March 7, 2014
five years post diagnosis. still kicking it. <3
May 23, 2011
Wow. It’s nearly two years since I last updated in this blog…time, she sure flies, don’t she?
A lot has gone on in that amount of time and while there would be no possible way to tell you everything that has happened, I’ll give you a basic rundown of “Lowry Post-Cancer, Part 2″.
Some things I have to say…first things first.
Cancer is not romantic. It is not a Lifetime movie. It’s certainly not a blockbuster movie. And it very rarely is an attractive, spritely young woman with good clothes and lots of friends and boyfriends.
A lot of people seem to think that is it romantic, in the sense that there’s lots of suffering and people doting on you endlessly as you spend your days in bed with a turban on your head and a hanky at your side.
Nope. It really doesn’t feel like that at all. Of course, the first few moments you’re diagnosed or re-diagnosed with cancer, you’re overwhelmed with outpourings of affection from friends, old lovers, strangers, the dude you sat next to in 7th grade Latin class. It would be dishonest to say that you don’t want, need or accept the attention with an open heart, arms, pocket, what have you. You have your parents treating you like you’re 5 years old, basically giving you sippy cups and cooking all your meals, your ex-boyfriend’s crazy mother distributing Chapstick across your lips when you’re in the hospital, while too drugged to say “actually, I like to put on lip products by myself, thank you”, and friends offering to bring you whatever movies, cookies, ice cream and weed your sick little heart desires.
What happens when life returns to “normal”, after active cancer treatment (chemo, surgery, rads), is a bit different. Suddenly, all the doctors, strangers, friends, and family members who were relentlessly hovering over you disappear, or at least go back to what they were doing before you were on death’s doorstep. It’s funny though. I’ve had a hard time thinking of myself as someone with a serious illness. It’s always hard for me to believe that I’m even dealing with it. I sometimes forget that I have this to deal with…until I see my body. Or go to the doctor’s for the 1,000th visit. Or have my 100,000th hot flash. Or struggle with paying my rent because I can’t do the decently paid job I did before. Not anymore. Physically, I feel a bit wrecked. I don’t feel my age. I often feel like an old woman, menopausal, tired and drained a lot. I forget things often. I mean, very often. To the point that it frightens me. Everyone forgets things. But I have had moments where the dots don’t connect over and over. I remind myself over and over to not forget something and I forget it. I’ll leave an object somewhere for no reason and then can’t remember where I placed it. I’ll forget times and dates of things from the past. I’ve forgotten memories, events I only know about now via old journals and emails. Chemo brain has been well documented and I didn’t really think it would be a longer term thing. But it definitely has been.
Being thrown into an early menopause has caused all kinds of issues, some I would rather not discuss, but for the sake of being open and honest about “What It’s Really Like to Have Breast Cancer”, I’ll tell you that there are issues I’ve had to deal with that NO woman under the age of 60 should ever have to deal with. And along with that, try feeling cute when your body isn’t quite up to par with what the rest of the world deems as “hot”. I live in a college town, full of very beautiful young girls with very beautiful figures. It’s not easy to feel cute when you’re surrounded by all that. When people tell you that you are still cute, it’s hard to hear. You don’t believe it. I’ve had to work hard to improve my self esteem, but it’s a challenge when everyday you’re faced with seeing your new body in the mirror. The extra pounds I’ve gained from the drugs hasn’t helped either.
But, I’ve had some extremely positive, extremely awesome things happen since I last wrote. I’ve had some more surgery (my last was in March 2010) and things have definitely improved in that department, thank goodness and thanks to my extra awesome surgeons. Things aren’t perfect, nor will they ever be, but it hasn’t really stopped me from putting myself out in the dating scene. I’ve dated a couple nice people since my fun cancer/breakup combo in 2009, and this past October 2010 was introduced to my boyfriend. It’s been a long distance relationship (he lives in Bloomington, Indiana, I’m in Charleston SC), but to say my world has shifted completely is an understatement. It’s taken me aback at times how many random coincidences we’ve shared along the way and how often we are reminded of why we need to know each other. I don’t want to go off on some kind of corny cosmic whatever, but when it comes to being right for someone, I don’t think we’ve ever been more right for each other. I think of all the men I’ve had in my life and in some ways am thankful for the cancer experience, as it may have led me, indirectly, to him. He says we probably would have met anyways though. This could be true. I’m just happy we did. I am happy to have someone in my life who really cares about me and wants me to have the best life possible. In my last post in 2009, I spoke of wanting someone to “really give a shit”. He is endless love and support and I know that whatever happens to me today, tomorrow or in 30 years, he’ll be there for me. I’m thankful for that, in a million different ways. We’re working out the moving details.
