If, after reading the title of this post, you immediately started singing this song in your head, you are my people.
But look at me, already digressing, when I have BIG—er, actually, SMALLER—news:
My tumor has shrunk by 30%. Yeah, BABY!
While I myself could see and feel the tumor getting smaller (i.e., the dent in my boob that started this whole chain of events was less noticeable, and I had to dig around a little to feel the lump, which had previously been detectable with a much lighter touch), MY anecdotal assessment seemed—as Love Tank put it—rather “unscientific.”
Mama wanted PROOF.
And last Wednesday, I got my wish; I went in for an ultrasound to measure progress, and both the breast mass and the rogue lymph node measured smaller than they were at the outset of this fun adventure (the lymph node was not as much of an achiever, having only shrunk by about 9%, but it was smaller to begin with—so small that the first radiologist missed it, as you’ll recall—and hey, smaller is smaller, so I’ll take it). Like most things that have come up during this experience, it’s hard to know EXACTLY how worked up I should get about it, because I haven’t talked to Dr. Cool-and-Calm (my oncologist) about it yet—but I’m counting it as good news! Not MIRACULOUS news, like the liquefaction of ancient saint blood or the appearance of Jesus on a piece of toast—or even like Ric Ocasek’s freaky-looking ass somehow landing the likes Paulina Porizkova as a wife and mother to his children—but good.
In other medical news, I’ve stopped taking the Gabapentin. After I discovered, thanks to my friend Dr. Awesome Pants, that the Gabapentin does nothing to stop or reverse chemo-related nerve damage (which I didn’t understand when it was prescribed), but rather only masks the symptoms thereof, I wanted to get a clear idea of just how bad the neuropathy in my hands and feet actually WAS.
The good news THERE is that so far, it’s not bad; it’s still what I’d call mild, and mostly in my feet rather than my fingers, so I haven’t been required to ask Love Tank to button my clothing for me.
(Which is good, because just thinking about that gives me traumatic flashbacks to my freshman year in high school, when I played clarinet in the marching band. After a particularly frigid halftime show—during which it was so cold I couldn’t move my fingers on my clarinet keys and didn’t even bother to blow into it (both because my lips were frozen and because, due to the finger issue, I wouldn’t have hit the correct notes anyway)—I found myself unable to get out of my band uniform, as there was no way I could manage the fasteners with my frozen digits.
Enter my sweet dad, who attended every game (I’d like to say it was to cheer me on—and to some extent it was—but I’m betting the football part held more appeal for him than the part where I and a bunch of my fellow nerds marched in the shape of a (likely lopsided and only marginally identifiable) rotating sunflower while tooting out an ersatz version of Sussudio). As I stood in the band section of the bleachers, shivering and humiliated, rendered helpless as I was by my utter popsiclization, he extracted me from my band uniform (beneath which I was FULLY dressed, I mean it wasn’t butt-in-the-wind humiliating or anything) and wrapped me in his parka until I thawed out enough for my cheeks to be reddened by mortification rather than windburn. By that time, thankfully, the second half of the game was about over, and I could go home and burrow under the covers, mentally replaying the shame of reliving my toddlerhood in front of my peers, until I fell asleep. But I digress.)
I will say, though, that I now understand why some folx refer to the neuropathy as “painful.” When I first started experiencing it, I wouldn’t have described it that way at all, and I found it odd that other people did. “I feel numbness,” I told Love Tank, “but there’s no PAIN.”
Last night, however, I felt . . . STILL not PAIN, per se, but a mild ACHE in my toes that wasn’t there before. Luckily, I’m two treatments away from the end of the Taxol treatments, and Dr. Cool-and-Calm tells us that the next combination of meds—while it offers a whole host of other potential atrocities—does not cause neuropathy, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to ride to the end of Phase 1 with little to no permanent damage.
I used to say . . . she and she . . . now it’s I . . . now it’s me . . .
(Again, if you’re channeling Baby Michael Jackson right now, we are soulmates.)
So in sadder news, over the past few weeks (and couple of blog posts), both of my sweet rats have died.
We got them during the pandemic. After a couple of rounds of less-than-stellar luck with a couple of other pairs of rats who didn’t live very long at all—although one of them, Lawd hammercy, spent TWOOO LONG DAYYYYYS dying; I actually created a little rat sling (similar to the kind parents use to tote around their newborns) to keep her close to me, because eventually I needed my hands back so I could work—we got these girls, who’d been with us a couple of years. (Actually, it wasn’t so much less-than-stellar LUCK that caused us to cycle through the previous rat pairs so quickly, but rather less-than-stellar education; we’d been choosing rats from pet store enclosures labeled “jumbo,” thinking that “jumbo” indicated a breed of rat, when actually it indicated age of rat—so once we realized that the smallest rats were not, in fact, destined to be tiny forever, but were literally just BABIES (and that we’d essentially been buying rats that were kinda long in the tooth by choosing the jumbos), we chose these two little guys (or gals, I should say), and had much better “luck” keeping them alive.)
