Side effects, continued

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.”

Fortunately, there are worse places to be ill than Southern California – Gordie and I are hitting up the beach today. It’s not like a little chemotherapy is gonna keep me from enjoying my life. And besides, I’ve gotta get all the use I can out of this hair while I’ve still got it.

12 thoughts on “Side effects, continued

  1. You know….I can’t relate to the chemo side effects – but I can relate to the whole MORTALITY IS RIGHT HERE SHOVED UP IN YOUR FACE type of thing, with the brain tumors and all. I truly appreciate your posts and writing. Thank you.

  2. beadstork says:

    I am so sorry you feel bad. Be sure to protect your skin when you’re at the beach – you’re at high risk for a burn. Hope the symptoms turn around for you soon!

  3. KattStrike says:

    When your eyebrows completely go, try to think of Whoopi Goldberg.

    That woman is one of the most awesomest women ever and she is completely eyebrowless!

    I know its silly, and I hope I don’t offend you, I’m just trying to cheer you up a little.
    I know it really sucks what your going through and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it felt like.

    You’re a very strong woman and your doing amazingly well.

  4. nheijkoop says:

    respect you stay so positive !

  5. Beauuutiful writing. And that quote…ahh, it’s truth! Count me an admirer of your spirit and strength.

  6. I know what you mean about the mortality. Trudat.

  7. bobneary says:

    The honesty of your pen ought to inspire strength and spirit in us all! I know it does for me. You are amazing.

  8. annbeaton says:

    I loved the quote from Keats. From his letters?

    If you haven’t had the chance to visit, the house in Rome where he spent his last days is a very moving experience. You step out of the passing parade of the Spanish Steps into the absolute quiet of his bedroom and sitting room. It’s easy to imagine his days there and his longing for an English spring.

    Add it to your to-do list once you’re done with treatment! Plus, by then, you’ll be able to taste all that wonderful Italian food.

    Wishing you good days and a better quality of oatmeal.

  9. decoybetty says:

    Wow, I’ve never heard of the excess salivating as a side effect of chemo – who knew? You’re amazing lady! Enjoy the beach!

  10. beautifuly written. thank you for sharing your journey.

  11. lisacng says:

    Ironic that you can taste blood but not the other goodies. Certainly a relatively small price to pay for your life, as you’ve posted before. And love the pun (rash of warm weather). Have fun at the beach!

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