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August 29, 2007

Girl, Interrupted

I was able to go to school yesterday and I made it to both classes. I took advantage of my friend Kristi’s generosity and hung out on her couch between classes, which really helped me make it through the day. I was exhausted by the time I got home, but at least I was able to attend class. I’m hoping that I can go again tomorrow.

My blood test today showed very low white and red blood cell counts…not that those numbers were any surprise to me. I still feel tired and weak, so I didn’t think the numbers would be high. The exhaustion is starting to get to me. I’m just tired of being so tired all the time.

I’ve been thinking for the past couple of days that I need to post an update, but I’ve been putting it off mostly because I’m getting tired of hearing myself complain about how bad I feel. It's all getting really old.

Today I’ve been thinking about how very much I want the old boring mundane normal parts of my life back. In a perfect world, I would be able to just continue on with things the way I always have with a couple of intermissions here and there for a treatment or for feeling sick one day. In reality, however, that just doesn’t happen. There’s nothing normal about cancer treatment. It is all-consuming. I have to think about it all the time and I am tired of there being little room in my head for anything else.

So much that is pleasurable and important in my life has been stripped away by this damn disease. I want to go to lunch with friends, but I’m too tired and I don’t have any appetite and can’t taste the food, anyway. I want to hang out with Randy in the evening watching the Food Network and drinking a Blue Moon out of a frozen beer mug with a slice of orange floating in it, but I’m not supposed to drink and have no desire to do so anyway and can hardly keep my eyes open past 9:00 p.m. I want to look forward to an amazing dinner at Bistro Wasabi or a night playing games or just hanging out with friends, but I don’t have the energy to go to dinner or even to be social. I want to be worried about getting my reading done for class and about making sure that everyone else gets their homework done and about keeping up with laundry and about how to get everyone to all of their activities during the week, but instead I have to worry about whether or not I’m going to feel half-way human on any given day.

Last night we went to the opening of a new local restaurant. It was the first time since I started chemo that I’ve done anything that resembles a social occasion. I spent a long time deciding what to wear and doing my makeup. Once I got dressed, however, I realized that I hadn’t planned ahead enough and that I had nothing to put on my head that would match my outfit. I tried on several different scarves, but couldn’t find anything that worked. So I changed my clothes and this time I chose the outfit based on what scarves I had. I couldn’t tie the scarf satisfactorily and I couldn’t find jewelry that worked with the whole ensemble. In the end, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I am not a bald woman in a scarf with mismatched jewelry whose outfit is close but not quite all that she wants it to be. Usually I would love to attend an event like this, and I would relish the opportunity to put on something nice and to do my hair and wear great shoes and socialize with people. Not only was I frustrated with my inability to pull it altogether last night, but I was furious at the cancer for taking so much away from me.

The most difficult part of this, it turns out, is not the diagnosis or the treatments, but the loss of so much that I took for granted before and my inability to recapture those small parts of myself and my life.

August 26, 2007

Hanging In There

Yesterday, two days post-chemo, was a rough one. I felt nauseous and generally bad all day long. I’m feeling better today…at least I’m not nauseous and that is definitely a good thing. This morning I have been working on homework and am very happy to have the strength and concentration to do that. I also had Peapod deliver groceries this morning, which seems like a luxury but one that I can well justify right now, I suppose.

I’m trying not to worry too much about what this week is going to bring, but I’m really hoping that I’m going to be able to make it to school on Tuesday and Thursday. I’m working very hard on the whole “one day at a time” thing, but I’m still finding it difficult to suppress the planner and organizer in me and to just go with the flow.

I contacted the administration at Loyola on Friday morning about the upheaval in my Thursday class schedule and my need to have both of my classes taped every other Thursday for the last four treatments. They were, as they have been throughout all of this, efficient and generous and had the whole thing approved for me before noon. I am immensely relieved that I don’t have to worry about missing more classes and very thankful to be a student at Loyola right now.

August 24, 2007

Book Review: Slip & Fall

This blog has turned out to be an incredibly efficient and timely means of keeping you all up to date about my diagnosis and treatment. I’m so happy that this technology is available to all of us; it has made this easier in many unexpected ways. Blogging is still a relatively new phenomenon, but the potential powers of this medium are just beginning to be tapped.

I don’t know if it’s because my blog lists me as a law student or because of my recent post about my friend Martha’s new book or perhaps a combination of both, but a couple of weeks ago a publisher contacted me about another recently published book. He offered to send me a review copy of the book and in exchange asked me to write a review of it on my blog. I told him I’d be happy to read it, but that I would only post a review if I liked it.

The author is a lawyer who, like Martha, graduated from Columbia Law School. He has written for several TV shows, including Prison Break, Law and Order and The Sopranos, among others.

I hoped that I would like it, but I wasn’t sure if I would since it’s not the kind of book I normally read. However, I was very pleasantly surprised and in fact I quite enjoyed reading it. So, as promised, here is my review:


Nick Santora’s new book, Slip & Fall, can best be described as the story you might expect if the producers of The Sopranos asked John Grisham to pen an episode. The plot is a fast-paced page-turner with something for everyone—humor, suspense, violence, love, and action—all wrapped up in a Good Fellas-type legal thriller. The main character, Rob Principe, is immensely likeable, despite the bad decisions he makes. I found myself cheering for him throughout his narration of his harrowing experience of sinking deeper and deeper into the seedy underworld of one of New York’s Mob families as a result of those bad decisions.

Principe is a young down-on-his-luck lawyer who finds himself disillusioned with the practice of personal injury law and struggling to make ends meet in his solo practice in Bensonhurst, New York. Through a series of chance encounters with various Italian friends and family members, he stumbles upon a way to bring lucrative business into the firm. His financial desperation has forced him into a corner, and the only way that he can think of to protect his wife, house and family is to take part in a legal scheme which could have disastrous results for him and the people he loves. A normally honest and honorable guy, Principe suffers from guilt and cold feet when he actually moves forward with the scheme. He tries to extricate himself, but only succeeds in digging himself deeper into the midst of danger. Santora kept this reader on the edge of her seat as I followed Principe through the murky realm of the Mob and New York’s legal system, hoping against hope that he was going to find his way back out of the tangled web he helped to weave.

