frogg files

"She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." --Flannery O' Connor

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pity Party

So last night, I tried a jog around the Rose Bowl. It turned out to be more walk than jog, but I made it all the way around. Still, all I could think was, "Running the whole distance used to be easy." And I started to feel sad in a way that I guess I haven't really been able to feel since the first couple weeks after my lymphoma diagnosis.

People say I'm strong, and that I have a great sense of humor about the whole thing, and how amazing that is, and so on. I truly appreciate their words, but I have to thank God for whatever positive attitude I've managed to show, because the truth is, I hate having cancer. I hate chemotherapy. I hate everything about it. (Well, except maybe the comfy chairs. Then again, they are an icky shade of green, so never mind. I hate them, too.)

I hate the sticky-sweet smell of the soap they use at the doctor's office. I hate watching the nurse inject the one chemo drug that isn't clear, but is instead a disconcerting shade of magenta, into my veins.

I hate losing my sense of taste for days. I hate being unable to run, or sometimes even walk far. I hate feeling tired and sick but being unable to sleep those first few nights after a session. I hate knowing that almost as soon as I start feeling better, I'll have to have another treatment and the cycle will start all over again.

But above and beyond all these things, the thing I truly hate about having to go through chemo is the loss of my hair. I miss it so much. I hate being bald.

I know it's just hair. I know it'll grow back. I know, I know. But I don't care. I want it back now. And I can't have it. And there's not a thing I can do about it. In fact, there's nothing I can do about any of this.

Maybe I hate that most of all.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What's In A Chemo Session?

Three rounds down, three more to go! Yeah!

This time actually has gone better (so far) than the first two. In fact, I'm back at work today, which I wasn't expecting, judging by my earlier sessions. My first treatment, I got sick with some sort of nasty cold/flu or something on top of the general ickiness of the chemo, plus I had to fly cross-country only four days after the session, plus plus I lost my hair, so let's just say that the experience was, um, not fun.

My second treatment went OK, but the anti-nausea drugs only barely did their job (so it seemed to me), meaning that while I didn't throw up, I did have trouble eating for at least two days following the chemo, because the thought of food was completely intolerable. I also spent my time mostly lying in bed, unable to read, and barely able to even watch movies. I felt totally miserable.

With my third treatment, the new anti-nausea drug they gave me seems to be doing the trick, thankfully sans hiccups (see previous post). I still felt a little blah during the past few days, but overall did well.

Speaking of treatments, some people have asked me just what a chemotherapy session entails. Well, there are different types of chemo treatments for different types of cancer, but I can tell you in one short sentence what my sessions look like:

Me sitting in a comfy recliner chair with an IV stuck in my arm for five hours.

That's it. I try to read, but they give me Benadryl before they start the actual chemo drugs, so I end up feeling a bit woozy. Sometimes friends come to keep me company. Once I watched a movie. This last time, I actually conjured up a stunning amount of productivity and wrote 69 whole words of a brand-new short story.

I'll wait til some of you have recovered from the shock of that last revelation before I continue. (It may help you to recover quicker if I tell you that I have not added one bit to those 69 words since I wrote them.)

There, are we all better? Great! Moving on...

So yeah, it's not exactly what you would call fun and exciting, but it's not horrible, either. I don't feel any pain; heck, I barely feel the IV needle when they stick it under my skin. Mostly the whole ordeal is just long and tiring and boring.

Could be worse!

That said, I'm definitely glad to be on the far side of the halfway point. Whew!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Side Effects

Well, it's been pretty fun feeling extraordinarily healthy for the past couple days, but I'd sure hate to get too used to that, so YAY for my next chemo session tomorrow! Woo-hoo! FUN!!!

In preparation, today I got a prescription filled for another anti-nausea drug to take in conjunction with the one I've already been using, which will hopefully help with the chemo side effects I've been experiencing. Not that they've been super terrible, but they've definitely caused a measure of discomfort that, if possible, I'd like to lessen.

But I noticed something weird on the information sheet that came with the new drug. Namely, that one of the potential side effects of this anti-nausea drug is—get ready—nausea.

