A Gift for Us All

This blog entry is brought to you by Radioactive…the new fragrance by Juicy Faux-ture featuring the alluring scent of BO and Band-Aids, accompanied by a hint of Sharpie. Be unique, be pungent, be Radioactive!

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I got the best birthday present EVER on Monday when Dr Haerr told me that I can indeed wear deodorant. Woo hoo! Now you’re probably wondering why the rules changed all of a sudden. Well, it’s like this: I was funky, so when I saw Dr H on Monday I said, “We need to talk about this no deodorant thing—not only for my sake, but also for the sake of my friends and family.” After examining my skin he said, “You can wear deodorant for now. But when you get further along, and your skin gets irritated, you won’t want to wear it.” I said, “So, it doesn’t have any effect on the actual radiation process?” (I’ve read all manner of things—mostly online, of course—talking about the aluminum in deodorant messing up the radiation.) To which he replied, “No, not at all.”

Well, I’ll be! That was WAY easier than I thought it would be. I was still doing the happy dance when I went to radiation on Tuesday, and I triumphantly announced to the radiation therapists, “Dr Haerr said I can wear deodorant!” They were surprised. “He told you could wear deodorant?” they asked. Apparently, no one ever goes back and asks after the fact. They just trudge along the radiation pathway, their own putrid stench strapped to them like an inescapable BO-steeped backpack. Not me, Buddy! I always try to get special treatment. Sometimes it even works for me. (Now if I could just get rid of this Band-Aid scented cream that I’m required to apply several times daily.)

How sad is it that the best birthday present is permission to wear deodorant? It only serves to illustrate once again how bizarre my life has become over the past 10 months. This time last year, if the Hubster had told me, “Instead of going out to dinner, I thought I’d let you wear deodorant for your birthday. What do you think?” I’m pretty sure I would not have considered that to be such a wonderful gift. In fact, I think I might have had to go all ninja on him. Fast forward to now, when not only am I excited about my sweet smelling pits, but also thrilled beyond measure to have over an inch of hair (on my head—not the pits), and euphoric over my ability to taste. Even though this normal isn’t really my old normal, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is, nonetheless, very good. Or at least I appreciate it more.

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Chemo Savvy

Those of you who have been readers for a while, as well as those of you who know me in real life, are aware that I never got a wig. I did have a couple of hats that I would wear while I was bald, but I also spent a lot of time just walking around with a big shiny bald head. Many of you would probably say that you could never pull off the bald thing, and I used to think that, too. However, some things are worse than being bald.

I submit to you Exhibit A, the strap on curly bangs with turban (sold separately) and Exhibit B, the Gallagher hairpiece.

These are just two of the super-chic offerings from a catalog I picked up at the Radiation Shack yesterday called Chemo Savvy. I originally picked up the catalog not because I fell in love with the stylish Grape Ape colored beret on the cover, but because as someone who enjoys word play, I couldn’t resist the name: Chemo Savvy.

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I should be able to get my radiation tatts today. That’s a good thing, because I’m already flunking Radiation 101: Keeping Your Markings Intact Over the Weekend. I knew I was in trouble when we found one of my stickers on the kitchen floor on Sunday morning. Oops. On Monday I was sent to remedial simulation because my sharpie marks and stickers were so jacked up. I think the radiation therapists were relieved to figure out that they could give me the permanent marks before the long weekend ahead—seeing as how a two day weekend was apparently too much for me to handle.

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Remember how they told me that I couldn’t wear deodorant or shave my left armpit during radiation? And remember how they told me that it was really no big deal because the radiation would cause the hair to stop growing and the sweat to cease? Well, as Darth Vader might have uttered, “You underestimate the power of my pit, young Skywalker.” Truly. It has neither ceased sprouting, nor dried up. Good thing I don’t feel any guilt about using my electric razor. And you’d all better remember to give thanks tomorrow for cooler weather, which is the only thing that is saving you from copious funk right now.

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Monday will be my 37th birthday. Somehow that sounds so much older than I feel. You might think I’d feel older after what I’ve gone through this year. I’ve read that doing chemo ages a person—but I don’t feel any older than I did in May when I started. Shoot, I don’t even feel 6 months older! Molly would tell you that I’m just immature. She’d be right, too. After all, it takes one to know one.

