Thursday, April 11, 2013

Simple Things

In the shower, when I look down and unexpectedly see my blue toes it makes me laugh to myself, it can make me laugh all day, it delights me and I don’t ever use the word “delight”, I don’t like it much, but I can think of no better description of what the toes are doing for me. Who knew that colored, tended toenails could act as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. The secrets are in the simple things.

When I see myself in the mirror, that does not delight me. The poofy hair makes me look like one of the golden girls and I erred in letting the pink ribbon people frighten me out of doing my hair my usual pink, purple doesn’t suit me. A few more inches and I’ll be past the nana stage... I hope. I look like a Q-tip, well, I’m a bit heavy to be a Q-tip so suffice it to say, from the waist up, I look like a Q-tip.

After weeks of pestering, it finally comes to light that the tall one has no shorts that fit, except ratty sports shorts, so I was shopping like a mad woman at 10:00 last night and having given up on discerning what on his floor is clean and what is dirty and leaving it in his reluctant hands, I’ve given in and am on laundry load #8, it’s time for a fresh start in the boy cave.

I left a few too many work tasks to the last minute and while I expected to be packed early, I’m waist deep in sock matching and laundry folding, but nothing can dampen my excitement for this trip. Jonah is raring to go, but before we’ve even gone, he say’s our next trip should be to another country and I agree. Sad truth, Mexico and Canada aside, I’ve never left the country. He and I even agree that we should go to Italy or costa rica where both of us scaredy cats are going to zip line. The tall one is being gracious enough to not complain about going on vacation. He has missed baseball games, S.A.T. studying and social things on his mind, but I know that once we get there he’s going to have a great time. We are all going to have a great time. I’m so used to having bad luck I’m actively trying not to break a tooth or throw out my back or have some random thing rain on my parade, which I know is impossible, the fickle hand of fate can not be controlled.

This vacation is the only thing that takes me back to the chemo chair because it's all I thought about, well, other than coping. It was the thing I focused on over and over, just beach, breeze, palm trees which is so funny because I never go to the beach, I'm most definitely not a beach person. But that's where my mind went, that's where my beat up body wanted to be, floating in the warm ocean and so that's where we're going because if I didn't go, it would feel like unfinished business. This trip is closure. I like moving forward, I'm not one to go backwards, I don't like redundancy, I'm a been there, done that kind of girl, so the thought of having a relapse seems more and more unthinkable. Yeah, I have bad luck, I'm not surprised this uber sucky thing happened, but it's not going to happen again, because that would be going backwards and I don't do that. My life is baby steps, but baby steps always moving forward from one thing to the next, nothing dramatic, just my slow, slow, sloth-like forward moving trajectory, you know, when I'm not bouncing off the walls. A relapse would fuck up the whole pattern of my existence, so it's just not in the cards, it wouldn't make sense.

I’m as prepared as I’ve ever been, we have SPF protectant shirts, I have not only a shirt, but a long, wide scarve, and a wide brimmed hat which J says makes me look like an old fashioned movie star. Sun plus me, was always a bad combo, but throw in all that chemo and radiation, I’m likely to spontaneously combust. If I could have found a fashionable, lightweight, SPF burka, I would have gone for it guess I just didn't find the right catalogue.

48 hours and we’ll be hovering over Florida. I’m unplugging, only bringing my phone for emergencies, no laptop, no iPad, just the distractions of the moment, life in real time, which I am oh, so grateful for having, granny hair or not.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lymphatic Drainage

Can you think of anything that sounds worse than having Lymphatic Drainage performed upon your poor self? Well, that’s a book not to be read by it’s cover. Lymphatic Drainage helps prevent Lymphodema, a dreadful condition anyone who’s had their lymph nodes tampered with is at risk for, so lymphatic drainage is recommended, and it’s heavenly, quite heavenly. It involves a dark room and a specially trained masseuse who gently massages the lymphatic system, especially the side of the missing node(s), to get the remaining lymph nodes to stop freaking out and clustering, hence blocking the drainage purpose they perform. It’s only one step down from a full body massage, but unlike deep tissue, it’s soft and gentle, so relaxing and totally covered by insurance. You recommend I come once a week? Well, okey-dokey, sign me up!

That was a few days ago. Today I had my hair colored, sorry, but I had to throw in a little purple because every time I passed a mirror I said “hi nana”. I had higher self-esteem being bald than with the short, curly gray, granny-doo. Maybe once it gets longer I’ll leave it be, but during this phase, it needed a little pick me up. After I left the salon, I spontaneously went for my first ever pedicure. Yep, went almost 50 years without a pedicure because I'm terrible about doing things just for myself, and was afraid they’d laugh at my pudgy little toes on my wide duck feet. Additionally, I thought it best not to draw attention to the little piggies, but I’ve been so wanting to have colored toenails, I finally did it. I meant to do some shade of pink to match my flip-flops, but wound up with light blue, it just seemed like the right thing to do at that moment, so I went with it, and I’m newly infatuated with my silly little toes. Some day I’ll work up the courage for a manicure. My feet were finished just in time to fetch little boy from school, feed him, hear about his day and then...dun, dun, dunnnnn... I left him home on his own for three whole hours which is a first, so I could go see tall one pitch a game. Taking J to G's baseball games is a master misery for all involved.