The characters, plot and dialogue in Slip & Fall feel authentic to me, despite the fact that my knowledge of Italian families and the Mafia comes mainly from movies like The Godfather and Good Fellas. The main characters are well-developed and believable and the dialogue flows smoothly. The plot moves along well and I found myself holding my breath at times as I waited to find out how Principe was going to handle some of the sticky situations in which he finds himself.

While I won’t be recommending this one to my book club for any deep, introspective discussion, I will recommend it enthusiastically to anyone looking for an entertaining, enjoyable, well-written summer beach or vacation read.

Round 3

I am happy to report that my third chemo treatment is officially under my belt. Only one more AC treatment to go, not to mention whatever side-effects I am destined to suffer through in the next week or so. It doesn’t sound like a lot on paper, but it feels like a lot from this side of the table.

Yesterday’s treatment was about the same as the others. I had class in the morning and then returned to the suburbs for my treatment. It was actually a relief to get to go to class before chemo, because it completely took my mind off my absolute dread of the treatment. The privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment is worlds away from Adriamycin and Cytoxan and mouth sores and blood tests and was a welcome distraction.

While I was at the doctor’s office sitting in my fancy green vinyl chair hooked up to my poison drip, I talked briefly with a 60 year old woman who was just finishing up her treatment when I arrived. I’ve seen her in the office before…I think she’s almost done. The first couple of times I saw her at the beginning of the summer she was bald. Yesterday she had hair. Very short hair, granted, but hair nonetheless. I also talked briefly with another woman who I have met before who is exactly one week ahead of me in her treatment schedule. She was there for her weekly blood test. She looked great, and told me that she teaches middle school math and that yesterday was her first day back at school. She has chosen to wear a wig when she teaches, and we laughed about how very hot and itchy and uncomfortable they are. She thought it would be easier for the kids if she did that and that they would be less uncomfortable.

I did get some bad news from my oncologist yesterday...or at least what I consider bad news. He told me that the Taxol treatments (treatments 5-8) take 5 hours to administer and that I am going to have to start them in the morning in order to have enough time to finish them. This means that I am going to have to miss both of my classes every other Thursday instead of just one. I explained to him how delicately balanced my schedule is and asked if I had any other alternative, perhaps to switch my treatment day from Thursday to Wednesday. I can’t do that, though. Since my treatments are every two weeks we can’t deviate from the schedule. It is really important, apparently, to have them exactly two weeks apart. He did tell me that I could get my treatments somewhere downtown instead, but that doesn’t really solve the problem. I would still have to miss part of my morning class to do that and then I would end up 50 miles away from home at rush hour. I think I am just going to have to ask my school to tape the morning class as well as the afternoon class on those Thursdays. And I’m sure they will, but I hate having to ask. They’ve already done so much for me.

A few observations I want to note for my own future reference…

--I have described the way I feel after my treatments as being in a fog or trying to live in oatmeal. Everything feels really slow and sluggish. Last night I decided that it feels a little like having a couple of drinks, but without feeling drunk. My mind feels slow and unable to process things quickly and I feel as if I can’t really communicate very well. This sluggishness begins to happen sometime during the treatment and lasts for several hours afterward. Yesterday I was reading for my Constitutional Law class during my treatment. I started out okay, but about half-way through I realized that I was no longer comprehending what I was reading. So I put that book away and picked up some lighter reading instead.

--When Suzy cut my hair a couple of weeks ago she left a little 1-2 mm fuzz on my head. Much of that fell out over the subsequent days, but I still have some hair left on my head. And it is growing. I actually have to keep up with it, because it gets so long that it pokes through my scarves. Unfortunately it seems like the only hair that’s growing is the hair on the very top and in the back in the middle of my head. I think if I let it grow I could have a really awesome Mohawk. If people stare at the scarves, can you imagine how they would react to a Mohawk? It would be a pretty weak and patchy Mohawk because only certain spots grow. There is also hair on the sides of my head, but it is a really faint blond fuzz. I am going to ask Suzy to take a look at it and see if she can predict how it would look if I let it all grow. Wouldn’t it be awful if I had shaved my head for nothing? I don’t think that’s the case, but I am beginning to wonder if I’m actually going to lose it all. I know that I have promised to post a picture sans head covering, and I will. I don’t have one to post yet, but will have somebody take one soon.

--My trip downtown was much less traumatic for me yesterday, thanks in large part to all your supportive comments after my last post. People on the train platform didn’t seem to be looking at me quite as much as they did on Tuesday, and I definitely felt more confident. I noticed both on Tuesday and yesterday that once I am in the city people seem to look and stare much less than they do here in the suburbs. The population in any large city is so much more diverse, and the people who live and work there are so used to seeing other people who are “different” in so many ways. I don’t think those differences have quite the same impact on them as they do on people who live in smaller towns. There’s probably a very interesting sociological study in there somewhere.

--This is not an observation about me, but I want to point out the outstanding news my friend and fellow breast cancer fighter WhyMommy got yesterday. She is having chemotherapy before surgery for her IBC, and she found out yesterday that the chemo seems to be working. The signs of cancer are diminishing. She also posted some interesting information about IBC and her treatment here and here if you are interested.

August 21, 2007

Back to School

Today was my first day back at school for the fall semester. I stood on the train platform this morning with my bag packed with freshly sharpened pencils and new highlighters, blank notebooks, empty folders, and wearing a scarf on my head. I was surprised at how much it took for me to get out of my car in the parking lot and then to walk past my fellow commuters to my chosen spot on the platform. They looked at me; how could they not? Out of the 50 or more people waiting for the 7:05 train this morning, I was the only one wearing a scarf on my head. The only woman who didn’t have hair. And it was hard.

As I stood there waiting for the train, I thought about all the times I’ve tried unobtrusively to steal a glance at the guy in the wheelchair or the woman on crutches or the little person, the person with the breathing tube or pronounced limp. What did I think about those people when I saw them? I couldn’t remember exactly, standing there in what felt a lot like a spotlight.

