I’m “cleaning out my closet” of life. All of a sudden I’m realizing that the important things should stay and the non-relevant things should go. Clothes, files, friends and so on have been looked at twice with intent on keeping only what really matters. Is it due to having an illness that has the capabilities of snuffing out my life? Maybe. We're not in Kansas anymore!
I think, when faced with cancer or any other life-altering disease, we eventually break things down in our minds, souls and hearts by way of a “life-like scale!” Let’s give everything a number: 1,2 or 3: if it’s a 1 it’s a goner; 2 deserves consideration and 3 is a keeper! I’m down to bare bones with my number system, which is very telling. I either embraced too many for the wrong reasons or didn’t embrace enough because I was always rushing. Now I look very closely at those I’ve kept, and try to take better care. Things and people that are precious to you, deserve that “extra lovin’.”
I sat with my Doctor and her two nurses last night, as she chose to make me her last appointment. Why? We all laugh about the most unrelated topics while I’m in her office! I mentioned once before that one of my nurses in the hospital told me that he had his favorite patients, and would save them for special times of the day so that he could have a lift! I guess it works the same way with Doctors… I never thought about a typical day from a nurse or Doctor’s point of view, have you? I find myself aggravated if the Doc is running late, or doesn’t have my chart memorized… or the nurse doesn’t know why they’re drawing blood, or that I hate shots! Now I get it! I’ve learned that there are certain patients that are draining to the medical staff; patients they wish they didn’t have – patients they run out of patience with, quickly!
They also have their favorites, and I’m honored to know that I AM one! I understood quickly that after seeing so much sickness in people with lousy attitudes every day, they need a break; even if only for 15 minutes! They need someone who can make them laugh!
They reminded me of my first visit; where she broke the news to me about having cancer and how I became very indignant to her, and her nurse. I honestly didn’t remember it until they reiterated certain things I’d said; things I could easily picture coming out of my mouth! “I have no time for this; is what you’re saying at this point really relevant, or can I GO?” “I don’t understand One Thing you’ve said to me. I want you to talk to my girlfriend, who’s a doctor in NY; I’m calling her on my cell. Then SHE can tell it to ME in “real-people” talk”…. as I entered her number into my phone. Yup! I could easily hear those strings of rudeness spewing from my lips! As belligerent as I’d been to them then, is as close as we’ve all become. They’re strong women too and understood that I’d been in shock. Strong women support strong women!
We spoke of so many incidents that were so very important, where we each learned so much from the other. I easily said the words, “Yeah… I felt the loving from you right after you almost KILLED me with your first issued round of chemo – hell you put me back in the hospital for 9 days!” My Doctor who’s humble and sharp as a tack said, “I really thought you could handle the dose based on your daily routines and your fitness level! You shocked ME as much as yourself, by not being strong enough!”
How do you argue with a professional that tells it like it is? You don’t. You learn to accept and appreciate. I find myself thinking about how much I’ll miss them when I finish… and if maybe they’d want to go out and have a drink? As of right now, I drink only clear liquids based on her advice; including vodka! Ha! Some nights I’ll even make a very healthy smoothie and throw a couple shots in the blender! Come on… ya’ only live once!
I wanted to mention the CA 125 number that I’d shown you the last time has dropped even lower, to an 18. This means I’m trending low each week, which is a very good indicator that the chemo has worked! I felt free enough to ask her, “since I continue to trend low… does this raise the odds of the cancer not coming back?”
I tried again from a different angle, “I mean… the odds of it NOT coming back are 15-20%… do you think I’ll beat those odds based on my numbers?”
I looked from her to the two nurses, and no one said a word until she offered, “No, the statistics stay the same, but we want to do genetics testing and you may fit into some sort of medical trial, where they offer you new meds to beat your specific type of cancer.”
I felt like a tire that was running out of air. Never ask a question for which you’re not prepared to hear the answer! It’s the golden rule of sales- a rule I’ve grown up with, and I still asked the question! What could I have been thinking!
So now? I have to prove her statistics wrong, and the Bitch in me- WILL.
For those of you that are also going through any type of cancer, I have a “Robin To-Do” list. They are little tips that can keep you looking and feeling more like You!
(skip this part and head to the end if you’re not in need)
Don’t give in to the disease, no matter how sick you feel; make sure you dress, do makeup and wear a wig even while in the house. How you look can easily affect how you feel. When people meet you, knowing you have cancer, if you look the part, they tend to keep a distance from you. If instead, you look as good as you get, it shows people that you really care and that you’re a fighter! People respect this and would rather keep you closer.
• Eyebrows- buy an eyebrow pencil that doesn’t rub off. I use “Ulta- BrowPower
• Eyelashes- Mascara is important if you still have eyelashes, even if only a very few left use a curled wand and I swear by Loreal Voluminous!
• If no eyelashes get fake eyelashes. This brand, Ardell really works. Don’t fall for the black glue tactic! It creates more anxiety and mess than anything else. White glue, blow on it for a good 10 sec before trying to put them on. The idea is to let the glue get tacky instead of wet. It only took me 30 years to figure this out after trying desperately to put them on my girls, unsuccessfully at dance competitions.
