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Hooking Up

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turbanNo one will ever confuse cancer with a trip to Disneyland, but it’s important not to let the chemo drip rain on your parade. For the most part, people going through treatment are making the best of a bad situation because cancer patients realize that we need help. So we high five each other after pounding another chemo bag…and we scour the ward for humor… which tends to retreat when you are hooked up intravenously for seven hours. But, there are perks. Somewhere in one of those hanging bags is a whole lot of Benadryl, which affects me like an elephant tranquilizer. The minute it seeps in, I’m slurring the Gilligan’s Island theme song. Maybe it’s the fact the nurse referred to it as, “A three-hour bag,” which sounded so damn close to “A three-hour tour”…that I busted into song. I even mimicked the lightening bolt crash…it was bloody brilliant if you ask me. I didn’t know at the time I was under the influence of Benadryl…or that it would turn me into a helium balloon in an F4 updraft. My daughter finally convinced me to drop the song down an octave or two, and pace myself. There were hours remaining and the chemo wing was losing interest in Gilligan’s shipwreck.

Treatments are every three weeks. Now that I’ve completed a couple, I see a pattern. The first few days of post-chemo are fine, but around day three my bones ache. This phase lasts about four or five days. Netflix and naps are wonderful distractions. I doze like a lush after a bender, and when my eyes open, I channel surf. The white blood cell count is at it’s lowest during the second week, so I make sure to take good care of myself by hand washing compulsively, and avoiding anyone feverish. I also try not to bump into things, like this morning’s collision with a coffee table, because even the smallest of cuts threaten to bleed me dry. By week three I’m back purring like a fine-tuned ’57 Chevy….and then it starts all over again.

I know it’s important to eat right so I’m doing my best to stay away from coffee, sugar, alcohol, white flour, processed food, red meat, sushi, and Snickers. This leaves beets, green plants, nuts, hummus, and tree bark as my “go to” meals. Hold me back! Seriously, the only thing I am craving right now is a ripping cup of coffee with an add shot, a decadent chocolate bar, and a glass of red wine…not in that order. I fear if my common sense takes a hiatus I will channel Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, cracking open a bottle of cheap wine in the supermarket and drinking as she fills her cart with snack food. But then I remember sustaining myself on copious amounts of CHEEZE-ITS and wine for way too long and that’s probably one of the reasons I’m in this mess…so I recoil…and eat a bag of kale.

I take my blanket, a warm pair of socks, and a good book to chemo. It was rather unsettling upon realizing I was the only one there who was bald. I thought everyone lost their hair unless they used that expensive freeze-dry wrap that saves the follicles. So I asked one of the nurses and she told me I was on a heavier dose that can in some cases speed up the balding process. Lucky me. It also speeds up brain fog. I have noticed that I’m not quite clipping it off. I hope my brain, stem and all, decides to make a guest appearance in the months ahead. Only time will tell. On a more uplifting note, I’ve heard that some things are better left forgotten…and when I remember what those are, I’ll write a post.

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82 Comments

  1. Annie, a thought provoking post. (That’s yours by the way not the drivel from me that follows!)

    We humans have a knack to find positive things out of the most negative, though the picture of you tucking into tree bark is not within my reach this morning. Perhaps as we say I am barking up the wrong tree. I can see you sitting there though throwing nuts up in the air and trying to catch them in your mouth and missing. Then I see the nurse walking past slipping on the nuts and her feet going higher than her head as she goes base over apex!!!!

    I like the film The Holiday, although it gives fuel to the myth that here in England we all live in country cottages with or without a thatched roof and smoke curling out of the chimney from a roaring fire. In reality most people including me can’t afford a country cottage, they have all been snapped up in many areas by people wanting a second home and an escape from the likes of London and other big cities.

    Now a question……. When your having the treatment what books do you read? I presume not horror and I can’t imagine tucking into a Mills & Boon too often, so what’s your choice of reading matter?

    • Richard, I am currently reading The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Not a book I would usually pick up but it reminds me of the loneliness I felt while living in Norway. I guess I felt like visiting that feeling, but it is really well written. A little magical moment in Alaska. Maybe Sue and you should give it a whirl this winter.

