Archive for July, 2008

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There Will Be Blood … and Boogers

July 20, 2008

I woke up with a nosebleed a few days ago. Nothing horrible, just a “oh, that’s gross and kind of sucky” nosebleed which stopped very quickly. I didn’t think much of it as it takes something really showy now to get my attention and consult a nurse. Limbs spontaneously bursting into flames? Yeah, I might give the doc a call. Nosebleed? Not so much. Then they started happening every morning. I would start my day making coffee with Kleenex stuffed up my nose and carry on as normal, but this was starting to bug me. So I call the nurse. As I figured, it’s normal.

 

Apparently, nosebleeds are common with the drug Avastin and are not a big deal so long as they stop quickly and they’re not big gushers. So she says, “as long as you don’t fill a whole washcloth with blood, it’s nothing to be concerned about.” Christ on a cracker! If I fill a whole washcloth with blood I’m thinkin’ I’m headed to the ER pronto! Which was in fact her advice in that situation. A pal on one of my chat boards helpfully suggested that should I encounter a real river of red, its best to pack your schnoz with gauze and keep a cold pack on your face. This is the most likely procedure you will get in the ER anyway. Good tip and one I’m glad I can share as this was the overarching purpose for my blog. Helpful tidbits that make living with cancer just a bit less crappy.

 

The other suggestion I got was to look in to sleeping with a humidifier in my bedroom. I am in a dry, air conditioned condo most of the day, so it’s totally possible that my morning geysers are not cancer-related at all. Ok. Somehow I find that humiliating. That I might have my onc nurses all concerned and all I’m really dealing with is an arid apartment. I feel like a moron. A moron with giant red boogers. Seriously, it’s like a gory moonscape in there. Every time I blow my nose, I’m slightly horrified by the results. Is it just me who gets these weird and embarrassing side effects? Someone with some sexual disfunction, please comment and make me feel better.

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Butthole Surfers

July 18, 2008

 

Just when I think cancer can’t get any more awkward to discuss, I get a champion case of hemorrhoids. I’m not talking a little burning or itching type discomfort. Oh, no. I’m talking screaming blinding pain during bowel movements and feeling like my butthole is en fuego for hours at a time. You want to stop any conversation dead in its tracks, bring up hemorrhoids. Guaranteed to make you a social pariah. Consequently, I don’t share this part of my side effect woes with any of my pals. However, I promised a down and dirty helpful discussion blog, no matter how icky the subject – so, let’s chat about my ass.

 

Hemorrhoids are painful and oddly hard to spell. They are basically a blister on the inside or outside of your butthole. Lots and lots of cancer patients get them from basic inactivity and/or GI problems related to their treatment. Having colon cancer, or cancer of the upper butt, I’ve got all kinds of issues in this department. Most of the time, they go away in a few days and the infamous Preparation H will alleviate most of the pain and burning. However, since I do nothing in a half-assed fashion, I have whopper hemorrhoids inside and out that bleed and can possibly get (gulp) infected. Should you find yourself in this situation, you may also experience the joys of anal fissures. Oh yes, internal and external cuts in your anal area. Seriously gross and painful.

 

 In this case, my doc handed me a prescription and a box of latex gloves. The script was for a special blend of Vaseline and …I’m not kidding here…nitroglycerine. Nitro.  I now have concerns that if I sit down with any force, my ass will literally explode. Is my butt a biohazard, or perhaps in need of protection from an aging American Gladiator? You can imagine the questions. Essentially, you have to put on the dreaded glove and apply a numbing cream to the area. Even the numbing cream freakin burns to a degree, so this is not something you want to attempt as you’re just about to run out the door. (Frankly, you won’t be running anywhere any time soon.) Then you have to stick your gloved finger in the possibly combustible jar of goo and eventually, you guessed it, up your ass. My doc actually uttered the words, “make sure you go up to at least the first knuckle.” OMG! Did I not mention that my butthole REALLY REALLY REALLY HURTS?!!? Are you freakin kidding me? First knuckle? At least I got some free gloves out of him.

 

My heart goes out to any and all of you with large hands. I have become particularly dexterous with my pinky. I am also thinking of starting a scholarship fund for petite female med students to specialize in lower GI. Every time I have an appointment to see a new doctor I seriously wish and hope for a 5 ft gal that weighs about 105 pounds. Someone like Sarah Jessica Parker, but less kooky. Next time you shake hands with your doctor, take a good look. If they played college basketball, you’re screwed.

