Friday, February 27, 2009

If You Thought the Boobie Bash was a Strange Party Theme...

Welcome to Chemo Party.

Chris went to his high school career day to talk to kids who want to become writers (he mentioned "have a trust fund" and "marry well"). So Stacey came over to babysit what we all expected to be a vomiting, desperate, headachey patient. Not so much. I haven't been sick at all, I'm voraciously hungry and a little hyper. Steriods anyone? I'd say they are doing their job. Expect my batting average to improve as well.

Then the mailman delivered a very special package--some wigs Chris and I ordered online (they were so inexpensive it seemed worth a try in several colors). Stacey and I couldn't resist playing dress-up. It was just one of those days that I haven't had since I was a kid. Hanging out with a girlfriend with nothing really to do. No responsibilities and the greatest excuse ever to just goof off. So we did. Gossiping, talking, on the computers, playing with Seamus, having lunch....and then playing dress-up with the wigs! That meant we were still playing when Chris got home, and since Laureen had promised the Ultimate Recipe Showdown winner macaroni and cheese dish in the evening, Stacey stayed. Then Valerie came over, also expecting a pathetic, vomiting, wreck of a chemo patient (she brought a gift bag with a book, magazines, a puzzle, bath bubbles, all kinds of things for a quiet evening) and ended up joining the wig party. Oh, and martinis were made (don't worry, I stuck with my Gatorade; I'm not totally insane). So in this photo is Connie (aka Stacey) in the strawberry blond number (we think it may need to be cut to have sweepy side bangs), Nigel (aka Chris in the blond 80s hair band throw back--on him anyway) and Tanya (aka Louise, aka Valerie in the dark number--which doesn't even really look like a wig on her). So here's another version of Valerie, will call this one "Vickie." And yeah, that's a tag attached still. But after all 4 of us...wait there was a fifth... tried on the wigs, we figured I was keeping them.

And yep, Laureen showed up with the best Macaroni & Cheese ever (white cheddar, Gruyere, Parmesan, fontina, bleu cheese, and bacon with rotini noodle, the better to soak up the cheese and cream!! Yeah, I'm gonna gain weight on chemo.) So Laureen also modeled the strawberry blond and we definitely think she can go with this look as well:

But, we think perhaps Stacey will not be going blond (she said something about a "meth lab look" but we dubbed her Sienna Chablis instead--it was the combo of the blond and the hat) but she did rock the Sienna hat:

So yeah, I had chemo and a party broke out. That's what friends are for. One Gatorade and a few drinks (in others, not me, relax) later and 3 of us did do the Charlie's Angel pose-- in the wigs and all and Chris photographed. But, uh, I was in that one and I was wearing no make-up whatsover and in sweats--hey, I expected my most intimate companion to be the toilet bowl, how would you look?? So that one may not be displayed. Also, Chris's camera battery finally died, so it was Valerie's camera to the rescue. And we know all about getting those photos from Murrieta to Riverside... (thankfully this time!!).

There's your preview of the wigs. These are not any of the wigs you voted on. The wigs you voted on caused a dilemma. The hands down winner (ash blonde choppy one) was actually the one that was human hair--so too hot for Riverside. It also didn't look as good in person--the color is much more gray ash. But I like the cut of it as well. I did buy one of those wigs and I will likely have it styled a bit like the ash blonde winner...but you'll just have to wait and see. Oh, and yeah, the Crazy Curly wig and the Dolly wig were not real possibilities. I'm not that brave. But I am kicking chemo's butt (for now).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Let the Chemo Begin!

I'm home, resting comfortably, as they say. And all in all things went pretty well with chemo round 1. Tomorrow is the real test, but I'm happy to know I didn't start feeling nauseous and vomiting right away. I'm sure you are happy to know that too.

So the day started, as all days, nights, hours, minutes and seconds must,with Seamus. He gave me his best "good luck, stay strong, chemo's nothin'" cuddle and then we took him over to Shawna D. and Destiny. Then we were off to the oncologist's. Not at 9a.m like we thought, for the 10 a.m appointment that we scheduled with the "non-training" nurse. Instead they called last night to tell us we had to be there an hour earlier to meet with the doctor before the 10a.m chemo appointment. So we had to leave at 8a.m. Yet another thing non-training nurse did not know.

We arrived about 5 minutes late thanks to traffic (but hey, that's their fault, we tried to schedule a later appointment!). And then another 5 minutes late driving around searching for parking. Which doesn't exist. Popular place. Chris dropped me off and then parked here:
(photo is taken from the back of the building--look way down to the palm tree in the center; yeah, our car is past that.)

Good thing he dropped me off, because of course there was more paperwork. A questionnaire about my health. My favorite part was the "Do you consider yourself to be well?" Huh? I'm um, here for chemo. Is this actually a psychological test? But the super good news upon arrival (and after paying the $804.60; yeah, they're all over the money part) was that we met with the nurse practitioner Traci Young (that's her in the picture below to the left; and yep, that's me in my paper top!). And now I know why everyone thinks Wilshire Oncology is so awesome. It's the nurse practitioner--and she's primarily who I'll be seeing from here on out (we learned the doctor is leaving for Switzerland shortly for a couple of weeks; right. Today. We learned that today.) We were able to discuss with Traci all of our concerns (the ones you careful readers know so well--the fast-talking doctor, the "wig program" and the lack of training; I did manage to hold my tongue over the holiday decor). Traci was wonderful and did explain that on both occasions I had not experienced their normal process. She herself normally does the introductory meeting and the doctor comes in at the end and does the "you're having chemo and you'll lose your hair" bit (which is pretty much all she did with me). And the non-training nurse I got is the only one on staff that has only RN after her name. As opposed to RN OCN. And I bet you can guess what the OCN stands for. (Hint: we were in an Oncology office).

I passed the exam (healed up enough from surgery; blood work looked good) and we were off to the "Infusion Room" (the formal name; we all know they mean "chemo room.") Well, not so was packed full and we had to wait for a chair. So why'd they make us come in early, again? Anyway, eventually, we got our chair assignment--right by the door and in a corner, which is actually a good thing. I attempted to live blog, but alas there was no wireless internet acces. There was a network called "JesusSavesUs00825" but alas, Jesus has it security protected, because you know I would have tapped into that network, just for you, my readers awaiting a live blog (I pretend you were all sitting in front of your computers all day just waiting for the post to pop up). So I did the next best thing--I wrote it in time-stamped format in Word. So here's what was going on:

10:25--finally in a chair in the infusion room. There are 10 chairs for patients; 6 guest chairs, plus a few random stools (best chair seems to be the one in back corner--it was like a suite--occupied by a woman with her entourage of friends). Oddly, each chair has what appears to be a suicidal beanie animal hanging from it. Which is comforting. also, there are angels, bears dressed as angels, and dolphins for "artwork." Oh, and quilted squares displayed, oddly, behind glass. Chris dubbed these the "In the case of emergency break glass" blankets. In lieu of those, they did give me a heated blanket, which is super nice.

10:40--lots of prep time involved. The needle dispenser thingy is in my hand/vein and all taped in. Not too bad. I can type anyway. And they gave me a sedative--they like to do this on your first time, but I think they just wanted to make me stop talking/ joking. I think that because they offered one to Chris. Practically insisted.

