Chemo’s the Pits!

Hey all! It’s Thursday! My second-favorite day of the week. Why? Because so many good podcasts come out on Thursdays. My favorite at the moment is called Haunted Places. It’s a dramatic retelling of origin stories behind famous haunts across the globe. Very fun, if you can handle the host. I personally love him, but again, the show–– and his voice–– are very dramatic. Anyway, I can’t wait to listen to today’s episode. It’s about Mackinac Island (oOoOoo!). Never heard of it.

Okay, so I know why most of you all are here, and it’s to learn about how chemo works. Well, let me tell you (because I didn’t know until a handful of weeks ago): Chemo tells fast-growing cells to stahpit. Where are the fast-growing cells? Among other places: the hair, skin, and mouth. This is why your hair falls out on chemo, your skin gets dry and sallow, and your mouth also gets dry, sore, and often blistery. So there you have it! If you’re interested in learning more about chemo, I recommend doing a little Google search! The internet is full of information, just make sure you don’t click on any links that say, “You’re our 1 millionth guest! Click here to claim your reward!” The world [wide web] is full of sneaks.

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Well, it’s been a hot month since I posted last. In that month, I got my booballoon filled with saline, a mob of lunatics broke into the US Capitol Building, got my Oncotype test back, we got us a new President and Senate majority, the decision was made to move forward with chemo, and Jess Pace, Annie Fitzgerald, and my Aunt Barbara had birthdays. What a month! My first infusion was on the 25th, and I was sih-hih-hick for several days afterward. I hate nausea. But I’m back to normal now! It only lasted the better part of a week, which I’m so grateful for.

My mom asked me for a detailed description of the process, and I’m glad she did, because that is so something I would like to know, if I had a friend who was going through it. So, for all those of you who didn’t ask, for whatever reason, but are curious–– this is for you.

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Each chemo day starts with vitals and bloodwork. If certain “counts” on my bloodwork sheet are too low or too high, I can’t get the infusion that day. By the way, the only thing that was a little off on my counts last time was my liver. Yes, I was drinking too much, but–– like I did with nicotene–– I’ve followed the doctor’s orders and am only drinking once a week now, and boy do I enjoy that drink.

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Anyway, back to chemo. So as long as my bloodwork is fine, the next step is to talk with my oncologist (or someone on her team). This is just to go over bloodwork, talk about changes to meds or schedule, etc.

Then I go up to the Infusion Center, where I get an IV set up to administer all the things. I’m getting used to having an IV, but it’s really taken some time. It’s such a weird feeling, I’m not a huge fan. The first stuff I get through the IV is an anti-nausea medicine, which takes a few minutes. The Infusion Center is divided into little individual cubbies with privacy curtains. I get to sit in a big comfy recliner and watch cable tv. I’m allowed to bring in anything I want, as far as food, drinks, computer, etc. Just no visitors. Adam got to come with me for the first visit, but he’s not allowed back, since he violated EVERY RULE in the BOOK. Just kidding, it’s because of Covid.

I’m then given a shot in my stomach (embarrassing) which suppresses my ovarian function. Basically, it “turns my ovaries off” so that bloodflow is decreased to the area (and therefore also chemo-flow). And in case you didn’t know, when your ovaries stop, you go into menopause! {:[] Fortunately, I haven’t experienced any menopausal symptoms yet. Not looking forward to it. So after the shot, the chemo begins. I’ve been prescribed two different chemo drugs, and I have looked everywhere, and I can’t find what their names are. I’ll check at my next visit. Anyway, one of them is about an hour and a half, and the other is about forty-five minutes. So I just chill in my lazyboy until they’re done, and then I go home!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned before on here, but I happen to live literally right next to the Hospital. It takes about five minutes to walk up the hill to the main entrance, but yeah, we’re right there. It’s so convenient! The hospital is called The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and I’ve been going there for all my other medical needs since we moved here, so I really feel very comfortable in it. There are a bazillion Bread Garden Cafés inside, so there’s constantly the smell of coffee, breakfast burritos, and croissants in the air. Also, this hospital has a unique program (I believe sponsored by one woman, although I could be wrong about that) where original (and often local) art is acquired and displayed on every available piece of wall. I voted for them in the category of “Best Art Gallery” in last year’s “Best Of Crandic.” It’s a really great place is what I’m trying to say. Update: It’s called “Project Art,” and here‘s more reading if you’re interested.

What else? Well, I’ve got a lot of feeling back in my upper arm and side! It still feels like nails on a chalkboard to apply deodorant, but it feels less like “pain” now, and more like just insane weirdness. Also my energy is picking up substantially! I’ve been walking a lot, doing some resistance exercise, lifting microscopic weights, doing quite a bit of cleaning and general housework. It feels SO GOOD to be active! Oh my g-g-g-g-god, lying on the couch all day is not for me. But . . . then again . . .

