Sunday, July 18, 2010

Car Woes

By mid-September, I'll have my 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser paid for.   What I need to do now is, convince the beast that that doesn't mean it can go off having issues to make up for that.

There was the belt replacement need three or so weeks ago.  But the chirping and came back, and this past week I had to solve that by having the shop put in a new belt tensioner.  This should have been the last I had to see of them till my inspection was due.

But no!  This morning, I was on my way to church, I was six minutes and 3.4 miles short of getting there, when ding! an alarm sounded over whirr of the breeze through the open windows.  I looked; the temperature indicator light was on.  What?  Looked again, the needle of my temperature gauge was moving upwards and in a moment showed as high as it could get.  Yikes! my radiator was boiling over!

Happily, there was a gas station just up ahead.  I let my momentum more or less take me into it.  Parked, raised the hood: yes, there was steam escape around the rim of the radiator cap.  No, I did not touch it or try to open it. 

Neither of the young men clerks in the station convenience store knew anything about cars, but they let me look up the number for the lube shop down the street.  Asked the guy there, any chance I can refill the radiator and get to church after all?  No, he said.  I obviously had a leak and I risked blowing a gasket and cracking my engine block.

Well.  I did that on another car, back in 1994, and don't want to repeat the experience.  So I had to wait for AAA and get the Little Red Dragon towed.

It's presently sitting in the parking lot of the repair shop, and won't they be surprised to see it in the morning!  When they put on the new belts for me they noticed coolant leaking, but they thought they'd solved the problem by installing a new hose clamp.  I hope it's just a hose needing replaced now, and not a water pump or whatever.  Tow truck guy cheerfully assured me the car is eminently fixable, which I knew:  I just don't like this being nickle and dimed to death.  Specially not now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wig Hats

Put on your high heel sneakers,
Wear your wig hat on your head,
Put on your high heel sneakers,
And your wig hat on your head.
Ya know you're lookin' mighty fine, baby,
I'm pretty sure you're gonna knock 'em dead.

For somebody as improverished and unfashionable as I am, I have acquired an absurd number of wigs.  I've even had to mount a separate shelf to help hold them all.Three from my friend Frieda*, the impossible one from Dorothy* the wigmonger, the two and 2/3 (counting the "halo" I wore for the first time on Sunday) I have from the ACS fashion prosthetics arm, and as of Monday, two from my mom.

One, which I can only describe as Texas Big Hair (sorry, Mom) is a reddish shade that is shockingly like the color of my hair as previously dyed (I know-- I kept a lot of it when I had it cut two weeks ago).  Color looks good on me; the style-- hmm, not sure where I can wear it, definitely dress-up party material.

But the other one is a lot more sensible and looks the best on of the whole lot.  It's a medium brown with blonde highlights styled in a short informal flip.  Kind of a Mariska Hargitay look, and if I want to evoke a celeb, I'd rather it were she than a lot of others.  I've worn that one a lot this week, and I think it looks the most like me; or at least, me when my hair is behaving.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday I figured out why the dark brown "Caitlin" wig looks so puffy and big on me.  It's too big.  I tried it on again and noticed, good grief, my ears are sticking out at a 45 degree angle!  I'd already decided I needed to trade in the "Sabrina," since it's way too blonde.  I called the TLC people and found out I'd measured the ear to ear dimension totally wrong.  Then I looked at the TLC wig from Frieda I successfully wore on Saturday, and discovered it's a Petite.

So today both of those went back.  Can't return them, since they were on sale, but I'm getting the replacements in the smaller size, with the long brown one in a tone with some highlights in.  Don't really fly with that stark '70s rocker look.  And the shorter curly one, I'm going with the same brown with blonde highlights that I like in the one Mom sent me.  I figure that way I won't freak people out so badly-- to the casual observer, it'll just look like I've got my hair curled or not.

I think I'll be a bit relieved when my hair comes out entirely.  Till then I'm wearing a little knit scullcap under the wigs to keep the loose hairs out of them.  And sometimes it's a bit hot and a lot of times it itches.  But I get used to it, I find.  After awhile, I'll be able to wear my wig of choice and forget I have it on, just like I can live my life and take care of my business and forget I'm dealing with cancer and chemo or any of that foolishness.

Just for fun, here's the remainder of the wig parade, mostly taken in my bathroom mirror:

"Caitlin," Take 1

"Sabrina," Take 1.  Not too bad in this light, actually . . .   But still not me.

Curly halo, with hat, of necessity

And I still don't have a picture of the awful one.