Hmm. This should be interesting.

Another side effect is hair loss. Thank God I don't have to worry about that! Still bald, last time I checked.

The funniest side effect, though, is hiccups. I would never have guessed that something like hiccups would even remotely merit classification as an actual side effect. Man, I'm learning something new every day. And it's all thanks to cancer! Yay!

Yes, I am being sarcastic.

Alrighty, my lovelies, I'm off to bed. Gonna try to get up early tomorrow for a walk before I have to go to the doctor's office and spend FIVE HOURS sitting in a chair with an IV in my arm. (Funny, the first time I went it took six hours, and they were like, "Oh, next time will be shorter." Well, OK, five hours is shorter than six, but come on.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How Do You Really Feel?

So this morning, my doctor called me regarding an upcoming appointment and in the course of the conversation asked how I was feeling.

"This week I feel great," I said.

"Well, we'll fix that!" he answered.

I had to laugh. Thank God for a doctor with a sense of humor I can relate to (i.e., a strange one).

Only two more days til chemo round #3...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Countdown to the Halfway Point!

Well, folks, on Thursday I'll be halfway through my cancer treatment. Woo-hoo! I'll have to come up with a cool way to celebrate. Of course, I won't exactly feel like celebrating for at least a week after my chemotherapy, but when that week is up, look out! I'm sure to do something wild and crazy. You know, like I usually do.

Yeah, right.

Speaking of wild and crazy, I went on a walk today at lunch and nearly got attacked by a squirrel! OK, I kind of lied. The squirrel did not in fact nearly attack me, but it sure looked like it wanted to. It was clinging to this tree trunk as I walked by, and instead of running away as I got closer, like any normal squirrel would do, it actually started down the trunk toward me. And it kept staring at me with its big black eyes. (Have you ever noticed that squirrels do not have whites in their eyes? It's very weird.) Needless to say, the squirrel's aggressive advance freaked me out. I mean honestly, of all things, the last thing I need right now is RABIES on top of CANCER. Good Lord.

Aside from the squirrel encounter, though, the day was pretty tame. After work I read a bit of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, one of those "I really ought to read that someday" books which I finally decided to actually read, but which is taking way longer than it should. It's good, but I have to admit it makes me feel a little ill that it was written by a 23-year-old. I try not to think about it.

I also went for another walk. I'd like to say something exciting happened when I was out, but nothing did, so I won't.

On that note, I think I'll go to bed soon, seeing as how it's 10 p.m. and all. Wouldn't want to do something wild and crazy and stay up too late! So here's a goodnight kiss from the frogg princess. Sweet dreams, my lovelies...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Back to Work, YAY!

Well, well, I am pleased that I have something to write about besides just cancer today. (I'm sure you are, too!) That's because I finally returned to work this week. First time back since February 9. Wow!

That's, let's see, about six weeks that I was away. I think the last time I had that much time off, I was in grade school and it was summer vacation. Yowzas.

Anyway, I went into the office on Wednesday, and was warmly greeted by the best co-workers on the planet. Seriously, I can't imagine a more awesome group of people to be around for eight-ish hours a day. Several of them had actually cleaned my desk for me the day before I came in, and had decorated my cube with streamers. Awww! Another bought me a cake from Porto's. Yet another gave me the biggest box of chocolate Pocky I have ever seen in my life. All of them had pitched in in various ways on a couple different care packages that they sent to me while I was out. And one after another came up to give me a hug yesterday and a "welcome back, we missed you!"

I didn't get much actual work done, but wow, I had a great day!

Today was good, too, in spite of a lingering stomachache, fickle appetite and tiredness. I did some writing for a client project, and then in the afternoon, a couple co-workers and I snuck out for a quick walk up the street to NBC, where Obama was scheduled to arrive for his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. We thought maybe there'd be an interesting crowd thronging the studio, but when we got there they had already let everyone in for the taping, and the few people left outside seemed mostly normal, unfortunately. Well, apart from the guy dressed in a rather sparkling and sequiny Uncle Sam suit, with his arm thrown around a large cardboard cutout of Obama.