      • Go on I give in who is Richard!!!!

        I will take a look at that book thanks!!!

        • SEEEEEE….I’m not fooling…my brain isn’t working right. A few days ago my daughter left for New York and I texted her an hour after the plane took off and asked if she’d arrived yet. Let’s just say I was 6 hours off her arrival time, but I was thinking she’d forgotten to call and let me know. Robert…Richard…whoever you are, I still love you. The brain fog has surfaced this morning and is looming large!

  2. Despite what you’re faced with, your humour shines – loved the paragraph on food! I’m sorry that you can’t enjoy your wine right now. You’ll be a cheap date after chemo ;-)

  3. So touching and sad and funny all at once. Yup, it’s your writing! xo

    • Thanks Dani. I am constantly looking for some drop of humor. It gets a little harder when I leave the house and people I thought I knew will sadly stare or turn away. I’m sure I did the same before I had this. I won’t do it again.

  4. If this is how you write with brain fog, I’m donating my blog to Goodwill. Such a great post on so many levels. Thanks for keeping your fans in the loop, Annie. Sending good thoughts and prayers your way and hoping for a speedy recovery!

  5. I am in awe that you can write such a wonderfully informative and witty post while talking about brain fog. Even in your personal trial you can cheer us. Thank you for trusting us with your experience. Off to go try tree bark now.

    • Julie, I guess I wanted to cover some of the questions I’ve been asked lately. Mainly, how often do you have treatment, what can/can’t you eat, and do you still know all the words to the Gilligan’s Island theme son? Sadly for the other chemo patients stuck to a drip, those words flew from my lips.

  6. Well, you’re not like anyone else, so why should you look like those…those…hair people? You’re a beautiful bald rock star. Hang in there and keep taking care of you. {{{Gentle hugs}}}

    • Thanks, Jen. I like the sound of a beautiful bald rock star! Now if only I could sing….details, details.

      • Considering that Johnny Rotten couldn’t actually play the bass, I’d say that’s one detail we needn’t worry about. And just so you know, I’ve been singing the Gilligan’s Island theme all day. It was one of my favorites! :D

  7. Sweetie, if you can write like this, your creative brain cells are still firing on all cylinders. When you’re on the other side of this suck-fest, I’ll have a bottle of the Santa Ynez Valley’s finest red wine waiting for you. Big hugs, my friend.

  8. My mom went through chemo for her breast cancer a few years back. She’s always been such a strong woman, but that chemo just about broke her down. I’d never seen her so sick. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. I hope that you are nearing the end of your chemo and that your treatment is successful. Best wishes to you, Annie. Hang in there.

    • Helena, I’m sorry to hear about your mom. Hopefully it is behind her now and she is back to her old strong self. I’ll be halfway through at the end of this month. I know the whole thing is cumulative, so I’m not expecting humor to take me the distance, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Then radiation begins. More fun right around the corner. Until I go through the first one I won’t know how I’ll react. By the end of this ordeal, I should set every airport alarm off and be able to microwave a Lean Cuisine simply by opening my mouth and shoving it in. What a world!

  9. A good book sounds great as it’s a way of escapism to take your mind to a different place whilst your body is going through trauma. I just admire your courage and humour at such a time.
    Now, don’t worry about the wine because I’m looking after it for you and there’s plenty left only due to the fact that I prefer the white and you like the red….
    As for the hair, it’s understandable that it affects people at different stages and/or different chemo strengths, you look lovely with your scarf mate, so don’t worry.
    There I was the other week with writers block and there you are writing great posts with brain fog!
    Hope you have a very relaxing weekend Annie, and I’m thinking of you.

  10. What a sweet message, RPD. Love it. Books are a good distraction. Much better than the Kardashians and their ridiculous butt shots. Glad you may have some red wine for me as I take the victory lap. Oh, and no need to worry about writer’s block. I have it daily…and then one morning I wake up at 5 and a few hours lately, I’ve got a post. Days go by with nothing…less than nothing…and then out of nowhere it appears. So never lose hope. It’s right around the corner.

