Friday, December 31, 2010

From My Sis

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It Only Takes Two Minutes

A woman named Judy called and left me a message. She said she's the nurse practitioner for Dr. Asrari, the radiation oncologist who I met with at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Asrari just wanted to check in and see how I was feeling she said. I have a thing for Judys, so I called her back, of course. We talked for a few minutes about chemo, how I'm feeling pretty great – all things considered – Neulasta and the nasty flu aches. Judy explained that my body thinks it's fighting off an infection when I get the white-blood-cell skyrocketer, hence the flu-like symptoms. She said that's no good and I should try taking Claritin a day or two before the injection. I need to ask about this tomorrow when I go in for my CDC (complete blood count). If I can alleviate the Neulasta nasties, I'll be good to go. Yippee!

Dr. Asrari holds a special place in my healing heart. When I met with the team of doctors at Johns Hopkins, every single one of them made me feel encouraged, inspired, motivated, and like there wasn't a chance in hell that I won't get well. My shortest visit was with Dr. Asrari, not as in short in stature, although we both are, so it was literally a short visit, but we only met for a few minutes. The last thing she said to me was this, "You are brave woman. I see it in your eyes. You fight. You be okay." (She's Iranian, and beautiful – like every other Iranian woman I've met. What's up with that?) Those words have become my mantra, and I think of them everyday, and sometimes more. Fifteen words and two minutes that might have changed my life, saved my life, simply by giving me strength, confidence, hope, faith. I am certain she knows what she's talking about, and I believe that God asked her to say those words to me, knowing that I needed to hear them at just that moment. It's remarkable the impact you can have on someone in under two minutes. Try it. Say something awesome to someone today. It might be just what they need to hear.

Beautiful, Terrible Life

Just last Wednesday I learned that one of my best friend's sister had cancer, stage IV. Only a few days earlier, she'd passed out from fluid that accumulated around her sick lungs and was admitted to the hospital only to learn her that her fate was quite bleak. Inoperable, untreatable. She received a short burst of radiation in an attempt to relieve the pain and discomfort in her chest. On Friday, she went to hospice care, and on Saturday, Maura Hanrahan Mahoney passed away peacefully surrounded by her friends and her amazing family.

I am selfish, and I am devastated. I knew Maura as a younger woman, in high school. So spirited, smiling, bright, possessing all the clich├ęs that those who die young seem to possess. The best of the best. The lives you can only imagine – living. She was a teacher, from an entire brood of teachers. All of her three siblings taught, following in the footsteps of their mother, who died too early and also from cancer.

I learned this soon after my diagnosis: There is a precipice, a very fragile one, between the dark and the light. And, in these past few days, I've been on the wrong side of the mountain.

Part of my despair comes from the sadness of my friend and the loss of his dear, dear sister. A 36-year-old woman with two young, beautiful daughters, with so much life, love, and laughter ahead.

But, part of my distress comes from knowing that that could have been me. Could still be me, in different terms. Mostly I'm disturbed that she didn't even get the chance to fight and didn't have time.

I remember when I was younger being posed a question: Would you rather be struck dead without any prior knowledge, or would you prefer to know the day and time that you would meet your fate? Fearing the difficulty of facing death and all that entails seemed to me too much to bear, and I chose the former. I would die unknowing. But, that was then. Time, precious time, has taken on new meaning for me. It is precarious, devilish, mysterious and fleeting, and I want every second I can get, and spent with the intention of a starving lion hunting its prey during a drought.

I have mourned the loss of Maura, but I can't stay there, in that sad pool of gray and lingering tightness and worry and red-eyed, stinging and blistering and burning. I have my own death to contend with, and I owe this to her. I fight for Maura. I win for Maura. And anyone else who has succumbed to this bastard of a disease. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lola Not Lookin' So Lovely

Wigs are very itchy, and hot, especially indoors with the heat crankin', like at my office at work. Maybe I'll become a scarf lady. I'm not ready yet, but soon perhaps. And, it looks a little jacked up here, don't you think? Ayy. Too much hair for such a wee head. They make petite wigs, but for some reason, they all resemble Kate Gosselin hair, and that's good for no one.


NJ's birthday went off without a hitch. I was so nervous about how I'd feel after the Neulasta shot last Friday. I felt great, until about two days ago. I've got the aches. But, I have this little monster to keep me going.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I've cried 3 times since my diagnosis. After the bad news from my doc, that was #1, if I count like 10 hours of crying as one. The second time was the big breakdown. And, third was yesterday when I realized I was embarrassed by my appearance for the first time, maybe ever – like, really embarrassed.

I heard Jon's voice coming up the stairs, and I felt nervous that he would walk into the bathroom and see my sad, skinny body with leftover sticky tape marks from needles in my arm, post-nursing, deflated boobies – which also by the way happen to be diseased – and my old-lady head with a few patchy stragglers left. This is why people shave their head entirely, to avoid this moment I thought. I look like I have cancer. My dark, thick eyebrows are getting sparse. I did not have to shave, however, but now I wish I had to. My former body, in all its glory, is gone forever I'm afraid.

I had just taken a bath. Lost hairs were floating around me in the water. I felt really, really alone. But, I remembered God. How could I have forgotten? The truth is, faith is new for me, relatively speaking. Sometimes I forget that I am not alone. Ever. What a comfort. Life without faith was a much lonelier place for me. I wrote once about how I wondered what my life would have looked life if I'd had faith as a younger woman. Quite different I imagine. But then where would I have ended up? Not here. And, here is good.

Now I have a new body, an amazing, beautiful machine equipped to fight, ready to live and blessed by God. It's just gonna take a little getting used to, about 10 extra pounds and a hot new push-up bra, in hot pink preferably. Hair would help, but that can wait.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spa Day

Today is Day 4 since my last treatment, and I feel damn good. Besides an I-got-punched-in-the-face-last-night sensation – or do you ever remember making out with someone so hard when you were 17 that your face kind of hurt? Well, it's just like that. And, my neck and my head feel tender, almost bruised.

I was so nervous about this one, this last dose of medicine, because the nurses, and things I've read, kept saying that chemotherapy meds are cumulative. "You'll feel worse after each subsequent treatment, you'll feel more tired, and so on." This time, too, I had to get a Neulasta shot after. It's a white blood cell booster. I've heard horror stories about the bone pain and flu-like symptoms that it can cause. But, so far, barely anything to speak of. Some funky pains in my leg, but I think I just needed a good stretch.

Come to think of it. Chemo day is kind of like spa day. Kicked back in a recliner with my feet up, my man next to me, no baby, a hefty dose of Benny (that means Benadryl), trashy mags, crochet hook with some yummy yarn, and we're off to the races.