And the winner is…

award

During treatment last year at MD Anderson, I passed many idle hours in various waiting rooms holding awards shows in my head, judging the bald pates of fellow cancer travelers.

The Baldies. The Noggins. The GI Janes. I never settled on a name.

I started with a single category of Best Shaped Head, but depending on wait times or frequency of appointments or lack of any captivating reading material, I expanded the show’s categories to include  Smoothest (least bumpy), Best Proportion to Ear Size, Best Head for Resting Glasses Atop, Most Like Sinead O’Connor, and speaking of Sinead O’Connor, Best Tattoo (surprisingly there was only one contestant for that one during the whole six weeks the awards were held), Best Skin Tone, and so on.

There were awards for head covers or hats, too: Best Overall, Most Whimsical, Best Use of Upholstery Fabric (a one-time fluke), Best Knitted, Best Configuration, Best What Were You Thinking with That One Girlfriend, etc.

I envisioned myself in a bouncy little Medusa ** number, but couldn’t find any retailer that sold head covers festooned with coiled snakes. Oh to be crafty with some felt and wire! [See update below]

Judging was exhausting.  MD Anderson is a big place. So many heads, so many head covers. While the exercise served to kill time, it also made me realize that a well-shaped head or an attractive head cover can make all the difference in your attitude.  Giving you that extra little kick of energy and confidence you might need, right before chemo and/or radiation pummels it back out of you.  But for that moment in Camelot, you can revel in your pulchritude, saying to yourself, “My head is round and perfect.  My head cover is stylish and smart. I am Audrey Hepburn at Tiffany’s.  Bring it on, cancer.”

I do not have a well-shaped head, nor could I ever get the hang of scarves or head wraps, especially those clever ones with the knot on the side.   Also made my arms tired trying to tie them on my misshapen head.

Had I included a cancer shlub category, I would totally have won.

** Update:  Thanks to fellow traveler and master knitter Anita Figueras aka SciFiKnitter for the link in her comment below.  She knew exactly what I meant when I said I envisioned myself in a head cover with snakes all over it.  The link also prompted me to correct Hydra to Medusa.

Happy New Year!  Grace, inspiration, peace, kindness and humor to all of you.  I look forward to your comments and your blogs.

PTSD

Hey there.  It’s been a while.

My latest scans (September) were clear. Again. Another 3-month reprieve.

I’m clear a year after my last chemo, 18 months after diagnosis. Not notable by lung cancer survival statistics, but considering I didn’t think I’d be around at all, it’s somethin’.

I’m doing very well, aside from the pesky daytime sleepiness and fatigue that came on in March and won’t go away.

I had every intention of blogging more.  Really, I did. I was out of the fog of having to work through every day not being doomsday.  I had a clearer vision of what I wanted to accomplish on the blog.

But then came November 9th.

I’ve been as despondent in these few weeks after the election as I was in the weeks and months after learning I had cancer. It was the same feeling.

No kidding.   If you want to know what it’s like getting a cancer diagnosis, you just did, on November 9th.

I’m not going to start posting links to articles about the nightmare that is about to engulf us all because it’s over and done and it’s pointless.  But this one merits a mention.

And on that note, a little Dead to cheer us up.

Gathering in

Long story short, more than a decade ago I had surgery that involved relieving pressure on several cranial nerves by a blood vessel.  As a result of this procedure, I lost hearing in one ear, except for a constant whooshing sound.

Hearing loss is devastating for some people.  For me it is sensorially overwhelming and physically fatiguing in a room full of conversation, and frustrating to strain to hear something I want to hear, but like most disabilities, you learn to cope with it.  Luckily, I’m an introvert, so I relish the quiet and isolation hearing loss brings, especially since my cancer diagnosis.

I’ve learned to gather in, get inside my head, meditate, piece things together or take them apart, stay mindful of the moment, discover or marvel at something I might have missed if I were busy hearing and talking.  It helps me transcend the constant turmoil of cancer.

I’ve been mulling over a post about this gathering in that comes with my hearing loss, but I couldn’t find words that made any sense, so I laid the idea aside.   Then yesterday, while catching up on blog reading, I came across a beautiful piece by one of my favorite writers, Jan Wilberg at Red’s Wrap.  This last paragraph of her post called “Old Pony” (about her hearing loss) captures what I could not.

