Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Memorable Me

At least I had a clean pair of gowns today.
I take pride in coming up with new and unusual side effects of my treatment - especially useful for stumping my doctors.  I feel like I'll be harder to forget if I'm the first/only patient to ever report _______.  In this case, I have observed a weird sensation (almost like pins and needles) in the back of my head that happens everytime I swallow anything thicker than, say, applesauce.  At first, I though I had an itch that wouldn't go away, until I tuned into the feeling and noticed it was only when I pushed food to the back of my throat to be swallowed.  I'm sure you have lots of questions about this (or perhaps you have none at all, thinking rather, what is wrong with this girl?); I will try to preemptively answer them for you.

No, I don't get the feeling when I swallow saliva, but I do if I take a too big gulp of water (or any other liquid).  Yes, this does affect my eating habits (not to mention frustrate me and make me cranky) and I have lost a few pounds since last week.  I was told by Dr. H today to eat.  He is not concerned about this weird back of head sensation, rather he thinks the irritation to my throat from the radiation is manifesting itself in this way (I don't have a terrible sore throat, but just mainly I don't feel like reading bedtime stories, singing songs or having long telephone conversations).

Hmm...  I wonder what kind of help they mean..
I have developed a lovely red rectangle on my chest, over the biotch of a tumor that is being zapped.  The doctors say (hooray!) this will only get redder and more painful over the next two weeks (similar to a sunburn).  I also have a similar shape on my back (since I get treated on both sides of my body), which Dan is taking care of for me with some special "reconstructive cancer cream" upon request.

Ah, radiation.  While my experience has been, well, bizarre in a sci-fi-star-trek-medicine way, I've at least been able to laugh here and there.  Like when my locker broke, with all of my belongings and warm clothes inside, and I had to wait for the heroic hospital maintenance guy to come and rescue me.  Or when I put on a gown with boogie stains (it sure looks like boogies).  Or when the radiation tech tugging me into position reveals she's pregnant.  Okay, well maybe it hasn't been all giggles.  But I do genuinely like my doctors and I appreciate the time they spend with me, never rushing me, always making me feel like a VIP.

In other news today, I met my students for a short field trip at the Barnes Foundation in Merion.  I had never been there before (due to the need for purchasing timed tickets way in advance), so it was amazing for me to take it all in.  For those of you who have also never visited the space, please check out their website for a complete description.  Basically it's the most incredible collection of art housed in such a (relatively) small space.  The foundation was meant to be an educational collection (which it is) as opposed to a museum, however, for many of my students, it was a first exposure to historical (and extremely valuable) art.  It was a fantastic distraction for me to see up close and personal all of the Matisses, Rousseaus, Renoirs, El Grecos, etc. - all of which had absolutely NOTHING to do with cancer!!  Sigh.  And THANK YOU ROBYN!

The art was obviously a highlight.  But seeing my kids was a total ego boost.  They did not know I was coming, so it was fabulous to see the excitement in their faces when we saw each other as they got off the bus.  I opted to go hatless (indoors, of course), as I would say there is finally a fairly uniform follicular covering at this point.  When we went downstairs to hang up our jackets and I removed my hat for the big reveal, the kids all clapped and cheered - my personal equivalent of being lifted onto shoulders and passed around after a big win.  After hugs and small bits of news were exchanged, of course, they asked about my return to school with eyes full of hope.  I explained that I still am having treatment every day and so I won't be back until after Christmas, probably not until February (when hopefully I will have enough energy to tackle 32 9 & 10 year olds for 7 hours each day, plus plans, grading, etc.).  They were disappointed, but happy enough to have me there with them to overlook it.  It's nice to know they miss me as much as I miss them.


I haven't been in the greatest of spirits lately.  Visiting the hospital on a daily basis, feeling tired and reminded of my illness is (kinda) depressing.  Not being able to take comfort in delicious foods is irritating.  And don't get me started on my time(s) of the month.  Sorry, Dan.

Looking back on 2010 and wondering where the past 7 months went (not to mention the 18 months prior to that) is mind blowing.  Looking ahead to 2011 and wondering how I'll get through the 3 months I must wait until my next scan is terrifying.  Have I mentioned yet how I detest uncertainty?  Hell, I don't even like to listen to a cd unless I have the cover to tell me the order of the upcoming songs.  This whole cancer crap was never in my plans and lately I've been feeling pretty damn pissed that it was pushed onto my plate without my permission.  It's just not fair.

Yes, I know that this line of thinking is normal.  And also, yes, I know it doesn't get me anywhere.  That kind of hakuna matata rationalization does not make me feel better.  The whole "everything happens for a reason" is very easy to say when everything doesn't happen to you.  I'm mad that so much attention has revolved around me - and not because I discovered a way to time travel, or solved our country's budget crisis, or won a Tony for my legendary portrayal of Eponine Thenardier in Les Mis - because I'm sick.  My child still asks about my boo boo every day and isn't ready to say goodnight until he's given me 24 kisses.  "Stay," he says.  I still cry at the thought of not being able to have another baby (side note: I have stumbled upon a most awesome in/fertility blog in my internet travels: So Close for anyone who is interested in the deepest darkest thoughts of someone struggling to bring children into her family).  Basically, cancer sucks.


I'm so fancy!
That being said, I left radiation on a high note today.  Some mysterious friend (although I have a few ideas of who it could be) sponsored a Tibetan prayer flag in my honor through the organization Radiating Hope.  This is the very rad non-profit run by one of my doctors (Dr. F) at Abington.  The group has multiple missions: to climb mountains in honor of cancer patients as well as to raise money to bring radiation equipment and treatment to developing countries.  Supercool.  So Dr. F presented me with a fancy certificate (with my name on it!!  anyone who truly knows me already knows how fun this is) and a teeny bit of renewed hope.

Finally, a big shout out to the incredible helping hands that jumped at the chance to help us out with dinners again.  The next few weeks filled up in the blink of an eye (which is SO helpful).  I cannot tell a lie - you guys can really cook.  I can't wait for the kitchen to be done and my mojo to return so we can pay it forward.



  1. Radiating Hope! Nothing could say it better-- 2011 will be a very different--and better-- year!Nothing could be clearer in the Turkish coffee cup (ask your mom about this phenom.)

    Given the state of your digestive system, should granola shipments be put on hold? There are four other flavors as well as famed Blue Bottle coffee beans. Check out the One Planet website and let us know... All homemade with Rana's love.

  2. I am so glad that you joined us at the Barnes Foundation on Tuesday. Your students were thrilled to see you and were just super that day!

    Thank you for sharing your blog! I think you are an amazing person!
    Here's to a happy and healthy 2011!!