Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chemotherapy and books...

While I waited for surgery this past summer, I thought about the possibility of chemotherapy and quite honestly feared it. More than anything at that time, I hoped that radiation would be the worst I would have to do after my lumpectomy. Well, as we all know it did not turn out that way. Just like a lot of things that were distressing from the moment I found my lump, I got over it.

In "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book" she says "Chemotherapy has had a lot of bad press, and it's a pity because it's one of the most powerful weapons against cancer that we have." When I look at 10 year survival and recurrence rates given my aggressive and fast growing cancer, I am thankful for the drugs that will significantly decrease those numbers. Anti nausea and steroids now control far better the side effects and I am lucky that they have been minimal. Studies maintain exercise and yoga help too; again lucky for me!

I am not saying that I am enjoying it but it is not forever. My taste buds have just about disappeared and  a lot of foods taste like cardboard or metal and that includes wine. I am not sure if that is one of those silver linings as I figure it is not bad to take a hiatus from alcohol. I am still hoping that I can find a bottle or two of wine that I can enjoy at Christmas! That said, one of the ways I describe how I feel on chemo is that it seems as though I have a mild hangover. You know when you think food or carbonated drinks or more sleep will cure the hangover? Well for me, it is always vaguely there.

One more side effect; the nasty chemo drugs cause hair to fall out so I am now bald. Mary made a fun family video of hair buzzing night and that has already been uploaded. Mary and I went wig shopping last week and I will be soon be a blond for the first time in decades when it arrives next week. Why not! To be honest baldness has not bothered me much and I am happy with my caps and scarves, especially those special Turkish ones.

I am reading a lot and have my "light" books like murder mysteries and Tina Fey's "Bossypants" which I just finished but I am also reading some "heavier" books too. "The Emperor of all Maladies, a Biography of Cancer" has been a welcome gift  and though I am only part way through it, I am fascinated by the history behind cancer surgery, radiation and the discovery of what we now call chemotherapy. The author Siddhartha Mukherjee quotes Susan Sontag, from her book "Illness as a Metaphor."

"Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place."

And so it is that I am a citizen of that other place right now.

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