We Are the World

Today was my first radiation appointment. It was really a non-event. The worst part is having my arm fall asleep because of the way it has to be held up over my head. The folks there are very nice, but it was cracking me up how they were telling me what a good job I was doing. I was laying still. That was my job: Lay still…on my back…for about 5 minutes. It made me wonder what kind of ADHD patients they normally have. After all, most of the people I’ve seen there are at least 80 and on oxygen. How fidgety can they possibly be?

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Okay, is there anyone besides my 10-year old daughter who thinks the foob is creepy? Here I thought it was kind of cute in its Cabbage Patchness, and yet today my lovely, encouraging child announces that it’s creepy in that picture. How creepy? Well, her exact words were, “Mom, your foob is creepy…it reminds me of Michael Jackson.”

“What? It does NOT look like Michael Jackson! Back off my foob already!” says an indignant I. “Yes it does,” the impertinent little twerp replied….”Look, Mom, Michael Jackson shaved his head for you!” Okay, I’ll admit that the fact that it’s whiter than me, and has no nose to speak of, does lend it a certain Cabbage Patch: Neverland Ranch Edition quality. Still, I think that’s going a little far—the foob can’t even sing, for crying out loud, let alone moonwalk.

The Foob is quite a celebrity these days, though. Seems no matter where I go people want to talk to me about the foob. “Does the foob always have its face on?” they ask at the baby shower. “I thought the foob was hilarious in your blog,” they say at church. “How does the foob feel about the plight of breast prostheses in northern Greenland?” they inquire at the Homeschool History Fair. The foob has become quite popular and I think it’s starting to go to his head. (Which is the only place it can go, since he has no body.) Just yesterday he informed me that his bra must be warmed to exactly 82-1/2 degrees—no more, no less—before he is placed inside, or he simply cannot function. Today he announced that he’s collaborating with Bob Geldof on a charity CD called We are the World…hey, wait a minute…

Culture Shock

As you know, I’ve had all of my treatments and surgeries in Indy up until now. Further, I’ve primarily been cared for in places that cater to breast cancer patients. The offices are decorated in soothing, tasteful colors and usually have a lot of windows to let in plenty of cheerful sunshine. If there’s a TV it’s tuned in to the Food Network or Martha Stewart. The clientele, while mostly older than me, are usually still in pretty good shape.

Contrast this to the small local cancer center where on Tuesday I had my first appointment with Dr Haerr. The waiting area is a big, dimly lit room, decorated in burgundy, hunter green and navy. We’d been there about 2 minutes when Hubster’s cell phone rang—it was 1994 wanting its color scheme back. The perimeter of the room was flanked with sofas, on which those of us not in wheel chairs sat. A TV blared soap operas, and there was a table with a jigsaw puzzle in process on it. The whole place just screamed to me, “You young whippersnappers with your fancy leopard print mastectomy bras think you’re special because you can breathe without an oxygen tank, do ya? There’ll be no daylight shining into this place, Missy! Now sit down and wait for death like the rest of us.” I said to Hubster, “This place reminds me of a funeral home.” He agreed and described it later as “all dark and couchy.”

The people that work there were all very nice. It was amusing to me that they felt the need to assure me that my treatments wouldn’t make me radioactive. Do people really worry about that? I was disappointed to find out that radiation will not give me the super powers I’d hoped to gain, however. The high price of gas was making super hero style flight look really good. I did learn a couple of things, though. First, I am not allowed to wear deodorant on that side for the entire 6 weeks of treatment. The nurse said that the sweat glands won’t be working anyway—and y’all had better hope she’s right. If that weren’t gross enough, she also said I can’t shave on that side. It’s like the Pit Hog came out and saw his shadow, so there will be six weeks of funky, hairiness. Ick. The nurse claims that the hair will cease to grow as a result of the radiation. I really hope so, or I may have to adopt a French accent and pretend I’m an exchange student.

I go back on Thursday and Friday to do my simulation. That’s where they figure out exactly where they are zapping you, and mark your body accordingly. I’ll be starting actual treatments on Monday. Dr Haerr—who I like a lot, by the way—said we can probably cram all my treatments in before Christmas, since that was my goal. Woo hoo!

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foob

My prosthesis has a name. I call it my Foob. Short for Fake Boob. As you can see from the picture, it bears a striking resemblance to its Cabbage Patch cousins. The Foob is not silicone—I haven’t graduated to that yet—it’s more like a dense pillow with a bean bag or something in the very middle to give it some weight. It does a good job of filling out my clothes, but I’ll be glad to have reconstruction so that I have something up there that’s actually attached to me instead of riding around in its own little side car.