Saturday, May 19, 2012


Remember that night when you were 21 (okay, 18) and you drank way too many white Russians? Then you loudly professed your undying love to a cute boy in front of all of your friends, proceeded to fall into a number of hedges, and then spent much of the night and the next day hugging the toilet? Or was that just me?

After that night, the words "white Russian" probably made your stomach lurch. The idea of ever eating a perogi again was beyond your capacity. And most likely, walking near the house where the drinking started, and maybe into the cafeteria where the eating took place, took a bit of effort and a few deep breaths.

That is how I'm feeling right now about my chemo. Every other Thursday, they infuse white Russians directly into my body. They give me anti-nausea meds to prevent me from sitting next to the toilet for days afterwards, but my body still knows that it wants to get rid of the stuff at every moment. So every time I even think about chemo, my stomach lurches. I literally start gagging at the sight of the building where I have to go for my appointments. And sadly, everything that reminds me about my chemo and this breast cancer experience in general makes me a bit queasy.

That includes this blog. I have been meaning to write for a while with updates about my complete hair-loss, the drugs I'll be taking (both chemo and anti-nausea), the awesome visit from my sister Kathy, and generally how life is going. However, as I approach the computer, I think, "Yuck. I don't want to think about it. I'll go read or watch the kids or play Words With Friends."

So here's the general update:

Hair-Loss - If you're on Facebook, you've seen my bald head. It's not quite as baby's bottom smooth as it looks in the picture because the shaving took place with clippers (not shaving cream and a razor) so there is stubble in the places where there still would be hair. The stubble is still falling out, so maybe baby's bottom is in the near future. Still have my eyebrows and eyelashes, at least.

Anti-nausea Drugs - Each infusion, we've tried a new drug for my nausea. The first infusion, Atavan made me feel drunk and I didn't like feeling that way around the kids. Second infusion, we gave Compazine a go, but that made me so jittery that I couldn't focus or sleep. This past time, I tried Zofran, which I don't think did anything and I was more nauseous than the other times. For my next infusion, there's something new (I haven't picked it up from the pharmacy yet, so I don't remember the name), and my fingers are crossed that it might work.

Chemo Drugs - The adriamycin/cytoxan infusions that I get 4 times are 75% done. According to Dr. Kirshner and most of the people at the oncology clinic, this has been the heavy-duty part of my chemo. The taxol I'll receive for 12 straight weeks through June, July, and August is easier for most people to handle. It's in a lower dosage because it's done weekly, and I don't have to have the neulasta (that white blood cell increasing but bone-pain inducing medicine) while on taxol. However, Maggie told me that she doesn't want to make any promises. Some people do have a rough time with taxol. As much as I'm trying to just look toward that one more treatment of AC as a milestone I've reached, I am nervous that I'll be one of the unlucky ones on the taxol. Thinking positive isn't as easy as it used to be, but I'm trying.

Kathy's visit - I had the most relaxing week with Kathy here, and I totally needed it. As much as I can get myself up and about to take care of the girls by the fourth day after chemo, it was amazing not to have to. She did all of the Mommy things this week: driving to preschoool, swimming at the YMCA, playing at parks, and riding bikes outside. I got to read and nap, which was such a treat. Thanks, Kath!

Okay, I said more than I thought I would. In general, each AC treatment is more difficult, but I want to soldier on for the sake of the girls. If I physically can get out with them and make their lives normal, I will. We had a little third birthday party for Reese today, the weather's been nice and looks to be all week, and we're going to keep having fun until Thursday...

Wait, I just said the word "Thursday". I feel a little sick.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Hair Thing

I really, really, truly didn't think that losing my hair would bother me. I've never been that much of a fashionable person, totally don't have anywhere to be that my hair would matter, I am the first to explain that it's temporary, and the idea of not having anything to brush and just throwing on a hat appeals to me quite nicely.

However, I've been in quite a funk for the past week. My hair started falling out last weekend and I haven't really felt like posting since. My analysis is that there must be some deep seeded emotional attachment to controlling our appearance. I can still recite to you everything I listed above, but I just don't feel quite right about handfuls of hair coming out and it's kept me from blogging.

But before I go into the hair descriptions, let me back up a bit. The last time I posted was from my second chemo infusion. I was in bed that Thursday and then quite a bit through the weekend, just feeling weak and nauseous. Keeping in mind that I never liked being pregnant (no glowing, smiling, happy baby bump for me), I'd say that the first few days after a chemo treatment are worse than pregnancy but better than the flu. By Monday, I was able to be a Mommy while Paul went to work, although I sat on the couch and relied on Nick Jr. a lot more than the recommended allotment for preschoolers. Tuesday and Wednesday were back to normal routine and again, it was much like the yucky parts of being pregnant, where you're tired and a little queasy but make yourself keep going because what other choice do you have? By Thursday, I was physically back to normal and I'm so glad that my treatments are every other week, not every week.

However, even though I was feeling fine by Thursday and still am, the hair thing really has me in a funk. Okay, maybe it's not just the hair. The idea of having cancer isn't so pleasant, either. But this week has been much more blah for me than any other one since my mastectomy, so I have to think the hair plays into it. So here's the deal.

Last Saturday night, I noticed a few hairs and curiously pinched a little hair on my head. With no effort or pain at all, a group of strands came out. On Sunday morning, my pillow had a bunch of hair, and I could pinch groups of hair from anywhere on my head and have them come out. The books say "clumps" of hair, but I wouldn't call it that. I think it's more like shedding, where if I pinch 50 hairs, 10 of them may stay on my fingers painlessly. I don't have to pull and don't feel them coming out of the scalp. They're just waiting for me to pick them up and take them off.

Seeing all of these 6-8 inch long hairs around made me think of the nightmare of cleaning them up. There are about 100,000 hairs on a human head, and I couldn't imagine that much hair all over the house. So I told the girls to get their scissors and we'd take this into our hands. Ready? Go.

This looks fun, right? They lost interest after about 5 minutes and then went to play while Paul finished the job. Although I didn't have a definite plan at the beginning, we ended up using the clippers to leave about 1 inch of hair all over my head for now.

I know, I know. It looks fine. Still me. I did ponytails for years anyhow. Blah blah. However, it's not done. I have literally hundreds of 1 inch long hairs coming out every day, all over the house and all over Manlius. It's easier to clean up than if I'd left it longer (like a pet shedding now), but this is not the look I get to keep. I was hoping to have a few weeks of this, but look what I found this morning:

Those are bald spots. And I refuse to try to comb-over for long. Paul pointed out that they're on my temples, where hair would recede first on anyone, but I'm used to my thick hair giving no scalp-peeks at all. So, it's time to shave. During the week, I called a local salon that does free head shavings for chemo patients, and they said that when I'm ready, they can work me in within a day or two with a private room and everything. (I don't need the private room, but I do want the girls there to see it so they don't freak out at bald Mommy.) But darn-it, the bald spots showed up on a Saturday. I was in denial all day, and by the time I showed them to Paul and he confirmed that they are there, the salon was closed and they're not open Sundays or Mondays, so I'll have to wait until mid-week for the shave. I may have to do some hats beforehand.

A couple good news things, though. My head really doesn't feel the sensitivity that I'd been warned about, so I won't have to double layer through the summer. Also, once my hair starts growing back, I know that it'll only take a few centimeters of growth and I'll look the same as I do now.

I'll post again after the shave. Hopefully, I can keep myself from falling into one of these funks again for a while, but if anyone deserves a few days of feeling bummed, I guess it's someone dealing with cancer.