Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bald is Beautiful

On my visits to the oncologist, I see ladies with pretty scarves covering their hairless heads.  Some women can carry off that look, kind of cute and feminine.  They definitely don't wear that resigned look on their faces, and the ones I've seen still have their eyelashes and eyebrows.  In the face of what really matters - fighting for their lives - hair loss seems a fair trade-off.

Trust and believe, it doesn't seem that small when your hair begins falling out.  Two weeks to the day of the first treatment, I was riding in my husband's truck, windows down, and I kept seeing these wispy things fly around the cab.  What IS that?...At first, I had no idea, but I caught one.  It was my hair, detaching from my head in the wind.

It isn't that hard to describe that first reaction:  a little bit of horror mixed with a little disbelief.  But I knew this was coming, Dr. S. had said it would happen.  Yet, i was overcome with grief, and I cried.  It's not that my hair was so beautiful, but it had that wave to it that gave it a smoky, 50's kind of look when it was cut right.  And besides, I was kind of attached to it.

I had the foresight to buy some chemo caps before treatment began, so I plopped one of my head when we got home.  Took it off a while later and it was full of strands.  By then, I was used to the idea of losing it.  It's a trade-off, and it's temporary.  I can live with it, in more ways than one.

This morning, it's coming out in clumps.  My eyelashes are next.  I can feel them itching and stinging, and I'm scared to rub them or even put mascara on.  Losing those might be a little harder, but, there again, a trade-off.  And they will grow back, too.

It's nothing but vanity, you know?

I wanted to prepare my son for my new look.  He's taking all this a little hard, even though he tries not to show it.  I know because when we talk on the phone, he says I love you before we hang up.  He is a young man of few words and an overabundance of testosterone that keeps him from always showing his softer side. When I told him of my impending baldness, he said, Let me know when you get it shaved so I can shave mine, too.  His show of love and support brought tears to my eyes, but I hope he doesn't shave his head.  Again.  he spent the last 5 years looking like Mr. Clean (his choice) and has just recently began sporting his hair again  - complete with a little styling and some gel to keep it looking that way.  He is handsome with or without, but he looks really nice with, and I can tell he likes it.  I hope he'll keep his.

Today, I'm going to the prison for an employee appreciation dinner.  Can't decide whether to wear my cap or not, but probably will.  Would hate for the fan to hit me and blow hair all over everybody's food.  After that, I'll be off in search of bandanas, hats, and some earrings.  Might as well rock the look!

It really is a small price to pay for a chance to live.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Never thought I'd want to go to work this badly.

I'm doing pretty good today.  Neurontin for the nerve pain, nothing else needed. I just hope that, IF there are any microscopic  cancer cells in my body, the chemo is acting like Raid on steroids and killing them all.

Second round is coming up on Tuesday.  I'm a little nervous about that, not sure if they're increasing the dose or if it will be the same.

On the plus side, the laundry room is almost as clean as I want it to be.  Hoping to finish all my projects before next week!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I hear the Aberdeen-Rockfish chugging on by...

We have lived by the railroad tracks most of our lives.  There was a brief stint I lived on Ashemont Road, and even though I couldn't see the train, I could hear it.  Some nights on the back deck, I could hear it's whistle, or maybe it was the Amtrack in Southern Pines, not sure.  It is a lonely sound in the night, somehow mournful, but as a kid, I remember getting so excited when the first whistle came.  We kids would drop everything we were doing - sorry, ice cream, no time for you! - and rush to the glass panels at Grandma's front door to watch the cars roll by.  It was the biggest thing on wheels we had ever seen, a special sighting that filled us with awe and wonder twice a day, like clockwork.

My Grandfather was a farmer.  He owned most of the land on this end of the county and raised produce of every kind, including Congo watermelons.  They are the huge ones that only a grown man could carry, let alone slice.  The Rockfish-Aberdeen would stop, I'm told, and those watermelons would be loaded up and carried to who-knows-where, as I imagine the peaches from Poole's orchard were, too.

