So once again I think I spoke too soon in the last blog. I said that this chemo round was easier. In a way, it's true--I have been sleeping, so that is a huge improvement. But this time I feel like it hit me like a truck, starting on Saturday. I was so shaky and weak that I was having trouble feeding Augie his lunch. Yesterday I was so tired I fell asleep around 10 am and couldn't get out of bed until after noon, even though I was technically awake.
I haven't been a total recluse. We had a bunch of company on Saturday, including friends whom I haven't seen since months b.c. (before cancer). Kudos to them for not even flinching at my baldness. I went to a kids' birthday party yesterday, and I did wear a wig in order to appease Lenny. I hadn't put one on since last Tuesday, and it felt hot and annoying to me. Today when I walked her to school I just wore a scarf. It's hard to balance the desire to make things easier for my child with the need to make things easier for myself. She wants me to be normal, to look normal, but the thing is, right now I'm not. It can be tiring to pretend. So it's possible that I spent a hell of a lot of money on wigs for nothing, but I need to know that blending in is possible, if I need it, I guess. And I've still got the stubble, so I can rock this edgy look a little while longer and strangers could believe I did it on purpose.
So I have left the house, and I have continued to take walks and try to get some exercise. But damn. Chemo #2 is kicking my ass. I think a lot of this fatigue for me has to do with my problems eating. I am just never hungry. Food--one of my favorite things in life!--has just lost its appeal. I know I need to eat to maintain strength and build up my immunity, but man, is it hard. My mouth and throat are so dry, I have terrible heartburn, I am definitely constipated this time, I feel nauseous and my stomach hurts. Just a few weeks ago I was that girl who was already thinking about lunch at 9:30 in the morning. I would have dreams about Sunday breakfasts. I loved to bake, right? Now I can't even be on the same floor as my family when they're microwaving lasagna for dinner because the smell makes me want to vomit. If I drink water, I feel so full I want to lie down. It's pathetic.
So food has kind of taken over my life here. What should I eat? When? How can I drink all of this water when that fills me up and then I don't want to eat anything? If I choose to eat rather than drink, how can I avoid being dehydrated? When will this metallic taste in my mouth go away?
Why the hell am I doing chemo again?
My consumption patterns are laughable. Last night all I wanted was some frosted flakes. Now I don't even normally LIKE frosted flakes. Who knows why I wanted that. But I knew that wasn't the best nutrition for me, so what did I eat first? A bowl of fresh spinach. Spinach and frosted flakes for dinner. Why not? I eat pudding and ice cream for calories, but I'm sure that doesn't help the constipation problem.
I will be astounded if anyone actually wants to read this blog, but I'm putting it out there because it's worth saying how fast chemo takes over your body. It hasn't even been three weeks and I feel like a totally different person--a sick person. When I had cancer in my body I could still do everything normally. Now the cancer's out and I'm getting this "just in case" medicine and I can barely sit here to write.
During chemo, there was a little party going on in my room last week. In addition to a social worker (who actually was useful as she brought some age-appropriate activity books for Lenny to explore her feelings about my cancer), two dieticians came to visit me. They were concerned that I'd lost almost 5 pounds in a week and were trying to tell me that my diet was ok (fruit, cereal, hummus, rice, peanut butter) but that I need more calories. Apparently it's bad to lose weight on chemo. Well, maybe once this menopause kicks in I'll start gaining! Hell if I know.
They were less worried about me when they found out I had diarrhea--so that's why you lost weight! Well, what's my excuse now? I was depressed to see myself weighing 112 this morning, after eating breakfast. It's funny--I thought it was great to see how the numbers on the scale went down after Augie was born. Even after I had stopped trying to lose weight, it was kind of fun to see myself down to 118, a weight I hadn't been since a teenager probably. I stayed at that weight for months, including after my diagnosis--except for the first few weeks when I dropped a couple of pounds due to the extreme stress of thinking I would die. I gained it back, and started out chemo at that weight. Skinny, but I felt fine. However, this is too much. I mean, I'm going to be 35 years old! I have two kids! I'm not short! I need to get a little more meat on me somehow, especially now that I'm bald--I really will start looking like a boy. Feel free to disagree with me on that if you've seen me lately, but I'm sure feeling that way. When I was a kid and I went through an extreme tomboy phase, I tried so hard to look like a boy, and it didn't really work. Enter chemo! Sigh.
Plus, even if I look like a boy, I need to get through chemo, right? I need to have some energy and stay out of the hospital. I hate feeling like I can't be a decent mom, a normal wife, a reliable co-worker. I'm afraid I'll drop Augie since I'm so shaky. I can't eat dinner with my family half the time due to my smell-aversions. I'm working from home today because I didn't know if I would make it to the train. Affection between me and Gabe consists of a few kisses and maybe spooning for 10 minutes. It's hard to have prolonged conversations.
And worst of all I've turned into such a complainer! I don't like reading back on this litany of chemo complaints, but it's better than keeping them all in my head I suppose. This is the one time when the words "strength" and "courage" mean anything to me. I'm not alone in feeling that those words are meaningless when you have a cancer diagnosis. You aren't given lots of choices, so your pluck is kind of irrelevant. As I've said before, attitude isn't what saves people, because if it was, a lot of amazing people would still be around who aren't.
However, it never occurred to me what strength and maybe stubbornness are involved in actually going through cancer treatment. If I actually show up for the rest of my a/c treatments, that's courage. Or stupidity, or something. Because it is damn hard to make yourself do that. And then, I will need to start a whole new type of chemo, with a whole host of different side effects, once I'm done. And THEN I'll do radiation. I just keep thinking: 85% chance of no recurrence due to successful surgery. Chemo only brings it up 10%, radiation 4% or something. All together it puts me close to normal, but I have to lose so much normal to get there, that the only way to do it is to just close your mind to the reality of what you're doing to yourself and just go. Because someone told you that was your only option. Because you want to live more badly than you want to live well. And for me, because once 2010 is over, I will have the chance to probably live like a normal person, albeit with fear, and some lingering side effects, and the memory of the things that cancer took from me. It is amazing to me to think about the people who go through this knowing their cancer will not go away, who do this for palliative reasons. That is some strength I don't think I have. If I do, I would really, really, rather never find out.