Here is my Bridget Jones style cancer update:
Hair remaining: 10 percent – with 99 pct of the remaining hair all residing in two dwindling patches on the back of my head. Highlights of the bald life: You get more minutes to enjoy a warm shower when there is no hair to shampoo or shave. Add a few more minutes under the hot spigot since you don’t have to use the hairdryer either. Awwww.
Eyelash/Eyebrow status: Still there though the eyelashes are getting pretty thin. Hoping to hold on to the eyebrows.
Other weird chemo side effects: My nails have started changing colors – from fleshy pink to a nearly white color with a purplish stripe through them. My thumbs look like they are about to grow a second purple stripe. I can’t decide what color to call them. Cancer White, Poison, Halloween Couture. Maybe on top of the eyeliner I have re-introduced myself to, I will start painting my nails on a regular basis for the first time in my life.
Baby: Growing fine and hitting the 50th percentile, according to the last ultrasound in early January. My high risk specialty group assures me they could induce a birth six weeks early with no long term problems, if needed for me to continue the next wave of more baby toxic cancer treatments that we postponed.
Arm Update: I regained nearly full motion in my arm around mid-December, a little more than two months after the surgery. This flexibility is very important for mother tasks like: picking up dropped blankets in the back seat of the car, catching kids running from timeout (Henry), and serving snacks to the nether regions of the car (minivans are great for space but require much more stretching for snack passing). Supposedly I’m not supposed to lift anything over 15 pounds for the rest of my life with that arm. Hmmm. We’ll see.
Blood Counts: I’ve been doing pretty well with white blood cell counts. They’ve actually gone up some, despite not getting the shot that is supposed to boast your immune system. On the other hand, my red blood cell percentages have been dropping, which might explain why I get out of breath eating a bowl of soup sometimes or sometimes feel light-headed when standing up for too long. Chemo is so awesome. My doctors like to say it is the pregnancy. I do get out of breath when pregnant – but never this much. Seriously.
Blog entries I should have made more timely:
January 20, 2011
The good news: I’m feeling much better today and my energy lasted most of the day. I’m not about to take my kids to the zoo alone or any sprawling, unenclosed space where kids who didn’t want to listen could keep running and running and running (Henry). But I put them in the car and drove them three blocks to the enclosed community center for tot time where they can run but only so far while I could sit. Thank you Tot Time. Community Center - Oh please, please buy some more gymnastic-padded climbing obstacles with that HOA money for new toys.
The bad news: It took me nearly the full three-week chemo schedule to get to this energy point level after my last dose (the third dose). This recovery time does not bode well for round 4 tomorrow. Chemo's side effects tend to accumulate with each dose, I've heard. But at least after tomorrow’s chemo dose, I’ll be half-way done with poison-based medicines - I mean chemo.
I was looking at my beautiful photo album (of our pictures the day before the surgery that some people gave me) and remembering all the things I used to do with my kids. (Thank you to everyone who gave me that. Reading all the kind notes brought tears to my eyes. It was so much more beautiful than what I would have put together myself – whenever that would have happened. There was a video of our family in the book too). I really enjoy the interviews on the video where Naomi lists all the things she does with me and to help me. She has probably used a tree’s worth of paper since the diagnosis for making me pictures and cards. Henry says on the tape that he likes “playing with Mama.” So after looking at the album and watching the tape, I really tried to push myself to do some of the old routines. We went to the Jump Zone Wednesday night with Steve. Burn that energy, Bobbleheads. Burn it.
I did some Big Girl School with Naomi earlier in the week where we sit down and work on writing letters, sounding out a few words, coloring and playing some word games.
I realized Henry knew none of his alphabet letters and sounds compared to Naomi at his age. So I tried to get him to sit down to talk about a workbook page.
Interest level: Zero.
I was about to give up but kept remembering a conversation with my friend Megan. We talked once about some educator who had explained to her how boys learn differently from girls – that their minds tend to get more engaged when active. I kept thinking about that and got an idea. I was really proud of myself. Henry is obsessed with pirates lately. So I taped up the letters of his name – one each on a piece of paper. Then I had him attack the letters with his sword as part of a pirate mission. This exercise still only lasted about five minutes. We did it the next day with about the same success. I was thinking it was a quasi-failure. But when I asked him to name the letters he learned a few days later, he said, as if pointing to signs hanging in the air, “H-E-N-R-Y – that spells me,” pointing to himself.
Of course most of these few good hours in the day were followed by lower energy where I didn’t engage the kids as much. When that happens, my kids tend to play okay for a short time. But eventually, they turn on each other, like wild animals vying over a half-eaten corn dog covered in ants. Naomi hyperventilates about Henry not following a rule, using her toys or starts teasing him slyly. Henry starts screaming at the slightest provocation at a pitch that kills brain cells.
Ay yey, yey. Maybe next week we’ll work on conflict resolution skills instead of alphabet letters.