Monday, April 26, 2010

Yup, I've totally been avoiding you. I've got plenty of legit excuses. Intense Chemo. Fatigue. Dental related headaches. House guests galore. But the real culprit is writer's block. It all started a couple weeks ago when a Facebook friend posted the link to her new book, Orange Is the New Black, a memoir of her time in prison. Fuckity fuck fuck. I emailed my mentor, who is good friends with her as it turns out, and who told me he thought "XXX is the new black is kind of played out" anyway.

Just one more little-big thing to make me retreat into my non-writing, non-editing hole. So now my full-time job that doesn't pay and is pretty fucking grim and boring is Cancer Patient. Natch, I'm being hard on myself because the truth is that I have house guests three weeks out of the month. For every chemo session. And while I've got company I tend to neglect reality. I've completely detached myself from the now retitled manuscript, Breast Cancer at Bergdorf's, (eh, cut me some slack; I was really married to the first title). It's just a bunch of pages sitting in a box in my living room. What is my problem? I need a session with Dr. Laura. I'm also just not all there mentally. One of the lingering side effects of this Chemo is that I just feel high all the time. Lightheaded, dulled, slow-moving mentally and physically.

On the upside, the Chemo—I only have two sessions left!—is really working. Monday, for the first time, my CA 15-3 numbers were kick ass. It went from nearly 400 to under 200. We cannot even find the node on my neck that was previously the size of a peach pit. Yay!

Al and Nicole. We're in "my room," the corner room of the Chemo Ward.

But I'm sooo fucking tired all the time. I've not seen the inside of Equinox in weeks. I'm eating a ton, but may have a tapeworm cause I'm not gaining weight. The only thing I'm doing is a few yoga poses each day. I've been working on my tan though, which is progressing nicely thank you very much. The dolphins are out in full force behind my building. Yesterday one was only about 50 yards away from me and Wally on shore. Fantastic. Mesmerizing. Dolphins in my backyard—could you die?

So, I finish Chemo on the 10th and will have scans like the next day. Dana and baby JJ are coming in for that one. I'm gonna see more boobage that week than any gal should, Dana's a breast feeding Nazi. An infant in my apartment for five nights should be very interesting. The following Monday I head up to NYC for a consult with Dr. Norton. Just to see what to do next. I'm expecting another round of the same. Ugggggggggggggggghhhhhhh.

After the Carbo treatment two weeks ago, I went back to Jacksonville with Mom. (Note to self: Quit going to Jacksonville. It only makes you angry and insanely bored and thus resentful that your family lives in such a podunk town. The people are great; the "city" is like you're back in the 1950s. The food in my 'rents fridge was certainly from that decade before I had enough and cleaned it out.)

But I digress. I went there because my two Chemo companions for last week were Nicole and Alison, who live in Jacksonville. So the plan was to ride back to MIA with them on Sunday. Well, they wanted to leave Saturday, which was fine with me. But Friday Al called—one of her daughters had come down with a 24-hour bug and had been throwing up. We couldn't chance Al being sick around me, so it seemed like she'd be unable to come. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad were at a college fraternity reunion at UF, where Alison's dad was as well. So my health care was in the hands of Nicole, and we planned to make the drive the next day.

(In a major Southern accent) "Steph, we just gotta make a stop at the Bloomingdales in Aventura on the way home. I got a $200 gift certificate and Courtney put some Louboutins on hold for me."

Court is getting married soon on the Amalfi Coast and Nicole is the maid of honor, so I didn't think it so odd that Nicole had something wedding-related to do.

"Well, it'd be a lot easier if we could go to Aventura tomorrow since it's so late."

"We gotta go there today. They're holding them for me."

"Okay. What do they look like?"

"You know, they're big and chunky."


"That's all I know. They're big and chunky."

"Why don't you call Bloomingdales and see if they'll hold them till tomorrow."

She's on the phone with Bloomies for like five minutes and she hangs up. I start asking her about the shoes, just cause I wanna know.

After about 20 questions from me, Cole starts cracking up. "Stephanie, we gotta pick up a big package for you."

"Big package? Uh oh."

Let me back up. Nicole, Lee Ann—who lives in L.A.—and Dana have an exceptional history of embarrassing me in public. Without fail, whenever we're together at a schmancy restaurant, they tell the waiter it's my birthday and cause a big scene. I've come to expect it now.

"Okay, well, as long as it's not living or a birthday cake, that's fine." I was expecting some sort of beauty gift box or something.

