Real talk

Dear ABC Programming Executives,

I would like to propose a unique addition to your spring lineup of primetime television shows. It will be called The Oncologist, and, like The Bachelorette, it will follow a young woman – who also happens to be a cancer patient – as she interviews 5,000 different oncologists to choose the one who is right for her. They’ll go on hot dates in the chemo ward, and all those dreamy helicopter scenes will take place in MedEvac choppers. Not only will there be boob shots, there will also be an enormous amount of boob fondling, boob pressing, boob gazing and even boob needle sticking. At the end of each episode she’ll hand the best oncologists a single plastic tube from a bouquet of surgical drains. “Dr. Jones, will you accept this Jackson-Pruitt bulb?” 

If you like that, just wait for my other proposals: Dancing with the Surgeons and Keeping Up with the Kancer Ward.

Warm regards,

Michelle

Today I had yet another meeting with yet another oncologist, but this time it had a different tone. Now that my pathology report is in from the surgery, we can stop talking in hypotheticals and start talking about what’s actually going to happen to me. We’re shooting for a chemo start date of Monday, February 25. I chose Monday because Mondays suck anyway, so what’s little poisonous vein detergent here and there? The oncologists are recommending six cycles of TCH, a standard chemotherapy regimen for my type of cancer, follow by an additional 12-14 cycles of Herceptin (the H in TCH) on its own. The infusions take around three to four hours each, during which they give you a happy cocktail of anti-anxiety, anti-nausea, anti-allergy meds that make you sleepy and silly, so most people just nap in the chair. Additionally, every single one of those treatments will be preceded by a blood draw and followed by a shot of Neulasta, a drug designed to boost white blood cell counts. Neulasta can cause debilitating pain, so I’ll be getting yet another painkiller to deal with that pleasant little side effect. Otherwise, the main things I can expect to experience are fatigue and baldness. Fortunately, they’ve developed great drugs for combating nausea and vomiting, which I can expect to more or less skip over. Too bad no one’s come up with a hair conservation technique yet. I’d take a night bowing to the porcelain gods to keep my flowing locks, but oh well. Chrome dome is the price you pay for admission to the Chemo Club.

Since I just outlined a treatment plan that involves being poked by needles about a million and one times, I’ve decided to get a PortaCath. The “port,” as the cool kids call it, like basically an implanted IV that’s threaded through the jugular vein and into the main valve above the heart, then connected to the outside of your body with a round resealing rubber access point that protrudes about 1/4-inch from the chest, below the clavicle. It’ll make me a lean, mean chemo machine. I also like to imagine it’ll make me part robot. And I won’t have to go through any airport TSA scanners for a year, since between it and the tissue expanders I’ll be like 50% metal.

The PortaCath means one more surgery, but at this point, who’s counting? (I am. That’ll make four. Four surgeries scheduled since diagnosis: mastectomy, port placement, egg harvesting and, eventually, the glorious implant exchange.)

One more quick thing – another beautiful bouquet came today, this time from the pledge class below mine back in my sorority days. Going Greek was one of the best things I ever did, and to this day my pledge sisters are among my best and closest friends. I was so moved to receive such a gorgeous gift from my sisters. Normally I like to thank my thoughtful friends with personal texts and emails (I’m still not into the phone since my phone cancer diagnosis gave me phone PTSD), but I don’t know which one of these beautiful and wonderful ladies to reach out to, so I’d like to thank them all here! You are such wonderful people and I’m so proud you’re my sisters! LITB and AXOXO. Thank you PC ’08! Don’t think I didn’t notice the carnations. 🙂

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