Glide! Kick! Twirl!…(and flush twice)


disco girlI have to keep reminding myself that this is a temporary condition. One day I may feel punk and puny, and the next…chipper and ready to do the Hustle in the glow of a disco ball.

This last bout of chemo started out a little rough, preceded by a staph infection requiring antibiotics. I don’t think my body appreciated adding something new to the mix. I ended up sleeping for days, and when I woke it was like I’d gone through a bad breakup. Quietly sunk into the sofa with that sad, weepy, whipped dog look, I’d try to remind myself everyday is different. (Note to self…repeat that mantra because I’m back in the game with energy to burn.)

I began this cancer diagnosis with a used manila envelope to house important pathology reports, procedures, re-capped doctor conversations, and medical bills. Soon the paperwork overwhelmed my feeble folder so I bought a small, but impressive hardbound notebook with dividers and pockets. I have since graduated to the largest three ring binder one can buy and the damn thing is full…and bloody heavy. Actually, there are two binders–one for medical bills, and the other for doctor related material. Supposedly there is specific software that would organize this mess, but I’m resisting the techno temptation. Besides, I still harbor the strong tactile urge to paperclip, hole punch, staple, and categorize. It makes me feel in charge, which is truly laughable.

It’s sobering to think a once invincible body let down its guard, permitting the enemy to march in and set up camp. The same flesh and blood that held up its end of the bargain for decades finally waving the white flag, granting a portal for bad stuff to enter. I flashback to that game show where a shrill-voiced English woman bellowed at contestants, “YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK!” (I visualize my downtrodden uterus limping off the stage accompanied by her closest mates…my ovaries and fallopian tubes.)

The other day I walked into a waiting room lavatory and read these words on the stall wall, “If you are currently undergoing chemotherapy, please flush twice.” Twice? The only advice I’ve heard concerning flushing is to put a brick in the tank to save water. But they were telling me to pull that little handle like on a tight Reno slot machine. For a minute I was liberated! Hell, if they want safety, why not give it a trio of deep sea discharges…or maybe a quartet to really send it packing! When I got home, I googled this multi-flush phenomenon…low and behold, it’s true. I am a biohazard for 48 hours after chemo while my body eliminates the drugs. I have to wonder what they think we are doing on the toilet. Dunking into the bowl splashing about with a little rubber duck and some chemo suds? For those who care, I do my business without making waves and get off the pot.

This week we met with a Gynecologic Oncologist and a Radiologist to develop a post chemo plan of attack. I’ve been a little uneasy about this new level of treatment as radiation zaps of any kind petrify me. I’ve even faked being pregnant at dental exams for the past thirty years just to avoid X-rays. So imagine the joy when I heard my medical team agree that no radiation is needed at this time. They took it off the table…so to speak.

There is a lot to think about while processing this news. I’d been preparing myself to strap on armor for radiation. Incredible as it may be to hear no further treatment is necessary after chemo, it is hard to wrap my head around. How do you live fully with the knowledge that it may rise again and rear its ugly head? What do you do to live cancer-free and remain AWOL for a second tour of duty in the chemo trenches? But as one smart doctor reminded me…There are no guarantees in life. There is just time.


It had to sink in. I had to really listen to that word and roll it around on my tongue, wash it around in my brain. Time is the only way I will ever find answers. In two years, I will celebrate a milestone…and each subsequent year after, I will rejoice. It takes a leap of faith. In the meantime, I’m going to glide, kick, and twirl to a disco ball on steroids.

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  1. Yay! I’m so glad you are in the home stretch. I will keep you in my heart & prayers. With any luck at all, this nightmare will be over and segue back into a pleasant dream.

    • Thank you, Bridget. I think you are right…I’m ready for the segue back to a pleasant dream. Puts a lot of things in perspective. I don’t sweat the small stuff for sure!

  2. It’s so great that you are getting to the end of the chemo thing. Anne, none of us are promised tomorrow, but enjoy every day. I don’t long for immorality, but I do want a happy life, filled with love and some accomplishments. You are so brave and strong and I know you are going to do just fine.

    • Linda,
      I love your take on life. Being happy, filled with love and some accomplishments sounds perfect. Very wise! I would add health to the mix, but that’s just where I am in life’s equation. Thanks for the nice comment, Linda!

  3. While I am no one to give advice under the circumstances, I do agree with what Linda said. None of us is guaranteed another single moment. You could be practicing safe sex in a Marriott in Indiana and have a plane land on you. So as corny as it sounds, this moment is all we have and I know you will make the most of each one, my friend, because that’s just how you roll. Glad the chemo shit is over. Onward! Hugs!

  4. Jayne,
    Only you would come up with an analogy of practicing safe sex in a Marriott in Indiana only to be plowed down by a plane! But it’s true…we buy Volvos for their safety record and every type of alarm made for home protection, and yet we could have some swine give us the flu. 🙂 Oh how I would love to say that I’m done with treatment, but I still have three more chemos to go. I will finish up December 31st, barring any unforeseen changes. What a great way to toast in the New Year!!! Thanks Jayne for your encouragement.A big hug right back at you!

    • I actually have a Volvo — for just that reason. I figure that’s at least one bomb that won’t explode under me in this mine field we call life. Sorry to hear you’ve still got more chemo, but December 31st for the finish line is a damn good omen. Hugs!

  5. What great news Ann! Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

  6. Thank you so much, Molly. I’ve sending good thoughts and prayers your way too.

  7. That’s really great news that you won’t need radiation… and that you will begin the new year precisely the day after your last chemo. Talk about new beginnings!

    You’re so right, there are no guarantees, and there is always that fear that it will come back. But life is full of what-ifs. That’s where the positive thinking kicks in (and once you’re done with chemo that will surely be a LOT easier to muster up). Soon you’ll be so busy living (and dancing, I’m sure) that you’ll think less and less about any recurrence and more about how lovely life is, each and every day.

    Much love!

    • You are so right, Tracey, 2014 is going to start off with a bang…maybe a whimpering bang at first, but every day after I will get stronger. No more pokes, prods, or scheduled drips! It’s sometimes hard to fathom that this experience has an expiration date. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled!

      I know you are right about life not offering up guarantees. I suspect slowly but surely we learn to live with those uncomfortable what-if’s and march into a new realm of life feeling blessed. I don’t know why I never felt this way before the diagnosis. I was acting like a kid with a full life staring at them. There was appreciation for life, but not like I have today. Small stuff rolls off my back, tolerance is not difficult to muster, and I enjoy the smallest of pleasures with delight. Not a bad way to live!

  8. I didn’t know about the extra flushing. Thanks for teaching me something new and for taking us along with you on this journey. Hang in there, Annie, and keep celebrating the good things as they come.

    • The extra flushing took me by surprise too. Actually it made me think seriously about sending all that chemo biohazard waste down the pipes and eventually out into the ocean. Each year 12.7 million people learn they have cancer and I would say a strong percentage of those receive some form of treatment, including chemotherapy. Just one more thing that keeps me up at night!

  9. Double flush, really, who does that? I might have done it first dose for about one day then said “effit.” I told my family they were just going to have risk exposure because I did not have the time or energy to be standing around waiting for the tank to fill so I could flush again. We make calculated risks all the time-poorly calculated at that.

    • It’s a strange one, and certainly something I hadn’t heard before. It actually made me feel very guilty that I was adding to the toxic waste on this planet. It’s good to be aware but I’m not sure a second flush is comforting in the big scale of things.

  10. You really are something Annie!
    Writing as sharp & brave as ever.
    Cheers, ic

  11. Lovely post Annie.

    Pleased your on the home straight, I presume when you come in the winner you will not be tempted to do a lap of honour?

    Not sure of this double flush thing, I mean if you have a brick in the cistern so you use half the water does that mean you have to flush four times just to be sure?

    I have this mental image of you just flushing once and then a man goes in for a pee and when he looks down the water is glowing bright green, just think of the look on his face!!! Followed by him running out screaming whilst still trying to put away the family treasure safely!!!

    The woman who did the weakest link was Anne Robinson, a woman whose face and voice could curdle milk at 10 paces. Not a fan of the programme, I liked the concept just not the presenter.

