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Archive for August, 2009

The Haircut

Had a meeting with my surgeon last week, as well as a pre-surgery consultation with an anesthesiologist. I had thought I was done with chemo, and technically I am, but one of the drugs I get when I get chemo, herceptin, is actually not a chemotherapy drug, and as such I must continue taking it in the port for a full year. I was a little put out by this news, but now I’m just mildly pleased that I get to keep my port. It remains to be seen whether herceptin on its own will hit me with any side effects, but whatever it does won’t be as bad as actual chemo.

I’m apprehensive about surgery, of course. I’m worried that I’ll die on the table, that something will go wrong and he’ll have to take the whole breast after all, that I’ll end up looking all mangled. I’m very nervous about the biopsy results, which will tell us whether there’s any cancer left. I’m nervous about the aftermath, and whether we’ll discover one day that the cancer has spread.

However, my new policy on worrying is that unless the worries can prompt me to perform some useful action, they serve no purpose. At the moment I am doing everything I can, and the doctors are throwing everything they’ve got at me. There’s not much else to do, so I may as well relax.

We went wig shopping yesterday, to a place called the Wig Party. It was excellent – much better lit than the one in Bloomington, and the proprietor, Kristine, a little more laid back and amusing. (I tried on a big curly mane, at CLA’s urging, and Kristine said I looked like Sideshow Bob.) I actually ended up buying a wig this time – it’s not as Mia Wallace as I had hoped, but it’s very interesting. If I’m going to get a wig, I figured I should get something exciting, and this … well, I don’t have a picture right now, but you’ll see.

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Big Fish

Occasionally people have asked me about my prognosis, but that’s a word no doctor has ever said to me. Once, early on, a nurse at the Olcott Center told me that if you had 100 breast cancer patients in a room, five years later, ninety of them would still be alive. Something like that, anyway. But what the hell is that supposed to mean? It’s meaningless, completely meaningless unless you know a lot of other stuff – age, and lymph node involvement, and genetics, and probably at least a dozen other things.

It occurs to me from time to time that perhaps I’ve been too trusting of the treatment process; I think of it as a series of ordeals which, once endured, will result in a clean bill of health. I’ll be back to normal by Christmas. However, it seems much more likely that something has happened that will never really be over; for the rest of my life, there will be a chance that the cancer will come back. For all I know, there’s a chance that it will never go away in the first place – maybe chemo, and surgery, and radiation will all somehow fail to be enough. Maybe it’s still there somewhere. Waiting.

But of course, we all might die early or live long; cancer doesn’t change that. If not cancer, then car accidents or heart disease or avian flu. The position of the father in Big Fish strikes me as reasonable, as far as it goes – if you know how you’re going to die, you know you get through everything else. If I knew my cancer would come back in five years, ten years, thirty years, I could plan accordingly. (If my cancer were going to come back in five years I would be out of graduate school like a shot.)

Is cancer going to kill me? I guess probably not, and almost certainly not anytime soon. I haven’t looked at the witch’s eye after all, though it sometimes feels like I have.

In other news, we watched Legally Blonde tonight. I’d never seen it before – good movie!

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Well, it’s Day 4 already and I feel okay; tired, of course, but none of the incapacitating badness I remember from the last two Day 4s. Whatever they gave me on Monday is certainly good stuff. I spent most of yesterday sleeping and reading Pride and Prejudice while my grandmother puttered around; today my dad and Aunt Grace are keeping me company. I feel a little guilty about taking people away from their normal routines, but this is, after all, the last time, so I guess it’s okay.

I am adjusting reasonably well to my transplant, but it will be much better once I have a proper schedule and everything sorted out. These long empty days are a little depressing. However, my German class will start soon, and I can see about volunteering at the soup kitchen. At the moment I am dreading the end of chemo because it lends a certain structure and direction to my time, but I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with something else.

I wish it were time to move to New York.

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Last Day of Chemo!

