Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Round 11 Chumba Wumba

Round 11 "I get knocked down, but I get up again..."

My blood levels came back from the lab and if it hadn’t been for the East German judge I am certain they would have been higher. A 1.6 - borderline to get chemo but they gave it to me anyway. Just taxol this time. Easier on the system. I was feeling lucky. Greg couldn’t go with me at the last minute so my friend Ingrid stepped in. We were like two giggling school girls when we arrived to check in at the “infusion center.” “Mani-pedi?” I offered to the humorless check-in nurse. Ingrid: “Choose your color.” But I didn’t see the usual Opi stand. Instead we were escorted back to chair number 5. I felt like a game show contestant. Ingrid and I proceeded to act like a coupla teens doing whip-it’s in the corner while we waited for about an hour for my blood results. We conjured up a little match-making of two dear friends in the process. And being two gals who hadn’t exactly dated for a while (though Ingrid is a good “texter”) we consulted with Mary Ellen, my chemo nurse - herself a newlywed, as to whether we should tell the two we were setting them up or just text them to come out for dinner on Saturday night. On Mary Ellen’s advice, we decided to tell them. They were non-plussed - much more mature than Ingrid and me at that point. Pretty soon we looked around and all the chemo chairs were empty - either we were too noisy or they had cured cancer and not told us because usually it is standing room only at Georgetown on a Tuesday, especially after a holiday.

Some of you have asked what it was like having the Today show around the week before. (I see we were bumped tomorrow because of Haiti but they are still managing to squeeze in Brittany Murphy’s life story.) The funniest moment was when the girls were getting ready for school and choosing presentable outfits because the camera was going to be rolling when they walked through the door after school. Amelia turned to me in earnest and lowered her voice to ask me: “Do you think they will want me to do a cartwheel?” I assured her that in all likelihood they would and if not I would insist. So as the kids did their homework and we feigned interest in looking up yet another word en famille using Annalise’s dictionary, Annalise prompted Amelia. “Er, Amelia - about that cartwheel.” No sooner had the words left her lips than Amelia had whipped out of her chair and did a double cartwheel through my living room. In fact she was so fast the camera person had to ask for a do over.

Luke was not bothered, though Rose had him all dolled up in his favorite fire truck sweater. Luke is never bothered. I walked in the house from the gym today and he was listening to “Beat It” on his iPod and bent over the dog bowl eating Izzy’s food. 3rd child - no time to supervise the little man. He’s on his own. Speaking of iPods, I have had a few complaints from my “New York friends”, namely Greg Scholl, that I really should get better taste and lose some of the pop favorites that I occasionally quote in these missives. In fact he has promised to fill a new one with his indie music if I promise to listen to it and replace my favorite Jay -Z, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus. Well I lost my iPod this week and was in a panic heading to chemo - thought Greg Scholl had put one of my kids up to taking it. The culprit, of course, was Luke who had been listening to Shakira’s new album: She Wolf before naptime.

Meanwhile, eating is proving to be more challenging for me because I had my first waves of nausea after the carboplatin last week and really could not stomach the smell of almost any food for about two days. I gnawed on ginger as much as possible. My dear friend and neighbor Adele surprised me at Christmas with a joke present - aware that I had this constant struggle with veganism and was missing a little bacon in my life. She bought me two gumby like bendable dolls and the box reads: “Mr. Bacon vs. Monsieur Tofu: Only one can remain at the top of the food chain!” (So far Monsieur Tofu is winning, but each morning in my kitchen Mr. Bacon attempts a comeback.)The girls have constant mock battles with these two frenemy’s. I can no longer enter the kitchen if Rose has cooked bacon because the smell I now associate with my first visit to chemo when Greg and I had turkey club sandwiches afterwards at Jetty’s on Foxhall Road. Bad move. I will ever associate the smell of bacon with chemo - so it will never again be a temptation. With the same philosophy in mind I told Greg I should try pepperoni pizza before the last round of chemo to see if I could exorcise this demon in the same way. May have worked. My stomach knots when I think of it right now.

