Annie On Drip


football girlToday I reached the halfway point of my chemo treatment. Hallelujah! Can’t say I look forward to these tailgatin’ toxic cocktail hours, but if it gets me one step closer to the finish line, “Put Me In, Coach!”

I’m a six-course chemo bagger. It starts with a drip of hydration, then steroids, followed by a euphoric “buzz” bag of Benadryl, (easily my fave!) chased by the heavy hitters Taxol and Carboplatin, and capped off with a roto-rooter flush.

If you ask me about the side effects of any of these drips and drugs, I haven’t a clue. I’m one of those people who don’t want to know. It was like that with childbirth. All I knew before entering the delivery room was that for centuries women somehow squeezed out bundles of joy without classes or books, and I was going to join the long line. Just like chemo. So when a friend asked me yesterday, “How are the steroid side effects?”

“Steroid side effects?” I weakly said, conjuring a vision of sprouting shriveled hairless he-man balls.

“Yeah,” she said, “Aren’t you hungry? Like REALLY hungry?” And then it occurred to me…all those recent trips I’d been making to the fridge. I open the door, stare longingly at the oddest things…pickles, prunes, dry pasta, a handful of capers…then impulsively inhale them all…and anything in their way!

I wake in the morning and my first thought is never “OMG, another day of this nightmare!” On the contrary, I feel perfectly normal. It’s only when I take my dog for a walk and see people turn away, or flash a sympathetic smile before jogging on…that I remember. Lately I’ve run into folks I used to converse with as our dogs relieved themselves on someone’s succulants. Now they pretend we’ve never met. They still recognize my dog for his prolific leg hike and steady stream, but suddenly I’ve become invisible. It’s as if I’ve come up with a really good Halloween costume.

This is just another way of saying…I’m still getting used to baldness. I thought it would be a lot easier. I’m not talking about the mental side of hair loss… but the “holy shit my head is ugly” physical side. I suppose I should cut my ol’ noggin some slack since it hasn’t seen sunlight in well over five decades, but does it have to be SO white and bright? And what about this pronounced blue blood vessel? My profile looks like a MapQuest route planner…one minute that unsightly vein appears to be traveling south on the 405, and then it jackknifes abruptly where 110 meets the 91 east.

I definitely have a new respect for hot bald men. Take it from me…having a perfect shiny baldhead should be an Olympic sport, or at the very least, a Best in Show for people like me…arterially challenged.

Before the diagnosis, the world felt messy…swirling out of control. I was just a speck of humanity grumbling at the TV set, finding fault in laws and legislation I was helpless to change. With cancer, I now find that although I may never convince Washington to see it my way…I can make a difference. When I feel invisible, I repeat, “At this moment I am fine”… and that’s all any of us really have. Besides, on this page, I am not invisible. I am still me.

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  1. Ann: such brilliant prose around a suck-y subject. Thanks for turning cancer into a lower case “c” for all of us. After all, 95% of you is just fine, thank you very much! I continue to pray for that 5%, however.

    • Thank you, Laury. You are 100% right…95% of me is doing great…just need to tweak a little something that is running amok. Love your photos from the new adventures. What a great experience! Thanks for leaving a message. Take good care.

  2. Hi Annie, great post……

    I often think that side effects are a state of the mind in many cases especially amongst those people who make worrying a full time occupation. I have known people over the years who would win gold if worrying was an Olympic event.

    Regarding your new invisibility, people have said the same thing happens with people who get divorced, they are ignored by people who otherwise spoke to them. People perhaps seem to think that as well as the physical difference your different in other ways, or perhaps they think they need to pour sympathy all over you. I go for a trim and a polish when I have a haircut, just remember Annie that grass does not grow on a busy street!!!

    By the way the books coming along nicely and I have introduced a new character who owns the local shop, I have called her Annie in your honour!!!

    Have a great weekend.

