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Posts Tagged ‘bad days’

Gross.

I cannot drink my GATORADE because entire chunks of HAIR keep falling into my glass. It’s times like these that I begin to regret cutting back on the damn swearing.

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Bald

My hair started falling out last night. No, that’s not really accurate. Last night, I realized that I can effortlessly pull out clumps of my hair. It itches. And although it’s a little surreal and disturbing, I can’t really resist pulling it out. It’s too short to grab hold of except by pinching, so I haven’t really made a significant dent, but I can’t see any particular reason not to do it. I was afraid that I’d wake up and it would all be on my pillow, but that didn’t happen. And I’m also dreading the day I wash my face and my eyebrows come off. I really love my eyebrows, and I need them for making facial expressions.

The hair on my arms also seems to be on its way out, so hopefully at least I won’t have to shave my legs this summer. Or under my arms, which has been a pain since my lymph node biopsy, which left much of my upper arm completely numb. The feeling has returned to my tricep, but the underarm is still numb and I’m always worried I’m going to cut myself. So soon that won’t be an issue!

Even though I obviously knew this was coming I can’t say I’m a huge fan. Luckily I have a cute hat.

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Brain Cancer

Shortly before my first chemo treatment I was proctoring a law school exam, as I occasionally do for extra money, when something seemed to go wrong with my eyes. I was seeing a flickering line in my field of vision, as though I’d been staring at the filament in a light bulb. I knew, without any doubt, that it was evidence of a brain tumor. I already had breast cancer, so it must have traveled to my brain, and I was going to die.

I was so freaked out that I texted Josh, who told me to call my oncologist’s office. I described what I was experiencing to the nurse and asked whether it might possibly be brain cancer or whether that was just insane. She told me that given what I’d been through lately it certainly wasn’t insane, and promised to ask the doctor about it and call me back. I sat on the steps of the law school and cried because I was dying.

The nurse called me back and told me Dr Joyce thought it was very, very unlikely that a breast cancer patient with negative lymph nodes would also have brain cancer. She said it was probably a migrane. I didn’t have a headache, although I felt sick and shaky, probably from panic. I told the testing people that I had cancer, and that I was feeling sick from chemo (which was a lie) and needed to go home. They were, of course, very nice about it.

I went home and lay in my room with the shades drawn and read Knight’s Castle. I was still convinced that I had a brain tumor. The other day it happened again and I looked it up on Web MD, which told me it was an ocular migrane. Since the description of an ocular migrane perfectly fit what I was experiencing, I guess I do more or less believe that that’s what it is. But I still believe I have brain cancer. Every time I can’t think of a word, every day I feel foggy and disconnected, this belief is reinforced. I’m convinced of it.

I suppose that I’ve convinced myself of this because in a lot of ways, breast cancer is not a big enough deal. There’s every indication that it’s something I’ll get through. I may even be able to wear normal bathing suits. Surely cancer must be a bigger deal – it must be a life-altering catastrophe, not a few months’ inconvenience. I’ve invented a disaster because cancer has to be a disaster. Yet even though this explanation makes sense, psychologically – I’m still convinced that I have brain cancer. I’ll ask Dr Joyce about it in person the next time I see her; maybe I’ll believe it when I hear it from her, because I do trust her.

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The Fire Swamp

Caroline left yesterday afternoon. It was nice having her here, and I’m a little worried that I’ll be lonely now that she’s gone, but I’m on the upswing. It’s been thirteen days since my infusion, and although every day is different, I am cautiously optimistic that nothing new and horrifying will happen before my next treatment on the 26th. The dizziness and fatigue are a constant, but for the most part I don’t feel sick any more. I’ve been having trouble sleeping though, which is annoying.

There are two side effects that seem trivial in a way, but bother me quite a bit. The first is weight gain, and it hasn’t actually happened yet; I was weighed today and I haven’t gained a pound, but I’ve been told that most breast cancer patients do gain weight and I’m worried about it. My concern was renewed today because a commenter on a blog said that she gained 75 pounds on chemo and that it was impossible to lose, which I’ve heard from a few people. I know I shouldn’t borrow trouble but it’s on my mind, and I’m trying to be honest on this blog, so there it is.

The other side effect also seems inconsequential, but it’s a really big deal to me – my skin has gotten really bad. Worse than it’s ever been in my life. This is the result of the steroids they gave me to keep me from getting cankles; I would be really sad if I got cankles, but now my skin is so awful I never want to leave the house. I actually considered breaking up with my boyfriend so that he wouldn’t have to look at me anymore. (I doubt he would be amenable to this, but I think crazy thoughts when I’m feeling low-self-esteem-y.) The doctor gave me a script for a topical ointment to use on my face, but he said that on my scalp and chest it’s so bad he would normally give me pills, only he can’t because I’m on chemo, so basically nothing can be done. Yesterday I cried and cried about this, but today I’m feeling slightly less despondent.

I know the main thing is not dying, but what can I say, I don’t want to be 200 pounds and covered in acne, either. And since I’m not going to die, perhaps I can be forgiven for letting these comparatively shallow worries get to me a little.

Update: I read online that the average breast cancer weight gain is only 5-8 pounds, so now I’m feeling better about that. The woman who gained 75 pounds must have been unusual in some way, and although I have been very hungry lately there’s no reason to think I will be unusual in the same way. Not that I need reasons to freak out about unlikely disasters.

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The Myth of the Good Day

There will be good days and bad days, they told me. For the first few days after the infusion, you’ll feel normal. Then you’ll start to feel tired. Then you’ll start to feel better, and then it will be time for more poison.

I have not had a good day since I started chemo. I can’t say for certain that each day has actually been worse than the day before, but each day brings fresh nightmares. Some days I’ve been okay for half an hour or so when I first wake up; other days I can barely crawl up the stairs. I can say that each day has good moments – yesterday Josh dropped me off at the Olcott Center for a support group, but no one showed up, so after chatting with a nurse for a little bit I decided to walk home. It was maybe a mile, but I felt like I had run a marathon, I was so proud of myself.

I usually have a window of okayness in the early evening, which gives way to overwhelming exhaustion by 9. But even when I’m okay – even when I’m walking or trying super hard to make conversation or managing to eat something that isn’t a saltine – I don’t feel like myself. I feel cloudy, fuzzy-headed. I am beginning to worry that I will feel like this forever.

The good moments are, as I say, nothing like what it was like to not be sick. But they are enough to get me through the days. It has been nine days since my infusion, and day nine is not a good day, not at all. But maybe day 10 will be better. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Still alive.

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So. Tired.

Everyone said that for the first few days after chemo I’d feel fine. This is not the case. I am as wiped out as I have ever been in my life – I can barely stay awake for half an hour at a time. I’m not nauseous, thank goodness, but I’m so tired and my mouth feels like cotton wool. There isn’t enough water or sleep in the world to quench my needs right now.

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