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Chemo and Vino: The Virgin Entry

July 7, 2008

Cancer lit sucks. I’ve tried to read several “inspiring” memoirs and I just can’t seem to finish one.  Once I get to the “poor me” stuff, I just chuck the damn thing across the room. Now, I’m sure there are exceptions. Several well meaning pals have given me copies of Lance Armstrong’s book and assured me “it’s different.” I can’t bring myself to read it because I’m convinced it will make me feel both fat and guilty. I hate exercise and I don’t imagine I’ll like reading about it, even as a side note. I’m stubborn that way. I picked up a cheesy chick lit book on display at Borders to distract me, only to find that the main character gets cancer at about page 120. (Spoiler alert) So – if you have The Big C, you may NOT want to pick up Friday Night Knitting Club. It’s a big downer and the cancer thing comes out of nowhere.

 

Next, I surfed the blogosphere, survivor chat rooms and other corners of the internet for inspiration or an ounce of humor about this crappy disease and found nothing. Zilch. Mostly “you are in our prayers” and “keep the faith” type stuff. Nothing that spoke my language. Nothing practical. So, this is not a blog for people who love Jesus. I am not a religious or particularly spiritual person. In fact, people that say things like, “I’m not into organized religion, but I’m very spiritual” really irritate me. I have enough respect for religion and spirituality to know that there’s more to it than wishing for things while you’re smoking pot. But the Church route just isn’t for me.

 

I wanted to know if anyone else giggled when their doctor mentioned 5 FU. (It’s a chemo drug). Do I have permission to scream “FU!” five times while I’m on it? I had questions like, “Will my chemo port set off airport security?” I wasn’t planning a trip, mind you; I just didn’t like the idea of telling a complete stranger that I had a big fat scary disease. Was there any way I would be able to deal with my diagnosis and treatment as a sassy, youngish gal with no patience for looks of pity?

 

Slowly, I found some kindred spirits. A terrific woman who organized “Colonpalooza”. (It’s an annual trip where survivors of colorectal cancers get together to kvetch and drink.) A professional from Gilda’s Club that assured me the support groups didn’t suck. (One group had a craft project where they made T-shirts that said “Don’t fuck with me. I have cancer.”) And finally, my Mom-in-Law bestowed me with Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr. A book with chapters like, “Holy shit! I have cancer. Now what?” and “Go ahead. Use the cancer card.” Finally, I was inspired. I had hope. You should buy a copy for every young woman and gay man you know with cancer. In fact, buy eight. The author is a former actress, now filmmaker and I’ll bet she would really appreciate the cash.

 

What follows, I hope, will be a blog that shares some down and dirty on treatment without all the freakin severity. A forum to discuss the best flavors of barium “smoothies”.  A judgment-free zone for folks who combine chemo and vino on the same day. A place for fabulous cancer patients. Like me.

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Presidential Pardons

July 7, 2008

I am coining a new term for cancer folks, specific to GI related issues. Don’t have cancer? No worries, you too can use my new verb, inspired by our current President.

 

bush: v. to bush, bushing, bushed

1.     To dive into a situation without an exit strategy

2.     To devour a special food, forgetting or ignoring how painful it will be coming out your ass

Dude, I totally bushed a steak burrito last night and I’ve been paying for it all morning.

 

Yes, I definitely bushed several items off a 4th of July buffet. Gotta say, it was mostly worth it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take some news magazines in to the bathroom.

 

 

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Private Dancer

July 4, 2008

While my chemo side effects are totally small potatoes compared to many, the freakish sensitivity to cold can be a big drag. Or as in this case, can totally crack me up. So the deal is, during my chemo drip and for a week or so afterward I can’t touch, eat, or drink anything cold. It makes my fingers turn red and feels like my fingers or throat “fell asleep” only sharper pricklies and more painful. Anyhoo, I’ve done pretty well just keeping a pair of gloves next to my fridge.

 

Occassionally, I screw up. I got out of the tub a few days ago and was toweling off when I stepped on to the cool marble bathroom floor in my bare feet. YOW! PAIN! So in my total suprise (this was new) and pain, I started doing this naked re-enactment of the Billy Jean video. Scooting around on my tip toes, shouting “hoo! ow! ow!” until I was safely relocated on my bath mat. Now safe, I started laughing about how unbelieveably stupid I must have looked and then cracking up even harder when I realized I was now trapped on my bathmat, with 6 or so feet of painful marble between me and the door. So, I created a towel fuzzy brick road to the safety of my hallway and hardwood floors.

 

Note to self: Buy bigger bath mat