Category Archives: Missing Cancer

Missing Cancer | Showers

shower time essentials

Back when my hair started falling out, I remember several people telling me: “Just think of how much time you’ll save in the shower!” I know it was said with the best of intentions, but maybe don’t go saying that the next time you encounter a friend with cancer.

Still, showering was much simpler.  My showers didn’t get shorter, they just got better.  Not only did I get to skip the shaving, but I got to skip the stress of just needing to shave.  Trying to remember if I’d shaved my armpits first, or if I needed to do them before I got out of the shower.  With no hair, I could wash my head or not.  I usually conditioned my bald head, afraid that the skin would dry out. (A bald head is one thing, a scaly bald head is something else entirely.)  Instead of spending all that time washing and shaving, I just stood and enjoyed the hot water on my body.  A quick slather with some jojoba oil when I hopped out, and I was ready for makeup.

While I was on taxol, I ended up with a fair amount of bone pain for a few days each cycle.  It wasn’t so much a sharp pain, but it became very hard for my legs to be comfortable.  Enter the wonder shower– sometimes two or even three times a day I’d hop in and let the hot water soothe my achy body.  With no hair, I could hop straight into bed after my shower and didn’t even get cold from my wet head.  Showers were such a relaxing, enjoyable time to me, I really do miss having a shower without having an agenda.

This post is part of a series of what I’ll miss from my time as a cancer patient.  I know cancer is a serious thing, not everyone tolerates treatment well, and not everyone recovers.  I don’t mean to offend by making light of a serious subject.  These posts are just a glimpse of my efforts to make the best of my situation—to find the silver linings wherever I can.

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Missing Cancer | Doctor Appointments

The view from the exam table at my plastic surgeon's office

The very familiar view from the exam table at my plastic surgeon’s office

I was talking with a few women last week, all of us had been through breast cancer treatment or were in the midst of it.  We talked about lots of things, but eventually got to talking about our doctor appointments. During treatment, I might have one week with no appointments, but the next week, there was at least one appointment and one trip to chemo. Even after chemo was over, I had countless pre-surgical and post-surgical appointments.  I sat in this exam room once every week or two for months going through the expansion process that led up to my final reconstructive surgery.  Even after that final surgery, there are still lots of follow ups.

After spending so much time with kind, compassionate doctors, it’s like leaving friends behind once you’re released to visit only once every six months. Every woman who had finished her treatment could remember the strange feeling of saying goodbye to a favorite doctor and the staff. Being free of all those appointments and interventions should be cause for celebration! But as much as we all loved seeing the familiar faces, there is a reassurance when you see a doctor every week or two.  Even if they’re not doing any scans, even if you are seeing a surgeon who is primarily concerned with aesthetics.  There is reassurance to knowing that you are in the presence of a trained physician, surely if he says you’re ok, then you’re ok.  Even if it’s just a chat, surely the oncologist can see if there is a problem, right?

I truly enjoy chatting with my physicians, we usually talk far more about non-medical things. I feel certain that, had I met them under other circumstances, we would have been friends. But there is the subconscious, the unverbalized reason that it’s hard to wait six months before heading back to put on that awful “open in the front” paper gown. There something so reassuring about hearing a professional tell you everything is ok.  So now I’m hoping that it’s reassuring enough to last for six months, until my next appointment.  I definitely didn’t recognize it at the time, but I really do miss all those appointments.

This post is part of a series of what I’ll miss from my time as a cancer patient.  I know cancer is a serious thing, not everyone tolerates treatment well, and not everyone recovers.  I don’t mean to offend by making light of a serious subject.  These posts are just a glimpse of my efforts to make the best of my situation—to find the silver linings wherever I can.

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Missing Cancer | Scarves

covet14-100

A couple of weeks ago, Sally and I were at one of our favorite shops, Covet Boutique in Arlington, getting ready for a party we’re helping host this weekend.  I saw this scarf on a display and loved it.  I was so disappointed that Autumn, the shop owner, hadn’t found these last year.  Even though I’ve got hair now, I couldn’t resist tying it on my head, wishing I’d had it a year ago.  I love everything about this scarf– the soft, knit jersey, the red color, the chevron pattern, the long tail, the contrast of turquoise and navy.  As I recall, there was another print or two of these soft, knit scarves, but I can’t even remember what they look like, this was so clearly my favorite.  It almost makes me miss the bald head that required a scarf. (And if you happen to be local and would like to join us this Saturday afternoon, you can check out this scarf and the rest of our favorite gift shop– details here.)