I’m still seeing my doctors once every 3 months, and have also switched off to getting my Lupron shot once every month now, instead of every 3 months, as the doctors say there’s a chance that estrogen can spike in the tail end of the 3 months. And I’m still taking my aromatase inhibitor, Arimidex.
Urgh. I am SO ready to be off of the drugs! Have had some bone scans, but no PET/CTs. I’ve had all my blood work and tumor markers I’ve wanted for so long done by my new oncologist, which is awesome. My old onc wasn’t a fan of tumor markers. They’re not 100% proof positive that something is happening, but it’s good to have a baseline just in case things get wonky. I hope my energy gets better, but right now, I feel super slack and tired. I don’t know what to do about that, except exercise more and try to keep moving.
I hope that people still care about what’s happening to me…I hope my friends and family still wish the best for me. I hope people don’t forget that there’s a bitch of a beast called breast cancer that kills young women everyday. I hope people don’t forget I’m trying my damndest to keep that bitch off my back.
November 23, 2009
I know its been a little while. I took some time off from writing in here, because I needed a break and because I’ve been busy. A lot has happened since I last posted.
First off, the City Paper did a cover feature on me that you can read here:
I was proud to do it and happy that it was so well received. I heard wonderful things from many people. I never thought I would find myself on the cover of anything, and certainly not for breast cancer. Seeing myself in newspaper stands all around town was a strange thing. I was pleased that it touched so many and that the article was beautifully written…but a bit taken aback by how revealed and exposed I felt afterwards. Which is part of why I didn’t write here for awhile. I wanted to keep writing, but knowing that many people now had access to the blog made it feel a lot less private. I know I am writing a public blog on the internet that anyone can read should they look for it, but I guess I didn’t feel like that many people were reading and only my good friends were checking it out. And maybe that is still the case. The story has come and gone and maybe people have lost interest by now…either way, I do want to continue writing here. It is still a place I can write about the daily struggles with breast cancer. And I will continue to write it not just for myself, but for the women who are also struggling with it.
When I was rediagnosed this past March, I combed the internet for a lot of personal blogs by women with breast cancer. I found one whose story really interested me and who I felt connected with somehow. She was younger, like myself, but married and without children. She was married to a wonderful man who was frantic about her new diagnosis. He was fanatical about researching the internet and calling doctor friends about who she should see, what she should do, where she could find the best possible care. In a way, I envied her, even though she griped about his emotional state being far from calm, cool and collected. I envied that she had someone who cared so much to run himself ragged trying to “figure it all out” for her. I didn’t have exactly that. I had my parents, a boyfriend who I lost along the way, and friends who were supportive…but I envied her life and her marriage and that she had someone who loved her so much that he was near losing his good mind over it. Of course, you don’t want anyone to ever lose their minds over your cancer diagnosis. But you want someone, anyone, to really…I mean, REALLY…give a shit. Someone to take some of your burden…carry some of your weight…fight for you when you can’t fight anymore.
The past two months have been really hard on me. A lot of good things have happened…the article, Race For The Cure, seeing old friends, feeling healthier and more energetic, and my hair has grown back a good bit. I’ve even taken a trip to Boston to visit my pregnant sister and her husband and see friends I haven’t seen in years.
But a lot of not so great things have been happening too. An incomplete surgery and a drawn out breakup have made me sink into a bit of a funk. It’s been very hard to get up and gear myself up for each day. It’s also been hard to talk to clients about my situation repeatedly, which was something I used to be okay with, and even felt good about in regards to advocating breast health, but right now just seems to make me feel worse. Telling people your sad tale over and over sometimes just reinforces how sad it really is. And I sense how some people feel badly for me… or even that some are tired of hearing me talk about my shitty cancer situation. That is a horrible feeling. I know that sometimes people just want you to get up and dust yourself off and keep moving like nothing happened. That I “beat cancer” and it’s over with. But it is simply not that simple. It doesn’t go away when you finish treatment or resume your work. It is a part of your life, for the rest of your life. It requires constant tests and medications and for some people, continued non-chemo treatment. It requires healing yourself not just physically, but psychologically, from the fears of recurrence that will forever be in your head, to dealing with loved ones and fears of leaving them sooner than you would like… or not finding love or having children in time… or just not having the chance to be happy for over a year before you’re rediagnosed. It isn’t just shoved under the rug when you’re done with everything. And if anyone ever thinks it is that easy, I invite them to be in my shoes or any other cancer survivor’s shoes for five minutes.