People didn’t stare at me, but they looked. I could see the movement of their heads out of the corner of my eye and I could sense their eyes on me as I walked by and as we stood there. I don’t know if they felt sorry for me or if perhaps I made them think about their mother/sister/wife/friend with breast cancer (or any kind of cancer). I didn’t meet their eyes, I just let them look. What else could I do, after all? As Stella said not long ago, my hair loss has made me the Chemo Poster Girl. Whether I wanted that role or not (and for the record, I didn’t), I’m stuck with it for awhile.

I will see these same people every Tuesday and Thursday morning from now through December. I know, from experience, that generally it will be the same group of commuters on the platform each morning and that we will all get to know one another by sight. (Most of them already know one another by sight…not everyone has a new schedule every six months like I do.) I think they will stop looking, although some of them may note the fashion show of scarves and hats which I will surely provide. And perhaps by December they will note the gradual return of my real hair. It will get easier for all of us, I think. And maybe the next time they see a woman wearing a scarf, they won’t have to look or to wonder in quite the same way.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful, although it was certainly exhausting. My professors seem to be good and there are several people I know in both of my classes. I am also working as an editor on a journal this semester, so between the classes and the journal work and, of course, the chemo, I should be busy.

I should mention that everyone at my school, from the administration to the professors to the students, has been wonderful throughout all of this. For example, I will be missing one of my classes every other Thursday afternoon so that I can make it back to the suburbs in time for my treatments. My school has agreed to videotape those lectures for me and then to send the tapes to me via an overnight delivery service so that I don’t miss any class. Both of my professors this semester have offered their assistance to me, and one of them even offered to come to my house for private study sessions if I felt I needed them. (I’m assuming that no one told him before he made the offer that I live 50 miles away from school!) Many of my classmates have offered class notes and outlines to me, and one even gave me a set of keys to her apartment, which is one block away from school, so that I can take naps between classes if I need to. My gratitude to all of these people knows no bounds. They are all making it possible for me to continue with school despite all that I am going through.

During previous semesters I have always used my commute time as a study hall, getting lots of reading done during the hour and a half ride into and back out of the city. Based on my level of tiredness on the way home today, I have a feeling that the time will be better spent as naptime this semester.

August 18, 2007

Bouncing Back

The rest and antibiotics have kicked in and I am feeling much better today. I’m still tired, but that seems to be the recurring theme of my life these days so that’s no surprise. I lost my ability to taste anything again right after my last treatment, but it seems to be coming back today. Last time I was able to taste again for a couple of days before my treatment, so I’m hoping that happens again and that I’ll have a couple of days of pleasurable eating before I start the whole thing over again next week.

I have to admit that after this last week, I am getting worried about how I am going to be able to handle school during all of this. I was hoping that I’d feel fine and healthy during my non-treatment week so that it could just be a normal week, but so far that non-treatment week has been anything but normal. I do have only two more AC treatments, so it’s possible that my non-treatment week after Taxol will be easier and that I only have two more of the bad weeks to deal with. I just have to play it by ear, I think, and see what happens, but that is difficult because I am so much happier when I have a plan. This whole thing has been such a lesson for that Julie the Cruise Director in me. It’s hard for me to let go of the whole “plan ahead and for any eventuality” part of my personality.

Yesterday I was feeling well enough to venture out to the grocery store. I needed to go because we had two slices of bread and about ½ a cup of milk left in the house and although I seem to be able to subsist on soup and water, the rest of the family needs a little more than that. All three kids wanted to go with me, which I had mixed feelings about. I seem to spend twice as much and bring home a lot of stuff containing Unpronounceable Ingredients and Sugar when they are with me, not to mention the fact that Blake and Matthew tend to see a giant store with many shelves as some kind of personal paint ball arena. My fears were unfounded, however, because they turned out to be immensely helpful.

Karly drove us all there and parked straight in the parking space on her first try. Inside the store, Matthew pushed the cart and Karly and Blake ran reconnaissance and rescue missions around the store for various items on the list. Between the three of them, we covered the store in record time and I was saved from having to do all the running myself. We still ended up with a lot of things that weren’t on the list, but the trip was much easier than if I had done it myself.

Before we left the house, I put one of my scarves on my head. Karly suggested that I wear one of my wigs instead and at first I declined. She convinced me to do it, however, arguing that a trip to the grocery store where I probably wouldn’t see anyone I knew was a good opportunity to try wearing one to see what I thought about it. I decided she was right, so I wore the partial wig with a baseball hat. The partial wig only has hair from the side of the head above the ears down so that you can add any hat or scarf of your own on top.

And it was okay. The wigs feel so fake to me, as if I am playing a role or dressing up for Halloween. I did feel like I was wearing a costume, especially since I so rarely wear hats, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was hot and itchy and I took it off as soon as I got home, but it was bearable while I was at the store. I still don’t think I will wear them very often, but I also think that if I’m going shopping or to the grocery store or to a movie I might throw one on if I don’t feel like dealing with a scarf.

August 16, 2007

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Update: I was back at the doctor’s office this morning with a fever and another blood count showed that my white blood cell counts are at nearly 0. The doctor told me that normally in this circumstance he would send a patient to the hospital, but that I could choose to take an oral antibiotic instead. Needless to say, I chose the oral antibiotic over a hospital stay. I have instructions to watch the fever and to go straight to the hospital if it continues to spike. I’ve spent the day camped out on the couch resting and wishing that I would just feel normal again.

Yesterday was rough…I’m assuming it’s the anemia that made me feel weak and tired all day. I managed to take Blake to school for a walk-through/open house, but I didn’t do much more than that all day. I didn’t feel as awful as I did after the first treatment, but I was still not happy with my body’s inability to do much of anything.

And last night I was up throughout the night with excruciating mouth pain. The cells in our mouths…and all through the entire GI tract…are rapidly dividing cells just like hair cells and cancer cells, so their ability to reproduce is often compromised during chemo, resulting in mouth sores. I made the big mistake of eating tomatoes yesterday evening (I’m supposed to avoid acidic foods like that) and of flossing my teeth last night. I paid for it all night and am still paying for it now. I think the fact that I caused the sores by my own actions makes it worse…I could have avoided this by not eating the tomatoes and by not flossing, since I knew this was a possibility.

