Monthly Archives: March 2008

Keep Your Dignity: a Thought about Wigs

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My parents call me at least twice a week from their home 2500 miles away, on the other side of the continent (it might as well be the galaxy). They also send me frequent care packages. The last one contained a sample “knitty titty” and a green hat that my sister in law, Ruth, knitted for me. Packages filled with love. It’s hard to put into words how much that helps.

Yesterday, in our usual hour and a half conversation (I am saved by T-Mobile’s Five Faves program!), the conversation turned to the fact that yesterday my hair loss began in earnest. In the shower, there was a veritable pelican’s nest of hair left, and my hair kept falling in clumps for a few more hours after that.

Mom said she had another care package for me, and that she would be sending it out today (Monday). In it would be some more knitted things from Ruth, including another hat. Many of the breast cancer survivors I know who are now in chemo, or were recently — and are bald because of it — say they get tired of the wigs and just wear a scarf or a hat. I decided long ago that the “sick person” scarf look wasn’t for me. Ruth had knitted me two hats already, I was given a soft, delicious pink one by the local BCS group, and I had received a box of funky hats from Heavenly Hats (see my links box).

I already have two wigs, a long one and a short one (see my page on wigs for details);  I’m working on getting a third one (Update: I purchased it Monday, see the “wig” page for details).

Dad said to me, “you do plan to wear your wigs, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said emphatically. “My students said they would love to see me wear a different  wig to every class meeting.”

I told him I plan to wear a wig every time I go out in public, and maybe just wear the hats at home, when I’m working on the computer or whatever. But in public, it’s a wig, and that’s that.

“Keep your dignity,” he said softly.

Damned straight I will, I said. Cancer and its treatment may have taken my left breast, my lymph nodes, my hair and the lining of my stomach (to name a few body parts), but it is not defeating me. I may be exhausted just from walking up the stairs from the basement. I may lose a day of teaching every two weeks. I may be beat up and scarred, sick, fatigued, and as pale as the walking dead, but I am not defeated. Wearing a “sick person” scarf or a hat in public, I said, is like saying, “I give up. The cancer wins.”

My Dad is a proud man, strong, obstinate and tenacious. You can see where I get it from. What I didn’t inherit from him genetically, I learned. He’s tough and smart. He’s been really sick with bronchitis and an unusual form of adult-onset epilepsy, and come through it. He survived the cutthroat apparel manufacturing business and managed to keep his soft heart. Yeah, he’s a tough old bird, but he’d give you the shirt off his back if yours was full of holes or you looked cold.

Of course I’ll wear the wigs, whether or not they itch, or are too hot in the summer, or whatever.

Disclaimer: Void where prohibited. Not valid in all situations. Your mileage may vary. Do whatever makes you feel good; I’m not discrediting or passing judgment on anyone for choosing to wear a turban, or go Sinead O’Connor, or wear your bath towel. Do what pleases you. ((((Hugs)))))

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Chemo Session #2, March 25, 2008

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Today is my second chemo session. I go into it with my concerns about an allergic reaction. At this point, I don’t know if I’m allergic to one of the chemotherapy drugs (adriamycin or cytoxan) or the compazine for nausea.

My session is at 1:00 this afternoon —3-1/2 hours from now.

I’ll post again as soon afterwards as I am able.

<fingers crossed>


I had no immediate reaction to the chemo.*whew!*The doc gave me prednisone to start tomorrow. This stuff is supposed to kick allergy butt. Tonight I can take a couple of Benadryls before bed. I’m already tired and thinking of turning in but I want to make sure I have enough fluids in me before I give up for the night. I bought a filter for my Britta pitcher (the water here is terrible) and some things to mix in the water, in small quantities, to hide the bad taste (Gatorade, a pomegranate flavored italian soda) . So far, so good.I’ll probably have more updates as we see what the prednisone does.


The fun began about 7:00 last night. I started having an allergic reaction so I took two Benadryl and went to bed.Sometime around 11:15 I was dreaming about having to take more Benadryl, and about posting on the blog what my symptoms were. I woke myself up and took two more Benadryl. My face felt cold, as if all the blood had drained from it, and I had needly feeling on my face and neck. The room was spinning and I felt weak. I was also nauseous and tried to throw up a few times.At midnight, I had to take a compazine for the nausea, and I ate some bread (I’m out of crackers) to help with the empty stomach issues. I also took an Advil for the whopping headache.

I wrote in my notes that I’m very happy I don’t have to teach today.

2:30 am I woke up sick again and took two more Benadryl.

7:30 am I got up and got started on the prednisone. I’m feeling a little better, less nausea, but I still have a headache. I’ll probably need another avil.

It looks like the difference in reactions from 3/11 to todays is in magnitude and timing. Last time it took about two days (until Thursday) for the reaction,and it was milder than this time, although I wouldn’t say it was mild enough to get on with my normal live. This time the reaction only took a few hours — either six hours or four hours, depending on whether it was the cytoxan (administered first) or the adriamycin.

I has a flavah — the side effects of chemo

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The way chemo works is that it kills off all fast-growing cells. These are targeted because cancer grows quickly. Unfortunately, with the die off of cancer cells we also get a die off of healthy, normal cells that also happen to grow fast. These include hair and taste buds, among others.

In their enthusiasm to kill my cancer cells, the adriamycin and cytoxan I was infused with last week (3/11), I saw my taste buds die off. These appear to be the first cells to go. My tongue turned white, and then the next time I looked — I think it was the next day — it was back to normal color but most foods had no flavor.

I’ve spoken with other cancer survivors who have said they sought out things that still had flavor. My friend LeAnn said McDonald’s ketchup was one thing she could eat and still flavorenjoy. I had a couple of dollar menu cheeseburgers yesterday and she was right, I could taste the ketchup and the pickle. The burger was bland (well, more bland than usual) and I could almost taste the fries. What I’ve found is that I can still enjoy foods if they are very aromatic. Smell and taste are connected, so you can enjoy the smell of the food even if it has no taste, or just a very bland flavor.

Today I discovered that salsa also still has a flavah. I made a burrito with refried beans, cheese, salsa and plain yogurt (a sour cream substitute) and I could taste most of it.

If you’re with me on this one, I’m going to suggest that we continue to experiment to find foods with flavor. Now, I know that I could lose a few pounds without harming my health, but we do need to keep our strength up, and fasting isn’t going to do that for us. I’ve been so tired since my chemo last week that it’s been hard to get my brain going on anything. If we can’t eat much, we should at least eat nutritious food.

Someone suggested that, since I can’t taste it anyway, it might be a good time to eat those things I dislike that are “good for me.”

Naw. I wouldn’t take it that far.