  11. Oh, it’s good to hear your voice, Annie! Keep on singing & being your marvelous self. I’ve seen chemo brain up close with Joel’s dad… Great writing & making us laugh, you’re navigating your fog beautifully. (Radar?). Hugs & love.

  12. Thanks so much, Tele. I’ve always heard about some brain business with chemo but wondered what they were talking about. Now I know…up close and personal. Let’s just say I won’t be taking a practice SAT tomorrow. Instead I’ll be looking for my keys, glasses, and a host of other things that play hide-and-seek.

  13. Hey-hey Annie,

    I’d wondered where you’d been. I see your sense of humor is ever so bright and I can fully relate to the Gilligan’s Island theme song. Tell your daughter to sing along, too. Does she even know what the show was about? I used to watch it when it aired and then again after school, when the reruns were playing. He and that crew surely kept me laughing and entertained. I used to watch him on Dobie Gillis, when he play a beatnik named Maynard and that nutty girl Zelda. Good old clean-cut television shows. Miss ‘em.

    Here’s a bunch of hugs and good thoughts from me to you!!!!!!!! oxoxoxoox

    • Great slice of nostalgia, Theresa. I used to race home to watch Dobie Gillis, Gilligan’s Island, Flipper, and Dark Shadows. Great television back then. Maybe not by today’s standards of Breaking Bad, but it was squeaky clean and fun. Thanks for bringing back memories!

  14. I love your heart, your humour and your wit..

  15. Wow, I’m impressed. I couldn’t read at all, and only managed to write a letter every other week to update friends and family. That you’re managing to write posts is incredible. When the brain fog lifts it is amazing. You can’t believe just how impaired you really were–until you’re not.

    A week before I was diagnosed with breast cancer I tore my meniscus. Naturally, that took a back seat to the two surgeries and first round of chemo. Since I was trying to keep up some semblance of health by walking, it became imperative to get that fixed. Though my oncologist thought I was nuts he let me schedule the relatively minor surgery between rounds of chemo. A little arthroscopy Friday and Tuesday I was back on the drip. New meds, new precautions. Because the risk of allergic reaction is so high with Taxol they give you mega doses of Benedryl. Hmm, did you know that besides sleepiness (which I did not experience) restless legs are a side-effect? In this instance–an extreme case of restless legs. I almost lost fricken my mind that day. The only day I lost my sense of humor.

    I can totally see you being the chemo cut-up, someone has to lighten up the place.

    • Lynne, I had no idea you had breast cancer and tore your meniscus at the same time. Double shot! I also didn’t know the reason for Benedryl, but I figured it had to do something with neuropathy or allergic reactions. I have not had the restless leg syndrome during chemo but I sure had my share of it during childbirth. I danced a gig with all three of my girls. Not a pleasant experience. I’m so sorry you experienced this during the treatment. I’d rather sing Gilligan’s Island theme song any day. You are one brave woman. Scheduling arthroscopy surgery in between drips is mind-boggling. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Hope you are well and this phase is put behind you! Also glad to hear that at some point the brain fog takes a hike!

  16. Your voice and your perspective are powerful. You are teaching me – and for you take time to do THAT while transitioning into your new reality is nothing short of generous and amazing. I have long admired you – and this trend continues. I hold such hope for you in my heart xx

    • Thank you, Sally. I appreciate your kind thoughts. I’ve always admired you and love that we’ve stayed in touch in these wild media times. Stay happy and healthy! All the best to your family too!

  17. Annie, your words make me smile and cry at once. I hope your spirit stays stronger than chemo. I pray the weeks pass quickly and bring you healing. :)

    • Kimberly, it’s amazing how much this communication with you guys helps me. Each day I wake up happy knowing that I have friends who care. That is huge! Thank you!