Where I'm going to use all these, I have no idea.  Too bad Dorothy* didn't have a RenĂ© of Paris catalog in her shop.  The ones Mom sent are that brand, and his whole line looks very nice.  If I could have selected one like the short one, we would have solved the problem right away and I wouldn't be squirming under un embarras des richesses.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hair Conditioning

I know what I said the other day about systematically brushing it all out; nevertheless, this past week I've been treating my hair like each separate strand was a silver penny slipping through my fingers.  At night I've been sleeping in weird positions to avoid rubbing any more out than absolutely necessary.  I dream about how to keep from losing it any faster than I have to, and keep myself semi-awake in the process.  The other night I had myself convinced-- in my dreams-- that if I slept in the guest bedroom, I wouldn't lose so much of my hair.

Maybe if I'd been satisfied about my wig situation, but I wasn't, not yet.  Thursday evening I modelled the new wigs for the neighbors, and they said the blonde one made me look like Marilyn Monroe and the dark one like Joan Jett.  All very well, but neither of those women are me and I don't want to be running around in a costume.

But Friday night I got a call from my friend Ruth* in Kansas City.  Ruth has been through breast cancer, twice, and chemo, twice.  Both times, she lost her hair. 

"Ruth, the first time, you had a wig, didn't you?  I mean, I don't remember any between time when you looked any different, really."

Yes, she'd had her surgery in October, started chemo in November, and started wearing her wig pretty much right away.

"Did you get your head shaved, or what did you do?"

"I just let it fall out whenever it would."

Not sure why, but this was a revelation.  Suddenly I felt I could stop babying my hair; I could let it go.  And whatever remains for however long it remains, I can stick it under my wig and let it be. 

So yesterday morning I got in the shower and washed my hair.  Same routine as always:  shampoo, scalp massage, creme rinse, the whole process.  And big wads of hair came out and had to be kept from going down the drain.  Upstairs before the bathroom mirror, I brushed what was left and more came loose.  And glad I was for that, since for awhile there I looked like the Charles Emerson Winchester III character from M*A*S*H.  It's not totally gone, far from it, though from the back the righthand side of my head is a lot more denuded than the left.  But what's gone is gone and what remains, remains.

And I put on my Laura Ashley flower print dress, pulled on one of the wigs Frieda* passed on to me, donned a straw hat over that, and attended the annual Beaver Library Garden Tour.  And no one who saw me there knew a darned bit of difference.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Round Two, Week One

Received my second chemotherapy infusion yesterday.  Nurse Nell* was willing to forego trying to put the cannula into the back of my left hand this time, but the first wrist vein we tried eluded the needle when she put it in.  So it was back to the tried and true sites on the inside of my wrist.

No flashbacks to the keg parties at the college dorm from the Benadryl this time.  When I told Nurse Nell it hadn't made me feel sleepy, just drunkish, she gave it to me more slowly.  And as the afternoon wore on, I was certainly tempted to catch some ZZZZs!

I exercised some discipline and used the first hours mending two more sweaters.  I will not have the schoolchildren next fall laughing at the holes under the arms of my cardies!  That wasn't a penance, despite the heat outdoors.  They do an excellent job at the Cancer Center keeping the interior climate controlled, not too chilly and not too warm.  Haven't needed to use the quilt I brought yet.

This time, though, I didn't get as much Western Civ literature read.  Brought my laptop and wasted a lot of time trying to get online via the fragile guest wireless signal they provide.  Managed to make a couple of Facebook status reports, but otherwise I was refreshing and refreshing and trying, trying, trying to reconnect more than I was working or surfing.

My pod mates were all older gentlemen.  One being treated for abdominal cancer (Eh.  That's the metastasis from my ovarian cancer I'm trying to avoid), one getting chemo for colon cancer, and the other one, I didn't ask.  The colon cancer guy was on infusion eight in a course of twelve.  Wow.  He told me that people "sail through the first one or two treatments, but it gets rougher after that."  Uh, yes, I've heard that can happen . . . meaning that every good day or week I have is to be received with conscious gratitude.

(I'm on to preach at least three times this summer.  Wonder if I should write those sermons now, while I'm still feeling half-decent?)

They must all have been getting different medications than I, because none of them were sporting chrome domes.  Me, I'm thinning out more every day.  (More on that below.)

It was interesting, too, that I was the first one in the pod and the last one out.  I started my pre-meds a little after 11:00 AM and finished up my chemo at 4:30.  Only one other woman was there getting chemo after me. 

My report time was actually 9:45, but I saw the doctor and had my bloodwork done first.  Found out from him that yes, I may take my beta-blocker pill if I need it; yes, I can have a glass of wine or a beer if I want it; and the reason I've had the munchies the past week and a half is because that's what Decadron, the steroid they give me pre-chemo, works.  It has been weird:  First ten days post-chemo, I've craved small meals of very healthy food.  Then bang! my blood sugar was crashing at the most unexpected times and I wanted chips!  donuts!  cornbread!  hot dogs!  at all hours.  And don't show me a piece of lettuce, though every lettuce plant in my garden should bolt from neglect!  I gained nearly a pound and a half since the 21st.