Random observations while they mix my chemo cocktail: It's a small room and the chairs are all around the sides of the rooms, so of course we're sort of all staring at each other. So, um, what's the etiquette? What do you say? "I'm new here"? Or, "Come here often?" Or, "What are you in for?" Hard to know. Nonetheless in the chit chat I learned that there are two ladies here with me who are also breast cancer patients and getting a similar cocktail to mine (with one additive and over more time). They've both lost their hair and were wearing really nice, natural looking wigs. And both were redheads. Currently, anyway. Then there is Elizabeth a very cute 24 year-old but not a patient. She's there supporting her mom, who also had breast cancer. But she was also there supporting us, apparently. Elizabeth brought in a tray of cookies for the nurses and patients (cranberry and oatmeal--very tasty). She's actually studying for a history course, but poor thing is seated down by Chris and I and is apparently distracted by our constant commentary and joking. She says it's making her day go faster. Because she's sweet like that. She needs to be introduced to the great and good Dr. Karam.

There is of course the husband of one woman patient (the only patient that I think is younger than me) who has been on his phone doing work the entire morning. Just right in the middle of the infusion room. Not a care in the world--for anyone else. Understandable if he was a heart surgeon, on-duty police officer, or you know, his wife was in labor (and clearly, she was not). Instead he was discussing moving furniture and palettes and delivering doors, and inventory--stuff that no way could wait until, say, later in the afternoon, after his wife finished her first chemo treatment. Yeah, the wife is new here too. And she's pretty darn chatty herself--"God has a plan" has been overheard on two occasions so far. I'm going to be certain not to be seated next to her in the future. I think that's in god's plan. She's chatting to the entourage women (while her husband continues on the phone and her step-dad quietly reads Woodworker's Magazine). The entourage is silent --but one of them has on a lavender sweater that buttons down the front and she has inexplicably left the last few buttons open above her waistband. So a belly that should not be exposed, is. Ew.

12:30 pm--I'm half way through the first bag o'chemo and so far I feel fine. Blood pressure is fine, I'm not queasy or itchy or any of the things they keep asking me about. So far, so good. I have another half bag and then a full bag of the other chemo to go, so still a long way, but at least I'm starting out well. (Woman next to me has been ill and vomited into the trashcan between us, so I feel lucky. Well, lucky-ish). The lone man is sleeping and did seem to be having problems with on of the drips, but everyone else seems to be doing pretty well. It's a little like ten little Indians, but with a better outcome. We hope.

12:40pm--Chris is getting out the crackers and cheese for our second little snack. I think the other patients are jealous.

12:50pm--okay, chatty Cathy of God's plan? She's a junior high P.E. teacher. This explains my reaction to her. It is similar to my reaction to my own junior high PE teacher--one of us needs to leave. Chatty Cathy is a colon cancer patient. And I know how many inches of her colon she had removed. So does the rest of the room. And no, no one asked.But the husband finally left. Doors to be delivered and all.

1:00pm -- Okay bag 2 has started. 90 minutes to go. But apparently this one--the Cytoxan--doesn't usually have reactions so I'm at the "easier" part. Really, it hasn't been bad. It's a psychological thing really. If I don't think about it I can almost forget it. We're chatting with Elizabeth, making jokes and eating (now its a peantur butter and jelly sandwich also). Not bad. Oh, okay, there's a needle and tube int he back of my hand and taped down, with the tubes running up to a bag and a monitor clicking, wheezing and beeping, and yeah it's pumping poison into me, but like I said, if I don't think about it I'm fine. I'm wanting wine with my cheese and crackers, but the G2 Grape Gatorade is going to have to substitute for now. I think Chris thought the grape part would fool me.

1:15pm--me and my IV pole made our way over to the restroom. There's a sign above the toilet: "Chemotherapy patients please flush twice." How's that for a stark realization this is poison we're dealing with.

1:25pm--a few folks have finished up and get to go home, including Elizabeth and her mom. I'm new here though, so I"ve got a little extra time to go.

1:30pm-- I sneezed so they got worried I was having an allergic reaction. I don't think so. I sneeze a lot normally. Plus I'm getting a little cold (temperature wise, not sick), so that's all it is. But now they gave me a warm blanket to wrap my chemo hand and arm in. This makes the typing difficult.

1:40pm--we're down to 5 Indians. Of course one of them is chatty Cathy. She's a lot too perky for my taste. She's busy trying to make this all sound fun and like a big goofy adventure. And Chatty Cathy is on her cell phone too now.

1:53pm-- I'm feeling a little tired. I think I'm going to take a nap.


I'm pretty sure I did indeed nap then. And by 2:40 it was all done. They unplugged me, went over the medications, my next appointment and sent me on my way. As I said, I feel pretty good so far (it's now 7:15pm). But I do have to show you what amused Chris for most of the day (well, when he wasn't amusing the rest of the patients with his joking). Two things, really-- the Suicide panda and the Heaven's Gate for Fluffy Toys:

I think they need to re-think this. And I guarantee you that by the time Chris was done making jokes about these they were considering it. And none of my fellow chair people will ever look at these beanies the same way again.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Countdown Begins

Today was a good day. I'm sure that's because it was mostly a non-cancer patient day.

Many of you emailed or posted comments about my blog post last night and my really, really bad day yesterday. I'm glad it made you all laugh. It made me laugh too. Hysterically. No, really hysterically. When I was writing it the absurdity of the whole day, this whole disease just sort of hit me and I laughed so hard I was in tears. You know that kind of laugh where your face is contorting and you can't stop it or pull it back into shape? Yeah, that kind. Right. Hysterical laughter. But it was pretty cathartic. I think I slept better last night than I've slept in the last two months. I woke up feeling pretty good and with more energy than I've had in awhile (Okay, so, dad, the mega-reds mega-greens and mega-vitamins may indeed be working; but I think the release through laughter helped too.) I went to work, wrapped in the beautiful periwinkle soft shawl/wrap that Chris's mom and dad gave me Sunday night (it's a very happy color) and I got a lot done. I think I'm in good shape for what's to come. I even got a couple phone calls from clients just checking in to see how I was doing (it's nice when a client cares about their lawyer!), and a couple of cards in the mail--and one with a California Pizza Kitchen gift card!! (Thanks Susan and Elisa!!).

I also got a Facebook message from a friend of a friend (who is now my friend too) that has been going through this whole breast cancer thing at just about the exact same timeline as me (her surgery was the day after mine and she was actually the first person I emailed post-surgery to say "eh, not so bad."). She read yesterday's post and emailed me with some great websites for wigs--and hey they look pretty good and the prices were low enough you just may see me as a redhead, a brunette and then a blond. Wigs for all my moods. Thanks Ursula!

Much to my surprise, I also got a call from Wilshire Oncology that Blue Cross has indeed approved my chemotherapy. So, I'm all set for chemo this Thursday at 10a.m. Tomorrow I go pick up my prescriptions and my wig (I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to name "her"--expect a poll on that too) and tomorrow night I start the anti-nausea medication. (I have a suspicion I won't be blogging tomorrow you'll all have a chance to get caught up on your reading!) Chris will be doing the preparatory grocery shopping based on what we've surmised--because lord knows we had to figure it out ourselves. Between the materials UCLA had given us, the book the good and great Dr. Karam gave me, and our many prior conversations with doctors, it does seem that it comes down to this: there isn't really a chemo diet/nutrition plan. It's just about controlling the side effects. So really, until we know how I react, we won't know what diet restrictions I have or what foods/ liquids might help. I can drink coffee. I can have a glass of wine now and then. I have to avoid some obvious problem foods like sushi, mushrooms, rasberries (hard to wash), etc. Bascially, that's to avoid getting an infection of any kind since my immune system will be shot. Common sense will suffice.