This post is part of a series of what I’ll miss from my time as a cancer patient.  I know cancer is a serious thing, not everyone tolerates treatment well, and not everyone recovers.  I don’t mean to offend by making light of a serious subject.  These posts are just a glimpse of my efforts to make the best of my situation—to find the silver linings wherever I can.

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Missing Cancer | Mail

08.14.13 2013-08-14 014

This is my box of mail.  All the sweet notes and cards that people sent before, during and after my treatment.  I don’t know our mail carrier, but I have to wonder what he thought was going on at our house.  Surely he noticed– almost every day there was something personal for me in the mail. There were so many notes of encouragement and promises of prayer.  Some short and sweet, some a little longer. I wanted to save every one, to remember how many people care about me! I mentioned before the weekly prayer cards from Aunt Alice’s church, I still get one of those every week! Then there was the weekly card from Dr. Ruth– not the Dr. Ruth– but a doctor whose name is Ruth, a friend of Clay’s parents.  She faithfully prayed for me and I found a card with a quick note of encouragement at the beginning of every week. Then there were the cards from my college friend, Sara.  Every chemo week, she’d send me a card.  In college, we used to spend far too much time in Hallmark looking at cards. She managed to find some great cards to send me, and I know that was hard, I tried to send a card to a friend at one point and found the selection has really gone downhill since my college days. Sure, she found great cards, but the best thing about them? They were totally her, she managed to squeeze something onto every white space available on the card, telling me stories about what was going on in her life.  She almost never even mentioned cancer, she was just her usual chatty self. Those were fun cards, I looked forward to them after every treatment! I don’t get nearly as much mail these days, which I guess is good. But I do miss all those friendly notes in the mail!

This post is part of a series of what I’ll miss from my time as a cancer patient.  I know cancer is a serious thing, not everyone tolerates treatment well, and not everyone recovers.  I don’t mean to offend by making light of a serious subject.  These posts are just a glimpse of my efforts to make the best of my situation—to find the silver linings wherever I can.

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Hair’s the thing…

So I’ve been thinking a lot about my hair lately.  I think a lot of people have.  You all ask about it– will I let it grow out? Maybe not, not right now, anyway.  According to a post Ashley did, it will take about 4.9 years for my hair to grow out to its former glory.  (I love that she figured that out!) Somehow, I’m not sure a woman over 40 needs hair that long.  Or at least, not this woman.  But mainly, I like it this way.  And not because it’s easy.  Honestly, yes, it is easier than blowing out all that hair before either straightening it or curling it.  Somehow, I’m betting not many people honestly think that I make fashion choices because they’re easy.  If we’ve talked about my hair and you’ve been one of the very many who’ve commented, “Well, at least it’s easy,” that’s ok, please don’t feel bad.  It is easy, and so many people have said it that I don’t have any idea who has.  But I’m realizing that’s not something I’ll say to anyone with really short hair again– whether she has short hair by choice or necessity, to insinuate the best thing about her hair is ease isn’t the biggest compliment.

That being said, I’ve gotten lots of wonderful compliments.  The best compliments come from complete strangers, and they’re my favorite because I know that these people truly like my hair, they’re not just being nice because they figure at least I’m not bald anymore. My most favorite comment? From a man who works in the cosmetic department at Niemann Marcus.  Enough said.

It’s still weird for me.  I catch my reflection in the mirror or see my shadow on the sidewalk and don’t always recognize myself.  I see myself with long hair in my mind, and yet I’m starting to see myself as I look in Sally’s most recent photos, too.  Like maybe it’s fifty-fifty now, sometimes I think of myself with long hair, sometimes short.  I haven’t quite decided how I’d like my hair to look in 4.9 years.  But for now, I think I’m sticking with short.  It tells a story.  When I see my short hair, I am reminded that I am strong, not only that I’ve gotten past cancer, but that I can feel confident with out the long lovely locks that I once considered a major part of my identity.

