Monday, November 26, 2012

Worrying about the wrong things

How hard can it be, I asked myself, to make a wig out of my own hair?

This is the ONLY one I could find
that looked ANYTHING like ANY
way my hair has EVER looked... and
that's on a bad hair day.
I just spent the last two hours looking at horrible wigs on the internet. And then, overwhelmed by the ghastliness of what I found, at horribly expensive wig-making equipment. I've hooked a rug before, so why the hell not my own hair onto a wig cap? It's only one extra dimension.

Common sense, of course, says that I'm an idiot. By the time I pay out for all the stuff needed to do it properly, I could have bought myself a wig that will do Just Fine for the few occasions when I need to venture out the door till my hair grows back. And I wouldn't have a pressurising sixty hours of work ahead of me to realise my investment.

Do you see what I'm doing here? I'm doing it again. I'm jumping ahead, way ahead, and worrying about the wrong thing. I'm worrying about my hair.

What I really should be worrying about is my trip to see the oncologist yesterday, if the spoken and unspoken messages of doom from Dr Mumbles are to be believed. Wasn't that just the joy ride.

I mean, hell, I tried to bring all my positivity into his office with me. I tried to show him that I was well-prepared for his endless list of grim side-effects, his miserable relaying of the same old information about my pathology reports. It's a nasty grade of tumour. It infected a lot of nodes. There may be more left up where the surgeon couldn't reach them.

(Yeah, yeah. I KNOW ALL THAT.)

I tried to get him to move right along to what we do next.

But no. Dr Mumbles went through the whole goddamn spiel, blow by blow, printed out the treatment programme and the list of side effects, got my autograph to say I knew what being systematically poisoned might do to me and I consented anyway, and repeatedly dodged my gaze as he signed me up for my trip to hell.

Look, I try to make excuses for everyone. Truly I do. Maybe, I thought, maybe he's just shy. That would explain why most of the information was delivered to his own kneecap.

(Hello, you're a professional. You work with people. Work with me, FFS.)

Or exhausted; it was the last appointment of the day, and maybe he was just ground down by eight hours of dealing with desperately ill and dying patients. It can't be easy to give more bad news to people who've already been shocked and mutilated; it can't be fun to tell them about their exciting future full of hair loss, nausea, diarrhoea, joint pain, anaemia, mouth ulcers and potential trips to Emergency if their temperature dares to rise over 38 degrees.

(That was the short list of common side effects. I won't scare you with the rest.)

Maybe he has battle fatigue. I could understand that.

But the Bear is less forgiving. I worried about even taking him along, after the misery our trip to the radiotherapist had caused him; but he'd looked me in the eye and told me he really had to get over that, he really couldn't let me do this stuff on my own, and I believed him. But as we sat there listening to the mutterings from the other side of the polished timber desk, it was clear that the Bear was drawing his own conclusions from the lack of eye contact, the Byron Bay screensaver, the gold Rolex.

Cancer, I could almost hear him think, cancer is big business up here, isn't it, mate? 

He needs someone to blame. He's been throwing haymakers at the Freeloader for two months now, and of course they've all been air swings. The last thing I need is for him to find a human target for his misery.

It's not Dr Mumbles' fault that my mother's side of the family has been the Freeloader's playground. It's not his fault that the tumour got  into my nodes before it was found. And most of all, it's not his fault that this is Round Three for the Bear.

But dammit, I wish Dr Mumbles wouldn't make himself such an easy mark.


The long and short of it is that Dr Goodguy wouldn't have sent me to him if he wasn't any good at his job. I listened to all the shite. I kept smiling when he didn't. I sought his eye like a cobra trying to hypnotise a mouse. I asked questions.

I didn't let him make me miserable.

Then I came home and tried to deal with the Bear's antagonism.


So I am a little exhausted with all this chemotherapy crap right now, and I will spit out the news fast and dirty and then go on to something more interesting, to make me feel better.

I signed up for four and a half months of deep shit, rather than six months of very slightly shallower shit. (Given that I've come through everything they've thrown at me so far without missing a beat, that was a no-brainer.) Yep, I got a choice of regimes; I guess that's meant to give me some sort of sense of control.

I chose the big guns. The Freeloader Must Die. Hit him hard, hit him quickly. Triple-barrelled shotgun- three poisons at a time.

First, they'll pump me full of Taxotere. Then I get Doxorubicin. Then I get Cyclophosphamide. That all takes three hours of sitting in a chair dying of boredom (someone please remind me to pay for some decent mobile internet access before this starts), with a drip of latent death stuck into my port-a-cath. (That's a neat little device that Dr Goodguy put into my chest during the last op. It stops the vampires turning me into a pincushion- it guarantees good, and relatively painless, access to my veins.)

Then I go home for three weeks, and feel progressively more shitty (see delightful list of side effects), then progressively a bit better. Then we do it all again- six times in all. I start on December 11th. The last treatment, if all goes to plan, is on March 28th.

Oh, and the important stuff- let's not forget the important stuff: it takes about two to three weeks to affect my tresses. I'll probably still have hair for Christmas. But probably not for New Year.

Hey, look on the bright side; if the Mayan calendar's got it right, I mightn't lose my hair at all.


And so, to other inappropriate worries. Like my mastectomy scar. When my son's friend Alex sent me this link to The Scar Project, it kind of helped me to get things back in proportion. Go have a look at the images, if you haven't already been there. These women are all under 40. Some of them are obviously a lot younger than that. One of them is pregnant, FFS. What the hell have I got to worry about?

And so I've come to terms with ugly. The photography on that site was so beautiful and arresting that I decided to do a bit of do-it-yourself, and see if I could reframe my scar as beautiful.

I've taken the bandages off. It's a naked scar. It's my-new-body-as-ancient-angophora-tree. I'll put the image after the next lot of asterisks, so you don't have to scroll down if you don't want to.

These photos are helping me to make friends with my body again. I think they turned out okay.


(Keep scrolling.)

(And a bit more.)

(Last one.)

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