I try not to talk about it so much. But it’s hard to avoid talking about. How do you avoid talking about whats been the center of your life for the past 8 months…really, the past 3 years? It’s not easy. And it’s not that I don’t want to talk about it at all. But I hate, beyond anything else, feeling like I’m fucking leper. I hate the puppy dog eyes and the sighs and the “I’m praying for you”s. I hate feeling like I’m all alone, like I’m on my own sinking island. I often close my eyes and try to imagine what my life would have been like if none of this had ever happened to me…
I have no idea what it would have been like. I am angry that I never had the chance to live like I wanted to. And now, I am forced to live this way…so pissed off and let down that I spent my good time doing stupid shit, with stupid people, wasting time…so much time. I don’t understand the women who have pasted smiles on their faces and call themselves strong, ass kicking survivors. I am just NOT that person, even though others might think of me that way.
But…I’m going to try to change the way I’m feeling. I know I need to. I know it is extremely important that I appreciate every single day, that I appreciate everything, that I find beauty in both sadness and love… and that I believe the sun will shine again. I’m trying hard to remind myself that it will shine again. I need help remembering. It has been so long.
September 26, 2009
This past week has been trying, to say the least.
I had my reconstructive, phase 2 (I won’t say “stage” and confuse everyone) surgery on Wednesday. As some of you know, I had been looking forward to this for a long time. I was very anxious and excited to see the final cosmetic revisions of my massive surgery that I underwent in April. I went into the hospital Wednesday morning and came out that afternoon with a different attitude altogether.
I was a little upset with some of the results that I called my plastic surgeon when I got back into the car…I was feeling emotional and tearful from the anesthesia as well. My surgery did not go as well as planned and my left/cancer side breast skin was not moving around the way it should have/the way the PS wanted it to. Because of this, my left side flap was only partially taken out. It was made smaller and sewn up at the bottom, while my right breast flap was completely removed and I have one stitch/scar line. And I still have these partial nipples, which were to be filled in and tattooed over more when this final surgery was completed. I don’t know when that will happen now.
My PS said that we may have to wait another 8 or 9 months to try anymore.
It is disappointing and I am sad thinking of doing more surgery, especially surgery that seems very, very far away. I wanted to be done with his chapter of my life so much, to be able to move forward and feel confident and happy and excited to start living again. I am let down that I have even more hurdles to climb over…and I won’t be climbing over them in any short amount of time.
I’ve spent the last couple days in an emotional fog, reeling with the thought that this may just be as good as it gets. I may not have the option to have a perfect looking reconstruction. I thought about how maybe I should have just had a simple mastectomy. Being flat chested wouldn’t have been the worst thing. I often think it hurts me to deal with the reconstruction so much because I once had beautiful breasts. I’m not just saying that. They were great. I loved my breasts. And I know I cannot compare anymore…but I can’t help it…it is what I knew for 29 years.
It sometimes seems so much easier for the implant girls. Implants always look great to me. I know the expander part isn’t fun, but I didn’t have the option of implants (because of radiation) and if I had, I think I would have chosen implants over this. Less scars, less warped tissue and skin, less healing time. I would have been happy exchanging every 10 years or so. As long as they looked like normal breasts…or as normal as possible.
With all that breast cancer patients have to go through, we should at least be granted a nice rack. Some dignity in this otherwise dignity free affair.
I have an appointment on Monday to discuss what happens next. And I may shop around for some other opinions as well.
I’m angry that I have to deal with more of this. This shouldn’t be the life of a 30 year old woman, or any woman for that matter. I haven’t even lived much of a life yet. I haven’t met my future husband. I haven’t had kids. I am living alone with my dog. And breast cancer. At 30. What is fair about that?
On the other hand, I am thankful that I am not sitting here with mets, or sitting here flat chested because I never had an option to do reconstruction AT ALL.