    • Thanks for your funny comment, Robert. I’m quite sure my victory lap of honor will be from the chemo treatment to the couch…hoping to keep my eyes open long enough to see the ball drops in New York. But I will definitely be smiling!

      I was never sure about the brick in the toilet tank, but living in California with limited rainfall they are always coming up with new ways to conserve water. Showers are short, lawns can only be watered on certain days, and cars go unwashed. Now, as far as the double flush goes…I have not witnessed glow-in-the-dark evidence of my biochemical waste, but you know I’ll keep you posted!

      Surprisingly in my foggy brain I did remember Anne Robinson was the game show host of “The Weakest Link.” I think I tuned out of that program because of her voice…it sent the cat running for cover and the dogs howling. I’m sure she could care less as she laughs her way to the mailbox for her residual checks. God love her. Thanks for the fun, Robert!

      • Some years ago when we had a drought the council sent blocks to all households to put in the cistern. I can’t remember what we did with ours.

        Yes Anne Robinson is an acquired taste, she earned the nickname over here of the bitch with the stitch from her doing the wink at the end of the programme.

  12. It is great that you are on the home stretch. Not having radiation is good news. Glad you are still writing and I have never heard of the double chemo flush ; )

    Miss you and sending positive vibs to “don’t look down” Annie.

  13. OMG Katharine, I laughed so hard when I read “don’t look down” Annie! I tell a lot of tales, but even I’m embarrassed to repeat that one. One of the funniest nights in real estate…and that rivals many laughable times. Hope you are doing well, raising hell and lifting the Patron for me.

  14. brilliantly funny as always–

    as if you need any more info, after all your binder is full,,, but,… i can’t hold it in.

    Do you know about eating to change your body’s ph from acidic to a lower ph? Cancer loves an acid environment. This diet worked for my brother-in-law; his white blood count went from 8 back down to 2 in a couple of months. Basically it means cutting out all processed good tasting stuff but every food is rated acid, neutral or base.

    • Melanie,
      I haven’t heard anyone mention lowering my ph levels, but I’m game to try. The only thing I’ve heard is cancer feasts on sugar like flies on a fresh cow patty. I’m going to do some investigative research and see what I can find. Thank you…although I’m not sure my binder thanks you.

  15. Great! Now every single song from Saturday Night Fever is going through my head! 🙂

    I’m glad you’re close to finishing the chemo, Annie, and extremely relieved you won’t have to get zapped. It’s much better for you to be glowingly happy and not glowing in the dark. No matter how much fun that last one is at parties!

    • Nicky,
      I’ve been singing Staying Alive and striking a pose with one arm pointing skyward for weeks. Today is 11/12/13 and I’m feeling especially disco driven. Dancing like I’m off-leash again! Don’t worry Nicky, I’ll come up with another way to entertain at parties!

  16. At last, you are coming up to the finishing line with the chemo, I’m sure you’re looking forward to getting your own body back, so to speak. And I didn’t know about this ‘flushing’ thing which is very interesting.

    As for life, leave no stone unturned and no unfinished business. Treat each day as if it were your last, and you can’t go wrong. None of us can control what happens today and we definitely can’t predict the outcome tomorrow.

    Get those disco shoes on and don’t forget the shocking red lipstick, clink that wine glass, get the party food on the table and shake those legs mate. Yahooooooooooooo

  17. Great advice, RPD. I will definitely dust off my disco shoes and buy a little color for the lips, clink a wine glass and shake whatever has atrophied and needs a good toss! Thanks for your wonderful comment!

  18. Annie, I love your sense of humor in the face of all this. Most people would cave in and give in to the self-pity. But better off is the person who can find humor in the absurdity of it all. Flush twice. I will remember that, and all the chuckles you continue to give me. Keep writing!

  19. “I have to wonder what they think we are doing on the toilet. Dunking into the bowl splashing about with a little rubber duck and some chemo suds? For those who care, I do my business without making waves and get off the pot.”

    Can I just tell you how happy it makes me to hear how you’re keeping your sense of humor in tact through all of this!!

    “So imagine the joy when I heard my medical team agree that no radiation is needed at this time. They took it off the table…so to speak.”


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