Things I learned from Cancer 101 (Part 2)
The first lesson I learned from cancer was FEAR. To learn to cope and keep the monster at bay. Took a while to master the art of hiding…fear…but after the first couple of chemo treatments, I could do it. I put on the brave face. No one knew how often I threw up or how really bad I felt until THE DAY!
The day my hair started to fall out. Those of you who have known me a while, will remember that I have not always been the spiky haired wonder that I am today ; ) I kept my hair short, just because it suited me, and let it be its natural color which is gray. It just got to be too much to fight cancer and mother nature at the same time. It was the first of the new year 2002. I had showered and put on a cute new sweat suit, navy of all colors! Blow dried my hair and went into the den to sit in my chair. I still had external drain tubes at this time, still healing. Got in the chair, got all
comfy and looked in my lap. There it came again…….FEAR. I saw strands or clumps or whatever you use to describe them, it was my hair!! Clumps and clumps all over the navy lap. I was processing this when the phone rang. To my utter horror, it was my little Daddy, just calling to see how I was feeling. Fear had closed my throat, for the life of me I could not even say hello. I mumbled something about calling him back. Then came the sobs, no sobs is not a big enough word for what I did. I grieved! The Doctors had told me I would not lose all of my hair, but I was so not prepared to lose so much!
Oh well, it was only hair after all. I didn’t have to shave my legs for about 9 months while on chemo, and that, my friends is the only positive thing I can say about chemo! But enough about hair……
What is normal? Normal is subjective. For some it is routines that remain constant, 24-7. Others have to re-define….normal. Normal for me is getting up every morning and putting on a prosthesis, not unlike those who have to wear an artificial limb. Nothing special, it’s just my new normal. Really sucks when you forget where you put said prosthesis or heaven forbid, you lose it. I have done that by the way, found it hiding under the bed. In case you are wondering a prosthesis is a rather pricey little attachment that fits inside a special bra that makes me look “normal”. They can be had for the every day price of three to four hundred dollars. I know! Almost four hundred dollars for a hunk of rubber molded to look like a breast. Oh well, I don’t make the rules. How can a hunk of rubber look like a breast you ask, well let me tell you …. It is flesh-colored and it has a small concavity that shapes it to your chest. All in all, a rather neat invention. I have no idea why they cost so much, thank goodness for insurance! It is a cute little pink thing. I suppose the little bump in the center is the manufacturers idea of what a fake nipple looks like. As fake nipples go, it will do. I laugh now remembering when I got my pathology report and it said “nipple unremarkable” Pissed me off to no end!! I told my oncologist that it most certainly was remarkable, it nourished and sustained 3 babies!! I call that pretty dog gone remarkable, don’t you?
While taking chemo at the Northwest Alabama Cancer Center, I made lots of friends. Most of them are gone now. Weekly treatments were taken in a huge room, much like a living room. There were recliners, big comfy chairs to make the IV infusions more “comfortable” Oh yeah, they helped, trust me. You lay back and let the toxic chemical do it’s job. It made for a very long day. Infusions usually took 4 to 6 hours. There was tv but nobody could agree on what to watch. Eventually we got to know each others names, until I realized after a few weeks, some of the faces changed while others just disappeared. How sad to think, laughing and talking one day and the next, no more. A happy lady sat next to me for a while, and used her time to put on her makeup. She wore really red lipstick and turned to me to ask “Do you think this is too red?” “Oh no! Dear, there is no such thing as lipstick being too red!” I remember the smile she gave me. I think it pleased her that I “got” it. She had no idea she was talking to the purse, shoe and lipstick queen who never allows her naked ears or lips to be seen in public! Those are the moments to savor! And that my friends is the second thing I learned from cancer……………TO SAVOR THE MOMENTS!! And oh what moments I have had to savor!!!!