I am down to a weight I haven’t seen since high school. And, despite the number of decades I’ve complained about the slow, steady, stubborn weight gain so many of us experience as we age, the loss produces no sense of satisfaction or gratification. Without hesitation, I would reincorporate each and every lost pound to be cancer-free. This is no way to drop the pounds.
Cancer is a thief. But, it can also deliver gifts we don’t expect, or perhaps even want, given the enormous cost. Cancer has gifted me with enhanced clarity. What do I genuinely need? What can I do without? What is important to me, and what needs to be eliminated from my inventory of personal valuables? Weight loss, once far too important to me as a younger woman, would be a nice consequence of my healthy lifestyle and regular fitness pursuits, I reasoned, in my more “mature” years. But, until Hot Yoga, I just couldn’t seem to drop any weight. A cancer diagnoses and chemotherapy certainly changed all that…
Be careful what you wish for, as it is said.
Red Devil chemotherapy treatment has, for me, definitely lived up to its name. It is Hell. While I’ve been cautioned about the unpredictability of side-effects, some have been consistent over the past two infusions. For approximately 11-12 days post treatment I become very weak, tired, sick to my stomach, and emotionally overwhelmed. Sleep overpowers me, leaving me with relatively few waking hours.
Truth is, I don’t mind the excessive sleep, as it affords an absence and escape from my condition.
This time, I also developed tremors. When I began to twitch involuntarily, it both frightened and upset me. I had no idea what was happening, or why. Some of the possible causes range from nervous system changes, muscle fatigue, exhaustion, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Fortunately, the tremors were temporary. As of yet, there are no effective interventions for my stomach issues. Zofran keeps the nausea under control, but for me, nausea does not precede vomiting. It is a lack of motility that poses the bigger problem. Nothing moves through my stomach. I simply cannot consume much of anything for almost a week, as the consequences of not eating much, if any, food are outweighed only by the negative aftereffects of consuming it. Mouth sores certainly don’t help, either.
I received my 2nd treatment on November 16th, and had hoped to be feeling better by Thanksgiving.
It was wishful thinking. Never before have I forced myself to eat on Thanksgiving Day. But, I was determined to consume at least a bite or two of the delicious dishes everyone had contributed. I paid a price for it, but consciously made that choice. Brother, Sean, flew in from Florida, and his daughter, Taylor, traveled to Houston from San Francisco. I had not seen them in years, so their visit was a special holiday treat.
Being together for Thanksgiving prompted another cancer clarity moment: Sharing good food and conversation with family and friends is a privilege of unknown frequency. I don’t want to let opportunities continue to pass by with the promise of “next week, or next year.” Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to any of us.
Neal, Ethan and Ben spent the Thanksgiving holiday in California at the home of Neal’s brother, David, and sister-in-law, Elena. I was very happy they traveled to Orange County for the day in order to maintain this family tradition. I was able to be there via FaceTime, providing an emotional reminder that my heart is torn between two places.
The Sunday following Thanksgiving, brother, Patrick, delivered me to the home of nephew and niece, Eric and Natalie. Natalie, a nurse practitioner, and Eric, a helicopter pilot and pilot trainer, cared for me all week, as they both had time off from work. Their precious daughter, Avalyn, provided me with superior emotional support in the form of endless smiles and laughter.
Charley the Schnauzer, my bedside nurse and supervisor, was very attentive and affectionate, and had me out walking within a few days. I left the following Sunday morning with renewed strength and vitality.
At my last infusion I had the opportunity to meet another IBC patient, whose name also happens to be Jill! Our treatment days are the same, and I was once mistaken for her at MD Anderson, but only for a moment. The hospital’s protocol for checking and rechecking patient numbers worked as it should, and it was quickly discovered that two patients by the name of Jill were present that day. When Jill responded to one of my blog articles, and I recognized her name, I insisted it was preordained that we meet! Jill travels weekly from Oklahoma to Houston for treatment, as she is also in the clinical trial. It is comforting to connect with someone affected by the same rare breast cancer, and whose treatment path intersects with my own.
Meanwhile, back in California, Neal, Ethan and Ben carry on despite their concerns for me. Together, they run the house, take care of the animals, and generally keep everything on track in addition to their jobs, school, USC football games, and trips to the driving range. I am comforted knowing that their lives remain as “normal” as possible. Of course, they have the abiding and loyal support of our dear friends and neighbors, the Players, who regularly cook for them, and help care for our dogs.
Prior to my diagnoses, I had begun to feel like Bill Murray’s character in the movie, Groundhog’s Day. I was ready for some change…just not this kind of change. The cancer clarity lesson I’ve gleaned from this unwelcome interruption of my pre-cancer life: An ordinary, routine and predictable daily life is truly a blessing.
I look forward to December visits by Ethan, 12/6-12/10, followed by Ben and Erica, who arrive on 12/18. Neal joins us on 12/20.
Ethan’s visit will coincide with my next infusion, Thursday, 12/7. I’m trying not to agonize over the imminent side-effects, but I know well the discomfort knocking at my door.
Dread and apprehension grow a little heavier with each approaching day…
Now, that’s weight I’d definitely like to lose.