Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cancer Claws

I'm not supposed to let this dispicable cell malfunction get to me, right?  I'm supposed to be strong and calm and composed and focused.  Use vivid imagery to propel me towards the future, where I am smiling and healthy, and I have hair and I am happy.

Except it's not all that easy.  There are days when I just want to cry from nothing.  My stomach makes such loud noises, we cannot carry conversations overtop of it's interrupting moans, whines and kicks.  My body hurts from trying to decipher between the good cells and the bad ones.  My body is fighting so hard just to keep everything from shutting down.  After seeing what gets injected into my body every 3 weeks, I would definitely call that a miracle.  But I don't feel miraculous.  I feel mad.  Angry at the jerk who is revving up his stoopid (yes, STOOPID) scooter engine and driving around my block 9 times.  Annoyed that people on TV have long, flowing locks of hair and I barely have my eyebrows. 

Deep breath.  In.  Out.

There are two authors (and my iPad) that have gotten me through these past few days?  weeks?  I've lost track of time here...  The first one is Jen Lancaster.  Thank you, Apple, for making her books available on iBooks.  I have read the first 3 and can say without hesitation, they were written specifically to dig me out of my misery hole.  I read (in the dark, since the iPad has plenty of lighting) and giggle, shaking the bed until my eyelids are forced to close, thanks to the magic of modern pharmaceuticals.  She is hilarious, and I dare say, heroic in her ability to distract me from the full-time intensity that cancer has brought into my life.

The second author whose book I keep returning to for a different kind of therapeutic response is Joni Rodgers.  Unlike Kelly Corrigan (of The Middle Place and breast cancer), who, while an incredibly talented writer, made me cry more than laugh, Rodgers wrote about her adventures with NHL with such humor and reality, I wanted to read the whole thing aloud to whomever was sitting next to me.  (My mom got to hear most of it during our Girls' Beach Day.) 

What I love most about her book, Bald in the Land of Big Hair, is that (aside from coming up with more words for vomit than any thesaurus in existence) she just made me feel better.  She didn't scare me or unnerve me with her fears (which were still very similar to mine), but she kept plugging through the whole stOOpid chemo until she was done.  Her daughter gave her Barbies Bleo Boosters (like my Neulasta shots) and her son had meltdowns and typed a story on her computer called, The Queen Has Cancer.  She writes about her relationship with her husband and sex and all kinds of other real things that cancer patients confront, like nurses who are in the wrong profession, or passing out in the grocery store (when she shouldn't have been out of bed). 

There are so many passages from her book that I'd love to share with you, but I'm sure that would be illegal.  Tonight my favorite one is from the part where she meets with her oncologist and (finally) receives a diagnosis and treatment plan:

Plainly and in detail, she outlined the agenda for the destruction of the world as I knew it.  She didn't seem to be in a state of panic.  She didn't appear to be sorry for me.  She didn't seem to notice I was in the process of being smote by God, a pathetic little dinghy on the storm-tossed ocean of ill fate.
      "I guess this is all in a day's work for you," I snipped.
      "Yes," she nodded with a small smile, thinking perhaps that I'd meant to compliment her or maybe even that I would find it reassuring to know that I was just another Chiclet in the great masticating maw of industrial medicine.
     "These may be of some help," she said, handing me a stack of booklets and pamphlets.  The first one, the publication of which had been generously underwritten by (who else?) a pharmaceutical company, was delicately titled Chemotherapy and Me.  I stared at the medicine-colored cover.  Chemotherapy and me?  Chemotherapy and ME?
     No, it should be Chemotherapy and Somebody Else.
     Chemotherapy and People Who Deserve It.
     Chemotherapy and Telephone Solicitors.
     Chemotherapy and People Who Talk During Movies.
     Chemotherapy and Girls Who Made Fun of Me in High School.
     Not chemotherapy and me?


