Captain’s log, day 7 post chemotherapy: Eyelashes and eyebrows have begun to fall out and land directly in my eyeballs. This is frustrating. I woke up this morning with a fine dust of eyebrow hairs covering my face. I’m not angry, as I have eyebrows to spare. Hair on my head continues to hold strong. I suspect this will not last much longer. Gordie is here, and we have plans to buy a clipper, apply the 1-guard and shave me down Sinead O’Connor-style at the first sign of thinning.
Cannot stop salivating. Suspect this may be due to a special chemotherapy toothpaste I had to get that’s supposed to prevent mouth sores. It’s for “dry mouth,” which I don’t have. In fact, I now have “excessively wet mouth.” Frequently find myself drooling all over chin and cheek.
In addition to my saliva production being in overdrive, I cannot taste anything. Literally, all food tastes like plain oatmeal. My lips and tongue feel weird, like they’re coated in wax. Or they have a chemical burn. Which I guess they kind of do.
Have had a nonstop bloody nose since Wednesday of last week. It comes and goes randomly, meaning that Gordie and I will sometimes be standing at the cash register at Food+Labs in Silver Lake, about to eat a delicious arugula and prosciutto salad (that tastes like plain oatmeal to me), when the girl behind the counter suddenly gets a very alarmed look in her eyes and I realize, by the coppery taste in my mouth, that I’m leaking blood down the side of my face. Yeah, no chocolate, no salt, no burritos, but blood? Can still taste that one. Hooray.
Also have developed an awesome, hive-like rash on my chest and neck. It’s especially cool because it coincides with a massive heatwave, so it’s 80+ degrees out but I’m stuck in scarves and high-necked shirts, lest I risk exposing my weird, pimpled bosom to the world. Oncologist says that this is from the steroids, which, like the kind favored by A-Rod and Lance Armstrong, can cause everything from weight gain to mania to acne. Fortunately, my vanity has left the building.
With this recent rash (ha) of beautiful weather, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it really means to be alive. Because the truth is that, even dealing with all of this misery, when your mortality suddenly sneaks up behind you, covers your eyes and shouts, “Gotcha! Forgot I was here, didn’t ya?,” it’s not the big things you’ll be thinking about. it’s small stuff, like how much I love the way the sun feels on my skin or how great a cold glass of lemonade tastes on a warm morning (before it tasted like plain oatmeal, I mean).
I’m reminded of a beautiful quote from the poet John Keats:
“How astonishingly (here I must premise that illness, as far as I can judge in so short a time, has relieved my mind of a load of deceptive thoughts and images, and makes me perceive things in a truer light), – how astonishingly does the chance of leaving the world impress a sense of its natural beauties upon us! I think of green fields; I muse with the greatest affection on every flower I have known from my infancy – their shapes and colours are as new to me as if I had just created them with a superhuman fancy. It is because they are connected with the most thoughtless and the happiest moments of our lives. I have seen foreign flowers in hothouses, of the most beautiful nature, but I do not care a straw for them. The simple flowers of our Spring are what I want to see again.”