(Really Sour Lemons)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Exiting the Comfort Zone

As you might know, I'm not thrilled at being bald. Nothing to do with looks... my husband just affectionately called me "punk" lol. No, I don't like the FEELING of being bald. The cool air flowing over my head makes me cold. The wig is scratchy. Constantly wearing hats makes me hot. The scarves are my best bet right now, but it's still hard to regulate temperature. 

But this story IS about looks. I wanted to tell you about when I really stepped out of my comfort zone and zapped that criticizing little devil on my shoulder. The devil that says... "you can't let anyone see your bald head, it's funny looking, they'll laugh."So here's the story: 

Last week Monday I went to a program that's put on by the American Cancer Society called "Look Good, Feel Better." People kept telling me about it, nurses kept asking me if I'd gone. I tried to go to the January one but I ended up with my 2nd port surgery that night. So I signed up for February. It was the most crowded the folks running it had ever seen. Full house... about 25 women, about 3/4 with some type of cancer, some brought support peeps. Some people were just diagnosed, some people were just starting chemo,  one was ready for hospice. Amazing ladies with amazing stories. All sorts of cancers, from breast to lung to ovary to abdominal... it was very empowering to hear the stories and be in a room full of so many warriors. 

But I digress. The program teaches you how to take care of your skin during chemo and radiation treatments, how to put on flattering makeup that will make you feel pretty, and how to deal with the hair loss with wigs and scarves. Each participant received a big bag full of makeup that was donated by cosmetic manufacturers, based on skin tone. And not sample sized... everything was full retail sized products. It included eye cream, moisturizers, foundation, , powder, blush, eye shadows and liners, brow liner, mascara, lip stick and gloss and liner, sun block and self tanner. A big thank you goes to Mary Kay, Estee Lauder, Avon, Clinique, and more for their generous donations for this cause. I went naked faced (my first trip outside the comfort zone!) and just wore a scarf on my head. I walked into a room full of already gorgeous women who hadn't lost their hair yet or were wearing their neat wigs and full makeup. 

Okay, back to the program. I learned how to put on make up with an aesthetician's help. The most amazing thing was filling in the eyebrows. I've always hated my unruly eyebrows, but they thinned out a lot and now looked really good filled in with a brow pencil. Very subtle. And eyeliner really popped the eyes. Well, can I say that I looked good? And my table mates concurred. And then... the lady in charge asked me if I would be the model for the scarf tying demonstration. 

Oh. My. Gosh. 

She wanted me to take off my scarf and show my bald head to a room full of people? YIKES! 

I hesitated about 5 seconds and blurted out "sure!" and then thought.... crap. This is TOTALLY out of my comfort zone. But you know what? If there's one thing I've learned from all my art peeps and friends, is that it's GOOD to step out of the zone once in awhile. So I went to the front of the room and sat in a chair facing away from the crowd and whipped the scarf off. The lady took a while to explain what she was doing but finally tied a scarf on in a creative way... and viola! I turned around to model and there are about 20 camera phones pointing at me taking my picture!! (Some of you know how much I HATE getting my picture taken!) Someone joked that I would be in a you tube video (!) Everyone oohed and aahed and said how great I looked and that my makeup looked really good and I was a great model and I started to lift my chin up and stand a little straighter. And it was a totally surreal experience. Because some of you know I HATE being the center of attention, LOL. 

But it was all cool. I stepped waaay out of my comfort zone and I didn't die! No one laughed at my bald head (because they all knew they looked the same under their wigs, or will soon look the same!) And I felt physically pretty, which doesn't happen much lately. (OK I admit, never happened much in my life!) I don't judge beauty by what someone looks like, but once in awhile it is good to FEEL beautiful on the outside too.

Now I need to look up those you tube videos because with all my anxiety about being the model I've forgotten all the cool ways to tie those scarves! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hair, Hats and Hormones

I have been feeling great this past week. Everything is returning to normal, minus the extra fatigue that hits me in the evenings. It was my birthday on Friday the 10th of February and I felt good enough to eat some cupcakes and then went out to dinner on the weekend. (First time out to dinner in a looong time.) On my birthday I decided to shave my head clean. It was buzzed before, with about 1/4" of hair all over except for some emerging balding patches. It was hurting to lay on it and I kept getting short pieces of hair everywhere, including my eyes. So off it went. Plus, I wanted to tell people when they asked "did you do anything special for your birthday?" I can answer "Yes, I had cupcakes and shaved my head." LOL.

Believe it or not, a 1/4" of hair still keeps your head somewhat warm! When it was all gone, my head was REALLY cold! It was a really weird sensation to feel the air gliding over my head as I walked around the house. Just sitting around is cold. I have to wear a hat most of the time, or at least a head scarf. I have decided that I DO NOT like being bald because of this. It has nothing to do with beauty or looks. I don't place a lot of emphasis on physical looks, I try to look beyond that. No, it's just damn cold to be bald. 