  18. Oh sweetie…you are simply amazing! Only woman I know who has the power to make me laugh and cry at the same moment!
    I’m praying for ya girl and sending you all my good thoughts! I so wish I was closer so I could hold your hand a little while you go through all this. Know that in my heart I am holding your hand and reminding you just how friggen awesome you are to so many!
    Big hugs!

  19. Ah Mary Alice, we were partners in crime navigating this cancer stuff. I’m so happy that you dodged it. But, that being said, I don’t want to make it sound like it’s unmanageable. It’s just a bump in the road…a pretty good bump with some air, but that’s all. Thank you for reading and being so supportive. You and your family rock!

  20. Hi Ann, I always enjoy your writing and of course your hilarious way you see thing.
    I have AS and get remicade once a month at the Polyclinic Infusion room. A lot of people are in there, all separated by curtains…so of course I spend my 4 hours eavesdropping. I am always amazed at how many people there for chemo are so positive! Seriously, they are upbeat and don’t complain. I would have loved hearing you singing Gilligans Island! You know you are in my thoughts and prayers. XO

  21. Molly, I had no idea that you have AS and taking treatment at the Polyclinic. I’m so sorry. If I understand this correctly it’s a form of spine arthritis? That sounds gruesome. I hope the treatments help and that you will be okay and much more mobile. We need to catch up!

    I am also amazed how cheery people are in infusion rooms. Where I go there are definitely the ones who pull their curtains, but a lot of people open up and share stories. And me? I sing. :)

    I will put you in my thoughts and prayers as well. We will get through this…but we may have to light some candles too!

    • I have been getting infusions for 7 years now. Hopefully it helps stopping the fusing of bones. It is an autoimmune disease, and yes it is arthritis of the spine. Though it causes inflation and pain everywhere. I feel so fortunate to have a great doctor and access to treatment. The place I used to go for infusions had about 10-15 lazy-boys and we all sat around talking and comparing notes. It was much better than being screened off and isolated. Isolation is never a good thing.

  22. I think of you all the time and am rooting for you.

  23. Sweet, funny Annie. SO glad to see this blog lurking on my Face book page. You have been so on my mind–wondering at what stage of treatment you were, and how you were bearing up. Humor does help, doesn’t it? It sure beats crying. Laughing never clogged up anyone’s sinuses as far as I know. Keep on the path, dear girl, just one foot in front of the other, and some day you’ll look back on this and wonder why it seemed such a long time. Hugs.

  24. Ah Lyn, I will hold those words dear…”just one foot in front of the other, and some day you’ll look back on this and wonder why it seemed such a long time.” I really like the sound of that. Could become my manta! Thanks so much!

  25. Ann – I am not sure if this is good…but, you got me laughing! I just watched The Holiday a few weeks ago for probably the 8th time. I sooooooooooooo know that wonderful scene where she is in the shop drinking wine and tossing chocolate goodies in her shopping basket and laughing out loud to herself! You crack me up! The theme song to Gilligan’s Island makes me howl too! This laughter is so healing for you and me and whoever reads your post. Thank you for sharing your goodness. I just LOVE WHO YOU ARE!!!!

    Big Hugs, Lovey

    P.S. ~ Have you considered humming the theme song from the Mary Tyler Moore show?
    “YOU’RE GONNA MAKE IT AFTER ALL!”

    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=theme+song+to+mary+tyler+moore+show+youtube&FORM=VIRE7#view=detail&mid=3771811E2D345C8EC3963771811E2D345C8EC396

  26. Lovey,
    So nice to hear from you! I think Mary Tyler Moore theme song could be a good alternative, especially if the other patients demand a change. Also, I was lucky enough to meet Rhoda at a book signing. Such a nice woman…huge inspiration. I have another week until I head back to chemo so I’ll try to get the words down…maybe add a ukelele or some shaker fruit. The world is my oyster!