The peaches were sold under the Blue Diamond label.  I only know this because my father eventually bought the peach orchard, and I loved plundering in the pack shed.  I found the labels, packing crates, baskets, old equipment...and there was a hand pump beside the shed!  It still worked, and I thought it was the most awesome thing in the world to get a cool cup of water, right from the ground.

A little west of the orchard and the farm was the Sanitorium, built on the highest peak in the county.  The Aberdeen Rockfish rolled past that, too, and the passengers would cover their faces with handkerchiefs so as not to contract tuberculosis.  Back in the day, that peak was called Pestilence Hill.

It was a beautiful old building, more majestic than ominous. It was three stories high, the third floor with a balcony for the patients to sit in the sun to help "cure" their condition.  On the second floor, there was a chapel that gleamed with polished maplewood pews and pulpit.  The chapel was probably the most attractive feature.  The patient rooms were located on the first and second floors, not so austere as you might think.  And there was a fire tower. From there, and the balcony, you could see for miles, into the next county

I know this because after it was consigned to the dept. of corrections, I worked there.  I remember the old elevator that had iron gates around the doors - straight out of a horror movie! No, from another time.  Our office faced the road, and therefore the railroad tracks, too.  By then, the Aberdeen-Rockfish wasn't making daily trips anymore, but there were mornings when we would hear the whistle, and for just a minute, all work would cease as we watched that train seemingly struggle up the hill and on past us.

The landscape has changed, as all will with time.  The sanitorium is closed, but the grounds are still kept up by the state.  The peach orchard is gone, replanted in pines and the land leased out for the pinestraw.  The packshed burned to the ground about 20 years ago, I guess, but the platform still stands, and Grandfather's farmland is now littered with overgrowth and new homes.  The railroad tracks will be there forever, I suppose.  And though the A&R makes its trips only occasionally, it still lives.  I hope it always will.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

and one more thing...

Since chemo began, I've had bad days and good days. What has come to me full force is how much we take for granted.

Yesterday, for instance, I could barely make it off the sofa.  Forced myself to go uptown, and then was down for the count again.

But today is one of those bonus days.  Yes, I notice changes in my body every day from the chemicals.  My nails are sensitive, the soles of my feet, too. The fatigue and other side effects that have been part of this chemo initiation have not been fun.  I do still have hair and eyelashes, but will probably lose those on down the road.  I can handle that as long as there are days like today.

I cooked!  I made lunch for my family - salmon with a blend of herbs I concocted, carrot fries, broccoli and buttered brown rice!  I even cleaned after making a huge mess.

Can you imagine - being thankful for the ability to get up and do things for yourself and other people?  For being able to do the dishes, walk the dog, do your laundry? Can you imagine being thankful that you woke up and could walk to the kitchen without feeling like you would faint?

I am grateful, so very grateful for what used to be small things.  God, I thank you for today.  I can face whatever tomorrow brings because of it.

One Week Later

I'm sitting here, sipping on a powerade zero because, suddenly, coffee is NASTY!  Ick, spit, patooie! Much and nothing has happened since the first round.

A few years ago (i lose track of time), I set out to locate my daughter's sister.  When I was married the first time, the husband had a daughter who had been taken away from him and his first wife. I remember my then-mother-in-law showing me a picture of a chubby, smiling little girl in white dress, and she said, this is Lorinda.  I know in my heart we'll find her one day.  Sadly, Lula passed away before that could happen.

I know her pain.  My granddaughter, Sara, was ripped away from us through circumstances that are ugly and unfathomable - no fault of my daughter's.  It was Beth's ex, who fabricated lies and made it difficult for us to see Sara.  And he ultimately won by fabricating a story of sexual abuse that never happened.  Social Services investigated and cleared the accused.  I wonder if SS investigated Sara's accusations that her father shot her in the knee (never happened), or that her step-mother routinely abused her in small but myriad ways...the child is disturbed, I know this, but I believe with all my heart that she had a lot of help getting there.  Anyway...i haven't seen her in years, now, and it's heartbreaking.  I don't even know where she is, and all my attempts to find her have failed..