August 14, 2007

Mommy's Alright

Today’s oncologist waiting room music selection: Surrender by Cheap Trick. And I’m beginning to think the songs they play are meaningful and symbolic after all.

I was at the doctor’s office bright and early this morning for a blood test, and Mommy’s definitely alright today. Or at the very least, a whole heck of a lot better than she was the Tuesday after her first treatment. My body is responding much better this time than after my first round of chemo.

My blood counts are down but they are not at 0. I’m exhausted because I’m anemic, but the nurse’s recommendation was to increase the iron in my diet. She also said that although I might respond this way after the next treatment, it also might be worse. And I already knew that. Some people experience a cumulative effect with chemo where each treatment gets harder than the last. I’m going to try not to worry too much about that for the next week or so and just enjoy feeling not awful.

Today’s excursion to the doctor’s office was my first venture out in public sans hair, and I was a bit nervous about it. I showered and put on full make up this morning, then carefully coordinated my scarf with my outfit. I felt dressed when I left the house, but I wasn’t sure what it would be like to walk through the parking lot and into the medical building without hair. But it was okay…no one stared or gasped or cried or anything like that when they saw me. And I was in the parking lot of a cancer center, so it’s not like the sight of a woman in a scarf was really all that unusual.

The nurse I saw today was one that I haven’t met before (or at least I don’t remember meeting her before). She greeted me by telling me that I looked beautiful, which was just what I needed to hear. “Beautiful” is not what I think when I look in the mirror right now. I think she sensed that the lack of hair was new for me and she told me immediately that the nurses often discuss the fact that there are some women who can “do bald” and that she thought I was one of those women. That made me feel so good, and I was immensely grateful to her for making my maiden voyage into public so much easier.

After I got home, I still felt pretty good so I took Karly to Material Pickup Day at the high school to get her books and locker assignment. I was nervous about going someplace where there would be people I know who might not know what was going on. I was also nervous for Karly and worried that she would feel like people were staring at me--and at her--while we were there. She surprised me by scoffing at my concerns and telling me that she didn’t care at all if people looked, and that she didn’t think they would, anyway. And she was absolutely right. People didn’t care. I saw people I knew who may or may not have known what I was going through, and each one greeted me just as they would have if I had hair on my head.

I’m relieved to have those initial public excursions out of the way and to know that I am going to be able to handle this whole bald thing. And here is your first view of my new look. I don’t have a picture of my bare head yet, but I’ll share it with you as soon as I do.
Kim and Blake 2.JPG

August 12, 2007

What Should You Say?

Shelley left a comment today after my hair post with a really great question. It’s something I’ve been talking and thinking a lot about lately, and I think the subject deserves its own post. Here is Shelley’s comment, in case you didn’t see it:

Kim, thanks for posting candidly on something that has to be incredibly hard to deal with. If you'd rather not answer this, I'd understand, but I am curious as someone who wouldn't know what to say: how would you like people to react when they see you sans-coiffure? Would you want them to act as if nothing has happened, or to offer sympathy?

My gut reaction would be to ask how you're feeling and let you talk about it or not, but would that come across as pity?

The answer to the last question, which is the easiest to answer, is that your gut reaction would be exactly right on and would be my gut reaction as well in the same situation. If I run into you on the football field sidelines, in the office at school or in the grocery store, I would hope that you would feel very comfortable asking me anything you want to know. In that situation, it would definitely not come across as pity. I am assuming, for the sake of that answer, that we know one another.

I made the decision at the very beginning of all of this to be open with people and to talk about what I am going through. (Thus a website for all the world to read!) For me, that was the best decision because it has made it so much easier for me. Breast cancer has been such an all-consuming part of my life since April and I can’t imagine trying to keep it quiet or secret. The people I run into on a daily basis are usually, via this blog, up to date on what is going on with me and that allows us to jump right into a conversation without having to waste time “catching up.” This will probably change once I get back to school, but so far there have only been a couple of occasions when I ran into someone I know who didn’t know.

But I’ve been on the other side of the fence, and I know it’s not easy to know what to say.

Last year the mother of one of Matthew’s friends went through breast cancer. I didn’t know her very well…our relationship was mostly based on talking on the phone and in one another’s foyers about pick up times and future play dates for the boys. I remember very clearly the day she answered the door with a scarf on her head when I dropped Matthew off at her house one afternoon. It was immediately evident that she was bald and I assumed that she was going through cancer treatments. My reaction was to ignore the scarf completely and to not address the obvious situation at all. I never asked her about it or said anything to her. Because I didn’t know her very well, I had no way to know how she would react to any questions I might ask and I didn’t really even know what to say since I had never known anyone with cancer before except for my cousin, Jenny. Knowing what I know now, I would react very differently in the same situation.

Matthew was invited to his friend’s house again just last week and when we arrived I asked his friend’s mother about her cancer. I apologized for not having said something last year, told her about my diagnosis and we had a wonderful conversation about our experiences.

Even though I am open about this and don’t mind talking about it, I know that there are people who definitely do not feel that way. The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer I unexpectedly ran into an old friend at the surgeon’s office. I saw her within minutes of my receipt of the official diagnosis and was still in shock at hearing the news. My friend was at the doctor’s office with her mother, who, as it turns out, is a breast cancer survivor. When she told her mother about my diagnosis, her mother became visibly upset and walked to another part of the waiting room. My friend told me that it was because her mother doesn’t like to talk about it. And indeed, everyone handles their cancer experience differently. It is impossible to know whether the person you are talking with is someone who is open about it or who prefers to keep it to him or herself and that makes it difficult to know exactly how to respond in any given situation.

And what about strangers? Shelley asks, “[H]ow would you like people to react when they see you sans-coiffure? Would you want them to act as if nothing has happened, or to offer sympathy?” I think that this can be a difficult situation because if two people don’t know one another they have no way to know how the other person is going to react. From my point of view, as I mentioned in my last post, it will be very difficult for me to face the pity or fear that I will inevitably encounter in the faces of strangers. I would prefer that they ask me about it rather than just feel sorry for me, but I know that is unrealistic and that most strangers are going to be reluctant to say anything.