    • You make very valid points, Robert. When I happen upon a list of side effects to drugs or listen to the ads on TV, it’s enough to make me think the world has gone crazy to subject ourselves to this poison. But, what are the choices? Good news…I see more and more young kids working on organic farmlands with protected water wells. There is a real sense of turning this world around one farm at a time. It may be the way things are going and that’s alright by me. Oh…and Robert, I’d be honored to be a character in your book!

  3. I just want you to know I read your blogs and I hope for the best for you. My Dad and a few others in my family died from cancer…. my hope is I won’t… that I’ll be the one to escape it or beat it… notwithstanding that…. is the hope, my hope, for your recovery. Every time I see that you’ve made a post I hope for the best because I like your writing and I don’t want someone to go through what you are but I also wish for something I can’t even explain. I have nothing to base this desire on you understand…. since I don’t know you. Peace be with you Annie and I hope you are well and do well.

    • Thank you so much, Cheryl. I think the first thing is to not dwell on the chances of getting cancer. We all have cells in our body but the thing is to hedge your bet by eliminating stress, take control of your diet, and what you expose yourself to environmentally. A proactive approach does wonders in reaching a positive state of mind and maybe that is your best defense against all things carcinogenic.

      I truly appreciate that you read my blog and care about my well being. That means a lot to me. I am so sorry that you’ve suffered with the loss of your father and others in your family. Just know that there are a lot of us going through treatment right now and most turn out just fine. Just a little bump in the road…and a time to reflect on what needs to maybe change to go forward. I have a long list of things I want to do when I’m up and in full speed! Don’t wait for cancer to make the list…I say start checking off those “save it for a rainy day” dreams today. Thanks for your lovely message, Cheryl.

  4. <3 I See U <3

  5. I would walk dogs with you any day lady! Some folks just don’t know what to say when they can plainly see you are going through the toughest time of your life so rather than speak they ignore so they don’t say something stupid! It always baffles me that they’d rather look ignorant than say something wrong. Not me girl! I’m betting you’re rocking that bald look and those blue veins just had color is all.
    You are half way there so you keep that smile on your face and kick this thing in the ass! I’m counting on you to win this battle. You are one amazing woman and the world just can’t do without you.
    I’m keeping you in my prayers every single day and my heart wishes I was right there by your side to walk those dogs. Love ya sweet lady! Big hugs!

    • Mary Alice,
      You are wonderful! One big positive ball of fire! You always make me smile with your energy and compassion. Thanks for keeping me in your prayers. I think you must have a good connection as I’m feeling blessed. Hope you and family are well and enjoying Halloween. I’m going as Lurch from the Adam’s Family. Already had a cape so it seemed logical.

  6. The funny thing is is that those who turn away are just showing their own fragility. They are just afraid, for themselves, that they might say the wrong thing. That is why Facebook only works when we show our happy, happy lives. The messy parts make others uncomfortable.

    But you, my friend, are brave and beautiful! Don’t ever feel invisible!

    Do be careful, though, with this new love of capers and hot bald men… 😉

    I’ve somehow deleted the picture you sent me, as well as your email with your email address, would love it if you could resend? Think of you often.

    • Tracey,
      The fact that you knit me a soft cape still blows me away. I wear and love it! I will send you my contact info as it would be great to stay in touch. Yes, I will try to resist the hot bald men and capers. Tough though. 🙂 Seems funny because as my hair is gone, my husband seems to be growing his longer. What’s up with that?

  7. I bet you’re a hot baldy too. You’re not invisible to me 🙂

    • Thank you, Astra. I’m not sure anyone would ever call me a hot baldy, but I am doing my best to rock a couple scarves and goofy hats. I have a fez that is definitely good for a laugh or two.

  8. It’s unfortunate that those people prefer to dodge you instead of seizing the opportunity to compassionately connect with you. The good news is, you’re not invisible to everyone. Plus, you’ve got a great shaped melon and I’d be proud to walk beside you any day of the week.
    Congrats on the halfway mark, Annie!

    • Thank you, Jen. I don’t know why this became part of this post, but I guess it’s been bugging me for awhile…particularly when I run into someone that I’ve had many conversations with and they ignore me. I know that it’s difficult…awkward…and there is a chance you could say something wrong, but I would understand and recognize the effort to comfort. It is something I am learning right now. I haven’t always been good about offering my sympathies or a pleasant word when needed. I hope that this experience has helped me to change.

