14 January 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

Steroids are a funny drug. Not funny ‘ha-ha’. Funny in the way that my nerve endings sizzle, and the humming deep in my core is poised to erupt into a full scream. At any given moment, should anyone touch me inappropriately, or ask me a stupid question, I will change from mild mannered bald lady into the giant green monster known as the Incredible Hulk. Last week I was full of steroids, with the puffy face to prove it. Normal-ish on the outside,  I was spring-loaded on the inside. Bright lights hurt my eyes, harsh sounds hurt my ears, and pointless conversation hurt my brain.

During steroid week, I can end almost all conversations with, ‘I don’t give a sh*t’ and ‘Why are you still talking?’  The people in the dog park, normally inoffensive, seem as though they’ve been put on this earth specifically to annoy me. One lady with a faux leopard hat said that she’d taken the day off work to go to the dentist. “So?” I may or may not have said out loud. Seconds later, I’d wandered away, blinded by the sun, overcome with hostility.

I know now that there are things I should avoid during steroid days, which is pretty much everything. In the outside world, I don’t want to put myself in a position where someone might invade my personal space. God help the person who bumps my arm while I’m pouring milk into my take-out coffee, or nudges me off the sidewalk as they roll through Leslieville with their double wide jogging stroller, and a Labradoodle.

Things aren’t that much better at home. I avoid Jim’s tough lines of questioning, such as ‘What can I make you for dinner?’ or ‘Would you like an extra blanket?’ (And I've apologized to him for throwing box of Shreddies at his head). I especially avoid anyone who may leave extra long messages on their answering machines. I don’t want to sit through another Buddhist prayer, or listen to an entire family explain in rhyme, why they’re not home. I don’t care. Why are they still talking?

Unfortunately for my Psychiatrist, I was steroid crazy when I went to see her for our last session. She was 15 minutes late for the appointment so I was already jumpy when we finally got started. I’d barely sat down before launching into a brisk monologue regarding my lack of patience and crawling skin.  She nodded in that way that people nod when they’ve been to medical school for fifteen years. (I noticed that she was wearing ugly men’s black ankle socks). I glared at her, willing her to respond, my right knee bouncing uncontrollably. “I understand,” she said finally (finally!), “People are dealing with issues that have solutions, while your situation is life or death.”

I sizzled. My knee stopped jiggling. The hum in my stomach started vibrating wildly. “I need to correct you,” I said in someone else's voice, which sounded to me like Kathleen Turner, but was probably more like Lou Ferrigno. “I am not dealing with life or death,” I said, “ I’m dealing with life or life. Death is no longer an option.” I glared at her through blood shot eyes, ready to squish her like a bug with my enormous green hands.

The Hulk was angry. He leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath while Dr L.  crossed her legs, and apologized for her careless wording. The Hulk thought she should also apologize for her socks. But he accepted the apology, and I watched as my hands turn back to their regular size and colour. 

I sat up and smiled, “Okay Doctor, let's move ahead.”

10 January 2012

Let Me Eat Cake

My darling big sister confessed that she is relieved that I've looked healthy throughout my treatment. She was afraid that I’d become one of those skinny cancer people, and to be honest, so was I.

The first time we sat in the waiting room awaiting my first IV, there was a woman sitting across from us who weighed less than 100 pounds. Her oxygen tank was on wheels, and she had a friend to help her pull it along. Her gold rimmed glasses slipped down her nose, and it took all her energy to slowly push them back up. At that time, we looked around the room, scared and confused, and wondered who I was going to become.

My biggest fear was that I’d be frail. Other fears, in no particular order, were weakness, nausea, mouth sores, brain fog, leg pain, and loss of nails. Baldness was down at the bottom of the list. With one round of drugs coursing through my veins, I don’t want to take anything for granted, but so far, it’s all been manageable and there’ve been no horrible surprises. Except this. I’m getting pudgy.

At first it was just the pie face, which I chalked up to those nasty steroids. That I could deal with, even though I didn’t look pleasing in the Christmas photos. I told nurse Marion that I was feeling chunky, and she cheerfully told me that one of her chemo patients had gained 25lbs!

Smugly, I considered myself exempt, since having cut out wine, I’d shaved off a substantial portion of my diet. However there has been a great deal of baking kicking around this Christmas, and I haven’t been shy of partaking. I’m eating everything, and between meals, I’ve had an insatiable appetite for cake. I don’t need it to be fancy either. Any old stale pound cake will do, including the ones from Loblaws, that are old, and celebrating someone else’s birthday.

The jeans, that hung off me in the summer, are now completely full. And then I remember that I haven’t done Pilates in four months, and the dog walking, which keeps me outdoors for three hours a day, doesn’t take me very far. Jed’s legs are only six inches long, and he spends a lot of time standing still.

Dieting really isn’t a consideration. (The most I will do is think twice about eating the icing). Somewhere over the last four months I’ve started thinking of my body as a vessel that has to be pumped with fuel, so I give it what it demands.  Often it requires orange juice and kale, but since it sometimes demands cake,  I give it that as well.

I do not want to gain 25 pounds. But nor can I hold tightly to the notion of my ideal body at this point in time. Luckily Jim doesn’t mind bald, and is oblivious to my expanding tummy. He's just happy for the days I'm feeling healthy and often volunteers to run (drive) out for treats.  So far I've yet to send him to the 'day old' section at the supermarket for an unclaimed birthday cake, but I feel that day is coming. 

So as far as ‘What I was going to become’,  I think I have my answer. Bald, still, and a little bit fatter, with no obvious sign of cheekbones. But I'm grateful I can breath my own oxygen, and I'm glad there's more of me, rather than less.

Eventually I'd like to be comfortable in my favorite jeans, or at least, my second favorite. And there are  longer walks in the future, and hopefully hiking. Eventually I intend to get back to Pilates. One day I'll do it without a wig. And then I have to think about going back to work. And giving up daytime TV. And being more productive. And making the most out of my life. But all that is all very ambitious.

So for now, there's cake.