Right after my diagnosis I was grocery shopping one morning when I passed a woman and her daughter in the aisle. The woman was wearing a pink scarf on her head and was obviously bald and going through cancer treatments. My reaction to her, when my emotions were still raw from my recent diagnosis, was immediate and visceral. It was all I could do not to sob at the vision of her scarf and what it covered. I looked at her as we passed one another, wanting to connect with her somehow even though she would have had no idea what we were connecting about if she had looked at me. And I don’t know what she would have seen in my face if she had looked at me at that moment, but I suspect it would have been a mixture of fear and sadness, exactly the thing I dread seeing in a stranger’s face.

So how would I answer Shelley’s questions? Well, I hope that if you see me somewhere and you want to say something or ask me something about the scarf on my head or my lack of hair, that you will, whether we know one another or not. I will be receptive and happy to talk to you about it. And I would hope that you wouldn’t feel sorry for me or feel pity for me, because there is nothing to be sorry for. This is the experience I have been given to handle, and handle it I will. I am okay and I am fighting this. The scarf and the bald head are symbols of my fight…battle scars even. But they are temporary and they are manageable and for now, they are me.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

That title makes me think of an old Bugs Bunny episode, which of course would actually have been entitled “Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Bugs Bunny aside, it is the right title for today’s post. My hair is gone.

And that is the worst side-effect of the day. Maybe the universe is giving me a break this time so that I can deal with the hair loss instead of the other stuff.

I feel relatively good today. I still have very minor bone discomfort, no appetite, and I’m still tired, but other than that today is much, much better than the Sunday after my first treatment.

When I got out of the shower this morning and tried to comb my hair, however, it mostly just came out in the comb. I decided that it was harder to watch it fall out bit by bit all around me than to just get rid of it, so I called Suzy. She came over and shaved my head, and that was that. The initial cuts were difficult, but now that it’s done it’s really not so bad. I’d rather have the hair I had last May, of course, but this is okay. But surprisingly cold! I never realized that my house was so drafty.

It’s a relief to have it over with, although I’m not really as prepared with head covers as I thought I was. I can’t quite figure out what the most comfortable look for me is yet…I’ve tried a wig, a baseball cap, a knit cap and a scarf, and am sticking with the scarf so far. My scalp is pretty tender right now so not everything feels comfortable on my head.

Family member reactions so far go something like this: Randy said that he thinks it looks good and that I have nicely shaped head. Matthew was very concerned about how I was going to look when I told him Suzy was going to shave my head, but he seemed relieved when he saw me and said I still just look like myself. Blake said I look different and wondered when I would have my own hair back again. (Karly is at work and hasn’t yet seen the new do…or lack of one.)

I think that the most difficult part of the hair loss is that it is such a visible sign of what I am going through. With hair, the librarian, the Starbucks barista, and the grocery bagger have no idea that I have breast cancer. The bald head makes it immediately and dramatically apparent that something is going on. I have been worried about the reactions of strangers to my lack of hair…I don’t want to see pity or fear on their faces, even though I’m sure that I will. But now that it’s gone I find that the trepidation I was feeling about those reactions has faded quite a bit.

I’m not quite ready to post a picture yet, but I will let you know when I do.

August 11, 2007

So Far, So Good

It’s Saturday afternoon and I don’t have too much to report, which is good. Compared to the first treatment, this has been much easier so far.

The main problem for me today has been a deep exhaustion that I can’t seem to combat. Part of that is caused by the fact that I woke up at 2:00 a.m. this morning (thanks to the steroids) and never went back to sleep. I finally got up at 3:30 a.m. and did some things around the house (very quietly). I tried to sleep again at about 5:30 a.m. but had no luck so I got up, had something to eat, and then I even did some yoga. I keep trying to take naps but I can’t seem to get into a really good deep sleep.

I’ve had no nausea today (which I am very thankful for), but I have no appetite and am trying to force myself to eat periodically to keep up my strength. I have very slight bone pain, but I’m not even taking anything for it because it’s hardly pain…just discomfort really.

And I’m still losing hair. It’s falling out everywhere now. Suzy’s on call and ready to come over and shave my head any time, but I’m not ready yet.

August 10, 2007

Friday Update

Just a brief update to let you know that I’m doing okay so far today.

I had a Neulasta injection today, which was not without a little drama. I called the oncologist’s office on a hunch this morning and discovered that our new insurance company (as of 8/1…yes, I’m going through cancer treatment and had to switch insurance companies, and it is just as pleasant an experience as you might imagine that it would be) won’t pay for a Neulasta injection in the doctor’s office. If I had not made the call, incidentally, we would never have figured that out before the injection. This is the $6000.00 injection, by the way. This meant that I had to go to a different hospital, register there, answer a million questions, and then get the shot. Although it was an administrative pain, the nurses at the hospital were really wonderful and informative. They suggested that I might not need Neulasta injections after the Taxol treatments, which means I would only need two more. That would be good news! I have to talk to the oncologist about that, though, because they told me that I would need Neulasta following the Taxol, so we’ll see.

Other than that, I feel relatively good. Just very tired. And today my hair is starting to come out in small handfuls. It’s a bit startling to see such large amounts in the sink every time I wash my hands and really freaks me out more than I would have expected.

I haven’t called Suzy yet to ask her to shave it off. I am so not mentally prepared for that. I think I’m going to wait until it’s really falling out all over the place because even though I’ve been trying to gear myself up for this, I know that it’s going to be traumatic for me. I don't know when that will be, but I do know that the progression of the amount of hair loss has been rapid between yesterday and today so I kind of think it might be this weekend. I'll keep you posted, although I can't promise any pictures right away!

August 09, 2007

Round 2

Today’s treatment was painless and seemed to go faster than the first one. The scariest moment always seems to be when Patty accesses my port, and that’s nothing. She’s good, so there’s absolutely no pain or discomfort involved in that.

