Friday, December 16, 2011

A Brief but Unpleasant Disappearance

In spite of a rough Round One of chemotherapy, Rick and I decided to proceed with our plans to visit Tucson for a week this month. We are trying to make decisions in favor of living our lives instead of in favor of fear. That might sound all spiritually evolved, but for a while there I was pretty sure we'd made the wrong decision.

On the morning of our departure – a week after Round Two – I woke up puny and went downhill. We had a 14-hour day of flying and driving, and while I wasn't exactly in pain – except for the mouth sores, which made my daily 2,869,421 pills quite a chore – I was beyond exhausted. Like a wet kleenex. I couldn't get up or move around or hydrate or anything. It was like death, but with nausea. I couldn't even read, and you know I'm down way, way low if I can't read. Sitting idle without reading is a thing I never do in real life, because it is unbearable. But sit and lie idle I did, for about 48 hours.

Exhaustion may actually be a good sign, because apparently tumor lysis (the metabolism of dead cancer cells) is very, very hard work for the body (so says my son, the student of cellular biology). If I was that wrung out, there may have been a lot of dead cancer cells to metabolize. At the time, though, I was just convinced they were killing me with their medical treatment. I was gone. I had no physical presence, and I had no personality. On paper that sounds kinda peaceful and Zen, but it really wasn't. It was awful.

I knew I was perking up yesterday morning when, while sitting idle in the car, I found myself reading the air-bag warning on the sun visor. You know how it's printed in both English and French. The French word for “injured” is blessés, which looks like it should mean “blessed.” By contrast, the word for “seat” is siège, which looks like it should mean “siege.” Children may be gravely blessed by air bags. A siege of children should always be rear-facing.

Personality reappearing. I am still alive.

Friday, December 9, 2011

No one told me about the wind-tunnel phases of hair loss.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Hair Out of Place

When Rick got home from work yesterday I pointed out that Ducks linebacker Michael Clay used to be a deep snapper, but is no longer. Rick had to wonder what had gotten into me, reading the sports page like that. Well – I didn't read it on purpose.

Everybody knows you lose your hair when you get chemotherapy, but the precise trajectory of hair loss isn't one we usually dwell on. Hair doesn't fall out all at once like leaves from a cartoon tree. You start to shed a few hairs at a time, like a cat. Pretty soon there are individual strands everywhere, but still, you can see that if you let it go on like this the process is going to take months. So you comb your fingers through your hair, and you get it to come out by the fingersful. It sounds horrifying – okay, it is sort of horrifying – but I've made a little project of it, combing over my scalp a few times a day with my fingers and taking out as much at a time as I can. It doesn't hurt. But you wouldn't want all that hair going down the sink. So I've been setting the sports page in the basin to catch my sheddings. And, well, in the process I couldn't help reading what was printed there, the way you can't help reading street signs and cereal boxes. I'm sorry, Michael Clay. Maybe I should start eliminating my chemo-stunned tresses into a copy of War and Peace.