I am lucky…and it is true, there is always someone worse off. But there is always someone better off also. I have a right to be upset and be sad. Its my body. Its my life. I don’t want to become a prisoner in my own body before I’ve even lived my adult life. I don’t want to feel less attractive than the next woman. I don’t want to limit myself with what I can do or who I can date or what I can wear or how beautiful I feel. I’m screaming at myself to fight hard against these feelings of unworthiness. They are so unbelievably powerful. I think anyone who has been in similar shoes can understand. We all have our flaws, but dealing with your internal wars along with external, cosmetic battles can be too much for anyone.
I have (had, had, had) cancer, which is invisible to the naked eye. Something I can’t even see or look at. Something I want to hate but can’t even point a finger at. Invisible abnormal cells floating around in my body…choosing whether or not they will grow or stay the same or go away completely. Cancer cells grow, divide and sometimes never die…they just multiply over and over again. I’m not able to see it, so maybe, in a weird way, its not as hurtful to think of as the outside physical changes. I can remember how I looked before, how I always felt good about myself, even when I gained an extra pound or five. I don’t feel that way now.
Relationships are tricky even before you’re handed the cancer card. Afterwards, you either deal with the partner who sticks by you and never lets you down…or the one who bails. Or the one who tries to deal for a period of time and then bails, because they ultimately don’t have what it takes to cope… because they have their own problems. If anything, cancer is a really good screening process. I’ve come to accept most of it, although sometimes it is hard to imagine having any kind of normal life now. But I have to try and move beyond what used to be “normal”…and God knows, normal for me never was really that normal to begin with.
When and if I ever do meet Mr. Wonderful, it will be a battle for a future together. I don’t even know at this point if I can have kids. Chemo…lovely chemo…could have also done a number on my reproductive system. I suppose time will tell. I think about this a lot, if I even want to go through the trouble of kids, after all of this. In spite of the horrible treatments I have been through, the drugs I will continue to take, and any possible future situations, I do want the opportunity to try everything, including kids if that day comes. So much depends on who is in my life and where I am at.
I am proud of my sister who is pregnant, and trying hard to make her dreams come true.
She fought her way to this place and now she has what she always wanted. A family on the way and a wonderful husband.
I know one day I will make it there too…and I will look back at this time and be so glad that it is in the past, it is over. I wish I could jump to that place right now. But I know this fight will make it so incredibly special and wonderful when it does happen. I know eventually I will be the happiest I’ve ever been. One day.
Hang in there with me.
August 20, 2009
Well…it’s all over.
The chemo has ended, albeit sooner than expected. I went to my doctor a week after the rash debacle and he wanted to stop before my last treatment on August 17th. I was unsure and slightly excited, but also wanting to know if it would be the best thing to do. He said that not completing the 4th round would not put me in harm’s way and statistically didn’t show a higher rate of recurrence and that many women who have reactions to the drugs have to stop treatment. I went for a second opinion to ease my mind and the other doctor agreed and said my next chemo could cause an even stronger reaction and one that could hospitalize me or be potentially fatal. So, with that, I celebrated the end.
But with the end comes a new beginning and one that I am not sure I am ready for. Even when you finish chemo, which is a relief of such magnitude I cannot even describe, there are still drugs to take for years and doctors visits and tests and scans and side effects from the drugs that can be completely debilitating. It is never really “the end”.
And there is also the post treatment freak out, which typically happens because you’re not actively doing something like chemo or getting tests every week. You start to get anxious, wondering if it’s still there, how or when will you know if something is wrong again, how bad off will it be if it comes back, how am I going to cope with the rest of my life dealing with this mentally and physically. I honestly don’t know how I am going to do it. I feel like I’ve been handed a terminal sentence, without even being terminal…the constant fear and stress and not knowing is enough to drive anyone crazy. It is incredibly hard to know that I cannot live my life without this in my head and resting heavily upon my heart. And to know that anyone who is a part of my life will have to deal with it as well.
It’s a devastating blow and one that I have yet to come to grips with. I don’t know if I ever will. Every day is a new challenge and every day I have to begin again. Remind myself of what life can be, what it can offer me. Remind myself that I don’t have to suffer through this alone, that people love me, that I can be as happy as I want to be, even with the pain of a cancer diagnosis. It all comes with a catch. It is a double edged sword…feeling like I can do anything I want now that I have this newfound appreciation and recognition of life’s worth, that I can love deeper and show my heart in ways I have not been able to before and knowing that I can take on the hardest trials…but also knowing that I am, more often than not, very alone in these feelings and as much as I try to not let it consume me, it is so hard. I just cannot accurately describe. I want to be able to share my experience and give back, but more often want to hide out and isolate myself. I guess this is why this blog has been a relief for me…somewhere I can release these feelings and let them out and escape and breathe.
