My daughter turns 13 Labor Day weekend. I am immensely happy I am here to see it. I am immensely sad I don’t have the energy to host or even attend a party. We share a cake, by which I mean I smell it and her and my husband eat it, she blows out some candles and we have a family hug. I think we all take it in stride.
I am more prepared for my second treatment. I remain undeniably unnerved about my port, Charlie, living under my skin just above my left breast. I accept my phobias as part of what my treatment plan needs to work with, rather than play tough and “just deal with it” like I’ve heard so many times in the last few weeks. I request my lab draw a day before treatment so I am not a blubbering mess from being poked and prodded when it’s time to talk with my oncologist each week. I know I need to be composed and level headed to hear what he has to say about my progress and my options.
I also know I need to be kinder to my nurses, who tried desperately (but unsuccessfully) to bring me some calm during my first treatment. I decide to take up baking treats for them. It makes me feel purposeful. It also provides me a gauge for my wellness. If I am too sick to bake every other week, things are not going well.
I buy some calming meditation music and bring headphones to my appointment. I plan to at least try to meditate, not sob, through the next four hours and my second dose. I still have a panic attack when the nurse accesses the port with the butterfly needle, but the first thing they push…before the Red Devil (the widely used nickname for the chemo I receive) is lots more lorazepam. Not the “calming” amount from round one. This time, it’s the “sleeping” amount. I slowly stop crying, ask for more pillows and drift off to sleep.
Two days after my second chemo infusion I get violently sick and throw up into a brand new bathroom trash can I bought to ward off the queazies. It says “Positive Mind, Positive Vibes, Positive Life”. I scowl at it between heaves. My husband looks at me with the saddest eyes and I whisper to him, “No Dana, only Zule.” He laughs and cries.
I itch and scratch my way through the next week as the tiny nubs of my shaved hair fall out. I feel like I’m sleeping with Tribbles as my pillow, sheets and blanket become covered in mini hairs. I take to wearing lightweight Tshirt hats, generously made by my mother-in-law in dozens of colors, to protect my bald head from the little bit I see of the summer sun. I cannot imagine how silly I would look in a wig and refuse to find out.
A week after my second treatment, I feel like I swallowed a lump of hot coal from all the stomach acid. With deep breaths, I accept this is my fate for the next four months. I know I have 200 pounds of storage and Wisconsin Cheddar protecting me from total annihilation. Haha Cancer, fat girls win!