Spent the entire day – 7 am to a bit after 6 – at Roswell today. I had a brief meeting with my medical oncologist, followed by an eon of sitting around waiting for my infusion. Roswell keeps you waiting a lot more than my doctors back in Indiana, presumably because it is so big. They also gave me a slightly different cocktail this time – the chemo drugs were all the same as usual, but they’re giving me different anti-nausea drugs and something other than neupogin to boost my white count. Also they gave me an IV of Benadryl, which completely knocked me out – I slept almost through the whole infusion – three and a half hours – including my Taxotere, when I’m supposed to be awake and sucking ice. We’ll see whether that turns out to make a difference.

The bright spots of the day were a good conversation with an older gentleman with lymphoma, finishing the Times crossword puzzle, and making a test swatch for my next knitting project. Tonight a friend from Buffalo is in town, and he very kindly invited me to have dinner with him and his friends, so I get to go out for Vietnamese food. I’m a little nervous, but it will be nice to hang out with people. Hopefully I slept enough during chemo that I won’t pass out in my Pho.

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Well, I’m back in Buffalo, along with an apartment’s worth of boxes. They need to go up to the attic, but the thought is so exhausting. Yesterday I went downtown to renew my driver’s license, which was much easier than I’d expected. I didn’t have to take the test again – thank goodness! – but I did have to get a new picture taken, which means I will look like Jean-Luc Picard on my ID for the next ten years. I have mixed feelings about this.

I also got a library card and registered to vote, so I am really and truly a New Yorker again. I am especially excited about voting in New York because I never have. When I was little my parents used to let me go in the booth for them and pull the lever – New York has these fantastic mechanical voting booths – and I’ve always wanted to do it myself. It makes a really satisfying sound, too – the sound of democracy, asĀ  I remember it, is a sort of THUNK!

I am so excited for my last chemo infusion I can barely sit still. I’m a little nervous about how things will be different at Roswell; it’s so comforting to know the routine, to know the nurses, to be in a familiar setting. At Roswell, too, they won’t use my port for bloodwork and I’m worried they won’t use it for MRIs, either. That would suck, as the port makes MRIs so much less stressful, since I don’t have to lie there wondering whether my arm vein has exploded or what that would feel like. I’m also annoyed that I’m scheduled for MRIs and a mammogram two days after chemo, when I’m going to be either exhausted or sick or both. Last time I had really bad shakes, which will make the MRI a particular challenge. However, I am sure it will be got through somehow.

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The Motherlode

I knitted 15 baby hats this summer (plus one more still in progress). Here they all are, in chronological order:

dscn1416If you don’t see the humor in a menopausal 23-year old knitting hat after hat after hat for what are, to all extents and purposes, imaginary babies, then you and I are very different people, my friend.

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guns!My time in the Midwest has been mixed – although I made friends with a lot of wonderful, interesting people and had a good time learning to live on my own, I don’t think I really learned any philosophy to speak of, which was ostensibly why I came here in the first place – but it’s certainly been rich with new experiences. I made friends with conservatives, I heard people speak in tongues, I learned to square dance, I rode a riding lawn mower. And yesterday I shot a gun for the first time ever – a “Sig .9,” I believe it was.

We went to a place called Don’s Guns, which is locally famous for this commercial:

I wanted to shoot the kind of gun FBI agents use so that I could feel like Dana Scully. Unfortunately, although we had to pay $15 extra for a lesson, the lesson didn’t include anything on how to stand, hold the gun, or line up the sights. As a result, I was all over the map – I would have killed my bad guy, but I was no sharp shooter. Right before I shot off my last clip (boy do I not know whether I’m using my gun terminology correctly), I remarked “It’s so hard because there’s no way to tell where you’re aiming except trial and error!” Then one of my friends explained sights, and my aim improved significantly.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to become a gun nut or anything. But it was fun, and it’s always cool to try something you’ve never done before.

Last night was also the goodbye party for me and Joshua – a great party, with booze and brownies and almost all our friends. People hung around until almost three, and unlike at my head-shaving party, I was actually one of them. It was such a good party that I had to keep reminding myself of why I’m transferring out of such a congenial department – I doubt CUNY will feature quite so much bonhomie. Though I suppose it will have its moments.

I have grown up so much, I think, in my time in Indiana. So much has happened. Two years ago I wasn’t ready for New York, and I turned CUNY down. Ultimately I’m glad I did, but I’m ready now, and it’s time to move on.

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