For devoted Cancer Couch followers (first of all, thank you and god bless you, you are clearly a distinguished, discerning, wise and wonderful group of people with a keen sense for good humor… or you’re just gluttons for punishment – either way I appreciate you coming back for more! :)), please recall our lovely, but terrified, driver Luis from the “Hair Today…Here Tomorrow?” post. If you haven’t read that one yet, and are new to my little sofa on the web here, this will be a lot funnier if you take a moment to do so (It’s archived in November). Go read and come back!
Ok, so now that you know who Luis is, and you’re caught up on the trauma we inflicted on the poor man with our freakish alien-cancer-parade into his unsuspecting car after chemo #2, and you know that he made a silent vow NEVER to take our pick up again, you may get a chuckle out of yesterday’s events:
So Monday was my 4th chemo treatment, the last of AC (aka “The Red Devil”), and it marks the half-way mark of my 8 treatments. Remarkably, I still have my hair – WOO-HOO! But…man does 7-8 hours of that frozen helmet, and the cumulative effect of the chemo, wipe me out:
It’s like water torture. The first helmet of the day was so cold and frozen solid, I threw it off my head at my poor sister who has been working tirelessly to help me with this, and I said to her and Tom, “I’m done, shave my F’ing head. I can’t do this.” All out hissy-fit, temper tantrum. So they got creative, used all 4 of their available butt checks and promptly sat on the helmet to warm it up to a toasty 35 degrees below zero. Ah, thats more like it. Almost…tropical. OMG! So yes, all around a rough day with a few hissy fits and the typical hilarity as we prance straight from the chemo chair, through the city, to a lovely hotel lobby with the dry ice, alien helmet, chemo girl about to pass out, and plenty of gawking from sophisticated travelers and business-trip types. Fortunately at this stage in the cancer game I have neither the energy nor the dignity left to care what others think, so I’m over that. I just want to get to my room and pass out. Which I did, promptly.
And…by the next day, after a good meal, a great night’s sleep, a fair amount of smoke and mirrors, and a hefty dose of steroids in the morning, I can make a reasonable transformation to a normal, healthy looking person. I had a dinner to attend with my husband that happened to be on the way home from NYC. So my sister threw me a dress, slapped some make-up and heels on me, got me in the vertical position, out the door, and Tom sent a driver to get us. And guess who? None other than…
Luis. Poor Luis. At first he didn’t recognize us, because he was collecting us from a hotel this time, not the hospital. I was dressed up, and sans alien headgear. But then I saw it. That terrified moment of recollection as the hotel valet wheeled the dry ice coolers out of the lobby and started placing them in his car. His eyes darted from the coolers to our faces, and it all came back to him in a flash. I swear he almost ran for it. For fear that he actually might flee, I chose that moment to engage him, blew our cover and said “Hi Luis, it’s Rebecca, cancer, frozen-head girl! I bet you never wanted to see us again right?!” Well, he almost fell over laughing with his face in his hands, and the combination of shaking his head in disbelief at his poor fortune, confusion and fear about what was going to go down during this escapade, and his hysterical laughter at the situation confirmed everything I thought I saw in his darting eyes last trip! And, as he had to make a stop-over to transfer my sis and pick up Tom on the way, when I came back to the car, I saw this hanging from the back seat!:
A bottle of disinfectant!!! Oh Luis!! Ye of little faith! That was not there when you picked us up!! C’mon, man – we are not lepers! Even all gussied up, he did not trust this crew for a second not to hurl in his car or give him a communicable disease. You can’t make this stuff up. It was hysterical. We talked through the whole ordeal, had some laughs, and no one vomited, exposed him to dry ice, or a terminal illness, so all in all the evening was a success. And I made it through dinner, relatively coherently, and didn’t turn into a pumpkin or pass out in my soup. Thank you Luis for not leaving us stranded at dinner when you had the chance to bolt, and thank you Tom and Paula for being my hair nazis. As awful as the freezing process is, I am so grateful to be able to attend an event within 24 hours of chemo, and look (albeit not feel) like myself. And we may have even been civilized enough to get off Luis’ no-drive list. We’ll see…
100,000. The number of hair follicles on the average human head. It is day 27 of my chemo treatment. I was told all of my hair would fall out on Day 16. I was told this would be the worst year of my life. Cancer has already taken 3 body parts from me (two breasts, one colon). Parts I was really fond of, they all served me well. I wasn’t planning to give any of them up anytime soon. So yes, holding onto 100,000 little hair follicles feels like a huge, fecking victory right now!
