I have been engaged in a tug of war with this cancer diagnosis for four months now, which unfortunately, has become my new normal. The appointments and accompanying tests are never ending. And nobody gives a woman my age a lollipop for submitting to the needles, the poking and prodding. Instead, they systematically arrange a date and time for the next visit. And send you the bill. But I am grateful to the folks in the medical profession who want to save my life. I try to stay pleasant enough for them to think I am worth it.
I am learning alot about myself on this journey. Much of it is serious philosophical and spiritual stuff, but some of it is downright comical. Honestly, I am much more vain than I had ever imagined myself to be. I have lost my hair, which can readily be covered with a cute hat or a wig, but having no eyebrows or eyelashes makes me look rather like an alien. (ET phone home??) I tried to glue on the fake ones, but ironically, you need natural lashes for scaffolding, a fact I discovered when I was having lunch with a friend, and she casually commented that I looked a bit lopsided after losing one. I wonder if some poor unsuspecting stranger stumbled across my wayward eyelash in the produce aisle at Publix. Sorry, but just imagining it makes me laugh. And lashes serve a purpose, I have learned. I managed to lose a contact lens between the seats in my car when it popped out unexpectedly with nothing to stop the free fall. The thought of having to resort to wearing my Coke bottle glasses made me break out in hives. Thank goodness for Bendryl.
I have grown accustomed to seeing myself in the mirror, bald as an eagle, but for others it is quite the surprise. I did have a massage a few weeks ago, a lovely session with a kind Korean masseuse. Before he rubbed my tired muscles with oil and worked on the knots in my neck, I flipped off my wig and put it aside. He didn’t miss a beat, but I am sure that he was traumatized for the rest of the day. Who expects to encounter a bald woman? And yes, I tipped accordingly.
My hormones have gone whack-o since my ovaries are being held captive by these nasty tumors, causing my appetite to escalate and my metabolism to come to a screeching halt. What did I do on my chemo vacation, you ask? I gained 15 pounds and outgrew everything in my closet. I am, as always, the exception to the norm, which has others in my situation losing weight regularly. And so, I have become the queen of the caftan wearers, as I sit like Jabba the Hut, snacking on jelly beans and cruising the internet. Hopeful, I Googled how much weight a typical patient loses following my kind of surgery. The average was 12 pounds, but some gained as much as 20. Lord, help me as I await my fate. I never pictured myself as becoming fat and bald and old, the trifecta for low self-esteem. (Notice I didn't throw in "sick." I refuse to claim that, too.) A Southern woman might look at me and whisper “bless her heart." No need to translate that, right?
I had a pre surgery stress test two weeks ago, administered by the cutest thirty-something technician. He actually called me by my first name, rather than “sweetie” or “m’am” or Mrs. Millet (pronounced “Mil it” by those who don’t know that it is really “Me ay"). All of those terms make me feel ancient. So yeah, I was putty in his capable hands. (Did I mention that he was cute?) Honestly, he had me at “hello” as I obediently followed him into the exam room, and he hooked up the many wires to see how my heart performed. Just looking into his deep blue eyes made my heart flutter. Quite frankly, I could have probably skipped the treadmill, but he insisted, and I complied. At first, I batted my non-existent lashes as I made small talk about the weather and the view of the parking lot from his picture window. Within minutes, however, he turned up the speed, and I was huffing and puffing as I desperately tried to keep my wig on my head. I am sure that he was duly impressed. (Not) But he did wink at me when he said that I had passed. Apparently, my heart skips a beat. I am not the least bit surprised.
I have to admit that I have recently used my diagnosis to get an expedited refund from my credit card company when I received and returned the ugliest wig on the planet and was then refused a refund. The thing was obviously crafted from Barbie doll hair. Goodness, was I a sight with that thing on my head! And the poor gal in customer service was so rattled as I recited my tale of woe and cried a little that she promised to see to it personally that the case was handled quickly and to my satisfaction. I guess she thought she was doing her good deed for the day. In my opinion, she was.
I could recite tales of the stupid things I have said as a result of chemo brain, or elaborate on the whacko cancer treatments I have been told about by well-meaning friends. (Coffee enema, anyone?) But I will save those for another time. After all, I have many more blog posts yet to write.
Sometimes, you simply have to laugh at the absurdity of life. Heck. I am just happy to still be here.