Thrill a minute

The dirty little secret about being sick is that it’s a bit like war: long stretches of boredom punctuated by periods of abject terror.

I’m in a boring period. It’s day six since the first chemotherapy and I’m still nauseated. I seem to be a champion at nausea. Ask anyone who knew me when I was pregnant. I keep thinking that I can go without those three anti-nausea drugs until I realize that I absolutely cannot. The husband and the kid scold me for trying. “Mom! You just had chemotherapy! The nurses said not to be tough!” But I’d just like to have a week or 10 days of normalcy before November 18 and the next go-round. Thanksgiving is coming. I’ve got stock and pie crust to make. There are bread cubes to dry. Old habits die hard. We are NOT having Stove Top stuffing for Thanksgiving.

I am still tired. Normally, it’s a challenge for me to sit still for five minutes. Yesterday, I barely moved from the couch. I tried reading, but that was too tiring. So I listened to an audiobook for most of the day, Bill Bryson’s new history of private life. It’s a funny thing to sprawl like a slug and listen to how difficult it was to make candles or do laundry 100 years ago.

My bowels are still doing flip flops. Haven’t had this much GI excitement since I ate fiery beef salad on a Thai train several decades ago.

My hair is still dirty. Yes, I want to keep it. Yes, I understand that even with the cold cap, I’ve got to be very gentle with my hair follicles. But I’ve always had an oily scalp. I think today’s the day for washing that gunk right out of my hair.

The anti-nausea meds have kicked in. Time to hit the shower. It’s an exciting life.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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4 Responses to Thrill a minute

  1. Catherine says:

    Heather, dear, I’m sorry you’re still feeling sick. Have you been able to keep anything down? If you are dehydrated (even slightly), call your chemo nurse and go in for fluids tomorrow–don’t wait–you will feel SO much better, I promise. I started doing this a week after every tx, and it really helped. You will feel better next week–I promise that, too; and by the third week, you’ll feel almost normal. This first week is the worst.

    I couldn’t read either. Got the NY Times easy-to-medium-difficulty crossword puzzle books, and I could focus on those for a period of time between naps. At least I felt like I was accomplishing SOMETHING, lol.

    Frankly, no one can tell you what it’s really like to go through chemo. All we can do is tell you that it sucks, but you’ll get through it.

    • leftbreast says:

      Catherine –
      I can keep stuff down, just that not much sounds good. Stomach is almost always upset and I have NO energy. Have had a few bouts of the runs, but don’t think I’m dehydrated. Just WIPED. I know I’ll get through it, but I feel unproductive in the extreme.

  2. Diane says:

    Dear Heather,
    I’m coming up on my 4 year anniversary since being diagnosed and life is great and cancer free. All the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation is behind me and it feels like it all happened to someone else. I hope it will be the same for you. I too was diagnosed at age 47 and my children were 5 and 7. I still remember how scary the diagnosis was. Give into your body -lounge on the couch, watch your favorite movies and eat Hagen Daz chocolate chocolate chip ice cream (I did). When else do we get the chance to do this without feeling guilty. I too felt nausea after my first chemo but for the second round my oncologist gave me a wonderful drug called emend. Surround yourself with family and friends and keep a positive attitude and give into your body. You’ll have time to run around when you are done with your treatment and that time will be here before you know it.
    You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers,

    • leftbreast says:

      Diane – My ice cream of choice right now is pumpkin, but I’m trying to just accept that I can’t do everything. I did have Emend this go round. Can’t believe how expensive it is, but thank God for it. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

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