We're on the phone with Lee Ann, Dana and Al for the whole ride down; again nothing unusual. All of us go back for three generations and like I said, Alison's dad Jeff was with my dad in Gainesville at the time. Well, Alison was feeling better, so Jeff was going to drive her down the next day. So now we've got two generations involved in the transportation of us to Miami. Finally, we get to Aventura Mall, and finding Bloomingdales is like locating the Lochness Monster. What a clusterfuck that place is. We pull up in front of the store and Nicole kind of stops the car in the middle of valet.

"Just go down this row."

She's like out of it and so am I, so I'm still completely clueless. To the point where she has to tell me to look through her window. Well, who do I see coming towards me but Lee Ann, flown in from L.A. to surprise me! Tres, tres cool. Accompanied by our good friend Erica from college. What a feat for them to pull off in a notoriously incestuous group. Mom and Dad were even in the know. When Al and Nicole picked a date to come in, I proffered the idea of Lee Ann coming as well, but when she told me she had a work conference that weekend, I dropped it. Plus, I'm seeing her next month in L.A. so it was doubly surprising.

Anywho, we had a crazy few days in Miami. Sunday night we went to Joe's, which was the first time I'd gotten out of gym clothes in about a month.

The real housewives of Miami Beach

Al, Erica, Lay, Nicole and me in my apartment
And they of course told the waiter it was my birthday, which I knew was going to happen. Monday we went to the hospital not knowing whether my white counts would be high enough.

They were psyched to meet Schwartz, after hearing about him for two years. So we piled in there, got the good news about the 15-3. He looks at them and says, "So lemme ask you, how come you all have Southern accents and she doesn't?"

Hahahaha. I guess I'm so JAPpy that I escaped that fate. I don't know. Maybe cause I spent so much time in NYC growing up. But it was pretty funny. We chilled for the next couple days and they were great nursemaids. But after a couple days, what started as a toothache had morphed into a constant, pounding, debilitating jaw and headache. So Lee Ann had to accompany me to the dentist—who happens to be my shrink's wife and went to Hebrew school with Erica—on the day she was flying out. I had a massive cavity filled and may need a root canal on another tooth.

"When did our friends start becoming our doctors?" Lay wanted to know. "When we got old." I said.

Thus, the chemo side-effects were nil this past week compared to this tooth/headache combo. It's finally abating, but it was to the point where my left side was swollen a la wisdom tooth removal and I was popping Vicodin every six hours.

Sooo, that's the latest. Dana's here in less than two weeks! Then it's NY and L.A. and after that, the great unknown.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Cause Every Woman Wants Parachute Hips

Hmmm, wonder why these two dresses didn't sell and are now more than half-price at Neiman's.

Temperly of London (top) and Fendi

Friday, April 02, 2010

Ding Ding! Round Two

In popular Cancer jargon, I think we can all agree that we've become accustomed to people using the term "round." E.G., "round one," "round two," "round fucking infinity," in my case, it turns out. (Some also say cycle; I think the two are interchangeable.)

Well, in the high-falutin world of Dr. Norton's Sloan-Kettering that I've become a part of, not only is it a pedestrian term (!), but one that's actually sort of incomprehensible and unfamiliar. In trying to schedule my next checkup with Norton, I had to find out how long I could wait between round one, and round two. (In this instance, I'll embrace being pedestrian.)

I ended up getting in touch with Norton's nurse Karen before Schwartz. I'm not sure if she's a nurse practitioner or even a physician's assistant, but Karen is one smart cookie.

"I'm trying to figure out how much time should elapse between my first round and second, so I know when to see Norton."

"What do you mean by 'round'? I'm a little confused."

"Uh, well, you know I'm done with this treatment cycle May 10th. Then whenever I start again, that will be round two, right?"

"Oh, okay, I see what you're saying. We don't really use that term."

"Oh. Well, I guess I was confused about this treatment cycle being a finite thing. I didn't really ask Schwartz about needing another round. Didn't realize that you keep doing it until I'm in, like, full remission?"

"I'm still confused. We don't think in terms of stopping and starting again."

"Ummm, well, like, the first time it was a four month cycle, so I assumed that this time it was the same type of thing."

"Oh, I see. No, it's different when there's a recurrence. In that case, we just keep going until we have the response we want. I mean, you can have a small break between the treatments. And we'll look at how you're doing in terms of quality of life, and then adjust the dosage or change the schedule. Maybe you'll have one week on, one week off [etc.]. . . ."

BAM! Reality punches me in the punim and it's a total fucking TKO. 'I'm going to be one of those women in constant chemotherapy; one of those women I said I'd never want to be like. With no quality of life. Shut up Stephanie, stop thinking like that. You were doing so well with your mental state.'

Ugh, Wally just farted, so that's my cue. I will finish this later. I've got to go to Shrink, where likely I'll break down telling him this. Luckily I'm treating myself to a massage from Chad afterwards.