To all my amazing blog friends:
I didn’t want to keep writing about cancer here, so I started a new blog, Color Me Cancer. Like a woman who can’t ever have enough purses or shoes, I seem to do the same with blogs. If you or someone you know has cancer, or you’re just interested in what I have to say on the subject, check it out and sign up for updates!
This is what I’ve been doing instead of writing.
CHEMO WEEK 2, Treatment #3:
The first two chemo treatments were really rough. After years of running, and being a naturally outdoorsy type of person, it was so hard to lie around in bed and be sick. By Thursday of the second week, my third chemo treatment and the last one in the first three week cycle, my appetite had returned and I felt good. Just in time to get knocked back down again!
The week after the first two treatments I pretty much lived on white rice, homemade fruit smoothies, Ensure, and cheddar popcorn. I realized quickly that any calories I could tolerate were good calories, no matter how nutritious they were. Nothing sounded more disgusting than vegetables, raw or cooked. The chemo made me so sick I didn’t even want to drink water–which is bad because chemo can damage the kidneys if they are not flushed out enough.
After surgery and the first two chemo treatments, my weight was just south of 110. I was very thin, and I knew I had to eat. And drink.
The “electric” feeling I had after the first two treatments slowly dissipated from my body, and I was even able to meditate a little and do some very easy yoga. The meditation really helped me to calm down when I felt like I was going crazy. Meditation is usually one of the hardest things in the world for me to do, but it really helped.
I had also decided to cut my hair again, even shorter, because I knew its days were numbered.
I was starting to recognize certain people in the cancer center waiting room: the breast cancer woman who always came with the same friend, who rarely looked up from her iPad and looked like she might be a teacher (all teachers have “that look”); the tall, thin man wearing the track suit who moved to another seat away from us the first time I saw him–who this time said hello, talked about being bald, wished he’d cut his hair years ago, talked about how expensive it was for his wife to do her hair, discussed his wife’s friend who had a beauty shop in her house, and how we should go to beauty school and cut hair in our retirement; and another tall, thin man who smiled sadly at me and walked very, very slowly when they called him back to the infusion rooms.
I also met a possible distant relative. The receptionist told me one morning when I checked in that there were two patients with my last name in their computer. Turnage is a fairly uncommon name, and this was unexpected news. As we waited in the lobby, a nurse called out Turnage! from the wrong direction. I stood up, confused–and so did the man sitting next to me. We looked at each other, I asked “Are you a Turnage, too?” and he nodded. We agreed we had to be distantly related when he told me his family could trace their ancestry to two brothers named Turnage who emigrated from Ireland to North Carolina, which is similar to a story I’d heard years ago.
Sometimes you may discover you have more than cancer in common with the people in the cancer waiting room.
It was a very long day. I went into the chemo room at 8:15am and wasn’t done until 5:00pm. My oncologist’s nurse was waiting for me when I got to the chemo room and said that I looked great for someone who had such terrible numbers. Apparently my blood work showed that my potassium and magnesium levels were low and my heart rate and blood pressure were elevated. I knew the IP chemo had been tough, and the numbers agreed.
I was given a 6 hr potassium IV drip in addition to the Taxol IP. My sister stayed with me the entire time and we watched The First 48 Hours on A&E.
Chemo is boring. IV (intravenous) chemo is administered into the port in my chest. I sit in a recliner and let the cancer killing chemicals slowly drip into my veins. IP (intraperitoneal) chemo goes into the port directly into my abdominal cavity, on the same side where the tumor was located. For IP chemo I have to lie in a small bed and turn on my side every twenty minutes. I set the alarm on my phone in case I fall asleep (which is often). In addition to the chemo drugs, a massive amount of fluid is pumped into my abdomen. It’s not painful, but when IP chemo is finished I feel like a big juicy watermelon. And I have to go to the bathroom a lot.
Some of the drugs make me sleepy. I’m actually happy when I nod off because it makes the time go by faster. I rarely watch TV. Sometimes I turn it on just for the distraction, but mostly I just recline or lie in bed and somehow the hours tick away. I always have someone with me, usually my husband and either my daughter, Dominique, or my son’s girlfriend, Nicole, to stay with me and drive me home.
After the third chemo treatment, I thought maybe I could eat some Asian food with rice. My stomach and the chemo drugs gurgling in my belly had other plans. I will spare you the details of dinner and the effects of the IP chemo on my stomach. Maybe Thai food wasn’t such a good idea. Lessons learned . . .