I’ve gotten several chemo care packages from you guys. I seriously cannot even tell you what that means to me. ♥︎♥︎♥︎ It’s interesting, I think my giving love language is Quality Time, but my receiving love language might be Gift Giving (Receiving). There is nothing in the world that says “I love you” to me more than a gift. And of course, especially I mean the kind of gift that shows a person has really thought of you, and wanted to delight you. Surprise gifts are the best. But really, every single gift I’ve received during this time has filled me to bursting.

I can’t believe/understand how you all love me so much. It’s unconscionable. I keep thinking, “If you guys really knew what a judgmental, self-obsessed, sociopathic jerk I was, you would stop giving me presents immediately.” But whenever I think that, because I am an enlightened and wise being, I also think, “Oh Carla. You only wish you were judgmental, self-obsessed, and sociopathic. Then your life would make more sense.” And whenever I think that, I chase it with, “Okay, well, maybe you’re a little bit judgmental, self-obsessed, and sociopathic, but so’s everybody. Have a sandwich.”

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Other things? Hmm. Well, Emily Jalinsky and I had a spa day this week. It was the best day of both of our lives, and we’re going to continue doing them every week until we run out of money. Not that you asked, but I’m going to tell you what we did, because it was so much fun: Pink clay peel-off face mask, essential oil epsom salt foot soak, mimosas, jojoba oil and face massage, cool eye mask, foot treatment, CBD cream, and plenty of chocolate. Guys, if you want to get comfortable calling your friends “bitch,” just have a spa day with them! I’m still floating from it.

Also, speaking of Emily, I joined her Virtual Mindfulness Art Group session on Wednesday for a delightful hour and a half of discussing mindfulness in our art practices, lives, etc. It was really laid back and so inspirational. The last half-hour was practicing mindfulness while being creative. I so rarely give myself over to simply following my whim, when it comes to art. I’m always very intentional; I don’t like to waste paper, so I’ll really try and “do it right” the first time. This mindfulness practice gave me permission to “waste” a piece of paper by doing whatever I felt like doing in the moment. It was so therapeutic! I highly recommend joining our next session. They’re every Wednesday at noon Central. If you want to join, let me know, and I’ll give you the link & password!

Oh my first chunk of hair fell out yesterday! It was pretty small, but definitely an abnormal event. I also got my free wig in the mail yesterday, which was a JOKE. I cannot believe it was a real wig. The material didn’t feel remotely like hair, it felt like.. well, like generic brand Barbie hair. Plastic, coarse, and matted. The cut was repulsive. Like if Joe Exotic and Farrah Fawcett’s hair had a baby. And the color was SO WRONG. I asked for red. In fact, I said, “I would like as natural a red as you have, but if you don’t have any true red, I’d go for a strawberry blonde.” And the color they sent me was–– are you ready–– dark brown (almost black) roots, with tawny brown highlights & tips. HiDEOUS.

Oh shoot. I told Adam if I survived the nausea after chemo, I’d never complain again. Sorry! Well, anyway, it’s no big deal! I’m just going to wear an awesome hat. My mom sent me one, but it just wasn’t quite my style, so I returned it and am trying to decide now which one to replace it with. I’m going to show you the ones that I’m leaning toward, and you guys tell me which one you think would suit me best, would you?

Okay, so let me think about wrapping things up, my tailbone is starting to hurt. My chemo schedule, in case anyone is interested, is February 15th, March 8th, and March 29th. Assuming all goes as planned and I don’t have to do anymore chemo after that, my reconstruction surgery will be April 20th. This surgery will be much bigger than the mastectomy, so I’m probably going to beg a MealTrain again. Have I mentioned how that MealTrain SAVED OUR LIVES after the mastectomy? I’m telling you, after this is all over, I’m going to be throwing MealTrains for every one of you. I don’t care if there’s no good reason–– having someone else make a meal for you is one of the most miraculous and magical feelings, and I will give it to you, cold or no cold!

Real quick, to those of you who I haven’t written back yet–– I’m so sorry. I have the time, I have the desire, but every time I sit down to start writing, this raggedy old feeling wells up in me that smells like regret and acts like a kid with ADD. It’s like I’m already disappointed in my letter, and I just can’t bring myself to write it. So weird! Anyway I promise you, I will write you back. Getting this dumb feeling into the open feels like a step in the right direction. Regardless, I want you all to know that I cherish your letters, and I cherish you for entrusting me with them. Truly.

Okay, I think that should do it! Until next time!

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3 thoughts on “Chemo’s the Pits!”

  1. I love you so much.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Keep coming back 😂

    For real tho, I love reading your writing.
    I can hear your voice, clearly in my mind.

    I hope you are sleeping well!
    You need it ♥️
    Restorative rest, behbeh.
    It is healing and will help you in ways you wouldn’t imagine. So, take it seriously.
    No one does.

    Give your mind and your whole body permission to rest.
    It works, your mind and body will listen.

    For real, take it seriously.
    It matters 😻

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