Today I'm back to the healthy eating phase.  At the moment I'm consuming a nice salad of lettuce, shelled snow peas, purple sweet peppers, mushrooms, and shredded cheese, the first three ingredients all from my garden.

Last night, I ground up some more leaves and mulched more of the vegetable garden.  I'm feeling quite normal today, too, maybe because I'm heeding the instructions and taking my anti-nausea pills even when I feel just slightly queasy.

My American Cancer Society wigs have come in and the best of them is the "halo" (tonsure!) you have to wear under a hat or scarf because it has no pate to it.  All of them need the bangs feathered out and thinned down, and I'm wondering if I've been a little too daring in ordering the Sabrina model in the golden blonde.  Though I've historically been on the blonde side, the dark brown of the Caitlin looks more "me," somehow.  And whichever one we're talking about, I think I have to get used to more bulk at the top.  Must be the Current Style.  But these aren't so bulky and wiggy as my "official" cancer wig is.  It still looks awful.  I tried it on for Frieda* when she came to pick me up yesterday morning and she thinks it definitely needs major pruning.

Oh, well.  I'm thinking of taking my whole wig wardrobe over next door the next time everybody gathers on the neighbors' porch and letting them say what they think.  If the golden blonde is agreed to be Too Much, I can always try again in my usual dark brownish (aka "dirty") blonde.

Once I'm satisfied I have at least one whole wig I won't be embarrassed to be seen walking about wearing in public, I'm going to drape a towel around my shoulders, take my hog-bristle hairbrush, and brush, brush, brush my hair right outta my head.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Transitional Hairdo

Here's what I had done to my hair last Tuesday, after which my friend Frieda* and I went and gorged ourselves at the Chinese buffet.  Now I'm no longer leaving bits of myself on the shrubs in the yard, and my hair doesn't feel so much like an alien entity perching on my head.

We didn't get any After shots that evening, because my stoopy camera was eating brand-new batteries like my dog would gobble up a piece of dropped raw meat.  But here's one I took in the bathroom mirror this evening.

Oh, yes, the problem-child wig is the one you see on the styrofoam head on the left in the background.  Looks better on it than it does on me!

Thursday, July 01, 2010


I picked up my official cancer wig this morning.  And it looks nothing like it did in any of the catalogs.   It looks awful.  At least, it looks awful on me.

No pictures, I'm afraid.  My new camera has eaten through all my AA batteries.

It's almost comical by now how Dorothy* the wigmonger can plop a mop of synthetic hair on my head, the sides all cattywompus and the top standing up like a drunk on sentry duty, and gush, "Oh, it looks so cute on you!"

No.  No, it doesn't.  But it looks like I'm stuck with it.

There's simply so much crap going on on top!  If it would curl like the picture or lie down flat, that might be tolerable.  But I couldn't get it to do either.

There seemed to be no question of Dorothy styling the thing for me.  Just as well-- I don't trust her judgement.

Took the bloody mess home, ran it through some cold water, and set it to dry.  Tried to get the curls to come back, thinking that would improve things.  Tried it on again this evening.  Not any better-- think Harpo Marx.  Tried wetting my brush and flattening the top down a bit.  Maybe, maybe it might be tolerable if I were in good clothes.  Definitely not compatible with my T-shirt and old KCPR Planning Division big shirt jacket. 

All is not lost.  One of the wigs my friend Frieda* passed on to me will do for the time being if the remains of my own hair get too thin or fall out before I come to some resolution.  That will take the form, I hope, of two additional and less expensive wigs I ordered this afternoon from, the hair and breast prosthesis arm of the American Cancer Society.  The wigs I got from Frieda were from there, and it seemed like the hair was denser on them with less "scalp"showing than with the expensive Gemtress model. 

I'm taking a risk with them, though. 
One is long and dark brown, to satisfy my yen, cherished since high school, to taste life as a brunette.  That's my official "just for fun" wig. 
The other is another try at what I was trying to get today, and it may turn out just as bad.  The good thing is that the TLC wigs are returnable, assuming you haven't mucked with them.

Those should come in two weeks.  I also ordered what's called a "halo" (looks more like a tonsure to me) in a version of my natural (undyed) color.  It's for under hats, and yes, I'd better remember not to take mine off.

Funny, this wig issue had me going so hard today that I didn't feel it as much as I might've when I got a call from my social services case worker telling me that my paltry IRA disqualifies me from getting assistance with the rest of my medical bills.  Through her I also learned that the reason I haven't had a direct deposit of my unemployment benefit the past two weeks is because Congress hasn't authorized the money past the week of June 5th.

Well.  At that rate, my IRA will get spent down very quickly.

But when it comes to it, I really don't want government medical assistance or unemployment compensation, what I want is a fulltime job.  But the wig I got today, I'm not planning to wear to any interviews anytime soon.