There is talking going on but I’m not part of it. I marvel at the oldest pony’s white eyelashes and the wrinkles on his horse nose. Deep wrinkles like what you would see on a person, what you would see on me. I think about this while the others are talking, little pieces of their words slipping in under the wind. I think only about the old pony’s precious, soft nose and wanting to smooth his wrinkles with my hand.

Thank you, Jan.

Lessons

Cancer teaches many lessons.  The main one being don’t sweat the small stuff.

This story is about what happens when you sweat the small stuff in affluent suburbia came by way of Kevin Drum at Mother Jones.  (By the way, Kevin is a fellow citizen of Cancerland.)

It’s very sad and makes me wonder why people with so much would waste their lives on revenge for some perceived slight.

I’m not even sure why I’m sharing it except to remind myself and all of you of the lesson.

Another lesson from cancer:  Dance while you can.  So move it.

Two Things

  • Ellen DeGeneres
  • Dancing

Sorry, lot full

lot_full

Yesterday I drove to Houston and MD Anderson. I had no appointments, just picked up a prescription.

The parking lot at the Main Building was full.  So was Valet Parking.  They put those orange traffic cones across the entrance when Valet Parking is full. This always makes me sad.  It usually means too many people are inside the building finding out they have cancer.

The Main Building lobby was crowded.  Lots of people, some of them clutching new patient packets, looking at maps, asking for directions.

Wondering if they’ll ever find their lives again.

Two Things

  • New note pads  – Do you smoothe out that first sheet with your hand?
  • Ceiling fans  – on the low, lazy setting

 

 

Just stop saying it

Linnea Olson at Outliving Lung Cancer wrote an interesting post called Just Not a Just World.  This is a comment on her post.

As a fellow LC patient/client/mutant/whatever we call ourselves, I follow your blog and have learned enough about you through your blog to know that what you write is thoughtful and heartfelt. Your intelligence, indomitable spirit and optimism shine through and are  inspiration to your many readers.

However, with this post, you’ve scraped up against what has lately become a raw nerve with me since I got handed this bag of snakes and shoved down the road called cancer.  And that is this let-me-make-sure-you-know-I-never-smoked clause that sneaks its way into  almost everything I’ve read by a “never-smoker” with lung cancer.

I applaud your intent in this post. Really, I do. And I get where you’re going, but your message would have rung truer with me had you not found it necessary to mention that “never ever touched a cigarette.”

I don’t care whether you smoked or not.  Your insistence that I know you never smoked feels more like a thinly veiled device to separate yourself from those people who did smoke and got what they deserved with lung cancer, rather than as an illustration of the arbitrary nature of life, which was the theme of your post (shit happens).

Had you analogized, “I’ve never been exposed to radon, so why me?” to support your theme, it would have been just as effective.

Whenever a writer or speaker decries the stigma around smoking and lung cancer, but still has a need to let you know that he or she never smoked, I’m fairly certain that person still has a way to go to rid his or her own psyche of the stigma.

It lingers in everything we read about lung cancer, And it will never go away until we just stop making it a part of the conversation.

Note to readers:  There are many other cancers and fatal diseases are associated with smoking.

***

Two Things

  • bird baths
  • birds

It’s clear to me

October 2016 update:  No one with a medical degree told me the cataracts I developed  were from chemo.  I just assumed they were.  Until I started probing more.  I keep a journal of meds, symptoms, etc.  because I can’t remember what I took and when without writing it down.  Looking back through the journal I noticed that my cataracts appeared within 6 weeks of starting once daily use of the inhaler Breo Ellipta. Breo lists cataracts and eye inflammation as side effects. Just sayin.

In addition to “chemo curls,” which I probably shouldn’t admit I’m starting to enjoy because now I look like every other old woman with short, gray hair,  another fine parting gift chemotherapy gives you is cataracts. If not new ones, the rapid advancement of existing ones.

I had lens replacement surgery on my left eye this morning.  Took ten minutes.

As the kidz say, O.M.G.

We’re going to have to move to a new house now because now I can see every speck of dirt in every worn corner of this old house.

Also, the wrinkles on my face. Where did those come from?  Must be the new lens adjusting.  It will clear up I’m sure.

Also, I think there’s any extra cat or two living here I didn’t see before.

Beats all, this modern medicine.

Thanks, cancer!

… a half-deaf introvert navigating cancer

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