  9. Oh, I was happy to see you had a post up this morning! You’ve been on my mind the past few days, wondering what the latest was. You’re way too strong and shining of a presence to ever be invisible, sweetie. Congrats on hitting the halfway mark.

    • Tele,

      Thanks so much for your sweet message. I love hearing from you. Yep, halfway through and then we are going to start traveling. Got to go hear you, Joel, and Pat do a reading sometime. That’s on my list of things to do.

  10. Ann, I so enjoy reading your blogs. Your sense of humor and self are wonderful. It is nice to have a cocktail that doesn’t have too many side effects. Some day we’ll need to compare notes. Best to you and your adventure,

    • Chuck,
      You are my inspiration. You keep me in good spirits. I get reports on how you are doing and I know that someday we’ll compare cocktail notes with and without side effects. Hope one day to go fishing with you. That would be a treat! Love your Mr. Clean Halloween costume. 🙂

  11. Annie, I’ve worn a very short crew cut for years. Bald is fine. But use sunscreen on the noggin if you are leaving it bare. I am so glad you are past the halfway mark. With your attitude, you’ll finish this off just fine. You seem to be living in the moment and that’s a brilliant way to live.

    Grab happy and squeeze it tight!

  12. Oh Linda…you dazzle a crew cut. I hope to do the same when it grows back. Love “grab happy and squeeze it tight.” That’s just what I’m going to do all day. Thanks for leaving such a sweet message. All my best!

  13. I am one of the subset of the population in whom steroids induce psychosis. I guess I’m screwed if I ever get cancer…I’d have to be incarcerated during chemo. Anyway, glad to hear you’re at the halfway mark! Feel better soon!

  14. Annie. I did not know your news. I can see you are a fighter and you are game and I salute you. There are some winners in the cancer war and may you be one of them! Keep the posts flowing as you get inspired and keep your head covered till you get well and your hair comes back.

  15. Next time you run into the people who turn away from you, offer them a pen and ask if they’d like to sign your bald head. You know — just to fuck with them. 🙂

    So glad to hear that you are halfway through toxic cocktail hour with your wonderful spirit still intact. I’m pullin’ for you, kiddo. I want you back inspiring me with your brilliant fiction and kicking ass in some competitions. Big hugs!

  16. Jayne,
    I love signing my head. Perfect! Actually, I’m just about to leave to go trick-or-treating. I think this bright globe is worth one Snicker or two! Thanks for all your encouragement. I look forward to writing fiction again.

  17. So good to catch these blogs and know that your humor and talent have excelled during the chemo time. Think of you often and want you to know we miss you in Seattle. xo Franny

  18. I laughed so much through this post.. because i react to life, drama and my own body in much the same way that you do. and i think it is pretty healthy. You are proof that a sense of humour works. I know that it is the only way i survived 9 kids, a depressed husband and poverty.

    I have great insight into many things my own character and inner life included but I am not in touch with my body…I kept my eyes shut through 9 births,, did not see a darn thing,,, and I have denied having any PMS symptoms for decades.. seem immune to menopausal symptoms or side effects of prescription drugs, UNTIL my kids point it out.

    I imagine my awareness of steriods would be the same as you

    • Melanie,
      That cracks me up. Keeping your eyes shut during 9 births. I guess you were my example! I knew we were kindred spirits! I just motor along with side effects flaring until someone says “I don’t think that’s supposed to be happening.” Well, we’ve made it this far with a sense of humor…let’s keep going!

  19. Yes Annie. You definitely are still you.
    Well done.

  20. I’m glad to hear you’re halfway through. If there’s a side effect to medication, I usually get it. Usually it involves blowing up like a balloon or ripping my skin off from the horrendous itching I can’t control. Eating sounds like a good option. And dog-walking neighbors turn away from you? You live in the wrong neighborhood or everyone must be under 40 and cancer-free. Come walk your dog on my street. You wouldn’t get those stares here.