My doctor wanted to start me immediately on Femara and possibly Zometa. Femara is an AI (aromatase inhibitor) pill taken by postmenopausal women daily to prevent recurrences in hormone positive breast cancers. Since I’ve been put into a menopausal state by Lupron (the shot I receive every 3 months), I can take this medication to help prevent future recurrences/metastasis. Femara can cause a lot of pain and it scares me to take it. There are other options if it is too strong, but I have read of women who say they can barely get out of bed in the morning because of the bone pain and because they feel 100 years old. My doctor wants me to let him know immediately if it starts to cause major pain. He also wants to see about me trying Zometa. Because Femara can cause severe bone loss or osteopenia, I had a bone density test last week to get a baseline. Zometa is an IV administered drug called a bisphosphonate that I would have to receive anywhere between every 4-6 weeks or every 6 months depending on what my doctor wants, and it helps prevent bone loss during breast cancer treatment and also substantially cuts the risk that the cancer would return. Zometa has some scary side effects, such as jaw necrosis or ONJ. You may have seen ads for Zometa on television as it is commonly given to people for treatment of osteoporosis, but because doses of IV biophosphonates used to treat cancer can be ten times higher and because they are administered more frequently, cancer patients are more at risk for developing the crazy/bad side effects.
It’s all so much to take in. I am very nervous about taking more drugs. And nervous about side effects…what will happen to me. Such overwhelming amounts of information. A lot to tackle. And I will have to be taking these drugs for at least 5 years, unless something major changes (i.e. I want to have a baby, I have terrible side effects, I have a recurrence, whatever…). And to answer the question I know you’re all dying to ask…no, I don’t HAVE to take any of these. Do I LIKE the thought of taking them? You’d have to be insane to think that I would enjoy putting myself through this. But do I like the thought of getting cancer again? This is what I ask myself, everyday. I’m taking these insane preventative measures because I want to LIVE, damnit. As long as I can.
I hope this year brings me beautiful new experiences. I am so open and ready for good and positive change.
I am beyond ready to return to the land of the living.
August 8, 2009
I never liked that saying. Leaves a nasty visual.
Although, for this particular occasion, a world spray painted with shit seems kind of appropriate.
My third chemo was uneventful at first. I forgot to take my day before doses of Decadron, a steroid to keep allergic reaction down. I called and they said it would be okay, that they would fix my dosage accordingly. I rolled down there and they did their usual routine…took my vitals, stuck the chemo needle in, took a few vials of blood from my port, IV’d me with saline, Benedryl, Ativan, Decadron, more saline…then they read the report on my counts: down on white blood cells again, down on red blood cells again. I received my Cytoxan, then the Taxotere.
My doctor and I had decided, due to my low counts last round (and not getting a Neulasta shot after round two, that we’d do the Neulasta shot again. Weighing out bone/joint pain vs. a potential hospital visit for an virus/infection you catch isn’t too difficult. I figured I’d rather deal with the bone pain again than worry about every single door handle I touch and worry each time I went into public.
So I got both the Aranesp and the Neulasta shot the day after.
The next day I immediately felt like crap…achy, super sore through all the major bones, tired as hell. Beat down. The same thing the day after that. Then, I noticed a weird pear shaped bruise on my lower calf which turned out to be nothing, but was worried for awhile that it was a potential blood clot. Had to get that checked out.
Then the fevers started. It got so bad at one point that I started shaking violently all over and had heavy blankets all over me, wool hat and covered in clothing (socks, pants, long sleeve shirt) and shook like that for a good 20 minutes until the medicine kicked in. It was awful. My boyfriend was out of town, so I stayed at my mom’s house and she was taking my temp every couple hours. I felt as though I’d gone back in time.
I called the doctor on call (not my own doctor) who advised me it was my choice if I wanted to go to the ER and he’d support it, but also said if I wanted to wait till the next day to see my actual doctor, that would be okay too. I decided to wait, because I hate ERs and I knew I would be sitting there for hours on end and I wanted to be comfortable at least.
