosing a wig is only the beginning of a long road of customization, fitting, cutting, styling, and possibly coloring that goes on.

Selecting a wig was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  Evidently fine, curly hair is not much in demand in the wig business.  I guess no one wants to pay good money to look like a limp poodle.  But fine, curly hair is what I have, so finding a good match has been difficult.  Add to that equation a small head and face, and you can see that Jennifer has her work cut out for her.

But it hasn’t deterred her.  After my first visit, she tracked down some good candidates.  So today I returned to her shop to try them on for size.  Some were definitely too poofy for my small face.  Some were too dark.  Some were too straight.  Some were too wiggy.  One even looked like a “giraffe” (Jennifer’s words).  But from these, we were able to narrow it down to one that with a bit of customization (the hair needs to be thinned, for starters), should suit me.

I never realized how much work goes into a wig.  Or how many different types there are.  There are synthetic wigs and wigs made from real human hair.  There are some wigs that are sensitive to hot temperatures, so you have to be careful to keep them away from heat; even opening a hot dishwasher while wearing it could fry it.

The best choice for me seemed to be a real human hair wig made with “European” hair.  It feels and looks much more natural than the synthetic ones I tried on the first visit.  The wigs made from human hair are of course more expensive.  Also blonde hair is more expensive than other colors, so my wig is coming with a hefty price tag.

Even though I only plan on wearing my wig on special occasions (and wearing turbans, scarves, and caps on most days), I thought it was worth it to spring for the real hair version.  I think if I had settled for the synthetic one, I would have had regrets.

So now that I’ve selected a wig, the next step is to tailor it to my head.  Jennifer is working on making the cap smaller, and removing some of the hair from it so that my small face isn’t completely overwhelmed.  Then we will likely cut it and style it to suit me even better.  And once my natural hair starts to “release,” as they say, the wig may need to be altered slightly again.

I know that nothing is going to be perfect; after all, my real head of hair isn’t perfect (I think I had a short stint of hair perfection in my twenties), so why should a fake head of hair be any different?  But hopefully it will represent me to the world with enough conviction until my own hair (for better or worse) can reclaim its natural place.

Chemo Daze: Pete the Port

A week ago last Friday, I had an out-patient surgery designed to make my life easier and safer while getting chemotherapy infusions.  My surgeon implanted a chemo port just below my right collarbone.  Instead of connecting my chemo IV to a vein in my arm, all of my infusions will go through the port.

I knew this was a necessary evil.  Evidently one of my chemo drugs is so caustic and nasty that if it leaks underneath the skin, it can do quite a bit of damage.  So the port is there to simplify treatments, as well as to protect me from the treatment itself.

I opted for only local anesthesia during the surgery because I wanted to have some idea of the process as it was happening.  Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist gave me something to “relax” me which made me promptly fall asleep as soon as the procedure got underway.  The only thing I remember is being wrapped up “like a burrito” as the nurse said, with my arms strapped to my sides.  The next thing I knew, it was over, and I was being wheeled back to the recovery room.

Two things surprised me when I first looked in the mirror at my new “implant.”  One: it was huge, sticking out of my chest like a ghastly alien who had decided to take up residence in my body.  And two: the tube wasn’t fed down into my chest like the surgeon had told me it would be, but was attached to a vein in my neck.

It was grisly.  It stuck out from my chest and neck in gruesome relief, a Frankensteinish adaptation that made my stomach turn.

My first impulse was to start shouting for the surgeon to come remove this thing from my body pronto.  I couldn’t see how I would ever get used to it being inside me, and worse, sticking out of me.  I couldn’t turn my neck, I couldn’t touch it.  I couldn’t even look at it.

But I stuffed my panic back inside and got dressed.  I told myself it’s only temporary.  I told myself other people get ports all the time.  Somehow they find a way to live with it.

For a few days, I tried to ignore it, tried to forget that it was there.  Which was pretty hard to do considering that I wasn’t able to do anything that required the use of my neck muscles without experiencing intense pain. The first night I was unable to lie down in bed, so I tried sleeping in a recliner.  I’ve never been able to sleep sitting upright, so that was a short-lived experiment.

It took me about a week to become resigned to the idea of this thing being in my body for at least the next six months.  Sleeping had become somewhat easier by then; I could even turn onto my right side for brief periods of time.  I bought a few shirts with collars that would hide the reflection of the weirdness every time I passed a mirror.

At the time of my first chemo, it had been in me for almost a week.  It worked as it was intended to during the infusion; for some reason, I was surprised that it actually worked so well.  My alien had proved useful.  It was at this point that I decided we needed to be on more intimate terms.

If we were going to be friends, he needed a name.  I decided after all of a three-second consideration that I would call him “Pete.”  I guess as in “Pete the Port.”  Not terribly original, but it seemed a good-enough name for a chunk of plastic.  My boyfriend suggested I call him “Starboard,” but I didn’t think that was funny.  My friend who underwent chemo several years ago called her port “Athena.”  But I wasn’t in a mythological mood. So Pete it was.