People keep asking me if I'm afraid. I really don't feel afraid. A little anxious, but mostly, I'd just like to get to Friday night. There's a lot riding on Friday--the day after the treatment is usually the "worst" day and will give me an idea what I'm in for. I'd like to be at the point where I know that. I feel prepared and that's really all I can do.

Thanks again for all your thoughts and support. I'm bringing my laptop to chemo and will blog from there if I can. I'm wondering if they'll let me take pictures. If they do, you can count on it!

Today's picture is the last of the Boobie Bash photos. VALERIE ZUCKER worked so hard to get the photos to me (not to mention working so hard at the party itself), she deserved a featured photo. Plus, I want a happy photo. A Cosmo-induced pink happy photo. So I can stay in my happy place these next 48 hours.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hairy Scary Day

What a waste of a day. Today was not a good cancer day. If Chris were not right there laughing with me there were several moments today where I might have cried. Or slapped somebody. Or both. Simultaneously. And repeatedly.

Where to begin?

Okay, so first we drove to the Cancer Care Center in Pomona where they have the "wig program." You careful readers may recall I expressed concern about the "free wigs" and whether I'd have to qualify and would government cheese be handed out with the wigs. Um, the cheese would have looked better on my head. More natural. Even orange American cheese. Still in the individual plastic wraps. I was too stunned to take photos and I kinda regret that now. But let me start at the beginning... throughout our UCLA experience, I continued to marvel at the youth of the professionals. But marvel as in "wow, what a young genius" and "wow, you got through Columbia, Harvard and fellowships at Johns Hopkins and UCLA and you're only, like, 25?" That kind of marveling. Today we marveled at how young the girls we dealt with were in the "the only other job you've had involved babysitting, right?" and "I realize the bell just rang to let you out of class, but you are working right?" way. So we walk into the Cancer Care Center and there is a young woman in her early 20s (at most) at the reception desk. I explain why I'm there and she stares blankly at me--stares in a way that makes me think I just told the gum-cracking teenage daughter in the car of the guy pumping gas at the local ARCO station that I need a wig, instead of, you know, the young woman seated at the reception desk of the freakin' Cancer Care Center. Finally she says, "Today?" No, tomorrow, but I thought I'd practice today. Let's hope it goes better tomorrow. I should have said that and left, but I'm a sucker. I stayed.

Someone else came out and offered to sit at the front desk so teenager could attend to me. No, really? This is the "cosmetologist" I'd been told would work with me and find the "perfect wig"? Wig-teen takes me to the "wig room." Which is really more of a closet. And she says to me on the way, "Usually when people come in for wigs they have less hair. So that's why I was confused." Yeah, well, hair can be confusing at a cancer center. So I explain that my chemo starts this week so of course I still have my hair. She seats me in a chair, looks at me in the mirror and says, "Yeah, but now I can't get the wigs on your head. I don't know how to fit them." Oh, well, by all means then, let's just shave me now. She has a better idea. She gets out what looks to be a wide knee-high nylon and stretches it over my head, tucking all my hair up into it. Very pretty. She asks if I want to stay blond, I say yes (I see where the voting is going) and she proceeds to get out a bin of brown wigs. Short, curly, "road kill" looking wigs last seen on the Golden Girls. I explain the difference between brown and blond and ask, sitting there in my knee-high nylon cap, if she has any that are longer. Longer than 2 inches, say. For example. And she says no. They don't have long hair wigs. Okay, medium? Like to my shoulder? No. Just short.

This would have been useful information to have before the drive to Pomona, before the nylon was stretched over my head and before I strangled her. (Okay, it was said before the last one). I said, okay, well, what's the longest you have because I've never had short hair. She gives me one, we squeeze it onto my head and I'm Bea Arthur. Only older. And crazier. Chris and I both start laughing (and he starts screaming "NO NO NO NO NO!!" but only inwardly, outwardly he yelled "that's a beaver pelt!!"). We tried about 2 more, each more ridiculous than the last. And these are wigs that are stored in their plastic wrappers, flattened out, unstyled, and packed together in a bin on a closet shelf. Like craft supplies. So when they get plunked onto my head, they are flat, and hair goes in every which direction and there is absolutely no way to know what, exactly, or even remotely, the style is supposed to be. And clearly Wig-teen also doesn't' know so she just randomly moves the wire brush around lightly on top of the wig, hoping something will eventually makes sense. Because Golden Girls was off the air before she was born, so really, what's she got to go on?

Chris says "I can't believe you don't have any long ones." And she says "Everyone always likes the shorter ones. They look more natural." He guffawed. There really wasn't any other response. But he did tell her he disagreed--and pointed to the thick perfectly straight crease with hair sprouting upward across my forehead. She said "no, everyone thinks so." (But what are they comparing it to? If you are only being offered short haired wigs, then what do they look more natural than? The Styrofoam head?) So he asked the logical question--"Well, what's the age range of your customers?" Which was exactly what I was thinking. Even when we pulled into the parking lot, with one look at the building I said "why do I feel like I'm going into a nursing home?" Anyway, Wig-teen gave up on us and we gave up on her and the wigs. Free or not, I'd rather be bald than wear one of those. Wig-teen removes the knee-high from my head and now I've got my real hair all smashed down and messed up and in my eyes...and there's no brush or anything available to help with that. Luckily, my 10-gallon purse has the needed supplies. Cosmetologist, my ass. And all I have to say is Raquel Welch hates cancer people. That or, she donates only the wigs from her company that haven't sold in the last 10 years.

Then they took us next door to the boutique so I could maybe see about "turbans." Sounds promising doesn't it? Yeah, no. They had 3. 1, 2, 3. Not three models. Three of the same kind--one in pink, one in red, and one in white. Three that were in Medium/ Large. If only I were a child looking for a turban, I would have had a vast selection to choose from (vast being 6). We spent about 8 1/2 seconds in the "store"-long enough to get the explanation that they were low on inventory and I should come back in about a week. Right. That's on my calendar. We barely got out before Chris burst out laughing--because the store had two "Shoplifters will be prosecuted" signs. He still wants to ask exactly how many times the store had been hit by renegade shoplifters desperate for pink turbans before they had to install the signs (which, of course, would scare the hair off any shoplifter).

Okay, so no wig and it's only 2:15 (yeah, it took me longer to type that than the whole experience lasted in real time; Chris and I are like that with interior monologues). Next stop was the lab to get my bloodwork done pre-chemo. Once again we found ourselves in a medical office that made me want to say "I do have insurance" when I checked in. I was taken into the back and after a short wait a nice older woman who was about 4 feet tall came and took me into the blood-letting room. Next door was a hysterically screaming little girl, so I tried to at least be slightly braver than that, although I do admit I thought "Okay, so here's the beginning of the needles and poking and veins and ugh." No big deal on the blood draw though. She put the little thing of gauze and the bandage on and sent me on my merry way. Chris and I didn't get 10 steps down the hall when I felt a little squirt and then liquid running down my arm. I looked down at my sleeve and sure enough, blood was gushing down my arm. Back in we went. Only now both nurses were occupied with the screaming child and neither could see or hear me over the squirming, terrorized child and her two parents. So I put pressure on my blood soaked bandage, held my arm up and the middle of the back waiting area. Just, you know, hoping I wouldn't pass out or lose another jacket. A third nurse finally came by and took me into another room, cleaned me up, stopped the bleeding and bandaged me. She also told me to be sure to tell future nurses that I bleed a lot. They need to bandage me more tightly. Good to know.