The fevers abated after about 3 days. But every night was ghastly.
The next week after I started feeling better, I tried working at my salon’s new boutique. All was well, and I was enjoying the day of being out and trying to give working a shot again. I was exhausted after 4 hours of being there. Josh and I went to lunch afterwards at G&M and I almost fell asleep in my cold cucumber soup.
The next day, I discovered a major case of hives/rash had taken hold of my face, chest, the back of my neck and shoulders, and patches on my elbows, hands and knees. I looked like I’d been rolling around in poison ivy for a couple of hours. It was itchy in places, not in others, and was just horrid to look at. I also had discovered the lymph nodes in my groin were swollen and I was developing what is affectionately termed “a Bartholin’s cyst”. I was very freaked. All I knew was that the side of my crotch had become swollen and sore and hurt like a bitch.
Apparently women have two pea sized glands that can become blocked and cause cysts that can range in size from a pea to a marble. My lymphatic system was trying to flush it out so it became sore and swollen, similiar to what your throat glands do when you’re sick. I called my doctor and went to his office where they looked at me with blank faces. He sent me off to my dermatologist to get a biopsy of my crazy skin rash. I was so not looking forward to another biopsy. In fact it really kind of scared me. I was envisioning enormous skin sections they would be removing from my body. But they only took a 3mm punch from the back of my neck and sewed 3 lovely stitches, which will be removed on my birthday. How exciting.
Then I ran off to my OBGyn who looked at my crazy situation down below and gave me a script for antibiotics. Its been a day and I’m still in some real unpleasant pain.
I will find out the mystery skin rash diagnosis on Monday.
A lot of other things are going on right now in my life, which I am choosing not to discuss. Because it’s not for this place. But I am struggling. I wish I knew the answers to all of my questions. I wish I knew if I am making good choices.
Right now, it is very hard to tell. But to be in this place, alone, dealing with all of this, is beyond anything you can imagine. It is hell. And I hope no one else ever has to be where I am right now. I have support and friends and family and I thank you all for it.
But when I drove home after picking up my drugs from the pharmacy last night, it really hit me. I am alone. Even with the people who love me and talk to me and care for me. I go to sleep and wake up alone with this. I deal with this alone everyday. No one else is in this body with me. And it is fucking hard. Really hard. I would go so far as to say, this is the hardest thing I have ever done and will ever do in my lifetime. I know I will experience other tragedies…deaths, hardships, loss…but going through this has sapped me of so much of my strength. It is hard to keep fighting when you want to give up. I do. I want to give up. I know that I can’t. And that is the worst part. I know I have to keep doing this. All I want is a break. Just some time of happiness and peace and love.
I just want to be able to find humor in something stupid. And not worry. I want to stop thinking about this after August 17th…and I know I cannot. It will be here, part of my life, forever. How can that be possible? How can this have happened to me?
I don’t know anymore. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what to do with myself after this. But I hope the answers come. I hope they come soon. I hope they fall on me in waves on the eve of my 30th birthday next Thursday, the 13th of August.
I hope someone smashes a cancer cell in my honor that day. I hope they discover the cure that day. I hope another woman lives to see one more day.
I hope I live to see thirty more.
July 19, 2009
I thought I should mention I had chemo again on July 6th.
My second go at it. I was planning on updating prior to today. But I’ve not been in the mood to write much recently.
Been feeling pretty tired and sluggish. This second round took it out of me a lot faster than the first. I was down for the count the next day, instead of 3-4 days after.
Before I had my second round, I noticed my hair starting to come out. I was wondering around the 10th day after my first chemo if it was going to happen at all…maybe I would be one of the lucky ones that didn’t have their hair fall out! My own doctor had told me by day 7-10 it would start to fall out.
Then, a number of other breast cancer girls informed me that it usually started around day 14. And, like magic, the hair started to fall out on day 14 exactly. At first, it was slow. I would run my fingers through it and a few strands would come out. Then, I would shower and notice more coming out when my scalp was wet. Then, I noticed strands on my pillowcase, on my computer, on a plate of food I was about to eat. I ran my fingers through it and 10-20 strands would be in my palm.
