Fuzzy McLovin' II

I'm now 6 weeks out from my last full treatment, and any hopes I had of returning to the normal world and the gym with most of my hair intact have now gone out the window faster than my remaining hairs would if they weren't being held down with a hat at all times.

I've finally come to the conclusion that it's all going to go -- in its own time, but it's going to go. My lame attempt at a comb over became futile weeks ago, and I now walk around in a variety of hats, tricking the world into thinking that the few wisps of hair they see sticking out are merely the stragglers to the big hair party I've got going on up under the big top.

Little do they know I wake up to a little nest of hair on my pillow every morning that would make Big Bird drool.

If all goes according to the photos I took last year, I should have a faint stubble any day now. In a couple more weeks, I might lose my scalpish look and trim up what scraggly hairs I have left. But in the mean time, I lean over the trash can every morning and run my fingers obsessively through -- trying to limit the amount of hair that ends up in every other aspect of my life. My hair looks like a mangy dog, but the rest of me is back to normal. Gym rat status has been resumed, feet have healed, nausea pills are collecting dust in the cupboard and I'm back to pretending I'm just a regular girl.

It isn't the losing of hair that's so hard, it's the process of growing it back out that bothers me. This long-haired girl just longs to have a pony tail again.
Photos by Merrick, who says I look so beautiful in my wig, but not so much without it.
Holding back and (mostly) hiding what's left of my hair. Hairband locally made by UrbanHalo.


Expecting Joy

"It is amazing to live with someone who genuinely couldn't care less about Getting Ahead, someone who is absolutely committed to finding joy in the present moment."

As I read that sentence in my memoir-of-the-week, I had to stop and read it again. And again.

Though this book has no immediate relevance to my own life, that passage spoke the truth as I know it now. By changing just a few words, I knew it could easily turn into the mission statement of my life as I know it now. The one where success and things and image and perception and square footage and labels didn't matter quite as much to my vain self anymore.

When faced with the possibility that life might not be as long as you expect it to be, you have to find your raison d'ĂȘtre, you have to start finding happiness, and you need to start finding joy. It's a shame that it takes a major or tragic life event for so many people to stop "getting ahead" and realize that the empty things they chase will be just that in the end.


PET Me Like a Good Dog

With the premature end to my summer of chemo fun, came the grand finale; the long desired PET scan. Not desired on my part, but on the part of every oncologist, naturopath, surgeon and medical professional I'd encountered since my diagnosis. Because my tumors were initially so small, a PET scan would technically not be able to see them, and my insurance rejected any previous request submitted. But not now! Those babies have put on some weight and at least 1 should glow!

My doctor wanted to "get a good look" and make sure that cancer "wasn't anywhere we didn't know about." Comments like this hardly faze me. Like I've become callused to all that "scanxiety" or something. I knew it wasn't anywhere else. I wasn't preparing for the worst and hoping for the best this time. I just knew it wasn't. But for the sake of exposing me to even more radiation and calming him down, why not!

I had my first venture into into being a temporary glow stick last week, with a PET/CT scan. I'll let you look it up if you really want to know how it works, but I can say it made for an uninterrupted 25 minute catnap and the chance to pee in a lead-encased bathroom for "nuclear patients only."

I just envisioned myself voiding something equivalent of a yellow glow stick. If your child has ever chewed one open and illuminated the inside of their mouth, you can understand the shade of yellow. Also rest assured that if your child does this in the future, they will be perfectly fine. It also gave me 2 medically justified hours where my children were banished from my radioactive presence until I didn't set off the Geiger counter.

My anxiety over scan results isn't as intense as it used to be. I hate to think it's predicable, as I always say to never assume anything when it comes to cancer. But given the nature of my cancer and my continuous treatment, I come very close to assuming that everything but my lungs will be magically free and clear. I was not disappointed. Aside from my lungs, I was sparkly and clean from my neck to my knees.

My lungs are still having a small shindig, but one that's still relatively calm and subdued. Nothing has magically disappeared, just magically gotten a little smaller. It's hard for me to say how much smaller, as the PET scan and the subsequent report written by the radiologist doesn't exactly read in millimeter increments like a CT scan. The PET scan doesn't even pick up some of my smaller tumors because of their size. So I can't tell you the minute details of each tumor, but I can generally say that things are smaller.

My doctor even vaguely described some of my smaller tumors as being cancerous, but potentially being in a discombobulated state of confusion and non-growth. Something he can't say for certain, but it gave me a glimmer of hope that some of them might just pull a Kenny and self-implode in the future. Just some wishful speculation on my part.


Throwing in the Towel

When all you hear is "You're so strong," and "You're so tough," throwing in the towel doesn't feel like an option. Like you're letting down the masses and every cancer fighter that went before you, and would have kept on fighting to the bitter end. I'm no where close to the bitter end, so I feel like I have some leeway. But I should still be fighting with all my might, right?

That's being a bit dramatic, but after spending the worst 4 days in bed, paralyzed by extreme nausea and vomiting, the towel had to be thrown.

Admitting that makes me spend a few minutes feeling like a failure.

I officially quit 1 round short of the 6 full treatments (of FOLFIRI) I decided to do this summer. 6 rounds - 1 round = 5 rounds of full dose chemo. It was all voluntary on my part, so why the hell not.

The big, unsolved mystery over the last 5 rounds was why all the violent sickness. I've done this before - 12 times before! And not once did I even reach for my bedside bowl. Sure, I was a bald, scrawny mess who could barely sit on her own sore ass. Yet here I was, only doing 6 rounds and sicker than I'd ever been. Throwing up more than I ever have.

Drug after drug was prescribed, and drug after drug failed. And I felt like my doctor no one was listening to my monotonous droning on about the level of sickness to which I had achieved. Week after week I'd go in and complain, and be sent home with something new to try. My doctor No one was hearing me say that I had never been this sick on chemo - on THIS chemo.

I was even coxed in for my pump disconnect with another shot of Aloxi, a "powerful" and "long term" anti-nausea drug they give me before my infusion. In an act that can only be described as a figurative middle finger to the non-listeners, I promptly made it to the parking lot before throwing up.

So I decided to quit my 6 rounds of summer. I threw in the towel I had just used to wipe the puke from my mouth, and had to sit there and justify my decision to my doctor. Lame.

Don't think I'm quitting treatment. As I type, I have my pump of 5-FU infusing me with my 47th round of chemo and feel just fine. Back to the drag of chemo-lite.