Update #19 — wow, has it really been that many, this long? The numbers have begun to escape me, and it was the nurse yesterday who figured out that I’m halfway through the Taxol segment, 3/4 of the way through chemotherapy. Already? And *still* going on?
The two Anna’s hummingbirds continue to visit. We’ve named the second one Teapot because it’s short and fat, like the vessel in the children’s song, “I’m a Little Teapot.” So now we have Robin Hood and his sidekick…. Teapot.
Since I felt energetic this morning (still the steroid high) and the rain let up, I did some yardwork, and it felt wonderful to be out there in some sunshine (though I may regret this activity later). I used to wonder why my mother enjoyed — no, thrived — on yardwork, when as a child I wondered just how many times you had to rake a yard in the fall. (At least we got the reward of roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the burning piles in the outdoor fireplace, back when you could burn leaves.) With my situation now, being outdoors has taken on even greater meaning — all that green life out there, and the clear air. I took off my hat and let the breeze blow through the peach fuzz on my head.
The Popsicle Report: The Popsicle wizard has been looking out for me this week. When I peeked in the freezer at the infusion center, I counted FOUR boxes of the tastiest Popsicles, the boxes that harbor my favorite flavor. This time, I thought I’d be adventurous and try a new flavor: blueberry-strawberry. Very good, but the blueberry-lemon is still best so far.
The infusion center was a busy place yesterday, with a couple of patients going through their first rounds of chemicals and getting the initiation talk from the nurse and the Cancer Society rep. Listening to the routine made me feel like a veteran. Already? There are far too many of us traveling this road.
The white cell count is a healthy 6.7 with one shot of the Neupogen last week, so we’ll stick with the routine of one booster a week, which should help keep me swine-flu free. That’s a good thing, since since the vaccine is nowhere to be found here for us regular folk. The red cell count continues its slow downward trend, but I seem to be adjusting OK as long as I don’t do too much.
So while I had my imitation Palmolive finger soak (thankfully no neuropathy as yet), I listened again to my iPod:
- Jazz duets by Itzhak Perlman and Oscar Peterson
- The Squirrel Nut Zippers, who hit the charts about a decade ago with their lively swing-style music (good for dancing, in my mind, at least, if I can’t do it while I’m soaking my fingers)
- The mellow trombone of Tommy Dorsey
- Some Bruce Hornsby (who gave up basketball for jazz piano)
- Melissa Etheridge (another survivor of breast cancer who quit the Taxol part of her regimen because of neuropathy. Tough to play a guitar when you can’t feel your fingers.)
- Just for fun: Elvis’ Blue Suede Shoes, Ricky Martin (also good for dancing), Leon Redbone, Blondie, and the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo, who also hit the charts about a decade ago with their CD of Gregorian chant.
- And finally, more Paul Simon, in “Cool, Cool River,” singing this heartbreaking lyric: “Sometimes, even music cannot substitute for tears.”
While I listen to music, some people use visualization during their infusions to help their healing along. In one of his books, Dr. Bernie Siegel describes images his patients described. One person imagined the white cells as sharks preying on cancer cells. Others imagined polar bears or laser light, and a little boy said his were white cats pursuing the “cat food” cancer cells. A friend said she was told to think of stomping out the cancer cells with stiletto heels, while someone else imagined the chemo drugs as white knights on horses, doing their heroic battle with the cells (and winning, of course!).
This week, it was hard to miss the news from the government task force that released its guidelines on mammograms, guidelines that starkly contradict the recommendations from the American Cancer Society and practically all other breast cancer organizations (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091117/ap_on_he_me/us_med_mammogram_advice).
These guidelines made my blood, and all its resident chemicals, boil. And then I remembered: the mammograms didn’t work for me anyway, so the new recommendation about starting mammograms at 50 would have made no difference in my case. It does, however, make a difference for those women whose disease would be caught by mammograms during their 40s, and though the task force doesn’t think this number is significant, I suspect it would make a huge difference to the women whose lives would be affected. As I’ve commented before, mammograms aren’t always effective, but it’s better than nothing, which is what these guidelines seem to recommend, even saying self-exams are of no use. Gee, nothing like the feeling of being a sitting duck. Given that so many women are affected by breast cancer (the popular statistic says 1 in 8, but that’s over a lifespan of 85 years), you’d think the government could come up with a better recommendation, perhaps even start looking into better methods for early detection.
OK, off my soapbox now.
In my continuing play with headwraps, I tried a public experiment a couple weeks ago. At night, after I’ve donned my pajamas, rather than put on another hat or scarf, I usually take my black shawl and wrap it around my head and shoulders, in the Middle Eastern style of the hijab. It supplies a surprising amount of warmth and privacy, if wrapped well. One morning, I met a friend for breakfast in a very public setting, the local I-Hop, and I decided to wear the hijab, wondering if there would be any reaction since it was the day after the awful shooting at Ft. Hood. In all the time we sat and chatted, not one person stared, commented, or seemed disturbed by my appearance. Who knew that a non-event could be so heartening.
It was also heartening to find a poem that reflects my desire to be in a different situation. Apparently even characters from fiction have that wish:
Fictional Characters, by Danusha Lameris
(published in The Sun magazine, November 2009)
Do they ever want to escape?
Climb out of the curved white pages
and enter our world?
Holden Caulfield slipping in the side door
of the movie theater to catch the two o’clock.
Anna Karenina sitting in the local diner,
reading the paper as the waitress
in a bright green uniform
serves up a cheeseburger and a Coke.
Even Hector, on break from the Iliad,
takes a stroll through the park,
admires a fresh bed of tulips.
Who knows? Maybe
they were growing tired
of the author’s mind,
all its twists and turns,
or they were finally weary
of stumbling around Pamplona,
a bottle in each fist,
eating lotuses on the banks of the Nile.
Perhaps it was just too hot
in the small California town
where they’d been written into
a lifetime of plowing fields.
Whatever the reason, here they are,
content to spend the day
roaming the city streets, rain falling
on their phantasmal shoulders,
enjoying the bustle of the crowd.
Wouldn’t you, if you could?
Step out of your own story
to lean for an afternoon against the doorway
of the five-and-dime, sipping your coffee,
your life somewhere far behind you,
all its heat and toil nothing but a tale
resting in the hands of a stranger,
the dingy sidewalk ahead wet and glistening.
Though we may not be able to step out of our lives like these characters, we can at least dance. This group, especially the guy with the mop, makes me like the color pink again: