Maybe it was my two-day camp-out in a healing garden, with accompanying campfires, music and healing, or maybe it’s the low-dose sustained release morphine, or maybe it’s knowing that the end to chemo is in sight, but I’ve been doing a little bit better. The steroid crash is still no fun, but at least it’s not the uncontrolled sobbing from last time. Some unexpected tears, but that’s the norm for cancer treatment as well. And while my eyelashes still seem to be falling out, my head is covered in stubble – and the idea of getting my hair back, well that makes me very, very happy. Walking around with a small secret smile on my face. Plus someone at the acupuncturist’s office told me I had beautiful skin. Which was a blatant attempt to make this cancer girl feel better, but hey, it worked. I’ll take it!
Monthly Archives: July 2007
As a close friend said, just one more to go! Taxol #3 was completely and blissfully uneventful – no breathing problems at all. Feet starting to turn red again, but hopefully more IV hydrocortisone will do the trick later today.
White and red blood cell counts are holding steady, platelets are back up to mid range, so that’s all good. Hematocrit and hemoglobin are below range – I’m anemic, but the naturopath said something about not taking iron with cancer and I forgot to ask the oncologist. Will ask today. The oncologist can prescribe a red-blood cell anemia booster if my hematocrit drops below 33, and it’s at 33.8. No wonder I’m tired, that’s the lowest it’s been in my adult life that I know of.
In the mean time I’m eating spinach salads, but red meat and chemo don’t mix, so the normal steak solution isn’t going to work. And I can’t take Vit C and bioflavinoids to help with iron uptake while on taxol. So I may be up a creek for the next two weeks….and the oncologist won’t order labs again until then. Though I suppose I could ask my PCP to do so in a week or so.
And the bone marrow production of everything is off, not quite sure how the counts are actually decent. But come late August as the **last** chemo wears off and I enter the detox stage of my summer, the bone marrow production will hopefully get back up to normal. This is just temporary. 🙂
NPR ‘s “My Cancer” blog does it again. Our survival instincts are at war with our will to go to treatment. Let’s see, go in for chemo in the same place with the same drug that caused me to have trouble breathing last time? The first reaction is: “Hell no. I won’t go.” Which is why I have dear friends lined up for every chemo. Because if I didn’t have somebody being reasonable, taking me to chemo each time, that mammalian-reptile-brain-first-instinct might take over and there’s a good chance I would bolt. Then the rational brain takes over, and there we are. We go to chemo. But it’s a hard internal fight each time.
I feel like a walking advertisement for AFLAC. I should have bought their cancer insurance – I think the deal was something like $20 a month and a $9000 payout. That would have worked nicely.
However, I didn’t do it. Sigh. Since my breast cancer diagnosis, due to the sheer # of doctor’s appointments and feeling crummy due to chemo I’ve had to shift down to working part-time. This, combined with additional medical expenses and the fact that I have no disability insurance (as is the case with many nonprofit staff) leaves me with a $1000 gap between expenses and income each month.
So I’ve applied for financial assistance like crazy. Most recently, I saw a post on blogher about a young adult’s cancer survivorship group called “I’m too young for this.” Being under 40 and currently undergoing chemo for breast cancer, the post caught my eye. I followed the link to the “I’m too young” site, and that led to the Brenda Mehling Cancer Fund. I wrote to them to see if they provide financial help for those outside of California, and they wrote back a day later and said they did, and so I applied right away.
Friday night – 9 days after I saw the blogher post – they called and said they had unanimously approved my application and were paying the majority of my rent for August. Now that’s a quick turn-around. And the assistance really helps.
Chemopause and cramps, now that’s a winning combination! Not. Taxol apparently has some impact on the endometrial lining…not sure why. But what a physically miserable week. In fact, can we just erase it? Pretend that all that pain never happened. Fine by me. My preference (as if anyone’s asking) is to fast forward from day 3 post-taxol to day 11, and then have days 11 – 14. That would be good.
My dad recently handed me a gift in an envelope labeled “Amanda-Strong-As-A-Horse-M. (lastname)” and told me that the women in our family excel at getting through. Along the same lines, my friend Celina just sent me a book that cracked me wide open with its beauty: “What the Ice Gets: Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition, 1914 – 1916 (A Poem).”
The poem is about an expedition of 28 men, whose boat – The Endurance – gets “lodged in the ice….at the mercy of the floes. Ship and men drift ten months, and then the ice simply stoves everything in, the ship goes under, and the men are left stranded on the shifting floes.” And yes, they live to tell the tale, and what a tale it is.
The back story is equally compelling to me: the author, Melinda Mueller, used to teach at my highschool, and, a while back, she had cancer. The story of the expedition was what got her through chemo. She writes, “I often thought that if the men of The Endurance could do what they had done, I could very well get through what I was facing.”
The book begins with a description of the expedition members:
…All of them posses a wild ability to endure misery. The leaders among them…are built from unflagging will, intelligence, knowledge, resourcefulness, experience, courage, a humor the ice cannot imprison, and yes, the capacity for endurance.
More later I’m sure, but for now, I’m off to read, and to treasure the book word by word.
Oh yes, the update: taxol is better than A/C chemo, but it’s still not fun. In the least. But I’ve had great company (many thanks to Heidi and my brother for coming to visit and take care of me) and that’s what gets me through.