So I grabbed the clippers and let my boyfriend shave it all down for me. It wasn’t too traumatic, strangely. In fact, it was kinda liberating. I felt some relief that I wouldn’t have to watch more hair coming out. And the whole G.I. Jane look wasn’t too awful on me, much to my surprise.
But those good feelings were quickly erased as I started to find bald patches and could see my bare scalp through the buzz cut. About a week later, I grabbed the shaving cream, got into the bathtub and shaved it all the way down to nothing. The feelings that accompanied that were… not as pleasant.
Now I felt like a cancer patient. Now I knew everyone would be able to tell what was really going on with me. I felt sad and unattractive and sorry that I had only bought one wig that didn’t look very good.
Every time I was in public I felt people were looking. I went to the grocery store and the park and I felt eyes drawn towards me. Or maybe I imagined them. I don’t know.
A little girl knelt down to pet my dog at the park and stared up at my bald head she could see under my hat from her position on the ground. I tried to not let it bother me.
I went to the movies with a scarf on and felt singled out. No one else had a scarf on.
If you have ever wanted to feel completely and utterly alone, cancer and its treatment is seriously the way to go.
In some ways, I feel blessed that I have always been something of a loner. I never had an enormous group of girlfriends. I have always known plenty of people, but only have had a couple close friends stick around throughout the years (and I’ve found a few great new friends along the way). But I have always liked my privacy and living alone. I lived by myself in a tiny studio in Brooklyn and really liked it and have lived alone ever since. I always felt that I’d survive just fine if I didn’t have a boyfriend. I never enjoyed talking on the phone for hours at a time. I’ve sometimes avoided crowds and parties and social events just because I didn’t feel like it or was socially anxious. I’ve always been comfortable doing things by myself. And when a new guy came into my life, I was not relieved, I was appreciative and had fun, for the most part…although, tragically, when you’re alone a lot of the time, you’ll occasionally choose the wrong people to spend your time with.
Other loners, in particular, have always been appealing to me. Sometimes this is not such a great idea. Sometimes it is. I suppose it just depends on the person and their particular situation.
But in any case, I am glad that I have had some time to myself over the years…its helped me be relatively okay with my current state of affairs. I do feel a bit left out, because it’s summertime and beautiful outside. I feel especially sad that I’m not at the beach every day like last summer, trying my hand at surfing again and basking in the delicious rays (hello, skin cancer!).
Or that I’m not sitting around at happy hour having margaritas in the sunshine. Or going out to concerts and events in town. I know that I’m self conscious and maybe just shouldn’t care so much. But it’s hard not to. Its hard to not feel like the only person around who looks like walking death.
I’ve acquired a few more wigs and cute scarves, so it’s made me a little more confident. I have my two summertime straw hats that I wear. And sometimes, if I’m brave enough, I’ll go out without anything.
Since chemo I’ve been feeling really run down. Before they administered it, they checked me out and my red blood count was down and they considered me anemic, so I received a shot to amp things up. Administering the chemo itself was fairly easy on me and I went out for Indian food and wig shopping afterwards with my mom and boyfriend.
A week later, I went in for a check up and my white blood count had sunk dangerously low, which was somewhat expected because my doctor had decided to not do the Neulasta shot this time. My counts had been fairly high after the first chemo, and he thought maybe we could get by without it. It is hard to deal with the bone pain side effects that go along with it and if you can make it through without it and without your counts plummeting, then it’s great.
So we tried without this time and it obviously did not work out so well. Your normal blood count is usually somewhere between 4 and 10 and I was a little below 1. This is when you are classified “neutropenic” and are susceptible to viruses and other illnesses. They gave me an antibiotic to take for 10 days, and I have to be very careful with washing my hands and being in public and being around other sick people. I also shouldn’t eat raw fruits and veggies or anything that has bacteria that may be hard for my body to fight off.
I caught some kind of weird cold a couple days ago (after a visit to the movie theater) and my body’s temp had been near 100. I felt like complete dog shit and spent two days lying around my house. My appetite dropped off and all I wanted to do was sleep.
I have to call if it gets up around 101. But this morning I woke up feeling better and my temp was lower, so hopefully it is passing.
And in the wake of hearing bad news this week from a friend, I received some wonderful, happier news from a member of my family. Something I can’t reveal quite yet to the public, but will do in time/when I get permission. Its good to know that life can offer you blessings in times of grief and pain.
I’m hoping things keep looking up. I need some happiness and good times in my life.
I really, really do.