Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another Easy Sunday Post: When I Come Home

OMG, isn't 19 year-old Steve Winwood dreamy? Calm down--I was only eight when the movie The Ghost Goes Gear (1966), featuring the Spencer Davis Group was made, so I'm age-inappropriate on two different levels. Marilyn Monroe had a crush on Abraham Lincoln, so there.

The Lost Weekend

Unfortunately, it wasn't spent in an alcoholic daze. No, I wasn't drunkenly jumping on the bed, like Jack Lemmon*. I was lying on it, wishing I could actually catch a few Z's. Friday night, I hit the so-called "nadir" of chemotherapy, when the effects of the previous treatment cause one's blood-cell count to tank, and in general make you feel like shit. The nadir hits 4-7 days after treatment, so I already knew I was up for a fun and active weekend. I spent most of yesterday in bed, and my attempts to complete even the most basic tasks today have been desultory. My accomplishments, other than this post: taking a bath, and making coffee. I also was very encouraging as my husband removed the two window unit air conditioners and carried them down to the basement. I'm going to try to do a load of laundry this evening--wish me luck.

*Thanks to Wikipedia, I now realize that I was thinking of The Days of Wine and Roses, although The Lost Weekend is looking even more interesting, due to the fact that it was scored with a theremin, and the original story involved an incident of gay-baiting.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chemo: The End

Goodbye, Baxter 6300 I.V Pump. I'll miss hearing you erupt into loud alarm after I exercised the utmost care while rolling you into the toilet. You always waited until I was seated on the throne, you joker. But most of all, I'll miss the way you drip, drip, dripped poison into my veins. May we never meet again.

I completed the 8th and final chemo today. I told Nurse L that she was the only thing I was going to miss about it, and she gave me a big hug. Dr. G, who I'll see again after my radiation, examined my breast and said that the tumor looked "good," and that it was hardly palpable. Tomorrow, I call the surgeon* and try to get a tentative date. However, he'll probably want another MRI before proceeding. The process of arranging cancer treatment is reminiscent of using more than one contractor on a home improvement project. You have to do all the coordination with the different trades, continue to monitor the work quality and progress, and then the flooring guy (or oncologist) suddenly doesn't show up for a month. I need to hire a general contractor--one that specializes in cancer.

There's one more plus to ending chemotherapy: I won't have to buy a yet larger pair of "fat" jeans. I stepped on the scale to be weighed today, and discovered that I had gained another three pounds since my last visit. I weigh more than I ever have in my life. And I'm bald. Fortunately, both are reversable.

*Yes, my husband and I both are positive the oncologist told us his office would contact the surgeon. You have to get it in writing from these people.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Happy Sunday: Antoine et Les Problèmes

Mondays are hard. Generating blog content is hard. Solution: post a video every Sunday. I hope you enjoy the following proto music video, possibly copied from a Scopitone. No actual French rock stars were hurt during the making of this film, despite Antoine's atrocious lip-syncing.

Les élucubrations d'Antoine, 1966(?)

Thursday, October 18, 2007


"Feel OK?" Dr. F. asked. I did feel OK, but tried to remain as motionless as possible. I was bristling with acupuncture needles: feet, shins, knees, stomach (upper and lower), hands, ears, and a jaunty single right between my eyebrows.
He positioned a warming lamp over my feet and closed the door, leaving me alone in the darkened treatment room. Chinese music came from some distant part of the office, barely audible.

My first experiment with non-western medicine arose out of desperation. After several weeks of early morning hot flashes, I was almost demented from lack of a good night's rest. Already a little fogged by chemo, my brain wasn't up to handling sleep deprivation. The parking lot incident at the dentist's office was the final straw. As I walked toward my car, I was covered in confusion. A green Escort--that's it, all right. But what door was I supposed to unlock? I opened the nearest one and sat down. It was the front passenger seat. When I saw the steering wheel on the other side, I laughed. Still, it was unnerving.

Research indicates that acupuncture is mildly beneficial in reducing the severity of hot flashes. An acquaintance gave me the number of Dr. F, a traditional Chinese medicine doctor. She said he had worked wonders with her husband's chronic sinusitis. I was willing to give anything--anything but Effexor--a try.