Amelia, decided to write in her journal about the smell of healthy food from her perspective:
1/15/10 “My mom has brest cancer. When you have cancer you need to eat healthy or your toomer (sic) will get bigger” She goes on to describe the healthy ice cream that she likes where the milk is made instead of rice. “Healthy can sometimes taste good,” Amelia writes. “But not all the times like everyone brings my mom food like her friend Christine came today and gave my mom some mouse (as in mousse) but it wasn’t good chokolate, disirt mouse,” according to Amelia. “It was pumpkin mouse which is sortev healthy and tastes really good.” She concludes: “Another example is salad, it really taste good but it is healthy too. But sometimes healthy smells bad or give you gas.” True.

With American Idol on and so much gripping news from Haiti the girls and I have found ourselves curled up watching a lot of tv under the duvet and getting blown away by the rescue stories in Haiti. Take the one on Monday night shown on NBC shot by ITN correspondent Bill Neeley. The woman, Jeanette, had been buried in rubble for 6 days - no food no water. They finally get a camera into the hole so that they can see her face. They shout into the hole: “would you like some water? And this is where it gets amazing - she calls back: “if it would’t be any trouble, yes please.” She is then pulled out, sings a beautiful song on the ground and then sits up right in the front seat of the car - smiles and wavs as she leaves the home where she had nearly been entombed. I pointed out to my girls that even being pulled out from rubble after 6 days she was polite and said please.

That’s when they started their own telethon to collect money from friends and family to send to Haiti. We chose Dr. Paul Farmer’s website because he has been doing such amazing work in Haiti for 20 years. Then we went to Mission of Hope which had been mentioned on the Nightly News this week and we saw a number of children who needed sponsoring. We went through all their details and settled on Frendel. Amelia said “choose one who is making puppy eyes.” They all were. It was impossible. In the end they chose Frendel to support because it is his birthday in 2 days (if he survived the earthquake and is still alive.) From Annalise to Frendel: We hope your family is safe and you are too. Most importantly, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” We hope you have a great birthday.” Frendel is supposed to turn 5.

I, of course, was weeping behind the girls’ heads so they couldn’t see me. Then they broke into their Heifer Fund and found 70 dollars each to donate.

Back to our own reality, Annalise had a few teary nights this week - where she seemed to have taken a step back in terms of ‘handling’ the idea of me having breast cancer. First of all the word was driving her crazy. She burst into tears when she said it so we decided to call it something else. As of now, we call it my “Ruby slippers.” As in ‘before you got your ‘ruby slippers’, x was the case.” She said she was sick of hearing commercials like the one that is constantly on top 40 radio stations that introduces a woman who states sadly “When I got diagnosed with Breast Cancer at age 48....blah blah blah.” The girls and I quickly change the channel. We started by being so open about the cancer that now the kids need a break from it. Hence the “Ruby slippers.”
We still use a code word if my wig is pushed too far back and you can see the bank robber stocking cap underneath. The kids simply say ‘popcorn.’ And I adjust it. It works.

And other than looking more and more like a lab rat losing more and more eyebrow and eyelashes. Amelia informed me that I don’t need to get eyebrow waxings any more - to which I replied - yes. And Annalise lamented that I would not be able to wish on a fallen eyelash anytime soon and offered me use of hers. (However, after seeing Up in the Air today - I was in the bathroom and lo and behold an eyelash had fallen out under my eye - I cherished the moment to get one big wish. (Annalise still wishes every time she finds an eyelash that Izzy our dog could talk.) To me that says a lot. It means she is not worried all the time about my health. It was at the end of this conversation that they sprung on me their own little health surprise: they both had lice and the delousing operations - chemical bathing and nitpicking had already begun down in Rose’s room in the basement, I was told. I informed the other moms and then rested easy. The lice would eventually disappear and in the meantime I didn’t need to worry about getting them - my bald head and concentration camp close shave crew cut would give them nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I could sleep like a baby while the rest of the house scrambled to get deloused. Ah - one problem that didn’t add to my anxiety. I reached over for a little xanax to help me sleep (as coming off the steroids they give me for anti nausea is a delicate balancing act. I reached for the bottle and it was empty. Darn. So I dipped into Izzy’s supply for when she has to get groomed and soon realized that her dosage was higher than mine and she is just a 4 pound cockapoo. Nonetheless, it’s sad when you have to steal xanax from your dog in my condition.

Here’s a link to Dr. Paul Farmer’s website if you are looking for a good cause to donate to in Haiti: