breast cancer

Gone viral

The spotted bananas were on the verge of turning black, another accelerating situation spiraling out of control. To halt their decline, I made muffins and luckily found an opened bag of chocolate chips, a must if my younger son is going to eat them too. Once cooled, I arranged them on a cake pedestal, instinctively worrying they were too close to one another, before reason kicked in: The muffins do not have Covid-19, are not Coronavirus carriers and can touch if they want.

IMG_7337The days are bleeding into each other, and the pets are confused. Glad we’re home 24/7, but still, they give us that, “Why are you all here, like ALL the time?” look.  I’m not their cruise director, but even with full bellies and exercise, potty breaks and unlimited adoration and attention, their eyes say, “What now?” I think we’re all asking that same question, despite thinking we should be cleaning out closets, learning a new language, taking up piano, and scores of other things we swore we’d do if only we were home and had the time.

The days are bleeding into each other

IMG_7415I’ve become a TV watcher. Savannah Guthrie and Lester Holt are my AM and PM bookends, with CNN occasionally running in between. It’s been interesting to see the reporters in their own homes, no longer TV personalities, but real people with imperfect homes and clutter and regular morning faces. Dr. John Torres typically broadcasts from his entry way with his coat rack behind him, a bicycle helmet dangling on top. Is he the cyclist or his kids, if he even has any? Al Roker greets us from his kitchen, sometimes juggling the weather with kids’ breakfast duties. Savannah Guthrie speaks to us from her basement, and even without the benefit of hair and makeup staff, she looks great and you realize those things no longer matter. Miguel Almaguer comes to us from his living room. Where did he find that gorgeous tufted blue sofa behind him? As if that matters during a pandemic, but it’s clear he chose that room to speak to us from for its stunning sofa.

IMG_7370Last night an Oral B commercial caught my eye and made me gasp. Their electric toothbrush’s brightly colored bristles were spinning fast in concentric circles. They looked evil, like the Coronavirus. Everything does now. When life resumes, I’ve wondered if artists will play with the virus’ form and its signature spikes, or just let it go, burying this bad dream, without trying to make chicken salad from chicken shit.

We are social creatures and being asked to isolate goes against the grain. We have an exam to take, one that matters more than any before. We are way behind, and haven’t even bought the book, yet now find ourselves scrambling to get the Cliff Notes. Staying home could mitigate umpteen lives lost and with lives vs the economy in the balance, wouldn’t saving the former save the latter? The doctor’s daughter in me is inclined to heed the advice of our surgeon general and chief immunologist. Especially faced with something for which we have zero immunity, zero safety net, and when our hospitals are about to bottom out on PPE as they wrestle with a berserk mutating virus which has for months zigzagged across the globe.

The Coronavirus Task Force is updating us daily. Recently Dr. Fauci has been noticeably absent. When he’s not there, I can tell it’s going to be more of the same rhetoric, the VP telling us all his “wartime president” boss has done (and I say that in quotes because while he’s slightly stepped up his game in recent days, it in no way compensates for the years of self-absorption, lack of curiosity with anything not directly benefiting him, and the culture of division he’s fostered), each time reminding us of the unprecedented halting of flights from China and Europe. The impressive resume continues with this and that and when POTUS himself moves to the mic, you never know what you’re gonna get, like this eye rolling gem: “I’ve lost biyuns and biyuns of dollars being President. I’ve got lots of rich friends. We inherited an obsolete broken system.” Yes, and your inauguration, with doctored crowd photos as proof, was the largest attended ever. It was perfect. Like that conversation. Like all of it.

You know when you’re in a relationship that you know is failing and you need to leave, yet you’re still in it and now everything, including voice intonations, is bugging you? This guy’s stress on the second syllable of industry is just wrong. It’s a multiple times a day occurrence, and each time I cringe, correcting him in my mind. “Our inDUStries. We want inDUStry to do well.” And just so we’re clear, Peter Alexander is not only a wonderful reporter, I’ll wager he can correctly pronounce INdustry.

In an effort to offset my news consumption, I’ve finished a few crosswords and watched an old movie, idle 2+ hour distractions for the pets too who are more than willing to curl up next to me. It feels cavalier, the juxtaposition of me home idling my time while doctors and nurses are scrambling to stay afloat, risking their own breath to sustain others’. While it’s a paltry donation, as we’ve heard over and over, staying home IS contributing.

I’ve learned hospitals have resorted to cancelling some cancer treatments and surgeries. This virus is hitting everyone hard, but for someone about to start radiation for breast cancer, this news is particularly alarming. Despite a week’s delay, as of now, my radiation treatments will start next week, though things could change. Following yesterday’s simulation, I’ll go 21 straight business days, smack dab in the middle of Emory’s and many hospitals’ crises. Maybe like flying after 9/11, being in a hospital is one of the safest places I can be? I am relieved and fortunate that I can still get these treatments.