Like the first time, I experienced the unusual Cytoxan side-effect of a kind of stuffy burning in my sinuses as I was receiving it. I also felt it in my head (next to my scalp) and in my ears and throat. It’s uncomfortable, but not painful or horrible. And like the first time, I now feel very tired and I have just a hint of that same anti-nausea induced headache that I had before. I’m trying to stay ahead of it with Tylenol this time. We’ll see what happens as the days progress. Hopefully I learned my lesson last time and I can let go of expectations and just take each day as it comes.

This time there were five other women in the room at the same time I was there. Patty introduced me to two of them right away, and I had a wonderful conversation with them. They are both in their early 50s and gave me all kinds of advice about hair and chemo treatments and side-effects. (Patty told me that Thursdays seem to be “breast cancer days” in the office, so most of the patients are breast cancer patients and are women.)

In talking to my fellow chemo-mates, I was struck by the fact that every cancer patient has a story. The only thing we all have in common, really, is that we have cancer. And sometimes we meet someone else who may have a similar diagnosis or who may have gone through a similar treatment, but even then the story we each tell is as complex, interesting, and unique as each of us. These stories are important and no matter how many I hear, every time I hear a new one I am awed at the power and depth of the human mind and body to fight and to overcome.

The first women I met today were J and M. (I forgot to ask their permission to post their names, so until I do that I’ll just use their initials.) They were talking with each other when I first arrived and it was obvious that they know each other pretty well. As it turns out, they are at close to the same place in their treatments (near the end for both), so they’ve made the journey together and have gotten to know one another throughout. After Patty introduced us they both jumped right in and started asking me questions and telling me their stories. I didn’t take my computer this time, but I felt a little like Harriet the Spy as I jotted notes about our conversations in my notebook so I could remember what I wanted to tell you.

The moment I heard J talking to M, I knew I liked her. You could tell just from listening to hear that she is a dynamic, positive, no-nonsense kind of woman. She looks at this whole thing as a pain in the ass, but takes the viewpoint that it is what it is and that she’ll just get through it. She’s tough and gritty and doesn’t take no for an answer. She wore a red bandana jauntily on her head with funky earrings peeking out from underneath next to wisps of gray-white hair. She had her footrest up and she wore black flip-flops with a little bling on the straps. She is 53 years old, and told me that she discovered a lump in her breast one morning in the shower by accident. She immediately called her doctor, had a mammogram, and one week later was having surgery. I am just realizing now that I neglected to ask her some very important questions, like what kind of cancer she had and whether she had a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. (I suspect lumpectomy, but I don’t know for sure.) J talked about how upset her 23 year old daughter was when she found out her mom had cancer. J’s mom also had breast cancer at 53, but following a mastectomy with no chemo or radiation she survived and lived to be 78 years old before she passed away from unrelated causes. J also told me that she (J) had genetic testing done after she was diagnosed and that it was negative, despite the fact that several of her mom’s sisters also had breast cancer.

At one point J mentioned that her hair was coming in gray even though it was not gray before chemo. I asked her what her hair used to look like and she pulled out a picture to pass around the room to show us. When I saw it, I couldn’t help catching my breath. Her hair was long, luxurious and curly and a stunning shade of golden red. I thought that it matched her electric personality perfectly. She said that she was going to miss it, but I think she’s going to look equally as striking with gray hair. She’s going to be one of those women who can just pull that off with style. J said that when her hair started falling out she poured herself a martini and had her brother-in-law shave it off for her.

M is also in her early 50s and is energetic and positive and chatty. She talked about the trauma of having her hair fall out all over her body in the shower one day, and about what a relief it was to have her hairdresser shave it off later that day. She told me that she purchased two wigs before she lost her hair and that she loves them because they are so much better than her regular hair. She said that now she has the hair she has always wanted. Her words of wisdom were to make sure I either take my wig off when I cook or have someone else cook…she singed one of hers over a hot grill. M noticed a lump in her breast shortly after she had had a mammogram…which did not show the lump. She said that the mammogram images were just centimeters too low and didn’t catch it where it was located on the top of her breast. She had her doctor check it out, and an additional mammogram showed the lump and then she found out that it was cancer.

While we were talking, another woman came in and sat in one of the chairs near us. J, M, and K all knew one another. K is about 60 or so, and she told us that she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 in her right breast. At that time, she had a mastectomy followed by a breast implant. She went through chemo and radiation and then she received a clean bill of health and a positive prognosis 5 years later. She and her doctors thought she was home free, and then she got breast cancer in her left breast. She had another mastectomy, but chose not to have reconstructive surgery or an implant on that side. In her words, she said that she just decided she would be a unicorn for the rest of her life. Once again, she went through chemo and radiation and then was clear for 5 years. And then she got bone cancer, which is what she is being treated for now. She told me that she has been coming to this oncologist’s office for 10 years. Her first oncologist committed suicide. And her first surgeon died, which proved to be a big problem when her implant deflated recently. She is having a hard time getting any information about the implant (which is now 5 years outside of its 10 year warranty) to determine whether or not she needs to have it removed. As shocking as this story is, K told it exactly the way she would have told a story about running into an old friend at the grocery store. This is her story and her life—as far as she is concerned it’s not dramatic or horrible or depressing. It just is what it is.

After going through this three times, you are entitled to be impatient with the whole thing and K was definitely impatient. Every time someone’s IV machine beeped, K asked the nurses if she was done yet. After the nurses gently informed her three different times that she still had a little while longer to go, she turned to me and said that she didn’t know how the other girls can stand it….it makes her stir crazy to have to sit there. Then she popped a Tootsie Roll in her mouth, took a swig of her Diet Pepsi, and opened her book back up again while she waited impatiently for her own beep.

As we all settled in with our books and the various cocktails coursing through our IVs, yet another woman joined us in the room. She was a tiny little woman, about 70 years old (I am guessing on some of these ages, and I may be way off!), who could not have weighed 100 pounds, wearing a pixie-style shiny white wig and a bright green sweater. She used a walker to get to her chair, but then hopped right up and gracefully pointed her toes like a ballerina in her white Keds as the nurse adjusted the footrest for her. She knew all the nurses by name, and cheerily chatted with them as she told them about how excited she was to have a lunch date with her three children after her appointment. While everyone else read, she gazed out the window with a Mona Lisa smile on her face, watching the sky (because that’s all she could have seen from her angle) and dreaming about lunch with her kids. I didn’t get a chance to talk with her because she was too far away, but I would love to know her story.