• Eyeliner- very important to use the right one! Otherwise your eyes look like they blend in with your face. I use Loreal Color Rich on the top lid and inside the lower lid. It defines your eyes, and they are the most important part of your face!
• Skin care- Loreal Revitalift face wash towelettes.
• Pore reducers are great to use because they even out your skin tone. Chemo does weird things to your skin and this can bring you close to looking normal!
• Cover up- something that’s almost translucent works best; just a touch of color. I use Rimmel Fix and Perfect.
• Translucent powder works wonders on top of all of the above! Use a big brush and shake off the loose powder before you apply it. I use Physicians Formula- translucent.
• Blush- same method of application as the powder, and don’t go crazy with getting really pink. Subtle works best. You’re trying to look Normal not like you’re on stage. My choice is Happy Booster- Rose!
• Spray tanning- it’s a pain, but the medium color will keep you looking healthy and not pasty. Ask for directions so you don’t turn yourself orange in certain places!
• Wigs- always have more than one! You have no idea how that wig is going to wear, or last, or look on you until you start wearing it daily. A back-up is a necessity! I would stay away from real hair wigs, because I’ve learned that the chemo goes through your scalp and can destroy any wig, any time. Double sided tape helps; just a tiny strip across the front and very bottom in the back.
• Are we exhausted yet???
• Scarves are always good to have by your front door in case someone comes a’ knockin’… you can throw one on.
• Stop wasting your money on fill-ins or manicures. Your nails may change or have ridges, and the easiest and prettiest fix are the glue on nails that you can buy in any pharmacy department. BROADWAY NAILS are what I use. Only buy the ones with the tabs! You need to keep your sanity right about now, and the tabs help!
• Continue to wear high heels if you previously wore them. Your legs will stay in better shape.
• Understand ahead of time that you will gain a few pounds from the chemo, steroids and fluids that they pump into your IV. Just remember: it’s “water-weight!” Don’t get mad at yourself for gaining the weight; there are certain things we can and can not control. This is one of them. Eat healthy, lots of fruit, veggies, water, fish, and I swear I couldn’t make it through the day without a martini at night. Don’t tell your doctor I suggested this, please. When I told My doctor that it was a part of my regimen she almost fell off of her stool. I explained that she’d said, “Clear Liquids!” It’s the first time I’ve seen her speechless.
• You will be colder when it’s cold outside. Always have a sweater or jacket.
• You will be hotter when it’s hot outside! Dress in layers and don’t be afraid to take them off!
• Always carry Murine, your eyes get a little crazy during chemo, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get those pharmacy glasses a bit stronger than you may normally need. They say not to change prescriptions while on chemo because your eyes will go back to the way they were when you complete the cycles. Pharmacy glasses are the easy fix.
• Skin moisturizers are very important to use every day. You’ll notice your legs and feet will be dry. Just get in the habit of rubbing it on every day.
• Your hair- don’t wait for it all to fall out. I did that until I thought I’d die just from being mortified brush-full by brush-full. It takes guts, but you’ll be much happier to have it all shaved off and throw on your wig, than you will be watching it daily disappear. Or seeing it on the counter, on your clothes and the floor.
• Nausea- hard candy to suck on helps. Red liquorish too! Some say tea, lemons, unfortunately you’ll have to find your own magic trick for that one. Peppermint gum also works!
• If you get that “chemo taste and smell” stuck in you, try using plastic utensils. It lessens the metallic taste in your mouth.
• Get the port! It’s easier to have one place that they take your labs from and inject the chemo into, than to try and find available veins every time. You’ll wind up as one big black and blue blob that hurts! The thinner you are, the more the port will stand out, so be prepared to wear scarves or bring your hair/wig to the front, so that it rests on top and hides it!
• Cold Cap is a devise that some people swear by, but it’s uncomfortable. It’s a dry ice type of cap that you wear on your head while the chemo is injected. It’s supposed to stop hair loss. I found out about it too late.
• Biotin is supposed to help regrowth of your hair after you finish with the chemo.
• Finally, your doctor’s job is to make you as comfortable as they can so don’t be afraid to call and say, “Hey, I feel like crap! What can we change that’ll make me feel better!”
All of this to make yourself look presentable to the public and your family! It’s a lot of work, but once you get into the routine it becomes quicker. I promise.
(OK! We’re Back!)
I’ve been given a finish date if all goes according to plan! Mach 3rd is my last chemo injection. As exhilarated as I am to know it, is as frightened as I am to see what those next three months will show, when I go back for that quarterly blood test. But just the fact that I don’t have to have the meds or leave work or worry about reactions to the meds for three solid months, is a blessing! I’m excited to see what color my hair grows back as- they say it’s always different!
The week before last, my red count was a 7, which is dangerously low; with a normal count being 12-15. It’s severely anemic and the nurse couldn’t understand how I’d been to the gym the night before without dropping over from exhaustion! My Dr. was in surgery, my chemo nurse found a "go-between" nurse to ask if I could go through with the procedure.
She said “No.”