Panic On The Streets of *mingham

May 17, 2010 at 12:01 PM (after chemo, Faith, Recovery) (, , , , , , , )

WARNING: There will be a mild amount of “sharing” in this post. Read at your own risk.

I woke up to the alarm this morning, awake and ready to go to the gym. Ungodly early, but apparently I got enough sleep last night because I didn’t feel tied to the bed. As I was having a quick pee, I sneezed. And my intestines, right in the region of my ileostomy and reversal, started making a funny noise. It sounded a lot like it did when I had the ostomy: sort of a squirty, bubbling sound that I hadn’t heard since then. The noise repeated, again and again, for about thirty seconds straight.

I panicked. I knew this was the bowel perforation I had so skillfully (through no action of my own) avoided since starting the Avastin. That with my sneeze, some aneurysm of my small intestine had finally popped, and I was doomed. Maybe the recent onset of fatigue has made me jumpy. So I did what any normal, freaked-out, cancer patient would do: I called my doctor.

Fortunately, she was awake, and called me right back. She talked me off the ledge, and reminded me that, no matter how recently the perforation had occurred, if I were actually experiencing one I would also be in excruciating pain. Which I was not.

So, faith shaken but restored, I put on my sneakers and headed to the gym. With my phone in my pocket. I’m not really sure how Mr. W managed to get back to sleep, but he did.

Now that my panic has faded, and I’m trying to squelch my embarrassment at escalating a series of gas bubbles to a medical emergency, I have a little time to think about why I got so worked up. It’s not like me to jump to the worst possible scenario when something weird happens; I usually find logical excuses for what’s going on and wait for more evidence before calling in the troops. (Possibly why we find ourselves in this mess to begin with.)

Which means that I’m less emotionally stable than I initially appear. Clearly, four years of this process have rocked my sense of stability enough that I’m more Chicken Little than hakuna matata these days. Sometimes I really feel the fact that I’m living on borrowed time, and that at any moment the blow might strike that precipitates a cascade of medical whatevers and sucks me back into the depths of being a reallysickcancerpatient. I don’t want to feel that way – I want to be making the most of every minute, living life to the fullest, not waiting for the other shoe to drop. (I figured since I haven’t entered remission, I get the luxury of not having to wait for that.)

And yet. Deep under the surface veneer of high-functioning girl-in-treatment lies a wavering doubter who’s got her hair-trigger finger on the on-call button. I wonder how she’ll do with the results of Wednesday’s CT scan.

Sort of a lot, really, to try to get out of an early-morning workout, dontcha think?

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Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

February 19, 2010 at 11:08 AM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Have you ever had that dream where you’re running, something’s chasing you and you’re running as fast as you can, but no matter how fast you move your legs you don’t go anywhere? Yeah.

Got the results of the CT yesterday. (You see where this is going, don’t you.) The Avastin is successfully holding down the pelvic tumors – they’re even smaller than they were in November. The lungs, however, don’t seem to be getting the message. Old (tiny, glacially progressing) nodules have grown a millimeter or two; new subcentimeter nodules are appearing. No lymph node increases, nothing in the abdomen or bones. But those lung guys, off by themselves, clearly on their own program, making trouble.

I’m working on my optimism, but today it feels like my balloon is a little deflated. I know all the things I’m doing to take care of myself, exercise, diet, good attitude, and all the things my medical team are doing to take care of me, scans, great medicines, oodles of treatment options, are the best in the business. Seems the glacier’s gonna carve that canyon anyway.

The Avastin will continue; I’m meeting March 1 with the head of the clinical trial department to see if there are any open studies looking for a guinea pig who’s totally healthy except for the damn cancer. Let’s hope the nasty make-your-hair-fall-out-again studies are all full.

One thing’s for sure, I’m going shopping with my usual post-tax-return IRA deposit this year.

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Annoyed

January 15, 2010 at 4:25 PM (Energy, mommy guilt, Recovery) (, , , , , , , , )

Cancer giveth, and cancer taketh away. The giving part is another post for another day. Today, we gripe.

Actually, it’s sort of a meta-gripe. I had a lousy day earlier this week, I won’t bore you with the details, but the thing that really cheesed me the most was this overarching feeling I had that I ought to just stop grousing and be thankful that I had a life to live. And that made me madder.

Not only has cancer taken away the innocence of my assumption that I’ll live to be a hundred like my grandmother, that I’ll be around to annoy and embarrass my teenage sons, that I’ll get a chance to spend some of the (admittedly smaller than previously) IRA my tax refund funnels into every spring, among other countless losses. Now I can’t even have a lousy day, sink into a funk, eat too much chocolate and ignore my vacuuming without feeling guilty? I have to be so THANKful that I’ve surVIVEd long enough to be having this day at all? That just sucks.

Wow, someone needs a nap.

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Hair Envy

December 30, 2009 at 10:24 AM (Energy, Hair, Recovery) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It’s not easy being green. Having to spend each day perusing magazines like InStyle with their seven-page editorial spreads of people like Blake Lively, Debra Messing and Penelope Cruz. Watching a little TV at the end of the day and being confronted with Pantene ads of models flipping their glossy, wavy, scapula-long locks around like modern-day incarnations of Cher.

