The Top Ten Things that Make Life with Cancer “Not So Bad.”

Today is my first treatment milestone.  I finish my fourth and last infusion of Adriamycin and Cytoxan, a most toxic pair of chemo drugs.  While I’ve been extremely lucky that the side effects have not been too harsh, still I’m relieved to be moving on.  The next chemo phase involves twelve rounds of Taxol.  Taxol has fewer side effects, but now the treatments will be weekly.

With my stomach feeling strong just hours before today’s treatment, I went out for a glorious breakfast with Ian and our old pal Yukon who has been staying with us the past few days.  We had a relaxing outdoor breakfast, with homemade scones, pancakes, eggs, chicken sausage, and beet hash. 

The icing on the cake is that my father just flew in from the east coast to be with me for the next couple of days.  He sits with me while sipping his Sunkist grape soda from the cafeteria, already good friends with the woman sitting next to us. I feel happy today. 

After a harrowing week for all of us, especially our close friends in Boston, I thought it would be the right time to post about some of the good that has come from living with this illness.  So I hope you enjoy this light-hearted top ten list.

1. I never have to do dishes.

If people feel bad for you, they want to do your dishes. Before even saying hello, people run to our sink.

We have two kids and no dishwasher – enough said.  Ian and I have spent at least an hour every day doing dishes, and now with Ayla and the bottles, sometimes close to two.  But now we rarely do dishes.  I even let a pregnant lady do my dishes!

One time Ian was a little frustrated with me for not doing the dishes and I said, “I have cancer.  You can’t get upset with me about dishes!”  Honestly, I don’t know what I am going to do once I am healthy again and don’t have an excuse.

2.  I sleep soundly and for long stretches.

I alluded to this before: I’m getting much better sleep now that I have in years.  It’s 5:00am and Ayla wakes up.  The first phrase I mutter is, “I would get up, but…” and then Ian promptly says, “No, it’s okay, you need to rest.  I’ll get up with her.” Pre-diagnosis, I would have pretty much done anything (except get cancer) to hear those words on a regular basis.

If I’m tired during the day, I just leave the kids and go lie down.  I texted my sister (who has a newborn) the other day and told her I was about to take a long, uninterrupted nap.  I won’t tell you the number of expletives she texted back.  

3.  I’ve lost (at least a good chunk) of my pregnancy weight.

This is mostly due to the stress of the first few weeks.  The steroids in my anti-nausea meds and the fact that I am less active now keeps me at a plateau in my weight loss for the moment, but there is nothing like a chemo diet to help lose pregnancy weight.  For the first time in my life I only want to eat moderate portions of food and never feel like anything heavy.  The exception is the weekend before chemo, when my digestive system is mostly normal.  This past weekend I ate Indian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern fare, all of which tasted amazing.

4.  I’ve heard from ALL of my ex-boyfriends.

This is awesome.  I mean, how many of you can say that you heard from all your exes within a one-month stretch?  In most cases, we could have gone the rest of our lives without communicating.  It’s for a bad reason unfortunately, but it feels good to be thought about by a past romance. 

5. I don’t have think at all about hair removal.

So being Ashkenazi Jewish did increase my risk of being BRCA positive.  It also has caused a lifetime of stress over hair removal.  It is surreal not to have to even think about hair removal for five months.  I probably will save close to a thousand dollars and a lot of time that it took to shave, wax, pluck.  Bubalas: you knowI miss the woman who used to wax my eyebrows, but that is about the only downside.

 6. People “like” me on Facebook.

Compared to many people, I do not have a ton of friends on Facebook, although I have to say that having cancer has made me much more popular. I think I could say, “I have two hands” on a Facebook status update and get 50 likes.   Before cancer, I would maybe get between 15 and 20 likes for something that I thought was a witty status update.  I know people feel emotional about my life, and so if they see a picture of my kids or me, my bet is the likes will hit 40+.  I say this at the risk of people now not liking my status updates, but we all feel good when we get a lot of likes, right? What can I say, it makes having cancer not so bad!

 7. I’ve added a new and fun accessory to my wardrobe.

I’m bald now.  Ian had already given me progressively shorter buzz cuts, but once my hair started really falling out he had to go grab the razor and the shaving cream. It’s hard to get used to.  I always have my head covered because I am too freaked out to show my head to anyone, including myself.  But I have to admit that I do enjoy putting together my ensemble every morning. 

 8.  My sister and my mother keep buying me things.

I’ve been so busy going in and out of the hospital for tests and treatments, I don’t exactly have time to buy all of the chemo accessories. My sister has become my personal online shopper. I text her when I need something and get a package two days later (Amazon prime)!  I told my mother I needed a couple new lower-cut shirts to wear to chemo treatments so the nurses could more easily access my port.  When she asked where to look I replied, “J-Crew?”  Looking cute for chemo is obviously a priority.  She came back with ten new adorable and colorful shirts from J-Crew and The Gap.  SCORE!

 9. I get special treatment at the cancer center.

In my cancer center, there is a treatment room where I get my chemo infusions.  I always assumed that everyone there had cancer, but sort of wondered why so many people looked like they had real hair.  Well, I realized I was wrong a few weeks back when I started talking to a pregnant lady next to me who I assumed had cancer.  I was so relieved when she looked at me like I was crazy and said, “I don’t have cancer!” Anyway, now I know why the nurses are so nice to me and give me hugs.  I am the baby of the cancer center.  I saw my name on a list with other people who go to the center.  What struck me was the age category.  I looked down the column: 56, 99, 83…34.

 10.  My close friends who have visited have really gotten to know my kids.

 This really is the best.  We’ve had a constant stream of visitors, people who I usually only see once or twice a year.  Most of them have stayed with us, which means nice dinners, long walks, late night and early morning chats, and therefore quality time with my daughters.  Within a day Yael warms up to them and wants to play “run away from the monsters” or draw dinosaurs. She gets the sense that my friends are really stepping up for me.  As for little Ayla, it only takes a few hours for her to start smiling and taking bottles from women she just met (or men, Scott)!  Yukon sang “Old McDonald had a Farm” to the girls and tried for days get Ayla to laugh with his tickles.  When visitors leave Yael asks about them:  “Mommy, where is your friend?”

Those are my top ten, but I have to say that many moments are more than “not so bad.” I posted a picture on Facebook this week of Yael playing in the sand with me.  We spent an hour making a sand mountain.  She didn’t want to use her shovel or pail, just our hands.  The sun, a breeze, and our hands smoothing over a sand pile.  It was perfect. 

 

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1 Response to The Top Ten Things that Make Life with Cancer “Not So Bad.”

  1. Ruth Hurd says:

    you are an amazing young woman … the support of family and friends is the best healer!!

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