Then again, this is LA, where I once saw a man in a dog suit on an overpass, and another time a guy with a cat balanced on his shoulders biking down the street. The definition of "normal" here is refreshingly elastic.

When we returned to the office, we discovered that we had not been all that good at "sneaking" out. Our sharp-eyed proofreader had been looking out the window to see if there was anything to see (like Obama's motorcade, maybe), and recognized us as we crossed the intersection. Of course, she announced it to the whole office! Oh well. I had taken a short lunch earlier in the day, so it all balanced out.

Plus, I have cancer. That's the "Get Out Of Jail Free" card, baby. (Hey, it's gotta be good for something.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Contemplation

Yesterday I thought I was starting to feel better. Then I woke up today. Ugh.

I don't remember what time I got out of bed; probably around 7:30 or so. I poured a bowl of cereal, ate about 1.5 bites, and went back to bed. The next thing I knew, it was nearly 1:00 in the afternoon.

I spent the day mostly in my bathrobe, wandering between my bedroom and the kitchen. I tried to eat every now and then, but my appetite had gone. Anyway, these days everything tastes—and feels—like cardboard in my mouth. My stomach hurts. I'm tired. And, on top of everything else, my knees have started bothering me.

You can imagine my pleasure when I flipped through today's mail and found yet another offer for a chance to win a free pre-paid cremation. Good Lord.

There was one bright spot in the afternoon, when I went outside with a cup of tea and sat on a set of steps with a view to the pool. The late afternoon light had turned mostly to shade, except along the tops of the tallest trees. The air was cool without being cold. A mallard duck stood by the pool, preening.

I didn't have any big epiphany in that moment. I just breathed it in, enjoyed the smell, taste, and feel of it. The glow of it still lingers, even as I'm getting ready for bed.

I guess I'm starting to understand what people mean when they say, "Be thankful for the little things."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Exhausted

One of the side effects of the chemo that I'm having the most trouble getting used to is a lingering sense of fatigue. Yesterday I went out for a walk around the Rose Bowl (about 3.2 miles), then spent the evening wandering around Pasadena during the city's semi-annual ArtNight. Under normal circumstances, these perambulations would have been nothing at all, just totally routine. But today I find that I am completely wiped out; all I want to do is sit or lie down and not move.

Even practicing piano this morning, in preparation for my afternoon lesson, proved ridiculously taxing.

ArtNight was good, though. It was nice just to be out and about after a week of doing absolutely nothing because of feeling mostly sick. I went with a small group of friends to hear the Pasadena Symphony rehearse for tonight's performance, which features Vivaldi's "Spring" from The Four Seasons (love that piece), Schumann's Spring Symphony and Copland's Appalachian Spring. Anyone noticing a theme here? I hope so, because it's pretty darn obvious, I'd say. Hence, I will not draw further attention to it, lest you feel silly for not noticing.

What can I say, I try to be nice sometimes.

After the symphony, we moseyed over to the Jazz Institute for a totally different musical experience. It was a good show, but by then the fatigue was really starting to set in. We hung out there for about an hour and then I went home. Oh, and in the midst of all that, I discovered that I had lost my phone. For the second time in three months! Argh.

Aside from that annoyance, it was a pleasant night out. Today, though, I think I'm going to have to lay low. In fact, after my lesson, I may just have to come home and take a nap!

I know, I know. Pathetic!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chemo Sucks

The headline pretty much says it all, really.

I'd always thought of myself as this stoic type, able to bear great suffering and adversity with an angelic smile and nary a word of complaint. It turns out that that idea of myself is so far removed from the real me, she might as well be on Mars. Probably is, in fact.

Don't get me wrong. I know that chemo used to be much, much worse. Nowadays, they have anti-nausea drugs that keep you from feeling some of the worst effects of this not-fun treatment. But still. I'm a baby, and I hate feeling even remotely sick. So I haven't been very pleasant to be around the past couple of days. I'm grouchy and pathetic. And I don't care.

Today I feel better though. Good enough to have a nip of brandy, anyway. Er, I mean, water. Or something.

Ahem.