This is me, enjoying our annual tradition of choosing a Christmas tree with my family on Day 25, and relishing in a chemo break/spa day at my favorite place in the world (The Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI) on Day 27. With those 100,000 hairs on my head still attached.
Does keeping my hair, thriving, and enjoying every day of my life through chemo, despite periodic bone pain, fatigue, and mind-numbing, crippling fear, feel like a big FU to cancer? You bet it does. More than vanity, or not upsetting my kids any further with my physical changes, it feels symbolic, and like a personal victory. Some control in an uncontrollable situation.
But more importantly, I am putting this out there because if I had read this, or seen these pictures, of a woman with advanced breast cancer, going through chemo, looking healthy and enjoying her life, I would have believed I could get through this too, that it would be okay. It would have made it all a lot less scary. Hair or no hair. So please read and pass this on to any brave women or men in your life facing this challenge and give them a virtual high five from me. Stick a collective finger up to cancer and take a vow to LIVE while you’re alive. No matter what.
…and tell them about Cold caps and The Rapunzel Project.
November 19, 2015
So, I made it through round 2 of chemo with the “hair nazi” (aka: my sister Paula). We were joined this time by my dear friend Kristina, and long time friend and fellow-shrink, Lisa. In Tom’s absence, he sent a driver, Luis (this poor unfortunate soul), who did not quite know what to make of the gaggle of giggling gals trooping out of the cancer hospital with tailgate gear in tow and one apparently mute martian chick (see below). By that point in the day I am basically frozen into silent submission by the tundra on my head and am barely functioning as part of the human race, never mind forming sentences. Also, I realized the helmet contraption (to try to save my hair through chemo) shapes my cranium into a very close resemblance of our iconic images of alien life form (think Coneheads from old time SNL – and yes, I do realize I’m really dating myself here).
But the real hijinkks with Luis ensued on the journey from NYC back to CT. Paula gets violently carsick, made worse by her having to do the elaborate helmet changes every 23 minutes on the dot (to keep the caps at an icy -40 degrees!) and open the huge cooler of dry ice – during which she instructs us to go into drill mode by shouting “DRY ICE EXPOSURE, HEADS OUT THE WINDOWS, NOW!!!” Kristina and I dutifully complied by rolling down the windows, and sticking our necks out, my alien head hanging out of the black SUV for all of 95 north to witness. Meanwhile, Paula was donning sea sick bands on both wrists, sweating profusely, and when not actively applying frozen gear to my scalp, had her face ensconced in a barf bag or out the window, gagging and burping loudly the entire ride. I was like a silent martian-zombie, and Kristina chimed in occasionally with tales of her own IV plans the next day for her medical issues. Poor Luis honestly did not know what to make of this sick threesome, but I could read the thoughts racing through his head as I caught glimpses of his darting, terrified eyes in the rearview mirror: WTF?! – Do they all have cancer? Are they freaking contagious? Can I get a mask? I’m never taking this pick up again! Do I have to put MY head out the window too? And … what in the world ARE they doing to that poor little alien girl with too much liptstick on?
Well…has all the torture, hassle and craziness of these cold caps been worth it? Drum roll please…. we are very, VERY cautiously optimistic at the moment and saying yes… so far! Yesterday was the day I was supposed to lose my locks. To the tune of 12 days of Christmas, this refrain keeps running through my head as I’ve heard it from 3 cancer docs: “On the 16th day of chemo, my oncologist said to me…all your hair will fall out, thats just what happens, be ready for it, and enjoy the side effects of not sleep-ing!” I’ve taken to turning every odd cancer-based situation into either a Seinfeld-like sitcom scene or broadway show-tune in my head. It makes me laugh. And something has to.
So yes, so far my hair is still intact, and perhaps this little-sister inflicted torture is really working. If so, she’ll get 6 more chemo days of headlocks, hilarity, smirks and revenge, and I may escape one more loss from this horrible illness and save myself 3-4 years of growing back my mane. I’ll keep you posted! Thanks for the continued support and following my story! And by the way, I’m fully prepared to proudly rock the baldilocks/Conehead look if this doesn’t work… so look out :)!