Staying home IS contributing

IMG_7414Yesterday I walked to Emory, criss-crossing the streets weaving around a few scattered people. We waved so there was a friendly vibe, but the distance was palpable. I found a stick on the ground with which to press the elevator buttons. You feel the virus everywhere. At the entrance to Winship Cancer Center there was a friendly crew asking you why you’re there, if you have a fever or cough, etc. There was tape on the floor demarcating the 6 ft. distance from reception where you need to stand. I stood even farther back. During my appointment, my masked and gloved radiation oncologist offered me gloves to use for signing paperwork, lest Emory’s pen be a conduit for the virus. Everyone I dealt with wore an N95 mask except the nurse educating me on RT side effects. I began rolling my stool away from her to get more distance and she asked if we were good, and I told her I’d like more like 10 feet between us. I felt I was being rude, yet if I catch this thing, my treatment could stop, and I can’t afford that. None of us can afford to catch it.

I worry about people waiting for surgeries or on medicines in short supply or facing eviction or hunger, and countless other things this virus has brought, or worsened. Those with mental health issues, low on companions or medications or hope, and businesses, some in families for decades, wondering if they’ll ever reopen. Marriages already struggling before this mandated togetherness took hold. First time parents who can’t together witness their baby’s birth, moments you dream about but won’t get back. This spring’s college and high school graduates, my own son included, likely robbed of that hard-earned moment, parading in cap and gown with family cheering on the sidelines. People who can’t be with their loved ones who are dying or lonely or both. Doctors and nurses and truckers and grocers and teachers, who like us, have never seen such times, yet who deliver their best every day.

None of us can afford to catch this thing.

I hope people will listen and stay home and our connection with each other will strengthen, despite our distance and these hardships. A friend recently admitted her frustration at a Facebook post along the lines of things happen for a reason, there is good that will come out of this and maybe the universe did this on purpose so we can all reset. She personally knows people whose businesses are deeply struggling and for her and them, there is no silver lining. I keep looking for the good because my brain keeps resorting to try and fathom the layers and layers of depth of this distress, and it just can’t. We all are managing in our own way and we are all in this together.

Be well. Wash your hands for 30 seconds. Keep hand sanitizer in your car, and use it after you go to a store. Don’t touch your face. Stand 10 feet away from people. Outside don’t touch anything, not stair rails, light poles, building doors, nothing. And then go wash your hands again. Did I say don’t touch your face? xoxoxo

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Someone shared this on social media and I don’t know and therefore can’t credit the artist.

 

 

connection, Encouragement, Grace, Nature, Uncategorized

The Show Must Go On

The birds don’t know. They’re singing as the sun climbs higher in the sky. Spring is continuing with its plans as various shrubs come out of hiding for Fashion Week, sporting pink and white and red buds.

The news outlets are encouraging us to call our grandparents – if only! – to find out what they used to do in their day, how they filled their free time at home, inside with family and outside, playing with their imaginations. Board games can be dusted off, families can reconnect and we can return to togetherness, the new separate variety.

What do you do if your family doesn’t like board games, won’t sit with you and play Scrabble (asking for a friend :)? Do you force family fun time or let teenagers default to video games and group chats? The prospect of being home together indefinitely looms and I suppose as with most things, you strike a balance, engage and disengage. There is food in the fridge and dry goods to tide us over, though I wasn’t early on amassing TP so we’ve got all of 14 rolls in the cupboard. I remind myself, stores will restock and besides, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s toilet paper supply.

That I even stopped to count tells me I’ve been watching too much news. My husband toggles between CNN and MSNBC, and the numbers of doctors and experts they interview and re-interview is staggering. Yet the news is largely the same: wash your hands the right way (I’ll spare you another set of instructions), stay home, practice social distancing. It will get worse before it gets better. What else can we do as we wait?

Italians are choosing to open their shutters and sing, tap tambourines and wave to one another across piazzas. The Whos down in Whoville had the same idea as they awoke to nothing yet realized they already had everything. It’s morning and those birds are still at it, and a light breeze ushers in their concert through my kitchen window. The sun streaks across the breakfast table as the house sleeps. The TV off dials up the sounds, the refrigerator rattling, the dog sleeping and cats moving through rooms sizing up the day.

The natural world is calling. While we can’t touch our eyes, nose and mouth, we can see and smell and taste the season, and let it touch us. We’ve all got tickets to our very own Broadway show outside ready to fill up our insides. Be well and enjoy the show.