Such a beautiful day to sit outside. I missed G's whole baseball season last year which I felt really bad about. I went to one or two games, but didn’t last long, didn’t have the energy to sit on the bleachers feeling naseaus and like I would fall off from dizziness. Just walking was such an effort. The tall boy invited me to his game and reminded me about it repeatedly throughout the last week, and I was so glad to go. He pitched a great game and it’s been so long since I saw him pitch, I was shocked by how hard he’s throwing.

Today was a good day. Three more until we get on the plane and fly off on our adventure, much to do, but really enjoyed all of the day's detours, I can be productive tomorrow.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I’m finally getting to the other side of my cold and trying to catch up from the time spent in bed. Last week was little boy’s 12th birthday and the year anniversary of my surgery. I realized that I’m barely six months out of treatment and while it’s still on my mind, still so much a part of my every day, it seems like ages ago. Only a year and a half since diagnosis, can that be true? Less than two years ago, I was a mere civilian living a normal life rife with possibilities, decisions unencumbered by trauma, disability and potential relapses and death. Man, that was one serious tornado that sucked me up and spit me out and Kansas never came into the picture.

J wanted only to spend some special time with “mom” for his birthday. I think he’s going through a delayed reaction, fear of loss, excess appreciation, he tells me not to get into any car crashes, and I think “honey, car crashes are the least of our worries”. He invited to me to watch his afterschool improv class during which he waved to me throughout, unthinkable that he’s almost a teenager, he’ll never be that kind of teenager. We went home afterwards, had warm brownies and ice cream and watched an episode of Doctor Who on the laptop. Then it was lego bliss for the next day and a half as he assembled the Battle of Helms Deep.

We’re going on vacation in a week and I’m hoping that sitting under a palm tree I’ll be able to breathe. I don't think I'm fully breathing, I need my chest to open up, my teeth and shoulders to unclench and just breathe, breathe, be quiet and breathe. A change of scenery, new smells, new sights, I think will do me a world of good and actually getting a vacation together instead of just talking about it will feel like an accomplishment.

I was listening to NPR in the car today and there was a story about the Human Genome Project. A  man with leukekemia has a relapse and was sinking fast, the doctors didn’t think they could do anything for him. But a doctor, I don’t know who, or how the chain events took place, but a needle-in-a-haystack-creative-physician decided to look at the genome of healthy blood {I think it was the blood, it could have been something else} and compared it to the genome of the patients’ and found the patient was making excess of a protein he shouldn’t be, so they deduced that this protein was feeding the cancer. They did a massive search and found an approved drug for another condition who’s unwanted side effect was to turn off production of this protein. He started the medication on a Friday and by Monday, the difference in his blood counts shocked everyone and years later, he’s chatting about it on the radio. I haven’t encountered any of these physicians on my “journey”. I’ve heard of them, and wonder if one can intersect with them in any way other than accidentally.

I’m sitting in the waiting room of a Toyota dealership while Sparky has her 6-month checkup. Kelly and Michael, formerly Kelly and Regis, formerly Regis and Kathy Lee is on T.V., this show is on in every waiting room I visit. I realize that there are millions of people at home watching this show, which I can’t imagine. Maybe I’m a misanthrope, but I can’t stand watching these rich, beautiful, perfect people having zany fun and acting like they’re my happy-go-lucky BFFs or next door neighbors, but the audience cheers and cheers. Apparently, people love this insipid show.

The place I bought Sparky was a dump, filthy, crowded, noisy, but what they saved in overhead, got me a good price on my car. The dealership I took her to for the bashed bumper had a tiny, yucky waiting room, but thanks to a tip from Librarian Sarah, who has been my new car mentor, I’m sitting in a plush, comfortable room at the spacious, luxe toyota dealership. I tried to buy my car here, but they wouldn’t give me a good price... there are advantages and disadvantages to overhead, I’m loving it from this point of view. So there’s my advice, buy your car at a dumpy dealership and service it at the posh one.

There’s a Target right up the street, so when the car is done, I’m zipping right over to pre-vacation shop, taking the whole day off work. I can’t even remember the last time I strolled through a Target, I’m always working or sleeping. It’s kind of twisted when a trip to Target is such a treat. I’m getting really excited about our trip and I need to buy a suitcase and some snorkels to fill it with. Kris Carr, a famous, trendy, cancer survivor and author thinks cancer patients should do a lot of frivolous shopping. I didn't know that, so I'm starting now {more on Kris Carr later}.

I’m aiming for the restorative powers of swimming with the fishies. I can’t remember the last time I swam in the ocean. I’m such a wuss, New England water is too cold for me. Immersing my achy, itchy, tired self into the gulf of mexico sounds divine, just waiting for my SPF shirt to arrive, I'll be the one under an umbrella wearing a burka... the sun hates me and it's kind of mutual. Having my kids visit a tropical beach, if only in Florida also seems like something one should check off the parental to do list. Tall one needs to snorkel before going to college, for some reason, that will relieve a bit of parental guilt... erase all the times we've eaten dinner in front of the t.v., which is, um... always. That's another of my deep dark secrets... we don't do family dinner, we rarely all eat at the same time. Snorkeling will ease my conscious.