I've only been totally bald for about 10 days now and I'm tired of it already. I have a big basket of hats to keep me warm. And I have a big basket of pretty scarves for my head too. But sometimes I just don't feel like wearing a hat or scarf or anything on my head. But then I'm cold. It's crazy hard to regulate temperature too. Hats inside are sometimes too hot. Hats outside are fine. But then when I go into a store I overheat. Scarves are fine inside but I'm always pulling and tugging and adjusting. That knot in the back of my neck is getting old. I bought a bunch of fabric to make my own scarves, some thinner cotton ones, but it won't solve the knot-in-neck problem. Forget turbans. I refuse to go there! 

And speaking of regulating temperatures, oh.my.goodness. I think my ovaries have been dying a slow death the past few weeks. I turned 46 last week, and even though I had a hysterectomy at 39, I had kept my ovaries and hormones and menopause was far off on the horizon. But lately I've been waking up 3-4 times a night HOT and sweating. My pillow feels like it was in the oven. I whip my sleeping hat off and throw it aside, flip my pillow and toss all the covers off. Sometimes I sit up and fan my head. About 5 minutes later I'm shivering and grab the covers again and snuggle under to get warm. I don't know if this is a side effect of the chemo or if the chemo is screwing with my hormones and causing night sweats, or, and I dread saying this, is this what a hot flash feels like? 

I'm so not ready for this part. 

Next time I will tell you about my trip outside of my comfort zone. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sometimes I forget...

Some days I feel like someone kicked me in the head and I'm down for the count. Yesterday was one of those days. My infusion was Herceptin only, which is a bio-therapy, not a cell-killing therapy. YES! My port worked perfectly. Although the new port site was still tender and swollen, and it took a few times to get the needle in the right place. This time I could feel the needle going in and hanging in there for an hour.  I stopped at the store to pick up some things, ran a few errands, and BAM! I was down on the couch the entire afternoon and evening. I could NOT keep my eyes open. I drifted in and out of consciousness... it was really weird. I even slept most of the night, minus one bathroom break. 

Today was the opposite. Once I got up and got Little C off to school I was going at 100 miles an hour the entire day. I drank my lunch while working. (I had ONE cup of coffee and my lunch was soup!) I was productive, I was busy, I printed, pulled, packed and shipped like a little worker bee. It was really weird to have all this energy. 

At one point in my day I walked past the black reflective surface of the microwave and caught site of my reflection and I thought... Oh crap. I have cancer. 

Sometimes I forget.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Third Time's a Charm... I hope.

I ended going to hospital on Thursday for a dye test on my port. Yep, it was screwed up royally. The catheter was too short and it had shifted and pulled and twisted itself inside of me. I peeked and saw the line in my neck when they did the xray. What a nightmare. So while they had me there, prepped, they went ahead and cut me open for another surgery. They completely removed the old (ha! three weeks old!) port and placed another one, along with the correct amount of catheter (I hope.) This one is a different model and size "better suited for the pocketed area" and the doctor said he "uses a different, better technique to insert it which should fare better." Now, why didn't the first doctor do that? (I can but won't insert a lot of swear words here!) I can tell already that the neck area is better. Of course I'll have a big knobby scar but at least it doesn't hurt anymore. This time the doctor made a new incision lower down, closer to my collarbone. And of course cut through the old incision a third time to remove/replace the port. 

I was awake again (conscious twilight) during the whole procedure and it hurt like hell.  I NEVER ever want to do that again. As a matter of fact, I don't want to see a hospital again. I was in SO much pain that night I didn't sleep more than an hour in the early morning. I gasped and moaned all night, every time I tried to move. Some of you know that I have a very high pain tolerance so this was scary for me. Two Tylenol3's didn't touch it a bit. The nurses the next day said it looked fine, no infections or abnormal swelling. They suggested taking Tylenol around the clock to keep a steady stream in the blood. Unfortunately, when the nurse peeled that clear plastic post surgical tape off (the one for extra sensitive skin) my skin was red and raw underneath again. My body is trying to tell me something too. It's sick of this abuse.

I feel much better today though. I slept really late, lazed around the morning and actually got to the grocery store in the afternoon. (ok, and the fabric store... but that's another story.) The area is still a bit swollen, hurts to put pressure on it (duh) but no more sharp stabbing take your breath away pain. I really really hope that this is it. Chemo was hard enough on Tuesday without having to go through the ordeal of surgery and so many painkillers. My poor liver and kidneys. I'm trying to drink a lot but having a hard time because of the hiccups from hell and subsequent acid reflux. 

Thank goodness for Posicles and Luigi's Italian Ice :-)