Next stop--Chemo Training at Wilshire Oncology. They were obviously behind schedule, although we didn't see that many patients there. We finally were taken to a room where I sat on a hospital bed and Chris sat on a stool. Eventually a young, somewhat dazed nurse joined us for the training. It was just us (I imagined it was like a class) and she obviously had no idea what my case was about or even what kind of chemo I would be getting. So she just opened the big file she had with her and started to read things to me. Slowly. Very slowly. And quietly. And she kept getting lost. But that was fine, because Chris and I both had already read these things and we could redirect her. We're here to help after all. Then one of us would ask a question here and there and she'd get more confused and give some really vague answer. Like this:

Me: "Okay, so I'm supposed to drink a lot of fluids. And my dad gave me these anti-oxidants and immune bosters--Mega greens and mega reds-- that are powder form and you mix in water or fruit juice. Is there any reason I shouldn't be taking that?"

Nurse: [blank stare; highly reminiscent of wig-teen]

Me: "It's got vitamins and things also. Like a holistic health, natural thing."

Nurse: "You mean like Crystal Light?"

Me: "No, not at all like Crystal Light."

Chris: "Are there vitamins, herbs, anything like that that she shouldn't be taking?"

Nurse: "It depends on what it is."

Me: (trying not to scream). "Well do you have a list of the things I should avoid?"

Nurse: "We'd have to see the ingredient list. You'd have to bring it in."

So I begin to flip through the materials she's handed me--including two booklets from the American Cancer Society. And I come across a page that says the foods to avoid. To wit:

greasy, fatty or fried foods
raw vegetables and unpeeled fruits
high-fiber vegetables
very hot or very cold foods
foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee
beer, wine and alcohol
be careful with dairy products

Okay, quick...what the hell can I eat?? I read this, and say this, out loud to the nurse (and I think I added "just shoot me now"). Because gee, if I'm supposed to give up even one of the 4 to 5 cups of coffee a day I drink, it would have been nice to know that ahead of time to ease on out of the withdrawal symptoms. And what happened to the doctors telling me that if I felt like having a glass of wine, I could? The nurse slowly backtracked away from most of what was in the booklet (and later tonight at home I noticed the book was written in 1997--and they've learned a lot about chemotherapy treatment since then; so hey, thanks for the antique reference guide, I look forward to the page on leeches). Eventually we gave up asking questions because, as we discussed later, it just became obvious that we could have said "what about grass? Am I allowed to go near grass?" and she would have smiled slowly and said "What? I'll have to check. It's different with everyone." She left to go get the billing person to discuss the "financial arrangements" with me. And that's when I noticed the song playing over the speakers was Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You." I pointed to the speaker, looked at Chris and we both started laughing and then he told me he had already noticed they had also played "You had a Bad Day" and James Ingram's "Just Once." All we needed was "Seasons in the Sun" and we had ourselves a Chemo mix-tape for all time. Chris even went into the chemo room to find out if we could expect this sort of serenade when I was hooked up in the chair. Thankfully, the sound system does not play in that room.

Where the chemo no-training nurse was quiet and soft and confused, the financial person was loud (really, really loud) and quite detailed (down to the penny) and full of information (down to the penny). So I know that I'm $2,200 something into my $3,000 deductible and I need to bring a check for $800 something toward my deductible and the $20 office visit on Thursday. Then $96 the next time, and then $20 each time after. This part they are very, very clear on. Whether or not I can drink coffee, add mega greens and antioxidants to my fruit juice, or which of the possible side effects I should phone in about, and what we should bring with us to the chemo session (food? water? blankets?) they are less sure of. Because, you know, it's a doctor's office.

It's a good thing I had a therapy session scheduled after all of this. Therapy, pick up Seamus, home for a meatball pizza (bless you Round Table) and a big green glass of anti-oxidants and immune boosters, and all is right with the world. Well, no, but I'm home anyway.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hairy Busy Day

The puns just get worse don't they? This is just a little post (and that's TIM MALONEY demonstrating "little") to remind you to vote on your favorite wig over to the right (scroll down, you'll find it). It's an interesting poll, and I have to admit I've been surprised on several counts. Tomorrow (Monday, February 23) is our busy pre-chemo day so we'll be stopping by the Cancer Care Center and picking out my free wig at 2pm. Then it's chemo boot-camp, then blood tests, then therapy, then liquid therapy, then I'm sure we'll be stopping by the pharmacy to load up on not-so-free but totally legal drugs. Now, if that doesn't say "Romantic winter day" I don't know what does.

Seamus will be with Shawna D. and Destiny again tomorrow, which works out well since he's still a little miffed that I haven't written about his whole cancer experience which, he assures you, is way more interesting than mine (but I assure you I had way less of a sense of humor about his!). I'm thinking I'm going to have lots of time on my hands after chemo Thursday. Now, whether or not I can sit at the computer for any portion of that remains to be seen. If the blog at the end of the week seems a little disjointed, or angry, or contains a lot of vulgarity or'll just know that Seamus took over. He can be like that.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Pink Team

I remember when I was first asked to join the board of Alternatives to Domestic Violence, about 100 years ago when I was 25 years old, new in town, new to a large law firm and still cared about being politically correct, and I thought "this is a cause I can support and how can I go wrong joining, it's not like there is going to be a pro-domestic violence group opposing us." And then, not a year later, I was giving a presentation about ADV and the issue of domestic violence at a local service club and a man stood up in the back of the room and said "seems to me every woman needs a good whoopin' now and then." So, yeah, there is a pro-domestic violence group out there. And they were stupid enough to speak up publicly.

Now, I'm dealing with breast cancer and one of the things you learn quickly is that there is a sort of "sisterhood" out there. Or as Chris's mom Trudi said "Welcome to the C Club." It's a club of women with similar experiences dealing with a similar disease (there are actually all sorts of different types of breast cancer at different stages with different treatments, so it's a lot harder to generalize than you might think). For the most part, that's been really comforting. I've been able to talk to several women I hadn't talked to in awhile, had never met before, or are friends of friends and there's a definite level of support there. But Cancer Vixen had written (cartooned? what's the verb here?) about an underlying sort of competition that exists as well. She experienced a "you haven't suffered enough" bias from others in treatment or survivors, because she had "chemo-lite" and never lost her hair. I found that a little shocking. If the competition is over who suffers the most, I'm perfectly willing to lose. I'd like to withdraw completely. Forfeit. Whatever it takes! I'll be the loser. With a thumb and a finger in the shape of an L on my forehead.

But recently I came as close as I want to come to the "I've suffered more" syndrome. And it came in a roundabout way. A fellow writer and Facebook friend mentioned that she had a friend with a book out called "Cancer is a Bitch." The author is Gail Konop Baker and the book looks pretty good--I haven't bought it yet, because not surprisingly I've got a stack of cancer books on my nightstand already. Anyway, that's not the author I'm talking about. Chris Googled "Cancer is a Bitch" to find the book and came across a blog by Cancer Bitch. Totally different. Believe me. Cancer Bitch's blog is interesting--I marvel at the many and varied ways people respond to similar circumstances. We are all just who we are and perhaps cancer makes us more so. She says this:

"I was also telling P the other day about how I was inwardly scoffing about sometone who recommended Pretty Good Hospital, because she'd gotten a biopsy there. A biopsy? That's bupkes. I said it's the way Holocaust survivors have a hierarchy. The ones who survived Auschwitz look down on the ones who were "only" in concentration (not extermination) camps, and the people who were in the latter look down on the ones who were "only" in labor camps, and those people look down on the ones who spent the war in hiding. So the friend who had the biopsy, I said, it was like she was hiding in a barn the whole time. A nice barn, out of the way of soldiers and hostile peasants."

Okay, now, I've had ultrasounds, mammograms, MRIs, a biopsy, a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy, all in the last two months. None of them are fun and each is progressively more difficult than the next. The thing is--you don't really want any of them! It's not fun or easy to have any of the why be dismissive of someone who was, presumably, just trying to help because she hadn't suffered enough?

Also on Cancer Bitch's blog she posts something from another blogger (yeah, that's how the internet works--before you know it you're far, far away from where you meant to go). This other blogger whose name and blog I won't refer to, not to spare her or out of any concern for her (trust me, she doesn't want it; she says so repeatedly on her blog as she blasts anyone who says anything like "i'm sorry you had to have a bilateral masectomy"; such rude people, right?) but out of concern for you. I don't want you to be tempted to peruse such vitriol. Scary, really. She launches a nasty, spiteful attack on the Save the TaTas group!! She is outraged by the "trivializing" of breast cancer. To her, it's not about breasts. It's about death. So the t-shirts, bumper stickers, apparently even the slogan, antagonize her. She ends with:
"But somehow, with the Tata people, it always gets back to breasts and a wink and a nudge. Why be serious about life or death or illness, when you can be cutesy? It’s so easy to whistle in the dark when you’ve never really been there."

So there it is--she's suffered more, so apparently she gets the say so on how money for breast cancer research is raised. She gets to lash out without a shred of common courtesy at well-meaning people who dare to handle a difficult issue with a light touch--one that gets noticed and gets people thinking about the issue. I've got plenty to keep me from smiling right now. I'd rather focus on things that make me smile or laugh--and Save the TaTas, Feel Your Boobies and, yeah, my own Boobie Bash keep me upbeat. And this woman is enraged! By the way, the founder of Save the TaTas (that's her in the photo) has not had breast cancer--but several members of her family have. I think she's entitled to join the cause and try to do something about it. Hey, I think anyone's entitled to that! And she's raised over $260,000 for breast cancer research. I'm having a hard time being mad at her. Maybe I haven't suffered enough.

I've also seen and read things where some women are upset at the "cutesiness" of the pink ribbons and pink everything. Cancer Bitch herself goes after pink M&Ms with a vengeance (and hey, I wasn't exactly kind to the Valentine's decorations in the oncologist's office--but I was that way pre-cancer and I'm not demanding the decorations be destroyed, nor do I feel their very existence was a personal attack on me. Just a visual one.) I've never been a fan of pink, really. And I can go off on a tirade of sorts if I attend an event that's got a predominantly female attendance and the organizers use baby pink for everything (because really, is there baby blue at the sports bar?). But the pink cancer ribbon has a meaning--it's a show of support and it keeps the message out there and the focus sharp. And clearly, I've embraced this (more party photos below). I like it. It's like a little shout out that says "we're thinking of you."

Like last night. We went to Omakase with my dad and step-mom (Okay, now she's googling too-- JIM and NANCY MCELHANNON) and look how RORYANN CLEMENTS and the waitstaff greeted us:
You can't see it so much in the picture, but the white fabric on the aprons has the pink ribbons all over it. And no, they don't normally wear bright pink aprons. So how cool was that? BREIN CLEMENTS even served a course that looked a lot like a boobie ( perfectly round runny-yoke egg on asparagus atop some delicious red-pepper sort of sauce) and dessert was unmistakably boobie-centric.

So yeah, I'm going with the pink team. I've got a serious disease and some serious treatment behind and ahead of me. I've explored the options in dealing with it and I come to the opposite conclusion from the dark team. Why be serious about a serious illness when I can stay positive, not scare people, and even have a little fun? This is not about my death (I'm refusing that option; thanks anyway), it's about my boobies! SAVE THE TATAS!!!!

So thanks to more of my Pink Party People. You're all on the Pink Team too (even those who don't own anything pink--hey, you walked around with pink drinks in pink cups eating pink boobie pops. The horror.)

(Pink Party People: to the left, BARBARA MOORE, SUE MITCHELL, DAVE MOORE, BARBARA WALLACE and a sliver of STEVE WALLACE; to the right-ish, KRISTIN TILLQUIST, PAUL THIEL and LORI THIEL, and below, ROD PERRY--I think the look on my face is because he's drinking water. Explain this "water" thing to me??)
And then, finally, ZEE BEARD shows BARBARA SHACKELTON how Pink is done. But she draws the line at cosmos. She'll take her martinis straight up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Post Party Post

Valerie has indeed sent me some party photos. Apparently the distance between her computer and mine is further than the distance between Murrieta and Riverside and the whole upload and "send" thing is taking hours. But she is persevering. And just in time because I'm tired. Really, really tired.

So I'm just going to remind you to vote on the Am-Hair-I-Can Idol wigs over to the right and let me know which look is "The Look." I can tell already there is a big split between men (and um, lesbians) and women (and, um, gays). You can't, but I can (based on emails and phone calls).Align Center
And then I'm going to just remind you what some of us were doing at just about this time last week:
On the left--CHRIS KERN and ZEE BEARD (they're both just so happy Obama was elected!!). On the right KATHY DOWNING, T.C. BOND, GUY PITTMAN and LAUREEN PITTMAN. Then next up on the left we have my "Leadership Riverside Girls" BARBARA WALLACE, SHERI NELSON LANDRUM and BECKY WHATLEY,

and then next up is VINCE PRICE, JANE CARNEY and ZEE BEARD (and why do I feel like Valerie said "hey, pretend you are having a really good time." Click. ?)

And next up, DOUG and BARBARA SHACKELTON... but that's Doug with BARBARA MOORE and Barbara with VALERIE ZUCKER...which is not confusing at all. But I think we all know now that the Shackeltons don't have a lot of pink in their closets. Oh, and this other picture? It's where everybody hung out all night. This is of course, the before picture. And then there was the extra special and totally appropriate emergency preparedness gift from BARBARA and STEVE WALLACE. Steve just happens to be an awesome bartender whose cosmos I enjoy annually at their holiday party. But cancer is like he brought me a Jug o' Cosmos. Perfection.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wigging Out with the Am-Hair-i-can Idol

Yeah, I can't believe I just wrote that caption either. But, in my defense, if you look over to the right sidebar, you will see that America can now vote on their favorite wig! 7 options to chose from--but trust me, some of them are not really options (I'm testing you here to see if you just really want me to look bad). Okay, I can hear the questions now-- by sidebar I mean over there under the "about me" stuff, not the photo with this post which has more than 7 options.

