Tuesday, 25 October 2011


A half-mile walk to the hair dresser's shop on a warm fall day. The leaves are flaming red and gold against the remaining green of summer and the air is fresh. I start out at a reasonably jaunty pace but hit a smallish hill towards my destination and suddenly my body becomes leaden. I'm not otherwise tired at all. I'm in good spirits. It's just that my body wants to stop. Now.

This is the third to fourth day-in fatigue I've been warned about. I straggle into the salon, where Sandy carefully buzzes what's left of my hair down to a quarter inch. I look in the mirror - and I can't help thinking of concentration camps. Except that in my case, I have the steroid Moon-face and the fake "healthy" blush that goes with it. Weird as it is to see myself this far from totally bald, I decide I prefer it to the inch of hair she's cut off.

I plod home and for a while, I don't put on a scarf or hat. I look in the mirror, trying to adjust all over again to a new face.  My sister has gone to pick up her mother, who has just arrived from Toronto ( &who is close enough in age to me to be a friend, rather than a "step-mother"). I decide that bald is not the first thing I want her to see, so I slap on the silver Kim Novak wig. While I wait for them to get back, I make a pasta sauce and salad and it occurs to me that I'm dithering around a little aimlessly. Clumsier than usual...slower and foggier than usual. Chemo fog.

The chemo, as I've told you, was, subjectively, a pretty benign experience. But there are after-effects. For one thing, a medication with the sprightly name, "Zofran" causes everything you eat to turn into cement. I'm drinking two to three quarts of water a day and downing remedies...but no, cement it is. Pardon my over-sharing. But if you have to go through this, you should know. I hate the effect, but I'm grateful. One of my chemo drugs, Cisplatin, used to make patients so violently ill that nurses used to call it "Cisflatten." One of my nurses told me that it was a miracle when they found the right combination to stop that from happening. I'll take her word because I can actually sleep peacefully and read during treatment - which is SO different from my fear of being ill during the whole procedure.

I'm reading, "The Emperor of all Maladies" right now. A "biography" of Cancer that won a Pullitzer Prize. Much as I'm not enjoying some of the side-effects of treatment, there's a part of me that finds the science, much as I can follow it, fascinating. And I worked in a library for years. That makes research a bit like breathing. I have to know things.  I've learned how lucky I am not to have had this in, say...1985. My nurse says, "You're lucky you didn't have it in 1995." Treatment has come a long way.

I've also learned that each of those Chernobylish bags dripping into my arm during treatment are worth $2,000. And they have a very short shelf life.

I'm relieved at the good fortune of being born in Canada. When I think of the MRIs, the CAT and PET scans, the X-rays, the chemo drugs, the hospital time and eight hours of brain surgery - I wonder what would have happened to me had I been in a country without medicare. There are still expenses, of course - and the income loss - but I'm grateful to Tommy Douglas, who fought for universal health care back-when.

This is just a little catch-up for all you kind friends who've been following along. I'm doing more or less okay. And I've stopped crying over my cat. Now I think of him with great fondness and it makes me smile to know that he's won Jan over. Her husband laughs watching him follow her everywhere in the house. This means he's smitten with her too. I breathe so much easier knowing that he's got a good home.

And really, I have a feeling that dealing with myself for the next six months is going to be enough for me to handle... But rest assured, I'm a cranky old broad - and I'm not going anywhere!

Love to all. 


Pat Barber said...

I for one am dern glad you're a cranky old broad! That and your soaring spirit will get you through, and we'll all be here cheering for you. Yeah, the after-affects totally suck. You can handle it though. And when you can't or don't think you can - well, just keep reaching out for us and we'll reach right back!

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

I'm grateful that you are Canadian, too - wish my country had the sense to realize that medical care is at least as necessary as defense spending.

*Cindy finishes the political rant in her own mind*

Here's hoping that any unpleasant side effects are minimal and pass quickly.

Howpublic said...

I'm glad I don't have to be so "brave" that I think the after-effects don't suck. But I'm still pretty lucky...I'd expected worse.
Now I can start worrying about the period when I have zero immune system! Thanks for the reach, Pat.

Cindy...Were I an American, the rant would be FAR more out of control!!!