Dr. F, a slim man with silver hair, works out of a grim little second-floor office in Chinatown. The dented waiting room divider is decorated with a silk diploma banner from a Chinese college, and a calendar depicting cartoon zodiac animals dancing in some kind of frenzy. After I arrived, Dr. F started a medical history, and the briefest of examinations. He timed my pulse, and then asked to see my tongue. He scrutinized it pleasantly, and jotted some notes. He asked about my liver function, and recommended I get a blood test. "Chinese herbs maybe too strong now for your liver." At least, that's what I think he said. Dr. F has a pronounced accent. It took a while for me to understand his question about my "white blood cell" count, which I gamely tried to repeat back to him. Wide brood sole? Wait blue sew?

After he had taken my history, Dr. F led me back to the treatment room, past metal shelves stacked with bins of wonderful-smelling herbs. After sterilizing the entry sites, he began to insert the needles, which looked nearly as fine as human hair. I glanced down and saw him deftly poking one into the meat below my thumb. It was absolutely painless. Four needles, the ones on my abdomen and knees, were attached to electrodes. Dr. F adjusted the current until I felt a tiny jumping sensation at each point. The whole thing took about half an hour. Afterwards, I felt mildly invigorated. Perhaps a placebo effect, but a nice one.

After I left Dr. F's office, I went to a nearby bakery and bought a "dry pork bun," expecting it to be filled with barbecued pork. I was suddenly famished, and my mouth watered as I bit into it. I discovered that its primary ingredient was mayonnaise. I ate it, anyway.

Photo: like, totally

Friday, October 12, 2007

Straight out of Ohio*

A friend, noticing comments in an earlier post, asked me "who is Scott Walker?" Noel Scott Engel was born in 1943 in Ohio, started out as a teen crooner, eventually adopting the stage name Scott Walker. He moved to the U.K. in the mid-60s, where he still enjoys his greatest fame. After morphing through several musical styles and increasingly eccentric personas, Walker became a near-recluse, producing only three albums since 1980. His last album, The Drift, has been lauded by some critics as brilliant and avant garde, and by others as nearly unlistenable. Despite his having many high-profile fans (David Bowie and Sting, among others), he is largely unknown in the states. Perhaps that explains the tardy U.S. release of the documentary Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, which includes a far-out studio session where Walker samples the sound of a man punching a side of meat.

UK Trailer Scott Walker: 30 Century Man
Included in TimeOut London's 50 Greatest Music Films Ever

*like me!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Chemo 7/8

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (just in case you didn't notice all of the pink crap for sale everywhere):
6,000 Runners Fail To Discover Cure For Breast Cancer

Before today's chemo started, a nurses' aid took my blood pressure, temperature and checked my weight. I've gained 11 pounds since starting chemotherapy. Not too surprising to me; lately I've been straining to get into jeans, and zipping skirts up three-quarters of the way and covering the gap with a long top. Weight gain during chemotherapy for breast cancer is very common. It is poorly understood, however. It could be due to hormonal changes, stress-related overeating, or lowered activity levels. I am an over-achiever in this regard--apparently a 10 lb. gain is typical of women receiving a six month regimen of chemotherapy, and I've only had not quite four months.

During my session, Nurse L dragged Dr. G in to take a quick look at me. It was the least he could do, seeing that he missed the last two scheduled appointments. I was already hooked up to the drip, so disrobing wasn't an option. Thanks to an American Apparel t-shirt bra and my rapidly eroding sense of modesty, I just hoisted everything up to give him a look-see. "The tumor appears to be shrinking," he confirmed. He seemed to think I was doing well, otherwise. We asked him about the surgery, frustrated with the fact that we had no idea when it was going to actually happen. He said that his office would contact the surgeon when I have my final chemo. I'll believe it when I see it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Overheard (and seen)

Woman (after kissing man goodbye at the entrance to the Logan Square Blue Line station): "Have a good day, baby! See ya tonight, and I'll try to bring a blunt!"
Man: "Aaaright!"

I board the train, and sit next to a young man with a notebook. He divides the page into two columns, and pauses, looking thoughtful. He writes in each column. I try to tilt my head enough to catch the entries in my peripheral vision. One column is labeled Delights, the other is Distastes. I can't read the items under Distastes, but the two entries under Delights are "Milk" and "Lavender." To my disappointment, he gets off at Division.