If you’ve stuck with me through these tough past three posts, bless you. I promise it does get better. I don’t generally like to dwell on the hard times, but those who know me know that I don’t like to sugarcoat things. Chemotherapy is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and in honor of all the people through the years who had no choice when they were dealt the cancer card, and were saved by chemo, I’m giving it the respect it deserves.
Chemo, I may hate you, but I salute you nevertheless!
Heartfelt thanks to everyone who liked and left comments on my last post. No one was more surprised than me to get the email that it was going to be Freshly Pressed. I am so honored to have been featured there, and even more humbled to see my little icon amongst such great blogs. You guys really kept me busy replying to all your lovely comments, and I look forward to checking out everyone’s blogs. It may take me awhile, but I can’t wait to see all the great writing and photography that’s out there.
Thanks also to those of you who signed up to follow Mind Margins. What a daunting task I have ahead of me to make it worth your while to continue reading and visiting. I especially look forward to discovering your own blogs and reading what you have to tell the world.
Most of all, a special thanks to those of you who’ve been reading my blog for the past year, which is when I really got serious about writing and keeping up with the posts. It took me awhile to slog through the changes and find my niche, from Walls with Doors, to chasing now, to Mind Margins, but you guys were patient with me! You are my blogging family, and I appreciate all the time you put into keeping up with my take on the world.
You guys rock!
A few weeks ago someone stole our grill. They parked their car at the end of our well-lit driveway, walked past our two parked cars, picked up the grill on the other side of the bedroom window behind our bed, shoved it into the trunk of their car, and drove away. It was 10:30pm and we had gone to bed five minutes earlier. The only sound the thief made was a thump as he tried to fit the grill in his trunk, alerting the dogs. Michael got up to look, saw the car, and only realized what had happened when he saw the wheels of our grill sticking out of the trunk as the thief drove away.
It was a $60 grill.
I was angry for days. I couldn’t believe someone would be so bold. I couldn’t believe the dogs didn’t bark earlier. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t heard anything.
I felt jumpy the next week. I kept the doors locked and the blinds open, and I watched every car and pedestrian that passed the house. I didn’t run or walk the dogs in my neighborhood. I signed up for daily emails listing robberies in my neighborhood. I felt suspicious and unsafe. What if he came back and tried to break into the house?
I wanted to get a shotgun and a pit bull and install cameras and floodlights around our house. I felt like the Clint Eastwood character in Gran Torino.
A few years ago someone stole the hanging flower baskets off our front porch. Michael left the ladder out one night and we saw the footprints the next morning through the backyard where someone had walked in from the alley and taken it. I was angry those times as well, but not like this. This was a seething, vengeful, pit-of-your-belly type of anger. I wanted to catch the thief and spit in his face. And worse.
I got over it, but it took awhile. It felt personal, but I was thankful it was only a cheap grill. It made me think, however, about why I felt so angry.
Years ago, when I was a single mom finishing up my college degree and living in student housing on campus, I came home with both kids and a few sacks of groceries. I took the kids and some bags upstairs to our apartment, and left the rest downstairs. When I came back the groceries were gone. Surprised, but not angry, I remember thinking to myself, “Well, someone must have needed that food more than me.” As I walked back upstairs, the hall director came running up the stairs with the missing groceries. He was prone to pranks.
There’s no way I would be that magnanimous today. Look how I reacted to someone taking our grill. What had changed?
What does this say about me, that stealing something stupid like a grill would make me want to go Rambo? And what does it say about our world, when you would risk jail time or getting shot over something that insignificant?
I was shocked when I started reading the police reports for my neighborhood. Apparently there are a lot of houses and cars being robbed. Even more alarming are the increasing numbers of armed robbery.
And it’s not just my neighborhood, it’s all over the city–and probably the entire country.
The guy who stole our grill was a pro. Stealing is his job. It was too dark to see the grill from the street, which means he had seen it earlier when the cars were gone and came back later when we turned out the lights.
Is this what happens when there aren’t enough jobs to go around? I doubt it. There always have been and always will be people who steal.
The worst part of this minor, insignificant incident was the way it suddenly made me feel distrustful and suspicious. Losing the grill was unimportant. Losing my feeling of safety was huge. I like to think that people are inherently good, and that if I’m careful and observant I’ll stay safe. Having something stolen, no matter how small, reminds me that there are others out there who are lost–and dangerous.
And this is perhaps what made me so angry, that my view of the world could be wrong. I’m not so naive as to imagine the world is like a Disney movie, where the good guys always win and the bad guys always get caught. I’ve known bad people. But knowing there are people who make their living by stealing and threatening and physically hurting others makes me angry. I want them to go away and be better people.