  27. Ann,
    I love reading your posts. So full of life and humor. I have been up and down and all around with my treatments. Victorious, downtrodden, bald, strong, weak, numb, overweight and thin, just about every side effect one can tryout in almost 10 years. Fortunately I (we) have a wonderful support system in place and all kinds of family and friends that jump at the chance to help out.
    Now for me, I don’t have the self control you have. I eat everything that happens to sound and look good. Unfortunately the chemo restricts a lot of what looks good. I think the only thing in all these years that has been constant is lime sherbet and lime popsicles.
    Humor and friends, travel and adventures keep everything going forward. Hang in there girl. Chuck

    • Chuck, it is so good to hear from you. Our mutual friends have filled me in on your progress. You are so right…we have a wonderful group of people around us. After reading your comment, I may have to lighten up on the diet restrictions and try some lime sherbet. Sounds really good. When this whole thing is over I’m traveling and spending time with good friends and family. That’s all I know for sure. I’m going to say the same thing right back at you…Hang in there, Chuck! Thanks so much for writing and saying hello. Love it!

  28. The only words I have after reading this is that you’re simply one amazing lady.

  29. Thank you, Peabea. Makes me smile. So nice.

  30. All can say is Hang in there,it will get better.The nurses at my Cancer Care Center in Brewer,Maine are very encouraging.All the crap the chemo does will eventually go away.There might be some tingling in toes and fingertips left after all your treatments.Right now I’m doing the radiation part of my treatment.It’s kind of bizzare to have this big huge machine zapping me with this unseen ray.Every time I go there I feel humbled.I used to think I was slicker than shit.But this cancer put me back in my place.I’m just human.Keep on trucking. Donna.

    • Donna,
      So good to hear from another cancer cohort. You’ve come a lot further than I have…radiation is a distant dream for me. I agree…this cancer stuff is truly humbling. You can’t feel too uppity with a cueball for a head and all the side effects. The other day I slid into the car to drive with my two kids and when I got out I had the most awful looking dark stain on the back of my shorts. My kids asked what it could possibly be and I was resigned to say, “Kids, after three surgeries and chemo it could be anything. God knows what is coming out of me at this point” They were grossed out…Then we looked at the car seat and there was a big wad of melted chocolate from my daughter’s Balance Bar. I’d only sat in chocolate, but my mind was thinking…”OK, maybe a trip to Costco for Depends.” These side effects are a tricky lot!

  31. No evidence of brain fog from this post. Godspeed to you.

  32. Annie, I had the Gilligan’s Island song in my head all day, yesterday. I’m still chuckling over the “three hour bag” line.

  33. It is a catchy beat, isn’t it, Lauren? I really like the lightening bolt. Just tossing that into the mix makes me happy.

  34. Wow. Your words, humor, spirit, and responses from friends here amaze and delight me, Ann. Keep up the good work on all levels. You are phenomenal! ⭐ I appreciate that you are sharing this with us and I send big love

  35. Thank you, Lisa. Hope you are having a good time in Kauai. Always nice to go to the islands! Big love right back at you and Amado!

  36. Hey Anne I like those sunglasses! Thanks for getting my day rolling with a bunch of laughs. I think it’s awesome you’re doing this blog and not awesome at all that these are the days of your life right now. I hope you get through the second half of this stage in good shape and fine style. It’s going to make the wine at our next Seattle get together taste all the more terrific, for all of us. xoxoxo Also: can you send me your mailing address? Thanks, Chocolate Pants.

    • Ol’ Chocolate Pants here! That made me laugh…and I fear I won’t live the title down anytime soon. Looking forward to the next Seattle get-together. It would be great to catch up. Bob, thanks so much for stopping by and sending good thoughts my way.

  37. Dear Annie, you are a pillar of strength and grace that I look up to. Cancer has nothing on you. Thinking of you so very much.

  38. Thank you, Wendy. I really appreciate it. I must apologize for not stopping by sadinthecity for much too long.

  39. Oh, Annie.

    I am so glad to read you’re still able to hang onto your wonderful sense of humor. The mental image of you singing the Gilligan’s Island theme song while getting pumped with chemo brought a smile to my face.

    You’re such an amazing woman!

  40. Meleah, as someone who knows a thing or two about tackling health issues and staying positive, you are my example. Always supportive of others and able to find the silver lining. I’m throwing this one right back! You’re one amazing woman!

