Ok. I’ll admit it. I’ve used cancer. What a marvelous prop to get rid of the persistent, door-to-door salesman. When a kind deflection and a gentle, “No thank you, I’m not interested in Century Link (AT&T, or insert-the-product)” isn’t enough, I can yank off the cap or scarf that’s keeping my naked noggin warm and spit out, “Look, I have cancer and I really don’t give a damn about any of this, do you get it?” It’s cruel and perhaps not exactly ethical, but it works.
And, btw, another side benefit of losing all that hair is that, contrary to what I was told, it appears that my chin whiskers have also gone on vacation, thank you very much.
Doing well. One more week till next chemo and then I’ll be three-quarters through the regime.
Cancer treatment today is a bit like being a letter carrier for USPS. Every accident that a carrier is involved in, either vehicular or lifting or walking or just being alive, is reported to some little minion in a cubicle whose living depends upon coming up with a plan of action to prevent that accident from ever occurring again. The result is a maze of ridiculous rules that no human being can possibly follow and get the job done.
Likewise, with cancer treatment; every possible thing that has ever gone wrong in someone’s treatment plan, any potential side effects end up in pages and pages of warnings of this and that disastrous result. Watch for allergic reactions, itching, flushing, dry mouth, watch for nausea, diarrhea, constipation, tooth decay, dizziness, irregular this or that. For natural born worriers, all these warnings set off a cacophony of alarm bells and scenarios for the brain to pirouette through deep in the night. Anxiety builds like cancer cells dividing.
Knowledge is power. But perspective is power over anxiety. Perspective reminds us that there are a huge array of problems that may arise in some patients. But no one patient will suffer from all these problems, some patients may suffer from several or even many problems, but there are other patients who may suffer only small inconveniences. Hyper-vigilance is the enemy of equanimity.
My friends know that I have a zest for adventure, even if it involves hard work, or —? In preparation for the upcoming adventure, I wanted to be proactive. For me, as well as probably for most people, the two main pictures that lurk behind the word chemo are the porcelain throne and a shiny head. Theoretically the pharmaceutical industry has the throne under control with anti-nausea drugs which keep the food where it belongs while creating other foodish-related concerns.
I wanted to take the bald pate into my own hands. An RN and nurse navigator both suggested that I wait till after a treatment or two. Not everyone loses their hair by the fistful. But my hair is so thin, that if I lost a little, the result would be fistfuls of scalp showing through. So at my latest visit to the hairdresser, I asked him to give me a buzz cut. A boy cut. Almost a military cut. I don’t want to wake up to clumps of hair on my pillow or be standing in four inches of shower water because the drain is plugged.
Poor Tim had trouble with my request. He went at it in layers. First it was about an inch and half long. Then with my prodding, the sides went, leaving about a half inch of hair—which not surprisingly clings to my scalp in a forward formation as if urging me onward. The top was still too long. He took off another layer up there, and I figured, ok, maybe I can do the trendy gel, spikey thing with it. At least it won’t stop up the bathtub drain.
The startling new do causes me to feel shockingly cold in the wind. And it reminds me of the time when I was about four or five-years old and the neighbor kids presented me with my first piece of chewing gum, which I chewed with great abandon, sucking my long hair into the the mess as I went. I had not perfected the art of chewing with my mouth closed. (I still tend to smack my lips overly much.) When I got home, my mother took one look at the mess of gum and hair and exploded. She pushed me upstairs to the bathroom where she got out her special hair scissors and went to work, giving my a lice-eaten look that was not at all fashionable at the time. This new cut looks considerably better than my post-chewing-gum hairdo.