How to tell your mother…

August 3, 2008

How to tell your mother that you’re going through menopause (again), that it’s making you crabby (again), that the HOT FLASHES are crazy (again), and that you’re really, really, REALLY sorry that you complained about the incredible heat in her house the first few days you were visiting ….

Well, if you’re me, first you tell the internet.

Then you hint around for a couple days.

Then you wait until everyone is gathered at the table for a big, friendly, family dinner.

And then your husband tells everyone.


Hi, internet.  I’m in menopause.

Yes, I’m still 35.  No, I’m not in chemo again.  But I am taking tamoxifen, an oral chemotherapy agent that prevents my body from using circulating estrogen and using it to feed any remaining cancer cells.  It does wacky things to the body, including inducing menopause.


All this is making me not worry so much about the oopherectomy (removal of the ovaries) that looms on the horizon.  I mean, if I’m already in menopause, and I’m not going to have any more kids, what’s the big deal about losing my ovaries?

I think.


The hat brigade

December 1, 2007

buff Now that NaBloPoMo is over and I don’t HAVE to post today, I … simply must.  I think it’s high time to come clean about my hatgear, don’t you?  Hats have apparently really come back this year, which is great, since my hair hasn’t.  Unfortunately, since I haven’t gotten out much, I didn’t get the message until yesterday.  I’ve been just trying to feel comfortable here in hot, then cold DC this year.  I mean, what DOES make you feel good when you’re pulling your hair out by the roots? 

The picture above was taken just after my first chemo, when I was recovering in bed.  I’m wearing a Buff scarf sent to me by NYfriend, who I went to grad school with.  My little boy is next to me in a Buff scarf of his own, and we’re having a day of reading books and snuggling while mommy fights off the nausea.


My hair fell out pretty quickly after that first treatment and was entirely gone by the second, just three weeks later.  I started wearing scarves and hats out in public, but didn’t bother much around the house.  Then again, I didn’t bother to wear hats out in public a lot during the summer heat in Washington, either.  I know it made some people uncomfortable to see someone so young so obviously bald from chemotherapy, but I wasn’t exactly comfortable with the idea of cancer myself, at that point.  I did what I had to do to survive the heat, and I like to think I raised awareness too.  Could it be that another young mom was reminded to do her breast-exam because she passed me on a walk and noticed my baldness?  Or maybe a grandmother or grandfather saw my happy boys and went in to get checked themselves?  That would make me happy.  My Buff scarves also made me happy, as they provided a secure grip on my balding head as I was losing hair by the handful and fit well both before and after complete hair loss.  The “must” accessory of the season, though, turned out to be my cute little accomplice.  It’s amazing how much better a picture of a sick person looks with a happy baby in it!


Happy cousins work well too.  Here we’re wearing our new Race for the Cure hats as we take a breather during the 1-miler.  Cancer survivors are given pink hats and pink t-shirts to wear, while cancer survivor supporters get green and white.  Memo for next year:  do NOT wear the red Buff scarf that morning if there is even a chance that you’ll be given a tiny pink cap to wear.  I was not a happy camper.  And the fact that my red Buff matched my red hoodie did not help.


This is one of my favorite hats, worn unfortunately a little high on the head.  Would someone please tell me when I look like a doofus?  The hat is great, it’s just up too high, exposing my bald forehead.


I had that problem with baseball caps as well.  Which is too bad, since I bought matching baseball caps for me and my boys at the start of all this and thought we would look cute all wearing blue baseball caps together.  The kids did, at least.  But too much of my bald scalp showed, as a regular cap exposes the forehead, over the ears, in the back, and particularly through the “keyhole” where the strap adjusts.  This was not a good or particularly often-chosen look for me.  But my friend in the picture here, Stella, understood, as she’s a survivor of inflammatory breast cancer too!  Doesn’t she look GREAT?


This is my usual look — bald inside, simple knit cap (green, ivory, brown, or blue) outside in the cold.  I thought they looked better on me, though.  Hmmmmm…..


