Friday, July 18, 2014


Well after all that - after two months of arranging life to accommodate the chemo schedule, and getting lots of help with kids and care through two rounds, and dealing with side effects and losing the hair, and losing Louisa's dad Frank and having the funeral, and a whole lot of intention, prayer, light, positive juju etcetera - the scans showed no appreciable change in the tumor size, to our dismay. They haven't grown, which is good, and there aren't any new ones, which is also good. But they didn't shrink, and what we really wanted was shrinkage. That was the deal. But…there is no "deal." Not the way it works. This thing just happens to be pretty cagey. Take a breath. In, out. Keep doing that.

My doctor prescribed recovery time and getting into "tip top condition" before we regroup in a couple of weeks to see about clinical trial options. Immunotherapy is the most promising area of research. The whole approach is opposite of chemo: use drugs to enhance the body's immune response (and attack the cancer cells like they inherently should) versus use drugs to kill all fast-growing cells. 

This is a shifting of gears but something we knew was a possibility. I never said it was going to be a smooth ride now did I? Buckle up. Stay positive. Keep your eye on the horizon. 

On the way home from receiving the scan information I stopped at a red light. Homeless man approached. My windows were open anyway. "Hang on," I reached into my wallet to give him a few bills. "Now you take care of yourself!" I said. He didn't look good. He looked pained, but he was staring at my scarf. "Oh…" his brow furrowed. "Can I ask you a personal question? Do you have cancer?" "Yeah. It sucks," I replied, giving him a couple more bills. "What's your name, dear?" he asked. "Elizabeth." "I'm going to say a prayer for you." "OK," I smiled. We fist-bumped. The light turned green. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

It is scary for a woman to lose her hair suddenly and involuntarily. At first, it's just a concept, a side effect of chemo that you know will be upon you. "Pretty much Day 21" says one doctor. Words: lose your hair; bald. You try to prepare your family that you will look different, but be the same. You arrange for a wig to be made (in itself the most unusual grooming experience). You borrow lots of fun and pretty scarves and headcovers from friends (thank you Robin and Heather). Then one day you touch your hair and some of it comes out. Pull on it - more. You take a shower and a LOT of it comes out. You stare at the wastebasket of hair in disbelief. It's like a weird dream, like those dreams of your teeth falling out. 

Well, let's get on with it, I thought. Shave the head. Our local salon owner offered to come to the house. I gathered some friends with a plea: 
Shave and a haircut -- two bits
Appointment at my house -- at six
Be there if you wanna be
I'd like some love surrounding me
Tell me that I'm still ok
After my hair has gone away
So we made it a happy hour with drinks and appetizers. Luckily Matt the salon owner is a wise and gentle soul, and once he set out his tools asked me what I wanted to do here. He diplomatically offered a transitional solution: "We could just do a short pixie cut for now. I can come back. This is not a one-time offer!" I looked at Robin, hm maybe that is an idea; then at Louisa whose eyes said "Yes! Start with a short cut!" So we did. 

The transition pixie cut was a good solution and it lasted a week. Got everyone used to change. Then it was time, and I went up to Balance (the salon) after hours and got the shave, first accompanied by Louisa and then Kristin. Then Matt very kindly washed and massaged my scalp. And so the era of headcoverings out in the world, naked bald at home began.