 

 

 

 

breast cancer, Encouragement, Family, Food, Health, self care, Sunshine

Hurry Up and Wait

IMG_7129Friday I did my big bell ringing victory lap after chemo and was feeling all high and mighty. And then Tuesday hit. Right on time after the 72 hour coverage of anti-nausea meds from Friday’s treatment. I’ve never had it hit before three days post treatment, so why now? I’ll tell you why. These nasty chemicals want you to experience every ounce of this crazy ride, and despite being on your last treatment when you’d think it’s finally time for a break, they will hold good on that promise. So Tuesday was nausea day. As in vomiting 12+ times. All day I focused on trying to feel better. Then the next day I forgot to swish and the famous chemo mouth sores you’ve probably heard about started to happen. Oh, no you don’t, and I swished multiple times and now I think I’ve staved off those from coming. It’s a crazy game where you are trying to outrun these little annoyances and get the skin you live in to stop aggravating you. You have to wait it out and let time do its thing, yet you want it over with. Good luck.

Our construction we’ve been planning for years has been on hold due to the many weeks of rain. Our cellar looks like a retention pond. We’ve picked the brick we will want surrounding the cellar and around the new fireplaces and are ready to go. Waiting on the weather and a good stretch of days that make starting up again worthwhile. We’re so ready yet must wait it out. I worry the renovation will drag on and then I laugh at my worry. We’ve started at least, haven’t we? That is huge. A truck pulled in the drive today and I thought wow, maybe they’ll work in the rain. But alas, it was the porta potty truck changing out the toilet. Still, progress with a clean toilet. Maybe the news will spread that the toilet is brand spankin’ new and we will have workers’ trucks again crowding the driveway. The sun has to come out again. It always does.

The sun has to come out again. It always does.

My son has long finished his college applications and was deferred by his first choice. He’s got another week of waiting until he knows. Big decisions. What town he will live in, will he be in state or out? All that work, the essays, the SATs the applications and then the endless waiting. I tell him just a little longer, but it’s no help. You just have to ride it out. He’s gotten several acceptances, so he has places to go, good places. But still, he is waiting for the answer he wants so he can get on with things. Time can be cruel. And so we wait.

My other son already in college in New York has applied for a post associate degree major and is waiting to hear. He worked hard and pulled together an impressive portfolio and is hopeful he can dive into this new course of study this fall. He’s plenty busy with classes and work and friends but not knowing if he’s accepted in this major is unnerving. He’s got another week until he hears. Time will tell.

FullSizeRenderIsn’t all of life a waiting game? Not much you can do really except maybe distract yourself and hope the calendar moves along, which it always does. But in between there is time with people and pets and work and play and delicious food. My sister and niece flew from Chicago to be with me during my last treatment. Such a treat to have the house full of girls and constant random conversation. We ate out and then ate leftovers and out again and more leftovers. Lingered over our morning coffee and laughed and shared and walked and shopped.

I’m waiting for the three week mark to hit when my body will no longer get another chemical blast. It must be thinking dear God, how many more days til we do this again, and I wish I could reassure it that this hell is done and it’s all about healing and strength going forward. Want to scream it to my hair follicles too who also aren’t sure what is going on. They’re still getting their weekly shampoo and holding on to the front and back of my scalp, but the sides just couldn’t fully hang in from a poorly fitting cold cap. Odd for sure, and cold when the wind blows, but under a cap it just looks like normal, albeit scant, hair.

IMG_7181In a robe for two days with my Pedialyte cocktail, I couldn’t decide today what foods would taste good. So with no planning and few groceries, I grazed. Oatmeal and banana, frozen Whole Foods bean and cheese burrito, bone broth with vegetables that the same angelic Pedialyte-delivering friend made, and then it went downhill from there. I glanced in the refrigerator door and there they were: Keebler fudge sticks. I’ll just grab one of those. What’s the harm? Then I had another. Those flesh colored chocolate dunked cream filled innocent sticks. Divine. Like I used to eat at my grandmother’s at her apartment off Peachtree Street. Always kept in the refrigerator. Later my husband came home and as I hadn’t shopped we had breakfast for dinner. He made bacon. I haven’t had a slice since November and I pinched a little off one. They were well done and cooked in the oven. Crispy, no fat, the no nitrite kind. Innocent, right? So good. Then I had a whole piece. Oh my, the food of the gods. I can’t love stuff like this but then I remembered my oncology nurse said once, if during treatment you want mac ‘n cheese, just have it. She didn’t mention what to do when the urge for fudge sticks or bacon strikes. I’ve decided no more fudge sticks and as for the bacon thing, maybe once a month I might have a slice. Surely that frequency can’t kill me? I just didn’t want to love it so much, but it was the best I’ve had. Like ever.

As I move out of self-soothing and into Friday shampooing, I hope this bizarre post chemo taste leaves my mouth and the sunshine that’s ahead will propel me back on walks and into enjoying large kale salads. I want my taste buds to really love what’s best for me and try to put the bacon and other stuff on the back burner and into the very occasional category. But you just reach for nostalgic comfort food when you are trying to feel better. I tell myself it’s ok. And so I wait to feel fully better and then once I am, radiation will begin. The calendar is indeed moving.