  21. Julie,
    You pegged my neighborhood perfectly. The whole gang are all hard bodied 20-somethings. Glamorous to look at…will definitely turn a head or two, but not very insightful about others problems. I still like to look at the beach though…if I can keep my eyes open. Yesterday I slept ALL day. Woke up just in time to lay my head back down. That’s a first. Hope it doesn’t continue.

  22. Ann, you are so generous to allow us behind your eyes – perspectives of others tend to be something we have to guess at. And here you are, sharing a blueprint of this experience as it’s affecting you – and in so doing, you are allowing many of us to learn how to ‘meet this’ in our own lives, or in the lives of others.

    You are a light in this world; whether at full shine, dimmed or somewhere in-between – you’re a beacon none-the-less. My heart is fully engaged in your journey, and I’m rooting for you.

  23. Sally,

    I haven’t been able to respond to your comment until now. It made me cry. In spite of the fact that cancer is a disease that affects a lot of people, everyone who is diagnosed has to deal with it on their own terms. There’s no right or wrong way, just a feeling that kicks in and helps guide you on this new path. I am blessed to have good friends like you. Thank you for your constant support and kindness. It means the world to me.

  24. hating the situation but loving your posts, Ann. You are adorable, funny, and honest. Hang in there. xoxooxoxox

  25. Mary,
    So nice to hear from you. I promise to hang in there. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. A real nice beginning to my day.

  26. Your humor shines through what is normally a difficult subject. You’ve made it real, funny and gritty. Honest, too. As long as you have your sense of humor, Annie, you can get through anything. As for those who’ve turned their back on you, keep a list. Their time will come… 😉

    • Monica,
      Thanks for the encouragement. I spent a few days wallowing in the dark lately and it didn’t feel so great. I’ve decided to drop the dark and keep finding the humor in things. Thanks for your nice comment. Always appreciate it!

  27. Hey Anne, cancer is no match for you. It will simply be an irritant before it spins on its heels and slinks away and gives up its bodily assault, totally disgusted by you and your strong will. Isn’t that why they called us Roughriders? I’m sorry I didn’t know you better in high school, but I was off fighting battles at that time that seemed insurmountable, and that’s how I know that things do get better after they are almost unbearably tough. Hang in there. Hold that head high, no matter what the follicle count. Keep writing. You’re very good at that. I want to see your book on this subject, one titled: How I kicked cancer’s ass.

  28. Dan,
    How fun to get a comment from you. Wish we had met each other at good ol’ Roosevelt High, but I’m happy to catch up now. Thank you for your kind remarks about my writing and how cancer has met its match. I don’t know if I’m quite there yet, but I do feel as though my attitude to find joy and humor feels right. When I become scared or stressed, my stomach tightens up into a knot…and that can’t be doing me any good. I spoke with a doctor today who told me to stay clear of stress as much as possible. That’s my goal. Some things I can change…and some I can’t…but I can stop projecting my fears into illness. Thanks again, Dan! I am so glad to hear from you.

  29. Pingback: invisibility | sifting the grain

  30. Thank you, Tracey for including my post in your blog. Your take on being invisible and the reason we all have a hard time dealing with people with illness or those who experience the death of a loved one hit the nail on the head.

  31. “When I feel invisible, I repeat, “At this moment I am fine”… and that’s all any of us really have. Besides, on this page, I am not invisible. I am still me. ”

    Oh, Annie. I just love you.

    Also – I know all about steroids and the crazy side effects – and yes – they will make you REALLY hungry and possibly irritated!

  32. Hey Annie,

    I’m a bit gobbed by your neighbor’s pathetic lameness. And equally gobbed by your wit and charm.

  33. Hugh, love “gobbed.” It could turn into my new favorite word. Leave it to you to add to my vocabulary, introducing me to inspirational people, and share recommendations of great writers like Styron. I’ve been reading his work one by one, and each leaves me wanting more. Hope you are feeling better. Thanks for your nice comment!

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