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Archive for the ‘Cancer – Laughter Helps’ Category

Just when everything is going great, WHAM, you’re suddenly out in left field picking dandelions. Nothing good lasts forever maybe, but then again, neither does everything bad. Life is cyclical and ups and downs are part of it. Some of us have more experience with this concept than others, but when you’re hit in the gut, you only have two choices – you can lie there or get up. That just reminded me of the song – I get knocked down. But I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down…by Chumbawamba. The rest of the lyrics are kind of inane but I really like these lines. My creed.

I got great news recently…that I remain completely clean of lymphoma and I am now officially on an annual checkup schedule. I got bad news recently…that one of my very best friends has cancer (type and stage to be determined by biopsy this coming week). Is there a moral here? Not really, except that every minute that is trouble-free should be exalted and noticed and every minute that clouds cover your horizon, believe they are not permanent. They move through the firmament on their own schedule, but do remember they are always moving. They arrive and they also leave…nothing but blue skies from now on. I’m apparently on a musical bent tonight. Okay, deciding not to fight the maestro who has temporarily (I hope) possessed me, one of my favorite songs is I Can See Clearly Now…the rain is gone, all of the bad feelings have disappeared. Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for…it’s gonna be a bright, bright, sun-shiny day. Do you believe that can happen? I do. And I’m counting on it.

*************

I was just about to sign off when I thought of another favorite (song). Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. Now I feel like I’m on a roll and wondering how many more bits of musical inspiration I can conjure up. However, it is nearly four am and this was all running through my head, literally. I can’t sleep when I have something to say, which is often problematic. I have an open house today and can’t sleep in. However, I can come home and take a nap…see how great things always work out.

I’ll leave you with one of the best, Louis Armstrong – And I think to myself…what a wonderful world!

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Was just reading something that made me want to post something brief for folks who are going through chemo.  After these treatments you will most likely be given a shot to boost your white blood cells.  These shots can cause severe bone pain…not always, but sometimes.  This did happen to me after my third chemo.  I tried every pain killer I had in the house, and I had some heavy-duty stuff in my cabinet.  I’m talking Percocet, Oxycontin, etc.  Nothing helped.  I decided to call my oncologist’s office and spoke to my regular chemo nurse.  She immediately said, “Those drugs won’t work on this kind of pain.  Take Aleve.”  I said, “Are you kidding?”  Nope, she wasn’t.  I took the Aleve and proceeded to be amazed.  The pain was history.  I guess the moral is don’t overlook the obvious, but I never dreamed Aleve would work on pain like that.

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What is it that makes people want to tear down our heroes, our survivors, our best and brightest, our most successful in their fields?  This is just pure ugliness and nothing we should be participating in or condoning. 

This vendetta against Lance Armstrong makes me so angry.  The man took over 500 drug tests in his career and he was always clean.  There is no proof against him, only allegations of competitors.  Now, because he is no longer fighting this years-long attack against him, everyone says “Aha, proof he did it.”  No it isn’t.  I think I know why he’s giving up.  He’s a cancer survivor.  So am I.  The worst possible thing for your immune system is stress.  You need to avoid it at all costs.  You need to physically remove yourself from stressful situations if you want to keep your immune system healthy.  Having already fought cancer, he knows it could return any day.  So, is it more important to continually be responding to these horrific attacks or be done with it and live? I’m upset, but I can understand why he has to move away from this.  He will always be an inspiration, and I hope someday his name will be finally cleared…but Lance Armstrong has other important things to do right now – for himself and cancer patients he continues his advocacy for.

Ride on Lance…

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Last night I was reading the post of another blogger who is currently going through chemo.  It made me want to reach out to anyone who is just beginning chemo, who is scheduled to begin or who is terrified to begin.  It used to be said that chemo (the cure) was worse than having the cancer (the disease).  That may have been true – once.   I’ve seen the melodramatic movies (Terms of Endearment and Beaches come to mind immediately) where there is much retching and vomiting and the star always dies in the end.   Have you noticed they are not making movies like this anymore?  Do you know why????  Because this is not the face of cancer anymore.  This is not the scenario any longer.  Also, death is not the inevitable outcome now.