I promised the Seamus story, and while I pretend you care and cling to my every word and promise, I realize you don't. Half of you don't know that I made that promise in the last blog. So you won't be disappointed if I defer that story a little longer. Because today I went wig shopping and that was just way, way too much fun to not be blogging about. I went over to Cameo Wigs on Arlington in Riverside, as suggested by HELGA WOLF (she is totally technologically hip and thus may Google herself). The owner is Diane Kraft and she couldn't have been nicer or more fun about the whole experience. LAUREEN PITTMAN went with me and of course CHRIS KERN (yeah, he wants the Google hits too) joined us, which was good because you never quite know what a man looks for in his woman until he, uh, hands it to you (the dark wig was his idea. Who knew?). That makes Support Team #4 in this photo.

Diane tucked my hair all up under this flesh net thing. I was never in "theater" so I'm not at all familiar with this, but it seemed like the first little glimpse of what I might look like bald. I didn't scream. Actually I was having such a bad hair day I was relieved to get it out of the way! And then we just started plopping all sorts of "dos" onto my head. It was like being able to get a new haircut and style in two minutes but if I hated it I could just pop it off my head and move on to the next one! It was a kick. As I believe I've mentioned, I've been blond my whole life--it doesn't really occur to me to have any other hair color anymore than it occurs to me to be short (I'm 5' 10"; short is not going to happen). But now my hair could be any color or style at all. Diane styled them, removed them, plopped on another one, played with them--she even laughed at some (as did Laureen, Chris and I) which was good because then I knew she'd give good advice. Laureen photographed the whole thing...well, until she and Chris got distracted talking about recipes and cooking. I'm constantly having to remind people that this is about me!! Obviously tears and nerves were not a problem at all. And Chris got some great dinner ideas. You know, at a wig shop.

I learned about synthetic vs. real hair wigs. Synthetic costs less, doesn't have to be styled or washed as much, but is hotter to wear. Human hair has to be styled daily, is much more expensive but is cooler to wear. And another little test--one of the wigs in the 7 photos is a "human hair" wig. The others are synthetic. See if you can guess which one. I'm going with synthetic--if I can get out of styling "not my" hair and get out the door in the morning faster, I'm all for it. But place your votes. Let me know what look you think is "the look" for me for the rest of 2009, or so. Keep in mind that in these photos I still have my hair underneath so the wigs look lumpier or not as well fitted as they will when I have just skin underneath (oh, and I have a widow's peak--which we kept having to remember, won't be an issue in the future!), and she can style and cut them (i.e. for bangs, or to be shorter) after we fit them to my hairless head (i.e. in about a month).

I also heard back from the folks at the Cancer Care Center with Pomona Valley Hospital. And sure enough they have a free wig program. The lady was again just super kind and made my appointment with the cosmetologist for next Monday--right before we go to chemo boot camp!
The Cancer Care Center sounds like an interesting place where I might be able to find all sorts of information and necessities.

Next week is a busy cancer (which I totally don't have Dad, but you know, I have all these doctor's appointments!) week. Monday I get enrolled in the wig program at 2, then chemo boot camp at 3, then the therapist at 4 (and drinks at 5, obviously). Tuesday and Wednesday I get to be a lawyer, Thursday is chemo #1 and Friday is ??? Yeah, Friday is the big question. Chemo #1, by the way, they give you over a longer period of time--so we'll be there like 5 or 6 hours. They drip it more slowly in case there is any sort of adverse reaction. I'm hoping my worst reaction is snoring.

But I'll be ready--because this Friday night Dad and Nancy (Okay, that's JIM and NANCY MCELHANNON) are taking Chris and I to Omakase for dinner (the wait staff had better be in pink, that's all I'm saying RORYANN CLEMENTS!!) and he's bringing me some sort of "build your immune system" program and then Sunday Chris's folks JIM and TRUDI KERN (no idea if they Google themselves, but I know she reads the blog!) are coming over for dinner and she promises another of the beautiful, soft and oh-so-comfortable wraps for me to wrap up in whilst in the chair. Everyone's visiting now. Whose going to see me when I'm a Russian spy brunette?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Beagles and Boobies

[This first part was written the night of February 17th]

Fair Warning: this post may ramble a bit. Why I should warn you about this one rather than any of the prior posts, I don't know-- except that today is my birthday (well, for the next 20 minutes or so) and when I got home Chris made me one of my favorite comfort meals (BLT sandwich, potato chips and chardonnay. Do not mock! It's my birthday and I have cancer!) and there may have been more wine, and then we sat out in the jacuzzi for over an hour chatting--which we haven't been able to do for awhile. Not the chatting, we do that all the time. The jacuzzi. See, post-surgery I couldn't go in the jacuzzi (open wound and all that). Just about when I healed enough to go in the spa, the rain started and our jacuzzi sits out on our back patio with a lovely view of the city and mountains, which is, generally, less enjoyable in a downpour. Once chemo starts the spa is off-limits again (apparently these tubs are just giant vats of bacteria...and yet sexy and romantic at the same time). So we enjoyed it while we could. And I'm relaxed and wined-up, and today was a good day. Today was a good day.

I was even motivated enough to start the wig shopping process. Or maybe it's a journey. The wig journey. Or the cranium prosthesis journey. I realized that while the Rancho Cucamonga Doctor had mentioned they had a "wig program," I really didn't know what that meant or what I was supposed to do. Program sounds a little like there will be 12 steps, and stern nurses, and more paperwork. So I called Wilshire Oncology(the Rancho Cucamonga place) and realized right about as they answered the phone that I had no idea what to say. "Hi, I need hair" while accurate, seems somehow not right. And I'm sure the esteemed and important and busy oncologists are not to be bothered with these things so who do I talk to? I blurted out something along the lines of "I was there last week and I'll be having chemo there next week" (which if you think about it, doesn't distinguish me from any other patient they have). So I persevered, "I have some questions and I have no idea who I'm supposed to talk to." Which again, is an accurate statement but wrong. Wrong on their part. Why don't I know who to call? (Let me mention again, I have the email address, office phone and cell phone numbers of the great and good Dr. Karam and can ask any question anytime. I'm pretty sure he can't help me on the hair part, but that's not my point here). I know now--I talk to one of the nurses, so they put me through to her. And her name was--get ready to smile, and I'm not making this up--Hope. I spoke to Hope. Hope was kind and informative and patient with me. So hurrah for that.

The Beverly and Robert Lewis Cancer Center at Pomona Valley Hospital operates the "wig program" and according to Hope, gives cancer patients free wigs. I am sort of wondering if I have to "qualify" for that (like food stamps but with hair? do I get government cheese with it or is it an either/or thing?) but Hope didn't think so. I had to call someone else again to find out what I do to get into the wig program (do I need references? Is there a personal essay involved? Do alumni interview me? So hard to know!). I've left a message and perhaps I'll find out tomorrow.