Pete and I have been together almost two weeks now.  I can’t say we’re best buds yet, but he is at least letting me get some sleep these days.  I suppose I may as well get used to him hanging around with me.  Like it or not, he’s going to be a part of my life for a while.  At least our relationship is a functional one.  He helps me get the drugs that will hopefully heal me, and occasionally, I let him peek out of my collar to watch the world pass by.

Chemo Daze: I Meet the Red Devil

Last Thursday was my much-anticipated first chemotherapy treatment.  I had read about the two drugs I would be receiving (Adriamycin and Cytoxan), and had been prepped by my friend who underwent the same course over four years ago.  But still, I was nervous, not knowing exactly what was going to happen.

I arrive at nine o’clock, a nurse draws blood through my still-sore port (I’ve only had it a week at this point), and we move on to the infusion room.  She tells me about a cream that can be applied to the port an hour before my appointment to make it somewhat numb.  I vaguely wonder why I haven’t been told about the cream before my appointment.  Seems like that would have been a nice tidbit of information to have beforehand.

I am then given a quick “tour” of the infusion room.  It’s a long room with windows on one end with multiple recliners.  Some people are already there, strapped to an IV.  I notice curiously that they all have hair.  There are snacks and drinks in one corner, and a nurse’s station in the other corner.  My boyfriend has come with me; we carry bags equivalent to a weekend getaway.  I have a blanket, a Thermos of ice chips, a cooler of snacks and drinks, and books and notebooks.  We settle into a pair of recliners near the window and wait.

First I am given a crash course in the drugs I’m about to receive.  A friendly nurse has me sign a paper that I have agreed to be treated with these chemotherapy agents.  I feel like I’m signing my life away.  She goes over the major side effects such as nausea, fatigue and hair loss.  She tells me I can avoid mouth sores by keeping chipped ice in my mouth during the Adriamycin infusion (which she familiarly refers to as the Red Devil).  I was forewarned by my friend about the benefits of ice chips, so I’ve come prepared.  But I find myself again thinking that this is the kind of information you should give your patients before they show up for chemo.

Before I can even start the chemo drugs themselves, I’m given pre-meds intravenously.  These include anti-nausea drugs and a steroid.  The friendly nurse tells me the steroid may give me facial flushing, and it may keep me up that night.  I have nowhere to go the next day so I don’t really care.  It takes about twenty minutes to get the pre-meds in my system.  All I notice at the end of it is a slight headache and a weird taste in my mouth.

Then the nurse introduces me to the Red Devil.  She pushes her syringe into the IV slowly; the drug in the syringe really is red (I thought maybe it was a metaphorical term).  It looks like red Kool-Aid going into my veins; it even feels cool since it’s kept in the fridge.  I try to make friends with the Red Devil, telling myself he’s helping me to kill the cancer cells in my body.  I even thank him silently as his poison enters my body, imagining the bad cells dying, and the good cells remaining unharmed.  I suck on ice chips the entire time this is going on; my hands are also cold from holding the cup of ice chips that my boyfriend continuously ladles out, so I’m huddled under my electric blanket.

It doesn’t take long before the Red Devil has spent himself, and I can ditch the ice chips in favor of some water. The Cytoxan will take a while to drip, so I settle in with a book.  I tell myself this will be good reading time.

It doesn’t seem as though I’ve been reading very long (although I’m pretty sure it was close to an hour) when my machine beeps, and my time in the reclining chair has come to an end.  We pack up our voluminous bags and head out.  I expect to feel strange, but I don’t really notice anything yet.  Not anything I can put my finger on anyway.

We head to the pharmacy to get the port cream and anti-nausea medication.  I recently had a bout of food poisoning and am in no mood to be nauseated again so soon.  We also pick up some Claritin; tomorrow I will get a shot of Neulasta to help keep my white cell count high, and one of the side effects of Neulasta is bone pain.  But evidently, someone discovered that it you take Claritin a few days before and after, you can alleviate some of that pain.  No one is sure how it works, which makes me suspicious, but I buy some anyway.  What could it hurt?

The rest of the day Thursday I expect to be sick or to start to feel some strange and disgusting symptom, but nothing ever comes.  Friday the same thing: I take my anti-nausea meds preemptively though, just in case. Saturday morning: nothing.  I’m beginning to wonder if they didn’t accidentally give me Kool-Aid and someone drank the Adriamycin at their picnic.  But by Saturday evening, I’m beginning to feel the fatigue that is so much talked about.  I come home from grocery shopping and c-r-a-s-h.

Sunday: pretty much crash-day part two . I stay in bed forever on Sunday morning, take a nap after lunch, and another nap after dinner.  Sunday is the worst day so far.  By Monday I’m recovering from it all, still feeling a bit bobble-headed, as I tell my boyfriend.  You’ve always been bobble-headed, he says.  This may be true.  But I’m thinking it’s what is referred to as “Chemo Brain.”  I prefer to call it Chemo Daze due to how long it seems to last.

My next meeting with the Red Devil is set for next Thursday.  I’m already wondering how our second date will go.  Should I make a special effort on my part?  A new outfit?  Pay more attention to my make-up?  And what can I expect from him?  Will he be glad to see me?  Will he at least bring me flowers?