BUT - getting back to my original story of Lorinda, I set out to find her one day, after reading her brother's pleas for help in locating the sister he had missed for years.  It took an entire day (that's all), and if Lorinda had not posted on a site for people looking for their biological families, I wouldn't have succeeded.  I even found a phone number, gave it to my daughter, Beth.  To make a long story short, the sisters reunited via telephone.  Turns out that Lorinda lived in the same town as we do, attended the same school as Beth, but they were so far apart in age, their paths probably never crossed.  But they knew some of the same local people, went to the same places..it was truly an amazing parallel.

Lori traveled from Canada, where she lives with her husband, to visit her brother, sister, and yes, her biological father.  It makes me happy that she was so forgiving and delighted to find her blood relatives.  And it didn't stop there - she adopted my son as her own brother, my brother as her uncle, and she calls me Mom.  What a generous, loving heart she has.

Lori called me one day this week and said, I'm coming to North Carolina.  And I'm staying for good.  So, although I didn't get to meet her on the first trip, I will this time. And though technically,we have no real ties except that she is my daughter's sister, I look forward to having a new daughter to love.

I'm so sorry it couldn't have happened while Lula was living, but perhaps she had a hand in bringing Lori back into the fold.  I'm sure her spirit is smiling.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Chemo

Yesterday, I had my first chemo treatment.  I slept through it, thanks to lorazepam and 40 mg. of benadryl.  I didn't even get a chance to unpack the chemo bag - i had packed books, a blanket, a notepad and pen in case I felt like writing.  I thought the infusion would take 7 hours, but some changes were made to the medications and it only took 4 hours.  Not too bad.

I feel great today.  A little headache, some chest pain that must not be anything serious, because the heart monitor didn't prompt whoever watches those things to call my primary.  Not worried about it. I went to a 3 hour dr's appt. with the radiation doc, went out to eat, and went shopping.  I could run laps around the house, i think, still on that decadron high.  And so is my blood sugar.  Mercy, when it rains, it pours, but better days are coming.  Good things are worth waiting for, and will be as abundant as cliches.

Before the first treatment, I was afraid, mostly of the unknown.  When I got there, I wasn't alone in that waiting room...there were other people awaiting their time in the chair, too. It kind of made me feel like a whiner.

I have an awesome support system - my husband, daughter, family - coworkers have come to me and said, if you need anything, let me know.  Call me, anytime.  Thank you Cindy, for sharing your experience with leukemia and offering your support.  And thanks to Tammy for doing the same, even as she fights her own battle with cancer.  I will pass this same kindess on to anyone who needs it.  This whole thing has been a terrible, yet humbling experience.

I think other patients realize how hard it is to talk honestly about this disease to others.  Family and frinds are afraid, they don't know what to say, they don't want to lose you.  And you want to be strong for your friends and family, so you cry in the bathroom if emotion overcomes you.  You avoid the topic if you can.

When my Dad was in his last months, I was the same way.  I had no idea what to say to him.  All I could do was tell him I loved him.  I moved in with him and my mom for the last two weeks of his life.  We pulled a couple of all nighters, because he either couldn't or wouldn't sleep.  I'm glad I had that time with him, still wish I had known some magical phrase that would have made things right, but instead, he was the one who comforted me.  "It's ok, I'm ready."

So journaling is good.  I can whine myself into a new perspective, think about the pro's of this disease, such as...you realize what's really important in life.  Those grandkids, for instance.  I called Sadie a couple of weeks ago, and that sweet, sweet 3-year-old said, "Can you come to our house?"  My spirits soared three feet above my body - I could have floated to Southern Pines.  And love, my friends, is indeed the best medicine in the world.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

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My prognosis is not good.  Still going to fight.