I am so happy to have the opportunity to get to know these women. To talk to them you would think that this is all some kind of fun adventure. Their positive attitude is refreshing and uplifting.

In other news, apparently I am an overachiever in the hair department. Patty, J, and M all remarked on what seems to be an amazing feat—I still have all my hair and it looks good. Today is the 15th day after my first treatment, and I guess I’m supposed to be well on my way to losing it by now. However, don’t get too excited. I noticed quite a collection of stray hairs in the sink and on the bathroom counter as I got ready this morning. I can’t pull out chunks yet, but when I run my fingers through my hair (which I find myself doing obsessively now, just to check) my hand inevitably comes away with a piece here and there. We’ll see how long my overachiever status lasts.

My good friend Rachel drove me to and from my appointment today, even though I tried to dissuade her. I knew that they wouldn’t let her join me in the treatment room because of space limitations and I hated to think of her sitting out in the waiting room for 2-3 hours. She insisted that she didn’t mind waiting, though, and I was happy to have the company on the trip there and back. When we got into the car to go home, one of the first things she did was to comment on the hard rock music playing in the waiting room. The funny thing about that is that she had not read my last post and I hadn’t told her the story about the Beastie Boys and Pink Floyd. She came to the same conclusion as I did…that someone on the office staff is into rock music. Rachel told me that she looked around the waiting room as she listened to the soothing sounds of Van Halen and wondered just how much the senior patients sitting there were hating the music selection.

Hey Batter, Hey Batter!

The second treatment is over. As Patty said when she unhooked my IV today, I'm now half-way through the AC regimen. The treatment itself was mostly uneventful, but I have stories to tell about my time at the doctor's office. I'm very tired, though, so the stories will have to wait for now.

When I got home this afternon I sat down on the couch with my laptop ready to start writing in order to regale you with the fun chemo stories I had been thinking about during my treatment. However, I barely got my computer turned on before Blake walked in the back door with a gash across his eyebrow that looked like it needed stitches. So I turned off the computer and took him to the emergency room. Sure enough, he's now sporting 8 stitches and a black eye and the doctor told him no contact at football practice for 10 days, which mean he's going to miss the pre-season game next Saturday.

How did he do it, you ask? He and some friends were playing baseball with an aluminum bat and a soccer ball. He hit the ball, the bat ricocheted back off the ball and conked him in the head. I'll post a picture later.

He's okay, and I was just happy that I wasn't the one having to have a medical procedure this time!

August 07, 2007

You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party

Today I saw one of the nurse practitioners at my oncologist’s office for a check up to determine how my body handled the first round of chemo and whether I am ready for the next round on Thursday. The good news is that I am doing well and am ready to go again. Yay.

More good news is that Nicole, the fabulous nurse practitioner, was able to explain last Tuesday’s unexpected and unwelcome relapse. She thought that it was probably because my body crashed as a result of anti-nausea med and steroid withdrawal. I had been so hyped up on all of those drugs from Thursday and then throughout the weekend that my body decided it really liked all that stuff and then punished me on Tuesday for taking it away. She also said that I probably overdid it on Monday when I was feeling better and that the combination of that and the drug withdrawal threw me for a loop. This time I’m going to take a different anti-nausea medicine on Monday and Tuesday (Zofran) to try to prevent the crash I experienced last time. If that doesn’t work, Nicole suggested that I might have to try taking a lower dose steroid on Monday and Tuesday to get me over that post-drug period. At least I get to add another new experience to my roster—drug withdrawal. Just what I always wanted to try. But really I'm happy to know that there is possibly some relief in sight and that I might not have to go through what I went through last Tuesday again.

I found myself silently laughing as I sat in the waiting room today because I was thinking about what I was going to write about today’s visit. I find that I spend a lot of time these days thinking about how I’m going to describe certain feelings or observations about all of this in my next blog post, and today was no exception.

The doctor’s staff seemed to be running a bit behind this morning, so I sat in the waiting room for about 20 minutes before my appointment. One possible explanation for the delay might be that the office was hopping today. The waiting room seats approximately 14 people, and there were 11-12 there at any given time while I was there. Just as one patient would be called back to see a nurse or to get treatment, another one would walk in the door. I was the youngest patient in the waiting room by at least 10 years. There was one girl who was about 17 years old sitting there, but I think she was probably a daughter waiting for one of her parents to finish treatment.

Everyone sat there intently reading their books and magazines and trying not to make eye contact with anyone else. I’ve noticed that strangers don’t interact very often in this particular waiting room. I noted three different women who were quite obviously wearing wigs, which made me wonder once again if I will ever wear mine. The hair just didn’t look real...the texture and shine were not natural looking and the hairlines were certainly a little “off.” I can't help wondering if I would have noticed that these women were wearing wigs if I wasn’t sitting in an oncologist’s waiting room. It’s far from unexpected to see a wig in such a place, so maybe it was only obvious that these were wigs because I was looking for them.

At one of my previous visits, I came to the conclusion that someone on the office staff must like rock music based on the fact that the music being piped over the waiting room music system was several cuts from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album--and it wasn't the Muzak version. Not exactly your typical medical office music selection. My guess was backed up by one of today's background music songs: the Beastie Boys singing “Fight For Your Right.” I might have been the only person in the room who actually could have sung along. But maybe that song isn’t as incongruous in an oncologist’s waiting room as it seems at first glance. After all, it could be considered a cancer treatment anthem. By putting ourselves through chemo, fighting for our right to party is exactly what we are doing.

August 05, 2007

Refreshed and Recharged

After a weekend spent at the Klein’s lake house in Lake Redstone, Wisconsin (thank you, Dick and Kathy!), I feel refreshed and recharged. Despite the cold, rainy weather and the lack of our usual outdoor lake activities, it was relaxing and, maybe more importantly, it was away from here. It was good to be somewhere that isn’t all about breast cancer.