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Missing Cancer | Naps

PET scan waiting breast cancer

While I was on chemo, and for quite a while after, I took a nap just about every single day.  I’d skip a day here or there, but for the most part, I napped for two or three hours every afternoon.  Sometimes that put a bit of a damper on my fun, I once turned down a lunch invitation to District Taco just to be sure I had time for my nap!  I usually had company when I was at the hospital, but occasionally I’d sneak in a nap there, too.  My best hospital nap was probably just after this picture was taken, I was in this super teensy room while I waited to get appropriately radioactive for my PET scan.  The recliner I was in touched one wall when it was reclined, and my feet were touching the other wall.  I can see some people finding it claustrophobic, but it was huge compared to the tube they stuck me in moments later!

I’m missing my naps now, though.  There’s something so luxurious about using a nap as a perfectly acceptable excuse to do nothing.  Now I’m back to weekends-only naps, and last weekend was too busy, so it’s been a LONG time since I’ve had a nap.  Those were the good old days!

This post is part of a series of what I’ll miss from my time as a cancer patient.  I know cancer is a serious thing, not everyone tolerates treatment well, and not everyone recovers.  I don’t mean to offend by making light of a serious subject.  These posts are just a glimpse of my efforts to make the best of my situation—to find the silver linings wherever I can.

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Missing Cancer | Cupcakes

DSC_0053

I arrived home from my first trip to chemo back in November to a super yummy surprise—cupcakes from a local favorite, Bakeshop.  During my cancer treatment, my friends overwhelmed me with “little happies” as my friend, Lucy, would say.  Lots of cupcakes, cookies, favorite candy, my new favorite salted caramel gelato…  Sometimes they’d come as a dessert with dinner, but lots of times, they just showed up on my front porch!  I know we all have images of that woman going through chemo treatment who is waif-like thin from being so sick.  It turns out now, most breast cancer patients actually gain weight.  The anti-nausea meds make it easier to eat, and the steroids even increase appetite.  I have to say, with all the cupcakes and other yummy treats that appeared at my house, it’s lucky that I weighed the same when I finished chemo as when I started!  But they were so yummy, I would have been ok to have a few extra pounds to lose before summer!  Many thanks to all the friends who brightened my day with a sweet “happy!”

This post is part of a series of what I’ll miss from my time as a cancer patient.  I know cancer is a serious thing, not everyone tolerates treatment well, and not everyone recovers.  I don’t mean to offend by making light of a serious subject.  These posts are just a glimpse of my efforts to make the best of my situation—to find the silver linings wherever I can.

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Missing Cancer | The Bald Head

how we roll
Glamorous, I know.  The week before surgery I ended up with pink eye, so on top of the bald head, I had to wear my glasses.  A post-run shopping outing with a toddler on my back?  I couldn’t have felt less fabulous.  But how could you not smile at this scene?  And I love all those smiles!  Babies and really little kiddos were a little afraid of me at first, and elementary kids tended to stare for a while, and I can’t blame them for that.  But as soon as I’d smile and act normal, they got over it.  Thankfully, I never felt like I got too many pity-filled glances from adults.  But what I loved—the young adults who told me I could really rock a bald head, and the old ladies—they were the best.  I’m betting many of them saw themselves or their friends in the first glimpse of my bald head and smiled to encourage me.  Little old ladies love a bald girl, but it turns out they’re a little less enthusiastic when they’re trying to figure out if I’m growing out my post-chemo hair or if I’m sporting a lesbian-chic look!  I don’t get nearly as much old lady love now that I’ve got enough hair to put product in!  (And speaking of hair, Sally and I went on a photo session/adventure yesterday, I’ll be sure to post some pics of my sleek new ‘do when she passes them along!)
This is the first in a series of what I’ll miss from my time as a cancer patient.  I know cancer is a serious thing, not everyone tolerates treatment well, and not everyone recovers.  I don’t mean to offend by making light of a serious subject.  These posts are just a glimpse of my efforts to make the best of my situation—to find the silver linings wherever I can.
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