I’m not just painting you a rosy picture here – there are so many anti-nausea drugs available today, there is absolutely no reason you should experience a moment of queasiness.  They work.  I took a drug called Emend which amounted to one dose the day of my chemo and one pill a day for the following two days.  I called it a miracle drug.  I had googled it before I began and was encouraged by what I read.  One woman said she regularly stopped for pizza on the way home from her chemo treatments.   It really is that good.

The most significant side effect of chemo is the undeniable fact that you will become extremely tired.  You can’t avoid this, but that’s not entirely a bad thing because your body needs rest.  Sleeping on the sofa in the middle of the day or relaxing with a good book doesn’t sound that terrible to you, does it?  Give yourself time.  The fatigue is temporary.  It will come and go with the treatments, but it is temporary.

I have watched people I care about refuse chemo because they were afraid of everything they’ve seen and heard in the past, everything they anticipate might happen, fear it won’t work, fear of even losing their hair.  Well, hair is overrated people.  Plus, it does grow back.  Plus, guys – you look sexy with no hair…and ladies – you can finally go platinum blonde or red-headed with an awesome wig – and, a bonus – you won’t have to shave your legs or underarms.

So, take a good book, some snacks (yes, I snacked) and/or your I-Pod and a cozy cuddle blanket and hit that chemo chair.  You don’t truly have anywhere else to be, do you?  Having cancer is one of the few times in your life you can really cut yourself some slack and have some complete downtime.  When I was reclined and listening to my music, well, it was kind of heavenly.

I’m still here…

Go forth and be fearless…because you can!

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You haven’t lived until…you’ve been told you’re going to die.  I don’t mean someday far off in the distant future (like, well sure, that happens to all of us), I mean having a doctor somberly tell you what no human ever wants to know, and taking great pains to pinpoint the date of your expected departure from all things earthly.  TMI, TMI, TMI!

I have had the pleasure of being faced with my mortality in such a way.  I’ll explain the pleasure part later, if it’s not already obvious.  In 2008 I was diagnosed with stage four mantle cell lymphoma with ninety percent of my bone marrow involved, as they put it.  I considered involved to be a funny word.  The doctors made it sound as if my marrow had joined a gang.  I don’t think my marrow had a choice by saying, “Hey marrow cell buddies, let’s not participate just now.  We’ll just get into trouble.  Just say no.”

Mantle cell lymphoma is rare and the most aggressive type of lymphoma there is.  If you know me, you know I don’t like to do things halfway.  Why shouldn’t I have the head honcho, the boss, the toughest adversary I could find.  Go big or stay home.  (I can’t think of any more clichés right now.)

My father (you know him as Bud), insisted I get a second opinion and treatment at Sloan Kettering in NYC.  To appease him I went.  My son and daughter drove me up, and we saw the specialist there.  This doctor advised, verbatim,  “What Johns Hopkins wants to do is too aggressive.  Do you realize you’ll have to be hospitalized?”  Well, duh!  I should be more afraid of being hospitalized than dying?  The entire conversation became even more incredulous.  He explained what Sloan’s treatment would be, what would happen and then I would die.  I would definitely, most definitely be dead in three years.  We walked out of his office (never to return).  I turned to my kids and said, “Well, he’s not going to be my doctor!”  They said, “No, we didn’t think so.”

Well, many regimens of chemo and a bone marrow transplant and booster later, I’m (gasp) still here – four years later and clean scans to prove that not all doctors know what they’re talking about.  They are not God.  For the past four years, I admit, I have wondered how it was I didn’t fall apart when I was diagnosed.  I’d fallen apart over many things in my life – all manner of things and certainly much less significant than being told you’re going to die.  Faced with my imminent disappearance from the face of the earth, I was oddly calm and declared clinically, “not depressed” (they force you to see a therapist at least once).  It was only recently I had an epiphany, concluding, “I never actually thought I was going to die.”  I’m aware this sounds crazy under the circumstances I found myself in, and I can’t explain it, I only know it’s true.

I’ve always been a bit obstinate (bullheaded is the word some would use).  I come by this honestly from my father, who has elevated it to an art form.  I think I was just too bullheaded to believe what they told me.  I don’t even remember being afraid, so I’m either bullheaded or stupid…has to be one or the other.  I tackled the lymphoma like it was just another of my many trials in my soap-opera life (maybe all the horrible experiences in my past had hardened me to deal with this).  This was just an episode in the soap series, and I was planning to still be acting the next season.