The scarf I like.  Really like.  I have this one in both ivory and brown, and it feels right to me.  Unfortunately I didn’t really discover that I liked scarves until the temperature dropped to 40 degrees outside here.  When I wear this now, my head is freezing and I have to put on a sweater to go with it.  I’m good like that. 

There are a few newsboy-type caps and a red beret that I really really love, but somehow I don’t have pictures of them on me.  I’d sneak upstairs and take a few, but then I’d wake the whole house and my blogging time would be up.  (Another item for my non-existent “things I like about cancer” list: lots of time to blog or brood when I wake up at 3:00 every morning and can’t get back to sleep.)


Some days I just go with my personal favorite … the babyhat. 

That’s funny.  Babyhat looks remarkably like babyphat.  Did I ever tell you gals that Kimora Lee and I lived in the same building and used to hang out while our dogs played together?  Long, long ago, when I was in grad school and she was modeling in local ads.  To this day, I can’t flip by her TV show without thinking, “She and I used to scoop poop together.”  I kid you not.

Fear. Anticipation.

November 8, 2007

Fear.  Anticipation.  Getting back on the merry-go-round that is chemotherapy infusion day.  I wrote last night about my hesitancy to go back again today, to get pumped full of poison drugs, to sit there while the vile mixture that will kill my cells is funneled into my veins.  The Individual Voice’s words haunt me, asking, what chemo patients DO look forward to it?  And where are my curse words?

I have no curse words.  I have no rage, even.  I have only … disappointment.  And weariness.  I know I’ve only just begun this cancer journey (and I’m sorry, so sorry, for this self-centeredness in the face of what friends like Jodi and Zachary’s mama have to go through), but I am already so tired of anteing up what cancer asks of me.  I hate being tired all the time.  I hate being weak, and having to ask my son to “jump into mom’s arms” only on the left side, and to hug mom carefully, and to choose a lighter book that mommy can hold without straining her injured chest. 

I hate to leave my little boy, even for a day that will prolong my life by weeks, months, or years (and I know that sounds selfish, particularly when so many mamas have to leave their little boys and girls every day, but this cancer has made me sensitive to our separations.  I do not want to leave him.  Period.).  I hate to say goodbye, and walk away as he screams, “Mom-ee!  Mom-ee!  No go way!  Me come ‘wif you!”  I hate to feel that emptiness and that selfishness as we drive away, spending the day without him.  Spending the day in the cancer ward.  Surrounded by sickness.

It’s hard to focus on the hope, and the love, on days like that.  Days like this.  Days like the one that I will start again in just a few hours.

And so, the night before chemo, I am often up late, alone, writing furiously before the chemo takes my words again, recording thoughts and vivid emotions while I can think, and feel, and express them in language that satisfies.  Because tomorrow, or, later today, I will be numb for a while.  Drugged by the medication.  Exhausted from the poisions and the stress of the day.  Artificial. 

Frustrated by the day that I have spent – no, invested – so that I will have even more days, and months, and years to spend with my little boys.  Because I have two little boys, and I want to live to hear the youngest one cry for mama, and squeal in delight when the car drives up at the end of the day — “Mom’s home!”

Mom’s home.

My goal for today is to take my medicine and to be pleasant about it, and to look forward to the time when our minivan pulls back into the driveway and we can all cheer with delight, “Mom’s home!”

Chemo eve

November 7, 2007

Once upon a time, the night before chemo was a wonderful night, a date night, full of laughing and candlelight and talks with my husband.  Those nights, I felt the best I would feel in the 3-week cycle, and I was full of energy and happiness, mixed with just a little dread for the needles and nausea and exhaustion that would follow at the clinic the next day. 

Now, however, on weekly chemo, my body doesn’t have the chance to fully recover between cycles.  The side effects and exhaustion from the Taxol are said to last “8-11 days.”  But I have infusions every 7 days.  So I don’t fully recover between times. 

It’s not so bad, usually, but I miss the carefree nights before chemo.  For now I’m in the late stages of recovery from the last dose, the aches and the bone pain, and the pangs of nausea that linger, the appetite that can’t be tempted, and the chest pain that just. isn’t. going. away.  It just makes things harder, that’s all.

And, truthfully, it makes me less excited about going to chemo tomorrow.