Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The List (Volume 1)

Behold. It is Day 7, my eyes are open and I'm writing. After a trip to the doctor's office yesterday for hydration, I graced the nurses with my presence yet again today, due to a sore throat. Don't know if it's just sores from the adriamycin (yet another fun side effect) or a viral infection, but I got some extra fluids, a percocet and an anti-viral prescription just to be on the safe side.

Having survived 2 round trips on the Blue Route in 2 days (including Dukey Day 7), I could not resist writing this list. Mostly, it's just a lot of thoughts that have been running through my head, but I wanted to get them down before they were just fleeting memories. I have a good history with lists, considering when I was in college, I compiled the 257 most important qualities I was looking for in a man. To this day, I swear Dan checks off at least 200 of them.

So here goes. Get comfy. Here are 70 (or so) of the most important things I've learned about having cancer, dealing with treatment, and life in general in the past few months (please excuse the lack of capitalization and proper punctuation - it IS Day 7, after all):

1. always ask for the freezing spray
2. if it’s not a thunderstorm or the high school marching band disturbing your afternoon nap, it will most certainly be screaming sirens, landscapers or burly tree men using an excruciatingly loud mulching machine (or a combination of them all)
3. most of modern medicine is comprised of guesswork
4. your mouth and your stomach won’t always agree
5. you are the only person inside your body, aka the doctors and nurses cannot read your mind, so speak up
6. try not to kill your husband – it’s much harder to do this alone
7. the only person who moves fast enough is your mother
8. get a port. you might need your veins again some day.
9. ask for a 3 2 1 countdown before being stabbed with a needle of any type
10. painkillers were invented for a reason. use them (you know, in moderation)
11. when in doubt, call (or write to) a sick person. if they don’t want to talk, they won’t answer the phone. it’s better to have called and left a message than to leave a person feeling lonely.
12. other peoples’ cooking can be as good as your own (or better)
13. sometimes you have to just leave the house to let the merry maids do their work
14. it’s okay to proclaim your love for a cleaning lady
15. we must get more scientists working on a faster, less invasive traveling method than driving a car. are we really that far off from being beamed somewhere?
16. dr’s offices and hospitals are a lot like movie theatres. get there early to get a good seat, wait around for a while, and bring a jacket.
17. iphone (or some gadget of the like) is essential.
18. having your own conversations with medical professionals about managing your bowels is acceptable, but listening to others’ is not.
19. MYOB (old meaning: mind your own business) new meaning: make your own blanket. use bright colors and cheerful patterns with objects like bicycles and fireworks printed on them.
20. BYOB: bring your own blanket (the crappy tissue- thin ones at the dr’s office will not keep you cozy and warm)
21. keep a good pillow in the car at all times in case of emergency. your head can get awful heavy.
22. cancer sucks.
23. chemo brain can be contagious.
24. some pills are good. too many pills are bad.
25. sensitive in spirit equals sensitive in body.
26. appreciate every day you can walk to the toilet on your own/don’t feel like you want to hurl/can drive to target/can put your kid to bed
27. a card sent in the mail really can cheer someone up.
28. not every woman with cancer has breast cancer. not that I’m complaining, but where are all the lymphoma stories?
29. after chemo, giving birth doesn’t seem so bad.
30. online shopping goooood.
31. some days you just want to forget about cancer completely.
32. it can be liberating to show a smoker your baldness (especially as he tosses a match out the window of his car).
33. cancer can happen to anyone. even me or you.
34. your child can get through this too. and be your biggest source of joy and pride.
35. crying is definitely allowed, even if it contributes to being dehydrated.
36. prednisone can make you edgy. hee hee.
37. your life can change in an instant, when you least expect it (but try not to expect it)
38. don’t forget to eat.
39. taco bell can taste good, look bad, feel worse.
40. it’s worth doing chicken parm taste tests.
41. have a big freezer. people are generous.
42. sing opera while getting injections. it makes it burn less.
43. guided imagery can actually reduce your pain.
44. people need people – why try to do this alone?
45. some days you will want plain chips, some days are for ridges.
46. gear up for treatment days by listening to music that makes you want to karate chop things. at least you’ll smile as you’re falling asleep.
47. use glitter on your cheeks, reapply as needed.
48. try to wear reflective jewelry whenever possible. you will need all the sparkle you can get.
49. silence is underrated
50. yes, that noise came from my stomach.
51. it helps to have a doctor with kind eyes.
52. wear things that make you happy, like purple tie dye and sparkly nail polish.
53. make nice with your pharmacist
54. close your eyes when they lay out all of the materials for putting needles in your body (you’re better off just not seeing the size of that sucker)
55. one must try to ignore other peoples’ trivial complaints about their small, na├»ve lives, untouched by crisis. the truth is they just don’t know.
56. I am truly loved. glad I found out sooner rather than later.
57. there’s no replacement for a good spot to lay your head.
58. antibiotics cause diarrhea, absolutely everything else makes you constipated.
59. shampoo commercials are not made to intentionally make you feel bad about your lack of hair.
60. hair loss only occurs in some places. speaking of which, why do I still need to shave my legs when I don’t need a hairbrush?
61. TGFLD (thank goodness for lemon drops)
62. the insured are the lucky ones.
63. all cancer survivors deserve free vacations to faraway islands- family members, cabanas and beach toys included.
64. bras are optional (it’s okay to opt out)
65. don’t fire your mother even when you’ve asked (3 times) for decaf tea and she gives you caf.
66. it is possible to have a wild assortment of iphone apps simultaneously: ichemo diary, p tracker, taco bell locator and craigslist pro.
67. hold your nose when they flush your port. there is a smell you will never forget all your live long days.
68. try not to put EVERYTHING else in your life on hold while you go through treatment (as in: now is a great time to remodel your kitchen or buy a new used car!)
69. don’t overdo it (most doctors, while very intelligent, do not know what kind of energy is required to teach/manage/inspire 34 nine year olds in a classroom or that when you work in public education it’s not possible to take a half day every day)
70. it IS okay to call the doctor (love that super secret phone number) about every little thing. it’s the not calling that can get you into trouble.
71. write thank you notes on your good days. it's important that the people around you know how much they are helping (especially those daring and caring enough to muck around in the trenches right alongside you, even when you're mean and impossible to help).
72. try not to think about the future in terms of months, or even days. stick to minutes and hours.
73. facebook is definitely better than twitter
74. temperature control is a must (read: get a good air conditioner). your family can always button up. you, however, cannot remove a layer of skin.
75. it's okay to mix eastern and western medicine. massage and acupuncture feel good, while a magic poison cocktail kills cancer cells.
76. take baths. if you're too tired to stand, then just sit. lay. use salts, even. you've got to wash sooner or later, so you might as well make it your day's activity.
77. sleep. take a pill and get some sleep. there will be time for falling asleep on your own later
78. deep breaths. lots of em. oxygen is your friend.



