Friday, May 28, 2010

Some Nice Straightforward Dithering

Yesterday I had my introductory appointment with my chemo doctor, Dr. L. My friend Frieda*, who'd been to the same practice when she was being treated for breast cancer, went with me and took notes.

There weren't really any major surprises about this part of the deal. I'll be getting my chemo through an IV, not through a port as I'd thought (thanks to the UPMC radio ads/public service announcements that've been running lately)-- my Stage 1 cancer doesn't warrant the big-gun doses that come with a port. Half hour of Carboplatin each time, then three hours of Taxol. I could have sworn the doctor said it was the other way around, but that's what Frieda's notes say and that's why I had her there taking them.

I'll have pills against nausea and Benadryl against some of the chemo side effects. Yep, this will all make me drowsy/spacy, and yep, not a good idea to try to drive myself home afterwards.

They'll check my blood cells and CA-125 levels each time. If the cells counts remain sufficient, the every-three-week schedule will continue; otherwise, I'll have to hold off a bit till they come back up.

I asked about supplements. A regular multi-vitamin might be okay, Dr. L said, but dosing up on one nutrient or another won't do me any good and may do actual harm. Better to do my best to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

What about hydrocortisone creams? I'd read somewhere you can't apply steroids like that during chemo, but what am I supposed to do, mosquito season is here! No, he said, there's no problem with that, I can use them all I need to.

But speaking of skin care . . . I'd hoped my Sun Protection Factor 15 face cream would do, smeared on the top of my soon-to-be-bald (sob!) head. Nope, he said. SPF 50, at least. Wear it all the time outside, whether I have a hat on or not. "I'll get you some," said Frieda, who's recently started a job at a drugstore. "We have it on sale."

As to post-chemo-session side effects, they may not kick in till two days after. If five days afterward I'm still losing my lunch (or throwing up my immortal soul, as Mark Twain once memorably put it), that's the time to call the Cancer Center or the ER.

As I said, this was pretty much all fine-tuning and logistics. I didn't exactly thrill to the thought when Dr. L tole me what his mentor in med school, who is "an ovarian cancer guru" would have said about the fluid-filled capsule that ruptured in me. Dr. O, he said, would have classified my cancer as a Stage 2 because the sac was stuck to the abdominal lining, the peritoneum. "Hey! I don't need that!" I protested, doing the anti-vampire finger cross at him. "1C is bad enough!"

"No, I'm not saying you're Stage 2. Just emphasizing that you've absolutely made the right decision to go for chemo."

Oh, all right. Besides, no cancer was found in the solid areas of that capsule. Or in the scrapings of the peritoneum (taken from where it was stuck to, I should think???)-- they came up negative, as well. So there.

I mentioned that I'd learned online that my particular form of tumor is very rare as ovarian masses go, and that in 95% of those cases (or some number like that), it's benign. Just my luck to come out on the other side of the odds!

Yes, that's true, but at my stage and grade it will respond well to the chemo-- if there's any cells that escaped at all. Nice to hear, since I'd been on a cancer support chatroom where a couple of patients had said they'd been told that this mucinous kind is resistant to chemotherapy. Bugger that. If-- if!-- there's anything there, we gonna kill it dead.

We scheduled the first treatment for June 14th, after my birthday on the 12th and after school's out on the 9th. I'm doing mine on Mondays, so I'll (God willing!) be recovered enough to preach on any given Sunday this summer. The 7th was the date Dr. L suggested at first, but with my case, he said, another week wouldn't matter.

After I got dressed, it was off to the blood lab to give a sample so my base count could be determined (Frieda didn't have the nerve to stay in the room and watch-- shades of her own treatment), then to the scheduling desk, then to an interview with the financial aid counselor, concerning which I shall maintain a discrete silence.

Still all pretty darn straightforward. The dithering part begins with the brochures and pamphlets and certificates the scheduling nurse gave me about wigs and turbans and other headcoverings.

My hair should start falling out two to three weeks after the first treatment. I'm going to have to have some covering options, because this kid is not going "bold and bald." The world is not ready for the horror, nor am I. And laugh if you like, but I have gut-level religious objections against going around shaven and shorn, even chemically. But last night I'm looking at the wig catalog they gave me, and I'm thinking, these are inexpensive, that's good, a lot of them are cute on these young, high-cheekboned models, but I'm not madly in love with any of these styles for me, and none of the available hair colors really match mine, and do I really want to get something like this mail-order? And don't ask me why, but the fact that this company has given all their wigs girls' names really gets on my nerves. "Oh, golly, the best-looking wig is named 'Esmerelda' and a girl named Esmerelda was my worst enemy in grade school and now I gotta go round with her on the top of my head??!!!"

What I want to do is go to a local shop and have somebody advise me. Actually, the cancer center did give me a reimbursement certificate worth $200 that's good at a couple of area wigmakers. But there's still the question of real vs. synthetic and maybe real is way out of my price range and they say that it's harder to care for anyway, but what if synthetic is plastic and fake-looking and-- and-- and--!!!

OK, kid. Calme-toi, m'amie. Frieda has offered to bring me her wigs to show me what they're like, and I'll take her up on that. And I have the number of the nearest wig shop where I can redeem this certificate, and I can call tomorrow and make an appointment.

It. will. all. be. fine!

It may sound weird, but it's important for me to have this hair/head covering thing worked out before I start chemo. People are sympathetic enough already without me running around looking like "that poor cancer patient." And while I can forget and ignore the hysterectomy scar that's healing very nicely on my belly, every mirror will remind me that something in my body turned zombie traitor on me. I prefer to spend as little time as possible the next few months with my hopefully ex-cancer getting in my face.


Siobahn said...

Hi Kathy, Welcome to the steroid and benadryl brigade! Even with anemia the hair falls out just not as bad as with chemo and it comes back quickly(yours will too. There's a wig shop here in Ambridge that has a good rep and I Can look around some too. There's a big place where Pizza Hut is on 65 that may be a good resource.

Anyway you have the best care and best outlook, and we're all here to help...Love ya...J

St. Blogwen said...

Thanks. You know, I tend to forget about your hair loss, and just visualize you as YOU! <3

The certificate gives me only two choices of wig shops here in the county, one in Darlington and one in Raccoon Township, both about equal distance from me. Totally arbitrarily, I called the one in Darlington today and the lady sounds nice and very accommodating. I'm to call her back for an appointment after I may drive again, some morning when I don't get called in to teach.

Funny, when I think of getting the chemo, I visualize myself as an astronaut in training, strapped in doing G-force tests and all that. Is that goofy or what!