Then I looked up the two wig places that were recommended to me. One seemed to specializes in treatments for permanent hair loss, and the other turned out to be walking distance from my office--if I weren't so fond of cute, impractical shoes (which for the record, is completely different than Valentine's kitties or teddy bears or leprechauns). I called the one close by and pretty much was sold for all the reasons that matter when one is shopping for hair--there was a dog barking in the background, which for me is liking finding a four-leaf clover with a ladybug on it under a rainbow while riding a unicorn. Only less, you know, freakish. And the woman who answered sounded about 100 years old and kept calling me "honey." As in "No, honey, you don't need an appointment. You just come on in, honey." (And yeah, I thought you might need an appointment. I don't know why I thought this. I don't know the "rules" for hair shopping.) Anyway, I think I've figured out how to get from here to hair. I'm going with LAUREEN PITTMAN tomorrow afternoon--she says she's going to convince me it's time to be a brunette.

[And that's as far as I got before getting really, really sleepy and bored with my own rambling. But now this morning I realize I didn't even explain why Seamus is the photo of the day...besides the fact that he's Seamus. So, now it's the morning of the 18th and I shall explain.]

I felt really relieved to have a plan in place for this. And I couldn't really figure out why I was so flummoxed by the wig thing--it wasn't the hair loss that was getting to me, it was just that somehow I couldn't figure out how one is supposed to go about getting the wig. It was like my own Amazing Race--foreign territory, no map, unfamiliar language. Oddly, I haven't felt that way too much previously. So then I realized after I made the "everything I know about cancer I learned from dogs" joke that it was really true. Much of my experience was in fact similar to Seamus's, with a couple of really important differences. And hair loss was one of them!

I'm generally more assertive (aggressive? don't discuss amongst yourselves) in dealing with other people's problems than I am with my own and certainly I'm all over it when the dogs of my life have had even the slightest issue (except Seamus's separation anxiety...I've been completely unable to deal with that). So, while I'm not at all happy Seamus had cancer, I realize that his "journey" really did, in many ways, prepare me for mine--and when I got to an unfamiliar part, I stumbled. So tonight, I'll tell you all about Seamus's cancer journey. It has to wait, because for now there's a living to be earned and hair to be perused.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thinking Out Bald

As I mentioned, this is my week for dealing with the hair situation. I've received quite a few emails, calls and comments on the blog with input on the wig situation. Seems that everyone views hair loss (for a woman, anyway) as really traumatic. And it sort of got me thinking about why hair is such a big deal to us and why the difference between men and women? Men lose their hair quite regularly and permanently and while there are billions of dollars being made in phony hair replacement products and methods and super-bad toupees and let's not forget the giant comb-over disasters, there still seems to be less of a social issue with bald men vs. women. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking forward to hair loss--but I feel like in the scheme of things (you know, cancer and all) it's not the worst thing. For the few months I'm hairless and going through chemo, I just find it hard to believe that's going to be my biggest concern (yeah, I know, ask me again in a few weeks), and who's going to be mocking my "hair" at that point (note to self: get the shirt "Back Off People, I have Cancer" made).

But I was intrigued enough by the response from others to look into why hair seems to be such a big deal. That means a Google search of course. And yeah, "hair symbolism" brings up over 6,000,000 hits!! I didn't have to get far to find this:

Doth not nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her.So wrote Saint Paul to the people of Corinth (I Corinthians 11:14-15); the shame of one sex is the glory of the opposite sex. Indeed the debate over hair symbolism is both ancient and complex, and applies not only to gender but also to politics, as Hippies, Skins and Punks, and Rastafarians, among others, have recently demonstrated. Hair is one of our most powerful symbols of individual and group identity—powerful first because it is physical and therefore extremely personal, and second because although personal it is also public, rather than private. Furthermore, hair symbolism is usually voluntary rather than imposed or ‘given’. Finally, hair is malleable, in various ways, and therefore singularly apt to symbolize both differentiations between, and changes in, individual and group identities.

The Body Social: Symbolism, Self, and Society. Contributors: Anthony Synnott - author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1993. Page Number: 103.

That just seems like such crap (sorry, Saint Paul), it almost makes me WANT to lose my hair! But apparently, when I do...I will lose my group identity. And this is before I even know exactly what group I belong to. Alright, so my Google search wasn't that helpful. Except that yeah, for whatever reason hair is a big deal for we humans. Again with all due respect to Saint Paul, I don't think "in nature" the female hairless Chinese-crested dog is any more or less embarassed than the male. Nor is the male poodle or collie any more shamed than the female. It's like he didn't watch the Westminster Kennel Club Show. (Yeah, everything I learned about dealing with cancer, I learned from dogs).

I do however have a wig shopping plan in place (I can't really be scaring off clients or small children) and a couple of humorous shopping volunteers. Later this week hopefully I will have a new poll and you can vote on which wig look is your favorite. Or, um, least favorite.

So, one little party secret for you--because it fits here (and Valerie is still withholding those photos!). One of the guests mentioned to me that last year she dated someone I had dated and that he still apparently had issues about me or us, or something crazy. But here's the part that cracks me up--he says I get by on my looks!! This cracks me up for so many reasons, to wit: a) this assumes I do indeed "get by", b) there's a time in my life where such a comment would have caused me to verbally eviscerate and feed the entrails of such a man to my pack of dogs (figuratively, of course; maybe), but that time left around my 40th birthday and I'm now reduced to "so he thinks I'm hot?", and c) I didn't "date" him. It was a drink, dude. A drink. And if the years since the drink are more than 3 times (yeah, three) the number of drinks had, it's probably time to get over it. Just a little rule of thumb there. But finally, I'm thinking it's a theory about to be tested. And I'm thinking I'll get by just fine.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Business End of Breast Cancer

Party's over. Okay, I know I promised more pictures and secrets, but Valerie clearly is not reading the blog and hasn't sent the photos yet. Perhaps she's carefully screening them. (No, this is not a photo from the party. It wasn't that kind of party).

But the party is definitely over (the house has almost been restored and the Clarkes restored the scotch--they really didn't drink that much but Jack didn't want to be that guy either, so the whole family dropped off a bottle. Why were the kids carrying the scotch though?)

I didn't realize how darned clever it was of me to plan this party in the midst of all this cancer stuff. I was able to focus on something fun, like a party with pink drinks and food shaped like breasts, and sort of ignore the whole cancer part. But today I sat down to deal with the many details of chemotherapy. And man, it's a lot. I'm wiped out.

I'm supposed to deal with the hair issue, or, er, lack of hair issue before chemo starts--you know, go pick out a wig and get it cut, styled, whatever and start getting used to wearing it (supposedly this lessens the shock. I'm thinking it drags it out!). So that means soon. I'm basically 10 days away. I did at least go online to (yeah, there's such a thing...thanks Google ads) and Chris cheerfully helped me pick out a few scarves and hats this morning. And hey, they have "hair" that you wear under a hat (so no top part--not as hot or scratchy is the idea) which seems pretty clever for a more casual look (unless Aretha lets me borrow "the" hat in the next few months, which is definitely not casual). But we decided that for "hair" the selection needs to be done in person. How will I know if long red hair really suits me? Or dark Cleopatra hair? Scarves and hats were ordered--oh, and a sleep cap! Because otherwise I will freeze at night. I hadn't thought of this. My only complaint was they stick bows on a lot of the hats. I'm bald, I'm sick, and I don't do cute...why would I want a bow sticking out of my head? Who thinks of this stuff?

