Have you ever been on that stupid carnival ride that sends you up in the air, in a long row of seats, then bounces you violently back down to the ground? (It’s especially unpleasant for the boobed half of the population). I feel like I’ve been riding that thing for at least a week. I have felt so supported and loved by my family and friends, and so slammed and beaten by chemo. Up an down, again and again. Damn carnie won’t let me off! Lovely and miserable all at once.
The chemicals hit me hard this time. Day one seemed like it was going to be an easier ride, I got a gift from Miami and was smart enough to use it before I was on the floor and desperately needed it. I had some good prep, too, from some great alternative practitioners. Thank You, Mama!! Then day two I was in the depths, feeling underwater and seasick, far worse than the first go round. Right away my hair started to fall out, my mouth began to sting and burn, my heart took off racing like I’ve perpetually just finished running a mile, and everything I tried to eat tasted like a chemistry set. Fruit is the only food that still tastes like itself, even water was impossible until I added lemon. I was so tired, though, I didn’t care about food at all. I ate some plums, drank some juice, and slept.
Day three I shaved my head. I was just tired of the clumps falling out. What’s the big deal about losing your hair? It’s not just that, as a woman, I feel my hair contributes highly to my attractiveness and appeal. It’s not just that, as a redhead, I’m super attached to my identity as the fiery ginger. Those are some serious truths, but when you are diagnosed with cancer, losing your hair is like losing your ability to control your narrative. Was I open about my diagnosis? Maybe more than I should be. Now, though, I may as well be walking around with a scarlet C on my chest. I’ve been out in a beanie and out in a wig, it’s very clear what my deal is either way. I see the faces, and man people cannot hide their expressions. Their questions and their curiosity are written all over their faces. It’s like being the worst kind of famous. I’m Monica Lewinsky. I’m Tonya Harding. I’m the sad train wreck because I can’t alter the perspective of the crowd. I can’t look them in the eyes and say: “I’m fine, I’m going to be OK, this is temporary, don’t put your sad cancer juju on me!” I guess I could say it, but then I’m a train wreck for real, right? Fucking hair.
At the same time, right now, I can afford to pay for things by the miracle that is this go fund me campaign. The new mushroom supplements came in the mail. I was able to have a mid cycle acupuncture treatment today (seriously, the relief it brings is miraculous). I am calling a cleaning company tomorrow to make an appointment and get some help with this house. I have never been the girl who depends upon the kindness of strangers. I’ve been the girl who bristles at the mere mention of possibly needing any help at all. And then one day I just couldn’t keep it together and do it all. My husband says we’re like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. The money is pouring out on the table in front of the Christmas tree, and we definitely feel the love.
The third treatment (of eight, fucking EIGHT) is next Tuesday. I’m meeting my new oncologist that morning. According to the nurses that I’ve had during my infusions, the AC chemo is hitting me too fast and hard. The second nurse said to ask for an adjustment of my dose, which I plan to do. I hope this oncologist doesn’t suck. I hope he listens. I hope he’s read my damn file before I get there. I need to get through this without completely falling apart. He better be ready to help. Unfortunately, I won’t have my red hair on display to excuse my ginger attitude for me. Hopefully he can handle it.