The first slap

The first slap
This photo was taken the day after I was diagnosed, and it is my first bitch slap at cancer. I'm the one with the icepack symbolically placed on my boob. My teammates changed our team's uniform to pink at the last minute, and I came off the soccer field that night with one goal and a whole lot of love. Several of these women are my close friends, but they are all warriors, and they all helped me set the tone for this fight.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A prayer to the hair goddess

Dear Hair Goddess,

First of all, let me just say 'thank you' for nose hair. Yes, nose hair. Who could have imagined its virtues prior to chemotherapy?! For seven months I dealt with a nose that ran constantly, which I attribute at least in part to the loss of precious hair helping to hold back the flood. That constant drip has now subsided due to your generosity, and my nasal passage and I are thrilled.

And let me also say 'thank you' for the simple pleasure of not having lost 100% of my head hair during chemo. I'm not sure why that made me happy; after all, except for a few short whisps, my head was pretty much an oversized cue ball. But I suppose I feel an odd sense of pride that some of my hair was resistant to the toxic cocktail my body was subjected to. So for that, I am grateful.

I am also pleased to see that some of my hair is beginning to grow back. But if I may ask, why the rush to replenish my leg hair? I haven't exactly missed shaving my legs. And I am curious as to the significance of my once-again-plentiful chin stubble. Is my face really considered a priority zone for new hair growth? Again, I appreciate what you've done for me. But if you hadn't noticed, I'm pretty much bald on top, and getting a bit of my head rug back would be nice. It need not be a lot, and I'm not too concerned about the color or texture. Gray and curly would suit me just fine at this point. Hell, make it purple for all I care. But this cue ball thing is getting a bit old.

In case it helps my cause, Craig has made a special sacrifice to appease your bouffant highness by shaving his formerly thick mane to resemble my stubbly chemo head (see photo below). I hope you will accept his locks as a token of our devotion and appreciation.

Your faithful but still largely hairless follower,

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Relay for Life with a One-Eyed Dammit Doll

As many of you know, I participated in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life yesterday evening in Champaign. Actually, I didn't walk all night with a team, but I did walk the survivors' lap. Craig and Nate both joined in, walking the caregivers' lap with me after the survivors' lap (Evan was away at a soccer tournament). What an awesome event! It is definitely inspiring to see so many people working so hard to raise money for cancer research and support. I didn't even sign up for the event until last Wednesday. But within only two hours of signing up, friends and family had already donated over $300, and in end, I raised $1,200 (well over my initial goal of $200)! Thank you to all of you who donated or helped spread the word. And for those of you who would like to donate, but either didn't know about this or haven't yet had the chance, you can do so here:

To be honest, Nate was not very excited about being there. He was happy to do it, and understood the significance for me, but there wasn't a whole lot for an 11 year old kid to do there prior to the kick-off of the event at 6:00. Besides, he was missing the England-Italy world cup game! There were a few food vendors, and we could stroll around the tent sites of the different teams. Each team was selling something (typically food) to raise money for the ACS, and we found some cookies and brats to call dinner.

At one point, Nate said, "I wish they sold something other than food. They should be selling little dolls that represent cancer that you can stick needles into or something." I thought it wasn't a bad idea, and sure enough, after walking around a bit more, we came upon a team that was selling "Dammit Dolls." A Dammit Doll is designed to be whacked around while shouting "dammit!" when feeling frustrated or angry. Each one comes with a poem explaining its purpose (see photo lower right). Of course we had to buy one. I picked one with a pink ribbon, and then promptly stuffed in my purse as the survivors' lap was about to begin. And when we pulled it out a bit later, we noted that it was missing an eye. This gave it a sort of rough and tumble look, arguably more appropriate for its intended use (see photo at left)

A particular highlight of the event for me was meeting a woman with a diagnosis virtually identical to mine, but who is a few weeks ahead of me in treatment. I actually recognized her from the chemo suite, and it turns out that our treatments have been identical. I swear, I just gravitated toward her, as I realized that it was the first time I've actually talked with someone going through exactly what I've gone through at the same time. It was incredibly therapeutic to talk with her and to share stories. And what's more, her head hair is beginning to grow back! The only hair I've had growing back so far is my leg hair and my nose hair. I'll take it I guess, but it's not exactly the regrowth I was hoping for at this point.

Anyway, I've posted a couple more photos from Relay for Life below. And here is a link to the Champaign-Urbana's newspaper's online photo gallery from the event, which includes one of me and Nate ringing the Survivor Bell together:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Radiation as stealth bitch slaps

So, with the onset of summer I'm moving forward with treatment. I had my first (of 30) radiation treatments today. I have sort of been looking forward to radiation, knowing that it will be so much easier on my system than chemotherapy. What I wasn't expecting is how uneventful radiation is.

I'm not exactly sure what I was I thought it would be like, but at a minimum I guess I was thinking a little light might come out of the radiation gizmo hovering over me, or perhaps there'd be some buzzing sound coming from it, like when you get an X-ray. And at most, I was imagining it might be a bit like lying in a tanning booth (although I've never done that), or in some Star-Trekky table thing with blue neon lights surrounding me. But no, it's pretty much just lying really still in a plain old medical room with a machine over me that apparently sends radiation into my body in a way that evades my sensory perception. The only sounds I heard other than the conversation of the technicians was the Norah Jones music playing on the sound system. While I love Norah Jones, I'm almost disappointed! I mean, this is the beginning of the last major portion of my treatment, so something more explicitly bitch-slappy would seem to be in order, like the Violent Femmes.

But really, I can't complain. Radiation is easy-peasy. The most "severe" side effects would be a bit of fatigue and some sunburn-like skin changes on the radiated area, but if those happen at all it wouldn't be until I'm a few weeks into the process. So I'm running with it, and reconceptualizing this process as stealth bitch slaps. Any remaining cancer cells won't know what hit them. In fact, they all just kiss off into the air!