As I’ve said before, baldness didn’t scare me this time around. I’d been through it before, had a DYNAMITE wig, loved the ease with which my morning routine rolled along, and relished the break from shaving, plucking, zits, etc. (Yes, the shiny-face-in-photographs thing was annoying, yes, sweating off my eyebrows six times a day was tedious, but they all beat being dead.) But as a (prematurely) post-menopausal female rapidly approaching the big 4-0, I could use all the feminine beauty mojo I can get. Baldness, and the subsequent Death-Valley-Ultramarathon that is growing out curly hair, eventually loses its silver lining and gets just plain cloudy.

So watching these twenty-something robo-babes and their semi-professional hair-flipping contests is starting to bum me out. Maybe it’s because I still think of myself as looking like them (at least in the respect that we’re both female) and when I catch sight of myself in the mirror I look SO unlike that now that it’s shocking, even more so than seeing my formerly Yul-Brynner self after a shower. I think of myself as having hair now, and this? Is so not it.

I think we need a Bald Channel. The King And I; the Star Trek with the bald chick in it; G.I. Jane; Shaft; the Natalie Portman movie where they shave her head; Kojak reruns. Ernie and Bert marathons. There could be made-for-tv movies about alopecia so chemo patients could understand that they’re not alone in the world, starring LeeAnn Rimes. Cancer patients all over the country would flock to the advertisers: moisturizers, wigs, great hats, Sephora tutorials on eyebrow and eyelash application.

Oh, great, like I don’t have enough projects already.

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White Out

December 20, 2009 at 9:51 PM (Energy, mommy guilt, Recovery) (, , , , , , , , )

It snowed here overnight and most of the morning. While I hate being cold, I love snow. Hey, if it’s gotta be freezing, it might as well be pretty. (See, there I go, form over function again.) It felt cathartic, restorative, like wiping last week’s (uuuuugly) slate clean. No more self-recrimination, just quiet and softness.

Spent the morning going to Boston for brunch with my three favorite guys. (Culinary luxury is always a good mood-booster.) Watched the snow blowing up Boylston Street and stuffed myself with eggs benedict and too many carbs. But no guilt. Got the kids set up with some wholesome on-line activities and retired to My Office for a nap while Mr. Wonderful wrapped up the Christmas shopping. Coasted through dinner and took the dog for a walk in the winter wonderland.

Yes, the house still needs vacuuming. Yes, I still need to finish the Christmas cards (cranked out about thirty yesterday) and get more stamps. Yes, I still need to wrap everything. But NO, the self-flagellation for my supposed shortcomings has not continued. I thank the snow.

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Energy Comes Back; Organizing Skills Not So Much

December 18, 2009 at 8:59 PM (Energy, mommy guilt, Recovery) (, , , , , , , , , )

For three-and-a-half years, I said “no”. No volunteering, no Class Mother position, no field-trip chaperoning, no personal projects, minimal cooking, no homemade Christmas presents. I’ve focused on the four people and two pets in the little brown house, and on holding myself together enough for my kids to keep speaking to me and my husband to be able to hold most of the weight of running the household.

Fast-forward to December, 2009. Finally feeling like a human being again, like my brain is firing on all cylinders. Able to keep track of the location of my sunglasses while simultaneously talking on the phone and switching the wet laundry to the dryer, I am getting a little full of myself. So I start saying “yes” – yes, I’d love to edit the school newsletter. Yes, I’d love to bring in a dish to contribute to the second grade’s Country of Origin feast three days before Christmas. Yes, I’d be happy to give the neighbor a ride home from the hospital on a Wednesday night after a support-group meeting and a whirlwind trip to a very crowded Target. Yes, I’d love to make six pounds of spiced walnuts to give as gifts to the teachers and service personnel in our lives. Why sure, I’d love to go to a fundraising dinner on December 17. In formalwear. The evening after a chemo treatment.

And thus a few of the juggled balls have hit the deck. Had to pass off the newsletter to the previous editor because my software skills were exceeded by the amount of work that needed doing. Failed to check with my seven-year-old on the due date of his research project and had to pull him out of bed at 7:50 on a school night to help him finish it. Got all the stuff I needed at Target and the neighbor home from the hospital but then blew parking my land barge in my teeny garage and dented the fender on the support column. Remembered to buy a present for the birthday party but forgot to make a playdate for the other kid for the same afternoon. Made it to the fancy party but blew off my boys all afternoon because I had so much to do before the sitter came that I couldn’t take ten minutes to read a book. Haven’t had time to call my dad back from a call he made to me three weeks ago.

Now I’m realizing that perhaps I’ve bitten off a little more than I can chew. Remembering that even before I got sick, I was maybe not the best multi-tasker on the planet (raging hyperbole). Remembering that this mom thing leaves little room for personal activities and ambitions, and that getting to the gym four times a week might be the pinnacle of my independent activity. Realizing that in my rush to fulfill what I though of as my neglected community obligations I had to put my homefront responsibilities on the back burner.

So I’m making no one happy right now. Family resents the fact that I’m busy. Kids are calling me a grouch. Dog hasn’t been on a real walk in four days. Laundry piling up, dust bunnies multiplying. Christmas spirit cowering in the back of a closet. Wherever I’m focusing, I’m feeling guilty that I’m not working on something else. And I’m afraid that this isn’t going to change as I get healthier; this is the standard modern mom’s dilemma. Crap.

The first thing to do is spend the day with my family NOT stressing about the projects that haven’t gotten done yet. The second thing to do is trim the fat from my obligations list. Or maybe I’ll leave that for the New Year – I really need to finish the Christmas cards. Okay, start the Christmas cards. And call my dad.

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