Wednesday, August 10, 2011
"Those whom the gods would make crazy, they first make mad."
Sometimes I think cancer, and cancer treatment, were invented by some mischevious, minor god, to turn me into Job.
The latest round is the third reoccurance of brain metastases, this time tumorS. Multiple. What fun! So instead of having gamma knife surgery, which has relatively small side effects, except for cranial edema, I get to have whole brain radiation. Ooooo, goody. This makes eleven, count them, eleven, cancer treatments. Surgery, chemo, radiation. Hormone therapy. Chemo. Gamma knife. Chemo. Gamma knife. Chemo. Now WBR, and chemo number five. Don't you wish you were me?
Whole brain radiation, in particular, is designed expressly for me. I really dislike being nauseous. And I am very claustrophobic.
Soooo. The start? A several hour session where they fit me with a mask. This, oh goody, is so they can lock me, by my head, to the table, so I won't move during the radiation. Let's do dental surgery, and stick the whole deal into a cave, and yay! We can have all my phobias together! At once! They also wanted to strap down my feet. Oh, I'll hold still, believe me, if you DON'T tie my feet as well, thanks.
As it went on, the anxiety decreased, but didn't go away. I would pretend it didn't bother me, but my heart rate would double. And some days, my chin would quiver against the mask. Scared? Me? This is how the brain of a claustrophobic works: "OK. If the power goes out, AND the backup generator doesn't work, I've learned how to unhook the mask, and I will unclip it. If the machine breaks down, and overcooks me, I will unclip the mask, jump down (table is five feet off the deck) and get under the table." None of this is faintly likely to happen, but tell it to my reptile brain.
Luckily, the actual radiation was about 40 seconds, 20 seconds per side. I would count. 18 - 20 seconds per side, dependent on how anxious I was, and therefore how fast I counted. I always felt like I could smell burning hair, but the next to last day I realized it was probably whatever mysterious and funky plastic the mask was made out of. Carcinogenic, no doubt. Strangely enough, I am not particularly worried about secondary cancers.
The side effects are also designed for me, to drive me nuts. Nausea, which is generally not controlled by meds...because it's not caused by my stomach, it's caused by my brain. Burns on my head and ears. Burning on the skin INSIDE my ears, so they itch all the time. Hair loss...
And, instead of like chemo, where your hair all falls out in one dramatic, cartoonlike flump, it's patchy! Of course it started falling out on my crown. I looked like a mangy mouse. wertperch. Shave it all off. NOW. I look far better bald than with male pattern partial baldness, it turns out. Oh goody!
What were we talking about?
So I start chemo number umpty lump next week. Lessee, I've done it 38 times. Is there some sort of medal for this? If I hit 50, could someone please give me a million bucks? And wertperch and I work through mounds of paperwork. And the lucky fellow, he gets to familiarize himself with not only our arcane pension plan, medical system, insurance, but also US taxes! Social security! Trusts and wills! Medical powers of attorney! What fun!
What were we talking about?
Still. I mostly do not feel sorry for myself, there are nastier diseases, I can think of several. MS. Lou Ghehrigs. Parkinsons. Glioblastoma. I have friends dealing with each.
Meanwhile, the three of us laugh a lot, and clown. wertperch is nearly as absentminded as me, and we walk around the house going have you seen the...thing....for the....thing? What was I doing? Why did I come in here? Why did I open a new browser?
And still, I would rather take this bullet than have someone else I love have it. As much as it is unpleasant, I like it 20 times more than having Tessie have cancer.