But now I've got to find time to go wig shopping. Where to even begin with this? Okay, I begin by figuring out who can go with me and be able to provide style advice but also humor and not collapse into a puddle of nerves (or tears, god forbid). I'm working on that. I also looked at my calendar between now and "C" day. Yikes. I've already jammed what feels like a month of client appointments into two weeks, and now I'm supposed to go shopping? My head won't even go there (pun intended).

I also calendared what I know about the chemotherapy "journey." So I blocked out the days on my work calendar that I'll be out for the treatments and the one afternoon of chemo boot camp. Then I started looking at the days (10 to 14) after each treatment that they say I will likely feel the greatest fatigue. Bonus days occur in the third week when apparently the steroids take over and I will have a sort of unnatural "high" and be full of energy. You know, right before they drip me full again and send me crashing back down, lightly. I also get blood tests from time to time between treatments. And I see the doctor a couple of times besides the chemo treatments (which are mostly done by the nurse practitioners). It's like I'm sick or something. My spring calendar is just a hot mess. Oh, and my secretary, who maintains my calendar, office decorom, most of my memory and a good portion of my brain, leaves on maternity leave March 6th. She's going to miss all the fun.

I did realize though that my last treatment will be April 30th which is sooner than I was thinking. So by the end of May my hair should start growing again. I can race Michelle's baby to see who gets a full head of hair first. And he has a "head" start, since not only is his hair already growing but his head will be smaller. (Still, I should have a good 2 or 3 inches of hair by the time I'm sipping mai tais on the shores of Lahaina come December). The radiation will start then in June and I should be "all done" in July. I mapped this all out today.

Chris and I also realized that he's supposed to be at his old high school speaking on "career day" on the 27th. The morning after the first chemo. I don't want him to miss it to stay home watching me sleep (or, um, retch) so I called in reinforcements. STACEY ALDSTADT will be the first official "babysitter." For that, she gets an extra party photo. Plus, look how "cute" this is:
Yeah, again it's all about Seamus. He has a way of doing that. (Where'd he learn that??)

And then again, there were the bills. UCLA's have started to roll in now. They seem to come in piles. And piles.

Yeah, I think I need to just go unwind with a glass of wine and a book... PAUL and LORI THIEL did give me "Cancer on $5 a Day" by Robert Schimmel for my birthday...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Booze Hound and The Boobie Bash

We survived the Boobie Bash. But this picture was taken way late in the evening (hint: Chris's cheeks turn pink after a couple of drinks), so we sorta look like we barely survived. We believe a good time was had by all who weathered the weather to be with us (please don't disillusion us).

A few not to be missed highlights:

VALERIE ZUCKER (although it seems some of you still remember her as Valerie Mraz--it's like she's had as many names as I have!) did a bang up job of setting up, bartending, photographing, coat-checking, bartending again (I think I cursed that part somewhere around 4a.m. this morning), coat-retrieving, and breaking all the rules by coordinating a fantastic gift surprise (more on that in a bit). I don't know what either one of us is doing in this photo, but I'm sure it was important. Or just, um, weird. And this was before the campfire songs started.

PAUL and LORI THIEL won the "greatest distance traveled to celebrate boobies" award, by braving the storm and penetrating the force field that generally separates south Orange County from Riverside. And then, judging by this picture on the left, apparently I lectured them. I can be like that. Paul said it was totally worth the drive though, because there are no strip clubs in Mission Viejo. He may have had the wrong idea about the boobie bash, but he did mask his disappointment well.

Then because I firmly believe there is no such thing as too much attention, and because Valerie demanded that I sit and I'm still used to her carrying a gun and a badge, I sat while she gathered folks in the living room. Even though I said "no gifts" and was not at all hinting that anyone who cared about me in the slightest would want me to have Robert Deyber's "Booze Hound" lithograph, it seems several sneaky follks got together and bought it for me!! They even got a signed program from the artist who wrote a little "Go Pink!" Happy Birthday note which is, ironically, written across the "Bad Hare Day" picture. I was genuinely surprised (and I mean that; genuinely). Special thanks to: VALERIE ZUCKER, LORI LACEFIELD, SUE MITCHELL, ZEE BEARD, STACEY ALDSTADT and DEANNE EDWARDS, BARBARA and DAVID MOORE, GARY BERG, LAUREEN and GUY PITTMAN, MICHELLE PIERCE, and DOUG and BARBARA SHACKELTON for bringing the Booze Hound to the Boobie Bash!DAVE WRIGHT and partner VINCE PRICE kept the cosmos pouring, even though Dave refused to wear pink citing it as "too gay." WOODY RUCKER-HUGHES brought a delectable pulled-pork and slaw sandwich spread which we enjoyed again today. RORYANN CLEMENTS from OMAKASE (it's been over a day since I mentioned her, and they were threatening to ban me from the restaurant over that) dropped off 3 dozen boobie pops which rapidly disappeared, and I'm a little shocked at how many folks claimed they were taking them home to their children. KRISTIN TILLQUIST was kind enough (kind--get it? Okay, look at her book over there to the right. Get it now?) to bring a huge veggie tray--with potato chips in the middle! I realize a potato is a vegetable, but that's still funny! (Oh, and go to Kristin's book signing February 27th from 5 to 7pm at Saffron's in downtown Riverside. I'll be reeling from the chemo, but you all have a good time for me.)

Seamus was of course present and blessedly Destiny came to watch him. A beagle cannot be left unattended in a room full of suckers, I mean people, and trays of food. A beagle will manipulate even the hardest hearted among you into feeding him his eighth meal of the moment. Destiny has far better control over Seamus than either Chris or I do and was able to limit Seamus's food intake to only twice his body weight. Since he was sporting the ever-so-stylish and studly "Beagles for Boobies" t-shirt (thanks, Mom!), many guests found him irresistible and bent down to pet him...and that's when he stole their food. Which is why we say he is diabolically cute.

The party lasted until nearly two in the morning. And some of you have since mentioned you did not realize JACK CLARKE is that funny. Oh, he tries to be all serious and dignified, but if you look at the picture closely, you will see the giant scotch in front of him-- let's just call it "not the first one." He can't help himself, he's just the best straight man there is. (The late night party crew assembled in the photo includes STACEY ALDSTADT, JACK CLARKE (JR. but I think we're all clear on that now), SHEILA CLARKE, and BECKY WHATLEY (and man, can that girl party).

I will have more photos (these are some that Chris took, we'll have to get more from Valerie, the "official" photographer), more stories and probably spill a few secrets tomorrow (the kind you learn when people are drinking in your living room late at night), but for now...did I mention the party went on until nearly 2a.m.? Yeah, I'm sleepy. (Yes, I'm sticking with that description. Shut up.). If that is the only party I get to be a part of in this crappy year that is 2009 for me, at least it was a good one. Thanks to all who attended or had a drink with me in spirit (and my head feels like that must have been a lot of you). And a special thanks to Chris, who hasn't exactly had it easy these past few weeks and nonetheless tirelessly worked before, during and after the party without a single complaint. (Love you, baby!).

And here's my last photo of the evening. We'll call this one "The Survivors." T.C. BOND (1 year survivor), and KATHY DOWNING (20+ years) with me (an aspiring survivor). They've both been great help and truly inspirational through this "journey," so it was great to see them and raise a glass to getting through it all.