And today I feel almost normal. I feel strong and good and healthy…I feel like Kim, which is something I haven't felt for awhile. I still get tired very quickly, but even that feels manageable. I hope every non-chemo week is like this. If I have this to look forward to, maybe the bad days won’t seem so bad. I even feel slightly less terrified about the next treatment than I did last week. At a minimum, today I feel like I will be able to put on my game face and meet Thursday’s injection with something that resembles courage.

One chemo side-effect that has lingered and probably will until the end is a lack of ability to taste. For a self-professed foodie, this is a highly disappointing outcome. My appetite returned this week so food looks and smells wonderful to me, but eating is unsatisfying and boring. It’s interesting how my mind refuses to accept the fact that I can’t taste anything and how it continues to crave food. I find that I sit down at a particular meal full of the pleasant anticipation of a variety of sweet and savory tastes, only to find that the only things I can really experience are textures, temperatures, and occasionally the sensation of a really strong flavor, such as the bitterness of chocolate or the heat of something very spicy. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that my ability to taste will return sometime around the holidays…just in time for all the treats of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

August 02, 2007

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

I have written before about the people that breast cancer has brought into my life, and today I want to tell you about two more.

One is a young mother of two very young children who was diagnosed with breast cancer within days of me. I discovered her blog through mutual readers and have marveled at how closely our paths mirror one another’s. I’m not sure that I ever would have found her blog if I hadn’t been diagnosed with breast cancer. And I know I would not have known about IBC.

WhyMommy was diagnosed with the most deadly kind of breast cancer, called inflammatory breast cancer, or IBC. She was nursing her second baby when she came down with what the doctors diagnosed as mastitis, or a breast infection relatively common to nursing women. But it wasn’t mastitis at all, and thanks to her insistence that something was just not right she caught it and is being treated.

Another person you should know is Stella. I’m not certain anymore how we discovered one another’s blogs, but she has been incredibly supportive of me recently. She has taken the time to tell me about her chemotherapy experience and to offer words of encouragement and wisdom as I have struggled this week. I knew that Stella was a young mother and a breast cancer survivor, but I was astounded to learn just yesterday that Stella, like WhyMommy, also had IBC. She was also diagnosed with a breast infection which turned out to be cancer.

I think that it is important for all of us to know that breast cancer is not always simply an unexplained lump in the breast and that there are many different kinds of breast cancer. I have written before about the importance of self-exams and mammograms, but I think perhaps breast awareness is the most important idea of all. IBC doesn’t present itself as a lump and doesn’t show up on a mammogram, so awareness is by far the best prevention.

WhyMommy recently posted about IBC on her blog. With her permission, I am copying her post here so that you can read her words for yourself.

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

Dracula's Lament

Today Matthew told me about a cartoon in an issue of Nick Magazine that depicted two vampires. One of them looked really dejected and when his fellow vampire asked him what was wrong, the sad one told him that he failed his blood test. This was definitely an appropriate cartoon for Matthew to read today--I also failed my blood test this morning.

During one of my first visits to the oncologist’s office they ran lab tests on my blood to get a baseline reading of my white and red blood cell counts, among other things. They gave me a copy of the lab report at the time so that I could use it later to compare future lab test results. The report that I received today looks dramatically different from the report I received back before chemo began and certainly explains how awful I’ve been feeling for the past few days.

The normal range for white blood cell counts is between 3.6 - 10.0 units. (I’m not going to get all technical and actually write down the unit of measure here…you’ll be able to tell from the numbers how low the count is.) In June my white blood cell count was 8.4—right in the middle of the range. My lymphocytes (one of the white blood cells they track) were at 24.4 out of a normal range of 29.5 – 51.1, so they were marked as LOW on the report. My granulocytes, another white blood cell they track, were 5.8 out of a normal range of 1.4 – 5.5. I seem to recall that I thought I might be fighting off a cold on the day that was done, which explains the high granulocyte count and low lymphocyte count. They are both infection fighters, and their levels were off because they were busy protecting me from the cold (which I never got). Today my white blood cell count was at 0.9 (again, the reference range is 3.6 – 10.0). My lymphocyte and granulocyte counts? Both at 0. (Reference range is 29.5 -51.1 for lymphocytes and 1.4 – 5.5 for granulocytes.)

What this all means is that despite the Neulasta shot my blood cell counts are not recovering from the chemo treatment. It explains why I am feeling so tired and it means that I have absolutely no defense against illness right now. The nurse scared me sufficiently about illness today that I ran (okay, I didn’t really run…I walked very slowly) to Target to buy Chlorox wipes and Purell. I have banned poor Blake from being anywhere near me (he has a cold) and I have been washing my hands constantly. I’m a germophobe anyway…this just plays right into all my OCD germ behavior.

The nurse did tell me that I am probably at my nadir, or lowest point, and that they expect the counts to climb again before next week’s treatment. If they don’t, however, I think the treatment might have to be delayed. (I’m not positive about that, but seem to remember the doctor or nurse telling me that.)

While I was at the doctor’s office today I spent about 15 minutes talking with another breast cancer fighter whose treatment schedule is exactly one week ahead of mine. I met her briefly at my first appointment last week and was happy to see that today, the day of her second round of AC, she looked great and seemed to be feeling pretty good. We compared side-effects for awhile, and it was wonderful to talk with someone else who experienced so many of the same things that I did in the past week. She gets kudos from me for her grit, however; the Saturday after her first treatment she attended a family wedding. I couldn’t even get up off the couch on Saturday. She did tell me that she thinks she paid for it over the next three days, but I am still duly impressed that she even attempted it.

August 01, 2007

Another Tunnel, Another Light

Today is much better. I am still staggeringly tired and I can only do one thing at a time before I have to rest. But one thing is so much better than no things.

I am closer to feeling like “myself” than I was yesterday. I am, however, avoiding all glimpses of the calendar because when I see the next treatment listed there I start thinking about how quickly I can find my passport and pack and catch the next plane to Bora Bora or Tasmania or Mars or anywhere else in the universe that is far, far away from Adriamycin and Cytoxan and Neulasta.

Tomorrow—exactly one week after the first treatment—I will return to the doctor’s office for a blood test to track how my body is handling the chemo so far.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers and words of strength and encouragement.

I can feel you and it helps more than you will ever know.