I read a report of an armed robbery a few blocks from my house. A man was walking back to his car from a restaurant and was accosted by two young men with a gun. They got angry because all he had was $23 in cash and an iPhone.
If you would hold a gun to someone’s head for $23, and be willing to take a life for an iPhone, then your own life must be worthless.
And that is truly heartbreaking, for all of us.
I’m a worrier. I never thought I was, but it’s been brought to my attention that I am.
Sometimes, there are things that need to be worried about. Like snakes.
There is something supremely icky to me about snakes. Growing up in Texas, one learns about the danger of snakes at an early age. Aside from the small garter snakes we find in the garden in the spring, I haven’t actually seen many in the wild. After a visit to the zoo once, however, and being amazed at how many snakes I was unable to spot right under my nose because of their incredible camouflage, I know they’re out there.
And it’s even worse than I thought.
A few weeks ago I read two articles I haven’t been able to shake. The articles were both about Burmese pythons killing off native animals such as racoons, bobcats, opossums, and rabbits in the Florida Everglades. We’re not talking minor decreases in these populations either, we’re talking numbers as high as a 90% decrease in some of the animal populations.
Other than the obvious environmental impact, I can’t help but wonder 1) who keeps pythons as pets, and 2) who is sick enough to let them slither out into the wild?
Does anyone else find these reports somewhat alarming? I don’t live in Florida, but I know these types of things have a way of spreading. If I did live in Florida, and anywhere near the Everglades, I probably wouldn’t step foot outside my house after dark for the remainder of my life.
I was a Girl Scout and have spent years camping around the country, and snakes aren’t something I worry about too much. They’re generally shy and do their best to stay away from people. But a python? I have visions of 20 ft long snakes as thick as a human body hanging from the trees, slithering under porches and hiding in garbage cans, ready to swallow me whole. <shiver, or should I say slither?>
It gets worse. When I searched for a photo of a python to include here, just to give you an idea of their true size, I came across another article in a blog that states there are now pythons in Kansas. I was right, they are already spreading. As if tornadoes aren’t enough to worry about out on the Great Plains!
This certainly goes into the I Had No Idea file.
The day after I wrote my previous post on death, I found myself in the ER. Coincidence? Karma? Jinx? More like bad luck and the reappearance of something that no one could explain six years ago. At least now: mystery solved.
Six years ago I landed in the ER, then spent five days in the hospital. Imagine the head of surgery coming to you and saying: The good news is: it isn’t cancer. The bad news is: we really don’t like to operate there, we have no idea what it is, and we have to admit you immediately.
I hadn’t been scared until he mentioned the c-word, and realized I probably should have been. Things could’ve been much worse. In the end, after five days in the hospital hooked up to an IV with no food or water, and after numerous tests, all they could say was they didn’t really know what it had been and hopefully it would never happen again.
It was just one of those freaky things that sometimes happen to people.
Fast forward six years to last week when a slight stomachache turned into pain and fever again, in exactly the same location. This cannot be happening again, can it? It must be something different! Of course I did what I always do when I need answers: I went straight to the internet. After ten minutes of peering intently at diagrams of the human abdomen, I knew I needed to call the doctor. Since I knew it couldn’t possibly be the same thing as before, this time I feared cancer–or imminent death.
I called my doctor.
I loaded up the Kindle and iPad and headed to his office. I knew this wasn’t going to be fun and would probably take all day, if not longer. If it was anything like last time there would be needles involved, and plastic-tasting liquids ingested, and hours and hours of waiting. And worrying.
I’ve had the same doctor for over 20 years. He knows everything about me. He said it was too coincidental that it was in the same location, and even if it wasn’t related the fever and pain pointed to something potentially serious. He wanted me to have a CT scan right then, and called ahead to the same ER I went to six years ago.
The ER? Seriously? Now the dollar signs appeared above my head. How much is this going to cost me? What is my ER deductible?
Even worse, how long will this keep me from running? I was training for a marathon, dammit! I hadn’t missed a day on the training plan yet, and my running was going really well!
I drove myself to the ER, all alone and feeling pitifully sorry for myself. I texted Michael and told him not to come meet me until he got off work and fed the dogs first, that I already knew the drill and there was nothing he could do to help. I had my iPad and Kindle to keep me company.