Regarding the pleasure part, well I wish all of you could live life with new eyes and new regard for what is truly beautiful and meaningful.  When not considering our possible demise, we float through our lives and relationships, taking things and people for granted.  We are often superficial participants.  All I can say is, “Don’t be that way!”

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Gettysburg:  More exciting doings in Gettysburg this weekend…the 13th Annual Irish Festival this Saturday, July 21 at Gettysburg Moose Park, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.  www.adamscountyirishfestival.com   Unfortunately, I think I’ll be working again.  A Realtor’s job is 24-7.  At least it feels that way.

I’m also excited to hear of  “soft opening” of new  Sidney Willoughby Run restaurant at 730 Chambersburg Road, Gettysburg.  If any of you have been to original Sydney’s, you know you’re in for a treat.    http://www.restaurantsidney.com/willoughby-run/  Because it’s a soft opening, they are not taking reservations at this time.  Just go!

 

Because I’m off to show homes soon and then on to my writer’s group tonight, I thought I’d share more Funny Things That Happen When You Have Cancer:

~ I firmly believe you must look really “hot” when you see your doctors so they will be more emotionally invested in getting you into remission – wig, makeup, nails done, sexy shoes.  In other words, don’t go looking sick.  They’re only human – you don’t want them to give up on you.  (My son was incredulous when I told him about my “theory”.  He said, “Do you seriously think they treat you differently depending on your appearance?”  “I emphatically said,  “Yes.”)   I decided to ask an impartial medical professional, my dentist, and guess what…he agreed with me.

~ When you lose your hair, you actually begin to think you look cute and sexy in ball caps and head scarves (except for the plain black one your son says makes you look Amish) – well you can still look great if you put on makeup and accessorize…extra large earrings were my favorite thing.  You don’t want to go around looking like a guy, or in my case, more specifically like Christopher Walken.  One of my coworkers was kind enough to say I didn’t look like Christopher Walken.  I looked like his sister.

~ After an unplanned surgery and two-week hospital stay, during which I had many days of drug-induced delirium (seriously…I was told I was handing out make-believe ice cream cones one day), I saw my family doctor.  I had also been told previously that I spent a lot of time crying while in the hospital, which is really not like me at all, and which I thankfully remember very little of.  When visiting the doctor, he said “Don’t you remember the day I sat and held your hand for thirty minutes while you cried and talked?”  Shocked, I said, “No, I don’t.”  Then a horrible thought hit me, and I said, “What was I talking about?”  He grandly waved his hand in the air and actually said “All kinds of shit!”   I’m positive my jaw dropped, and he quickly waved again and said “Nothing for you to worry about.”   Well, it was obvious he was not going to tell me, and I was a little concerned about my deepest secrets being revealed.  After telling this story to my stepmother, she helpfully said, “Maybe you were talking about men?”  To this I replied, “Oh dear God!”  It’s only funny now.

~ Regarding ambulance rides, if they take you in one, and you are the least bit conscious and know you’re not in immediate danger of dying, do not, I repeat DO NOT allow them to put an IV in your HAND while the vehicle is moving.  They were trying to do just that to my hand one night as we were bumping out of my driveway and flying to the hospital.  As the paramedic “dug” around the back of my hand, I was screaming and crying like a little baby the whole way there.  Lucky for me, I don’t suffer from high blood pressure so they didn’t put me at risk of having a stroke right then and there.  I wondered afterward if ambulances are sound-proofed?  If not, I probably woke up a lot of people along the route.   “Honey, did you hear that?  It sounded like a baby screaming.”

~ Everywhere you go you try to pick up cute doctors for your unmarried daughter.

~ You are secretly delighted at your weight loss when you can wear those pants in the back of your closet that are two sizes smaller than your pre-cancer weight.  You are brought back down to earth when your best childhood friends visit and tell you that you still have “old-lady hands”.  After arguing this point, you all compare that loose skin under your arms, have a flapping contest, and wonder when and how that happened.  You are so paranoid after their visit, you go to Bath & Body Works for a major shopping excursion and begin lathering yourself daily with hand and body creams.