Any of you who read my previous blog post will know that my point of view on this whole who-deserves-to-have-cancer thing has morphed a great deal over the past few months.  Certainly in the beginning, I felt much the same way as Joni Rodgers.  And throughout the roughest days (6, 7, and 8 up there with the worst of them), I often return to that place.  It's the only way having cancer makes sense to me.  If cancer has to exist, shouldn't this be a weeding out process?  I could list a whole host of reality TV stars that might benefit from a little taste of cancer, or some nasty tailgating drivers we've encountered on one of our many PA turnpike trips that could use a close brush with death. 

It's really, really hard not to go to that why me place.  It's not fair (blah, blah, blah, life's not fair) that some people get dealt a bad hand, while others float blissfully through life, close enough to hardship to think they can relate, but far enough away that it doesn't apply to them.

I've never really been an optimist, though.  I appreciate the beauty of being prepared for everything that could, might and will most definitely happen in the near (and distant) future.  My purse is consistently packed with snacks, extra clothes, wipes, pens, lip stuff, stickers, membership cards, water bottles, you name it, I (almost always) remember to bring it.  I plan for the worst and then unpack my bag once we get home.  And although for years (ask Dan, it's true), I've been waiting for something bad to happen, I never, not once, for a moment's pause, prepared for this. 

The good news about today is that Sarah Shourd (one of the 3 Americans being kept unjustly in Iranian prison for over a year) was finally released and reunited with her mother.   Joining in as a "Free the Hikers" supporter (even if just on FB) has helped to keep things in perspective.  I may not have my health at the moment, but I do have my family and friends around me.  I have a happy chair and a happy little boy, and only one more round to go.



  1. Was thinking about the hikers
    today, like you. Bless today's
    release..the other two, pls.,
    'Bad man'!?

    .. GG sings a song
    from the Communist summer camp
    she and her cousin were sent to,
    as kids in the 30's.

    "Hikers, Hikers zeinem mir"(ydsh.),
    (We were are all hikers
    here, full of vigor,
    We could hike 20 miles a day!

    nor de fligen in 'Dining Room'
    bin ich starche mikana,
    (NOW, we may not hike as
    far, and that's the way,
    And Now,
    We are only jealous of the
    flies in the dining room,
    They eat sugar all day,
    And make a joke of us!

    You said that part of life real
    good( and right on it)too,
    mein shterele, Mia.

    Love, GG and Uncle

  2. 1) Anyone who can write as crisply and poignantly while feeling miserable deserves a Pulitzer. I'll nominate you for Best Blog under most adverse writing conditions.

    2) Feeling angry. When the ice machine failed after knee surgery and my knee ballooned, I was royally ticked off as I popped more painkillers. Can't imagine how I'd feel if subjected to chemo. Hats off to making it through with your anger in tact.

    3) Pessimism is overrated as preventative medicine. Just wears a worrier out. Many, many rainbows in your future.

    A package should arrive by Day 8 or 9. xoxo

  3. Go ahead and be pissed off! Now is the only time (probably) that you'll be given the grace to shout out loud, place undeserved blame, display unreasonable fits of rage, etc. without the tiniest bit of retribution!!!

    Case in point: I am now 8 months "out". I no longer have the immediate, undying attention of my closest family members and friends (GIANT mistake on their part!!!); no one any longer thinks I may succumb to this treacherous disease in the next five minutes; I no longer receive hourly (or was it daily??) phone calls from my BFF radiation oncologist, oncological surgeon, former BFF gynocologist, or cancer-nurse-navigator, let alone the caring people from my church.

    Bottom line? It's like post-pregnancy let-down. Take advantage of your "madonna" time!! NOW is the time to purge every bad feeling, every little chip of anger, express every single thought (thank you 'blogspot')and just take time TO BE -UGH- SICK. We're all on your side :)

    At this special time of year, I am saying an extra Neilah for you and watching for the next mitzvah that's just around the corner.


  4. p.s. I am so overwhelmed by your (Dansky fam) connection to the Stand Up to Cancer thing, I can't even mention it without weeping (mainly 'cuz nobody "gets" it!!). There was an awesome article in the Wall Street Journal (sorry..............Jeff's a Republican) earlier this week. A great tribute to her ongoing cancer battle and her ongoing contributions to the fight. LUV'd it :)