The ER waiting room looked like a Greyhound bus station. There was the ubiquitous TV playing a rerun of House or some version of CSI, and almost every chair was taken. There were entire families camped out, people hunched over asleep, people in wheelchairs and face masks, and lots of empty snack bags and Coke cans on the floor. There was a mix of ages, but the majority of people were old. And very poor. Strangest of all, people were talking. There were conversations going on about the most mundane things, laughter, jokes being told. Watching the people around me did not keep my mind off my worries. What stories do these people have to tell? What are their lives like when they’re not sitting in the ER?
I waited. I had a sudden, overpowering urge to casually walk out to my car and drive home. I wanted to curl up in my bed and draw the covers over my head. I wanted to be anywhere but there.
Six years ago the ER waiting room was empty and I was hustled back to a “room” almost immediately. This time I sat for almost an hour on a cold, uncomfortable plastic chair before I was called back, and I barely managed to get a curtained off spot in the hallway just big enough for a bed because they were so busy. My blood pressure was taken for the fourth time that day, I was given a gown, and I met the doctor on call who, after some gentle nudging on the area of pain, told me a CT scan was indeed in order.
I was hoping he wouldn’t say that. A CT scan meant an IV, and I hate IV’s. But once that was taken care of (and it really wasn’t too bad this time), I relaxed. I realized things were out of my control and I would deal with whatever the CT scan showed. If it was cancer, I would deal with it. If it was the mystery thing from six years ago, I would deal with it, too. I had lots of time to think about all this while I drank the Slurpy-sized container of plastic-tasting contrast liquid, then the two hour wait while it made its way through my body. Michael showed up just before I was rolled away for the CT scan. He immediately took command of the iPad and made himself comfortable on the floor.
The ER isn’t always like you see on TV. There was no screaming, no blood, no doctors running down the hallway screaming, “Stat!.” It was fairly quiet, even though nothing separates you from the other patients but sheets. Since I was in the hallway I saw everyone who walked or rolled past. All of the doctors and nurses seemed so young, but most of the patients were very old. I had the feeling most had been there before and used the ER as their primary care physician. I heard the doctor explaining to the woman next to me (who had a CT scan for what turned out to be a urinary tract infection) how he could only give her a prescription for pain medication for two days, otherwise “we’d have every person in the city coming here for pain pills” (which is something I’d never thought about before). He advised her to see her regular doctor if she needed more.
It’s the not knowing that is truly the worst. And the waiting.
We waited a long time to hear the results. We played Yahtzee. We talked. We listened to other conversations around us and I smiled encouragingly at other people being wheeled down the hall for tests. Everyone looked scared and uncertain, just like me.
Finally, a new young doctor appeared. After comparing the CT scan from the one taken six years ago, and ascertaining the problem was indeed in exactly the same location as before, the doctors could now determine what was going on. This time I was given a prescription for two types of antibiotics and a painkiller and instructions to eat only broth for a few days, then slowly reintroduce solid food. I could run again when it felt comfortable to do so. Now I knew what “it” was, that it’s something the doctors rarely see and is the reason why it wasn’t diagnosed six years ago, and that it can be treated. It wasn’t cancer and was nothing that required surgery or a hospital stay. A day’s worth of anxiety slowly seeped out of me, and suddenly I was exhausted.
Before I left, a nurse took my blood pressure yet again. Then she took it again. And again. Finally, she asked me, “Are you just a healthy person?” I told her I ran a lot and she was satisfied. It seemed strange to be asked that question in the ER, but was also a good note to go home on.
I feel very fortunate that it wasn’t something worse than what it could’ve been. Eating broth for a few days is no fun, but it’s a small price to pay. There are so many others who go to the ER with much worse ailments than mine, and sometimes the news is life changing (or ending). My day in the ER gave me a lot of time to think, about my health and my life in general, and I can’t help but know how lucky I am. I say it all the time, but things really can change in the blink of an eye. Simply put, don’t take your health, or your life, for granted.
If you’re new to this site, welcome!
If you were redirected from chasing now or Walls with Doors, welcome to my new blog site. I’ve decided to simplify and move everything under a new name, Mind Margins. Things were starting to get a little cluttered and confusing with all the different names, and it was simply time for a change.
New year, new site, new look.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I do so appreciate all of you who have taken the time to read my posts this past year. Christmas was extremely busy for me, and I haven’t had the chance to write much lately, but I’ll be posting again very soon. I look forward to keeping up with my blog friends’ posts in the coming new year, and to discovering many new blogs as well.
Here’s to an exciting New Year filled with lots of great writing and fun adventures!