In other news... oh wait, there IS no other news! That's because my whole life has apparently become about cancer lately! How wonderful. How excessively interesting for all of you, my dear readers. I'm sure you can't imagine anything more entrancing than yet another post about me and my cancer!

Hmm, it would appear that my grouchiness has not, in fact, let up quite yet. I obviously need more brandy. I mean, water. Until next time, when I am hopefully in a better mood...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Round 2

Well, I went in for my second round of chemo yesterday. Fun fun!

I'm taking it easy today, feeling a bit blah, but not too bad. Think I'll head out for a walk in a few minutes and get some fresh air. I'll write more later; in the meantime, enjoy the following video, created pour moi by my brother and sister-in-law... baldness is apparently catching... as well as a great excuse for a dance party:



:)

Love you, too, E-rock and Shannon...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Bald is Beautiful, Kids...

...but it's also taking some serious getting used to nonetheless!

Anyway, as promised, here are some pics from the other night's head-shaving festivities. First, here's me soon after my cousin had gotten started with the scissors, and looking a little unsure of the whole endeavor, even while knowing it was too late to turn back:



Here I am, well on my way to a mohawk, and apparently in a much more cheerful mood (the wine must have been kicking in):



Alright, everyone, take a good look, because believe me... you won't see this ever again:



Or this:



Now here we go, getting down to the nitty-gritty:



And finally, the moment you've all been waiting for:



Ta-da! My cousin did a nice job, didn't he? Of course, I made sure to thank him... by returning the favor! He is now sporting a very excellent mohawk, courtesy somewhat of yours truly — but mostly thanks to two other friends who were much better at wielding the clippers than I was, and finished the (not very good) job that I started.

So yeah, I am slowly growing accustomed to the sight of myself with no hair. It's still kind of weird, every time I look in the mirror. But I think I'm OK with it. Besides, it's given me the chance to discover my inner hat person, which has been fun.

Alright, have to get going and at least pretend to do something productive today, but hope you enjoyed the pics. Until next time...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Deed is Done!

OK, it's official. I am now bald. Which, along with "I have cancer", is another sentence that was remarkably high on my list of "Things I Never Thought I'd Say."

The shaving party was actually pretty fun. Lots of wine helped, as it usually does. At least, it helped me.

I'll have some pics up either late tonight or tomorrow, once I've had a chance to load them off the camera and onto my computer. Until then, I'd just like to say that if I ever in my life decide I want to have a mohawk, I now know that I can totally rock it. Who would have thought?

Well, you'll see what I mean soon enough, my lovelies. Ciao for now...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow!

I know, I know. That was a terrible headline! But in my defense, it's actually true. Now that I've gotten over the initial trauma of cutting my hair short in the first place, I'm ready to just get the inevitable over with and shave it off. It's kind of annoying me anyway, falling out all over the place whenever I touch it. So, tonight is my last night with hair for a while.

How weird.

Even weirder, though, was the realization that hit me today: that I actually cried more when cutting my hair than I did when I found out I had cancer! Which I can only interpret as meaning that I care more about my looks than I do about my life.

Clearly, I have a problem with priorities.

Anyway. As a further (obviously much-needed) blow to my vanity, I'll make sure to post some pics from the shaving party. Unless, of course, they are embarrassing. So stay tuned...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Farewell to the Long Locks

My hair finally started falling out yesterday. I tried to tell myself it was maybe just thinning, but today it got worse. Seemed like every time I ran my fingers through it, several strands would come loose. Sometimes a whole handful.

So tonight, a friend came over and she and my mom took scissors to my hair. I put it back in a ponytail and they chopped it off. It took several cuts, as my hair is fairly thick.

I cried the whole time.

And of course, this isn't even the worst. I'll probably have to shave it pretty soon. Another dose of trauma. I can't wait.

Up until now, I think I've been in denial about the whole cancer thing. It was easy to think nothing was wrong when I looked the same as always. Now, every time I glance in the mirror, I'm going to see the picture of my new reality. And it makes me sad.

I know things could be worse. I'm truly thankful to God that they're not.

But I'm still really bummed about my hair.