~ When your hair begins to fall out, I suggest you have your head shaved completely, and not do what I did…that would be to get what I call a Marine buzz cut.  I discovered that it is very unpleasant.  When you lie down, the short bristles that are now your hair always seem to be going in an uncomfortable direction against the pillow.  It is ‘extremely’ annoying and might have played a part in my insomnia.  I was curious about this phenomenon, and asked some men about it.  They all unanimously said, “Yes, it’s unpleasant, but you get used to it.”  My theory, however, is that they all just have harder heads, regardless of what they say.

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Wow, I’ve been out since early afternoon showing property and running errands.  It is now 8:00 pm and the heat index is currently 99.  I will say one thing though – it does make a girl lose her appetite.  I’m sure I lost weight today…can’t complain about that.  Actually I don’t complain about much of anything anymore.  I’m supposed to be dead, so pretty much everything is better than that.  I’m still on the green side of the grass.

Over the past three years while going through three regimens of chemo, a bone marrow transplant, dozens of transfusions, two major surgeries, multiple minor ones and pneumonia thrown in just for good measure, I found much that was funny about the whole thing.  Seriously, I’m aware the disease is anything but funny, but I guess I’m not exactly normal and I did write quite a number of humorous vignettes that amused me.  I’m going to post some of these over time, in the hope that just maybe someone who is fighting the good fight right now will smile and have some hope and faith.

I’ve been clean for a year now.  I’m a serious walking miracle.   If it comes back, I guess I’ll have more great material.

I call these:  Funny Things You Think About When You Have Cancer

Here are just a few to start you off…

~ One month, when I spent an inordinate amount of time on the sofa with my meds and heating pad, I was watching entirely too much TV.  I became fixated on the show “Say Yes to the Dress”.  For those of you who have never seen it, it involves real brides who travel to this fantastic highbrow bridal salon, Kleinfeld’s, in New York City where they try on obscenely expensive wedding gowns, and the entire process is videotaped and makes for a pretty entertaining show.  Anyway, I began to obsess that I might not be around to help my daughter shop for her wedding dress (since she is not only not engaged but not seriously dating anyone).  Well, I decided to discuss this with her, and suggested that if things went downhill for me, could we go shopping for a wedding dress (to be used perhaps sometime in the future).   That conversation didn’t go as I had hoped.  She said, “Sure, we can do that Mother.  When we get there, they’ll ask me when the wedding will be, and I’ll say ‘I have no idea’.  Then they’ll ask me who the groom is, and I’ll say ‘ There is no f_____g groom’ (only she said the bad word out loud), and that ended my dreams of wedding shopping.

~ You wonder what your cat thinks about your sudden hair loss.  When she looks at you funny, you imagine she worries you have some serious skin condition like fleas or mange, and is it contagious?  Then she licks and nuzzles your bald head to make it better.

~ Regarding hair loss:  Ladies… you no longer have to shave your legs, underarms or have bikini waxes!  There really is a silver lining to every dark cloud.

~ When you forget things, or are the least bit confused by anything at all, you can just say “chemo brain”, and no one gets irritated with you like they used to when you were “well” and did the same stupid things.

~ I discovered, quite accidentally, that if you have a ‘meltdown’, or as I like to call it, a hissy fit, you can get people to do things for you they really don’t want to.  This is a serious super power, and should be used very judiciously…for good and not evil.

~ After being on Match.com and many other similar sites (some quite perverted, I’m sorry to say) with little…no, scratch that…no success, I was finally sought out by several nice, seemingly normal available men right after I was diagnosed.  Go figure.  I can now helpfully suggest to any of you who are internet dating and who don’t want to offend those people who write you, but whom you have no interest in…just simply write back that you have a possibly terminal disease.   I guarantee they won’t bother you again, except for maybe a nice note of condolence.  You’ll feel really good that you didn’t hurt their feelings.

~ You are conflicted as to why you can’t have alcohol when some doctors say absolutely not and others say its good for you (in moderation, of course).  There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on this and there really needs to be.  Or, you can just do what I did – kept asking the question until I got the answer I wanted.

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