Save Money: Get Cancer!

January 26, 2010 at 4:24 PM (Age, Energy, Hair, Silver Lining) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Recent articles in the media may give you the impression that cancer can be expensive. So expensive, in fact, that many patients need help in paying for their treatments. But I’ve put together a little list of the fantastically fiscally responsible features of this insidious illness. Check it out:

Baldness: Eliminates costs for hot water to wash the hair, electricity to blow-dry and straighten the hair. No shampoo, conditioner, frizz serum, or hairspray. No salon appointments, cuts, color, etc. No razor blades or shaving cream, waxing or eyebrow appointments. Average annual savings: ~$2,500 – 3,000.

Fatigue: Depending on your pre-cancer social life, savings can be significant. No cost for movie theaters, club cover charges, bar tabs, or concert tickets. (Who could stand up for three hours straight?) Deduct the cost of increasing your cable selection or increasing your Netflix membership, but average annual savings: $500 – 3,000.

Figure changes: Who knows what size you’ll be next week? Depending on your treatment protocol, you could be pumped full of fluid, plumped up on steroids, recovering from surgery, or in no mood to eat. And since the only places you’ll go will be the drive-thru at the pharmacy or a medical facility, you’re going to be looking for comfort anyway. Buy some yoga pants and this fleecy-lined sweatshirt in three colors each and you’re all set. Shelve your shopping addiction until your shape has settled. Average annual savings: $1,000 – 10,000 (depending on your habit). [NOTE: I didn’t really do this, but hypothetically, it could work. Nothing could stop me from shopping. Nothing.]

Feet: Don’t need heels (see reduced social life). Don’t need new trainers (see fatigue). Yoga doesn’t take shoes, and besides, your feet hurt. Get some snuggly boots or comfy soft slip-ons and relaaaaax. Average annual savings: $250 – $750+.

Nutrition: Eating out is limited to take-out, since who wants to be perky enough to be in a restaurant for an hour? People will be bringing you food since you’re too tired to cook, and other than that there’s a case of Ensure in the cupboard. Bananas and yogurt will round out the selection. Average annual savings: $300 – 1,000+.

Reading: You can cancel your magazine subscriptions. People will bring you the current issue of every trashy Hollywood tabloid, and, if they’re really good friends, shopping bags full of shelter mags. Plus, you’ll be spending a ton of time on the internet doing treatment research, reading killer blogs and connecting on i[2] Average annual savings: $50 – 300.

Home decor: for the first two weeks at least after your surgery, friends and relatives (especially those at a geographical distance too far to visit) will send flowers. LOTS of flowers. Plants, cut blooms, and, if you’re lucky, gorgeous bouquets from Winston’s. Since you’ll be a little immunologically compromised, the nurses won’t let you keep flowers in your room, so they’ll all have to go home. Which means that no one will notice the dirty slipcover on the armchair or the fact that the neglected and frustrated dog has eaten the doormat. Average annual savings: $100 – 500+.

See? Now run right out and tell your favorite cancer patient to quit their caterwauling about health insurance, co-pays, and pharmacy costs. This ought to cover at least one and possibly two recurrences of even the most hideous diagnosis. Right?

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My Kilt Encounter – An Update

January 4, 2010 at 1:39 PM (Hair, Karma) (, , , , , , , , )

I was checking my stats and noticed that several hits from the past few days have come from “”. An unfamiliar URL. I traveled there to discover that it’s a community of kilt-wearing scotsmen. I guessed they were amused by the tale of my Trader Joe’s encounter of last month, and discovered that someone had put a link to my story in a comment thread. When I navigated back to the original comment, look what I found!

The universe works in mysterious ways.

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Seventh Time’s the Charm (Fingers Crossed)

November 23, 2009 at 7:24 PM (Energy, Hair, Recovery) (, , , , , , , )

I can’t believe it. Something worked! The results of last Friday’s CT scan are in, and while anecdotal (I won’t see the report until this Friday), I’m going to take the doctor’s “Your scans look better… good news all around” as a positive thing.

So let’s take stock: no symptoms (other than a mildly puffy left leg); declining fatigue; recovering cardiovascular fitness; renewed interest in culinary pursuits; hair growing in. One might be tempted to forget one has a medical problem.

Which seems to be a habit for me. Even when I’m down in the dumps, if I can just get the dog walked and the kids fed, maybe some grocery shopping done, I really have to remind myself (or step out of the shower and look in the mirror – yowza!) that I’m sick. So now that I’m starting to feel like a fully formed human being, that reminder every three weeks (and you can’t possibly visit The Cancer Factory without knowing you have a problem) might get increasingly annoying.

Rest assured, though, that I’m going. And adding Avastin to the top of my “Thanks” list! Let’s hope the fix keeps working; I could get used to this.

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November 15, 2009 at 8:06 PM (Hair) (, , , , , , , )

Aside from the insulative value that having your own hair adds to a winter’s day, it’s an amazing mental hurdle to feeling normal. Last spring, when I was going through chemo, the stuff I was on didn’t make all of my hair fall out; in fact, I only lost about half of my volume (which I can assure you is enough hair for any three other people). To the average observer, all systems were nominal.

This summer, when my hair started falling out in earnest (thanks, Taxol!), I was expecting it. I was even, in a small part of me, looking forward to it – quick showers, no salon appointments, no shaving, cooler summer days. And yet as blase as I can be about some of the stuff that happens with this battle, there’s something so unnerving about being bald. Oh, I know I have a cute head, that my wig is fabulous and I don’t even mind going around in a bandanna. But all of a sudden, the world looks at you differently. You’re a cancer patient, and everyone can tell.

Why does that bother me? I should be proud to represent, a survivor who’s still plugging along through the soccer mom’s routine: walking the dog, going to Target, meeting the school bus. Does it make me uncomfortable to get special dispensation — no, please, go ahead of me in line, I insist — or to accept help to the car with my groceries? Lord knows, there are days I can use it. Is that why I want my wig to look so natural? (Or am I just really vain?)

Do I worry about making other people uncomfortable? I’m more than happy to talk about my illness, diagnosis, symptoms, not only because I hope I can help someone else who may also be sick but because, really, who doesn’t like talking about themselves. Once people know you’re sick, though, they make sure to always ask you how you are, if there’s anything they can do for you, and I think I’m very conscious of that switch — I’m not just your average girl any more. I want people to want to know how I am not because they know I’m sick and are being solicitous of the poor cancer lady, but because that’s what you ask your friends. (And yes, I know that’s ridiculous; I know who my friends are and that they love me. This is not an entirely rational process, kids.)

It’s been so hard to teach myself to accept help from those who offer it, not just because I need the help but because it gives those who offer it a way to have some control over an uncontrollable situation. Offering help is a way to make it better, even if it’s only a casserole. So maybe passing for “normal” is another way I need to let go, be the best baldy I can be. Or maybe I’ll keep fighting to look “normal” because looking good, for me, has so much to do with feeling good.

Anyway, thanks for the casseroles.

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