  1. Love the list--7 and 49 are my absolute favorites! I think the title of your book is in one of them. xoxo
    Joyce Kravitz

  2. I am honored to have made it into at least two items! And I am honored to do the hard work alongside of you. You are exceptional. xxoo

  3. You make me so proud to know you. I think of you often, and look forward to reading your posts. When you beat this effing beast of cancer, you have a wonderful memoir in the making! Question: How do you negotiate the school year? Obviously you're on hiatus...does Family Medical Leave cover this? As a teacher, I was wondering about these practical things...hugs from Pittsburgh. Ilene.

  4. Great list, Mia. Thinking of you on Day 7 (as I do everyday) and hoping that this one is an improvement over the prior ones.

    Cousin Rachel

  5. David & Debbie CohenAugust 24, 2010 at 6:42 PM

    Terrific list. Your writing is quite moving.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Reposting due to posting problems.

    Bravo Day 7!

    Having never written a 78-point list,it's amazing just to read it and then realize how pithy, descriptive, even funny, your writing is. What a feat!

    On the 256-point husband list, just curious which 56 points still are outstanding? Are there swap out points that will give him a 99.9%? Can the pickle fiasco be erased from the record?

    As for your mom, who could fire the one-and-only irrepressible Yona?

  8. Great list! And, as you might have guessed, #7 is my favorite. But, just the fact that you are typing on day 7 makes me happy.

  9. Don't forget to destroy the card I sent!!!!! after you read it of course. LOL

  10. 44, kiddo
    Love, GG and Uncle Larry

  11. ACH - #55.................I would just stare at people who would talk to me about their stubbed toes and broken fingernails thinking they were taking my mind off of HAVING CANCER!!!! Not that it was all about me all the time, but - uh - it kinda was :p One of the greatest recovery feelings was to make about 100 of those little pillows they hand out at the hospital and donate them to the cancer center.

    Love the list!!!! All true and all beneficial to others who are with you on this journey :)

  12. What is magic mouthwash?

  13. I'm with you on #28 - our local library has 45 (yes, I counted) books about breast cancer, but not a single book about lymphoma.
    I also like #53 (being a pharmacist myself).
    Take care of yourself, in spite of the band!

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