  41. You are in my thoughts, I am thinking about coming to LA for a visit just to see your spirit. Do you need any parantal help up here, let me know. Thinking about you alot. Your voice has gotten clearer even if your brain feels like it is the fog. Keep posting, we all enjoy them and are cheering for you my friend.

    Sending you buckets of rain and love from the PNW

  42. You are in my thoughts, I am thinking of coming to LA for a visit just to see your mighty spirit. Do you need any parental help up here, just let me know. Thinking about you alot. Your voice has gotten clearer even if your brain feels like it’s in a fog. Keep posting we all enjoy them and are cheering for you my friend.

    Sending buckets of rain and love from the PNW

    • Thank you, Katharine. I miss your wild spirit! You could blow my cover on brain fog because you saw that fog blow in a long time ago! Thanks for your nice message. I miss you!

  43. Ann, want to send my best to you. Was thinking about our real estate together and Mr. Double D’s…remember him? Fun (and weird) times. Hugs to you, funny girl.

    • Mr. Double D? How could I forget him? :) We had some good times…and yes, our share of weird times. Hope all is well with you and Madeline. Thanks you for leaving me a lovely message. So great to hear from you.

  44. So good, Annie. Your brain is still functioning enough to get you writing, which is more than mine is capable of these days. Hang on! November is coming, and I’ll try writing on my novel again. Keep posting! You make more sense than most of the people I know…

  45. Pat, I wish you many hours of creative writing in November. You are kind to ask for more of this dribble. Thank you!

  46. Annie, you are a gorgeous woman with or without hair. I’m so sorry you are going through this crap. Your hair will come back. Your style, charm, beauty and wit never left.

  47. Gosh, Annie, I so admire you and your outlook right now. If I ever need chemo, I want you to be at my side with your off-beat, twisted sister humor. Maybe I’ll just take along your blog and read to my heart’s content. You’re an inspiration.

  48. Dearest friend, after my tears of learning of your battle with this CA…..I just want to scream out and run to you!! This happens to so, so many friends and people. You are stronger than ever and you can fight this thing. You know at anytime in our lives we all overcome a barrier-
    someday’s triple barriers….then there’s a new one. Just like when I knew something was not quite right with my beautiful Ellen…my 4th baby girl….I had another success…4 little girls to raise and felt like I had succeeded: Bang!!!! there’s a new encounter with something. me and my girls and Robert are cheering for you every second of everyday!!! We love you and are sending our positive thoughts straight on to YOU!! Be in touch!! xo, beth anne ♥

  49. Beth,
    Thanks for sending this lovely message. I think the one thing we all know about life is that no one goes unscathed. Everyone has something they must get through, and yet sometimes I wonder why we are so afraid of pain and hardship. With difficulty often comes great lessons. I feel truly blessed to have so much support and I would have never realized it without this disease. Wonderful people who have come forth to offer their prayers and healing thoughts. It has been absolutely incredible.

    I’m so glad you guys are doing well. A big hug to Robert, the girls, and to you, Beth. Thank you!

    • Ann, thinking of you today and wanted to know I dropped a prayer request off at St. Stephens church this a.m.–for you!! I would love to chat and I also realize at the same time you may not want or have the urge to do so. You are a spectacular “blogger” I must say!! You must find it a good healthy source of the good therapy for your soul. You have so many people cheering for you and loving you right through this process….me and girls and Robert cheering loud and strong just for you! I would love for you to text me your cell#:) mine is:) 206.412.9505 & my email is: bannespencer@comcast.net. no rush, but please when you have a break in the haze. So far you have provided your followers with an amazingly detailed roadmap through this challenging adventure in this far off foreign land of complicated hills and valley’s. I know you are taking charge of your own body, mind and soul to conquer this beast….with so many along side of you everyday. Never forget that I am there to celebrate every victory with you!! My advice to you: speak up when you begin to feel like just another “case”. Always expect to be treated with grace and dignity. And never let yourself feel like just a 2 hr. appointment!! Loving you Ann…we shall chat soon!! xoxo

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