I have to say that despite my initial negative reaction to the cancer institute’s check-in desk, and my snide comments about the plaques its lovely memorial garden, the University of Arizona Cancer Center is treating me very well. My scheduled appointments are back to back on different campuses and I have to drive to get from one to another, but there is a nice little lunch room in the North Campus called the “Healing Garden Cafe” where I can grab a quick lunch. I can’t attest to the restorative aspects of the garden, but I did make a new friend there yesterday.
I’d been there noshing on a reasonably tasty cheeseburger when a tiny little four-legged guy walked right up and said “Hello.” I don’t know it was—it was a rodent of some sort that looked like an Arizona post-apocalyptic version of what we’d call a chipmunk back in Tennessee. But my friend made it plain she was in the market for a snack, and against my better judgment I complied. I learned she liked bread, potato chips, lettuce, and really dug tomato. The latter, I thought, had turned out to be her favorite until I gave her a piece of hamburger meat. To my surprise she was so delighted to get it, and so concerned that she might have to fight over it, that she ran off, scampered under a bush, and ate it there before coming back for more. In fact, “More, please” turned out to be her favorite phrase.
|She wasn't much for talk but we did some hand-holding.|
The nurses are attentive and friendly, and know when to chat and when to let you be. For my second session, I brought in an iPod (hint: unless your batteries are still strong, bring in an extension cord, which is what I did. There’s no hassle about plugging it in). The time flew by.
Currently I’m receiving a relatively low dose of cisplatin, which is designed to piss off the tumors in my colon and abdominal cavity, making them more receptive to the effects of radiation. The aftereffects are not nearly what I had feared, so far. No hair loss—to my chagrin, because it’s getting shaggy and I’m ready for it to come out but am too cheap to pay for a trim. The night after an infusion I can’t sleep, and my energy levels today are quite low and likely will be tomorrow, too, judging by the last experience. They give me a bevy of anti-nausea medication which so far has done the trick.
I’ve discovered there are two kinds of sleeplessness, and I’ve had both: eyes open and eyes shut. The latter is the kind of sleeplessness where sleep is not on the way but you don’t have the energy to care, so you just kind of sit there with your eyes closed and do nothing. Eyes-open sleeplessness does bring with it sufficient energy levels to allow you to read or watch a movie or whatnot, which I found myself doing at 3:00 AM a couple of mornings ago.
One thing interesting and even beneficial has emerged out of all this. Let’s be honest: 21st century workaday lifestyles are, for many of us, just plain nuts. Cancer is nature’s way of telling you to choose a lower gear. When you have nothing to do other than sit and either endure treatment or wallow in its aftereffects, you get something back that you didn’t have before: free time. One of the things I have done with mine has been to reacquaint myself with my music library.
I have a pretty decent sound system that I had installed in my home office. But I found that when writing novels, loud music interrupted my train of thought, so I stopped using it. Two weeks ago I dragged all that sound equipment into my bedroom. Now, especially when I’m feeling listless I’ll just sit for long periods of time and give myself a concert, listening to the music as the artist or artists intended: with full and undivided attention. It is a completely different experience. I do the same at the infusion center, where I have equipped my iPod with a full-bodied set of Beats by Dr. Dre, which I bought some time ago before it was cool to do so. (Best. Headset. Ever).
Last note: I once swore a mighty oath that I would never have a tattoo. Oh, many years ago when Lorena Bobbitt was making the news, The Bride of the Bloviator threatened to have a certain part of my anatomy marked with words to the effect of “If found return to....” I always assumed she was kidding and never followed through. Well, now I possess not one but three tattoos. They’re small, and you'd have to know me really well to find them. (Which reminds me of another tattoo Deborah once said she'd let me get: “If you can read this you’re too close.”) But the radiation technicians inked me with navigational guides for the emitter, which has to be targeted precisely so as not to irradiate anything I would prefer not to see fall off. Who'd a thunk it. Glad I never placed any money on that no-tattoo bet.
Find the complete log of my medical journey here.