Rickets went first, on the day our littler human split his head open on the playground at school. I think maybe I didn’t have the energy to hit y’all with ALL of that during the last blog post, but yep. That was a day of more dramas than one. I’d started watching her closely that morning, because she seemed a little lethargic, and was sticking to one area of the cage. I’d managed to get her to nibble some snacks with a decent degree of enthusiasm, but still, she wasn’t really interested in moving around much. So I figured I’d keep an eye on her, and if she didn’t pep up soon, I’d get my rat sling back out.
My initial fear was that she’d been hurt worse than I thought on a day, maybe a week or so prior, when her ding-dong ass FELL OUT of the cage onto the floor. Unlike her sister, Pleurisy, Rickets has always been more of an introverted homebody type; whereas Pleurisy popped to the front of the cage whenever anyone approached, and would crawl out onto your hand if you opened the door, Rickets always hung back (and made you pluck her out of the cage yourself if you wanted to hold her). You could leave the cage door open for six years and she’d never venture out, whereas Pleurisy would be out and crawling around on top of the cage within six seconds. So one day, when I had taken Pleurisy out and put her on the floor of my office to let her explore a little, leaving the cage door open, I was surprised to hear a soft THUD and see Rickets on the floor! Although she seemed to have landed on all fours, she was standing stock still, looking rather shocked by this turn of events.
I rushed over and picked her up to see if she was OK, and she emitted a loud SQUEAK, which startled me enough that I dropped her back onto the floor, and the drama started all over again. While I fussed over her and got her back into the cage (which took no more than like FOUR MINUTES tops), Pleurisy saw an opportunity to fuggin’ DISAPPEAR and WENT FOR IT. That little whozit managed to get her ass ALL THE WAY to the second floor of my house and into my bedroom (where I unwittingly trapped her, because the first thing I did when I realized she was on the lam was to run around the house and close all the doors so I wouldn’t have to look in EVVVVVERY nook and cranny for her), resulting in half a day of panic searching for THAT damn rat after panicking that the OTHER damn rat had given herself a concussion. In the end, though, Pleurisy was found, and Rickets seemed to be OK . . .
. . . but then, a week or so later, she didn’t seem to be so OK. Instead of carrying HER around in a miniature sling, however, I spent the day in the ER with a blood-crisped child, and by the time we got back home, Rickets had gone to meet her maker. (I was pleased to find that Pleurisy had kept a respectful distance; decades ago, one of my rats died while I was at work, and by the time I got home, the other rat had EATEN HER HEAD. That was perhaps the moment I knew Love Tank was a keeper, because although he had no matrimonial obligations to me back then, he took care of the situation while I fled to Pier 1. But I digress.)
Once Rickets was gone, we started talking about whether or not to get Pleurisy (who seemed a little depressed after the loss) a new sister. In the meantime, we tried to give her extra attention and play with her as much as we could in the absence of her old sister . . .
. . . but then this past Friday, my elder son (who always goes into my office to greet the rats before he leaves for school) brought Pleurisy to me on the couch (where I’d stationed myself to spend my day of rest, since I wasn’t working) and suggested I keep an eye on her, because she was making a wheezing noise as she breathed, hadn’t come out of her hammock to greet him when he opened the cage and started talking to her.
So I hung out with her on my chest, and within the hour, she had gone to join her sister in the big sewer in the sky—as confirmed by Love Tank who, since that long-ago horrible rat head-eating incident, seems to have established himself as the Rodent Death Handler in our household.
Now my children won’t stop asking when we’re getting new rats, as if it’s a given, like when we run out of dog food or strawberry jam: “Hey, we’re out of rats.”
Giftin’ and Upliftin’
So that’s about the size of it: the tumor is shrinking, as (temporarily) has our number of pets (we’re down to two dogs and a snake; practically an empty nest)—but my appreciation for y’all just keeps swellin’, as you continue to send notes I can’t keep up with, gifts I’m remiss in thanking you for, and so much love.
The big, gorgeous earrings are still rolling in (although the full-on alopecia has yet to arrive; it’s making its way in slowly, so although I’m still shaving my head occasionally, I’ve noticed I’m unintentionally rockin’ my ’90s eyebrows again (my Gen X ladies remember what I mean), and have finally achieved the “occasional-shave” legs I wished for in the ’80s as opposed to the “daily-shave” ones I actually had), and I’d be horribly remiss if I didn’t mention THEEEE PERFECT gift from Love Tank in honor of my new blog domain:
Other than that, I’m gearing up for treatment 11 today; one more after that, and then a BREEEEEEAK before I start the next treatment phase.
I think I mentioned I’m taking a week off work during that break to clean the schnizz out of my house during that time . . . but did I mention I have a BLACK LIGHT for the occasion?
Mama didn’t come to play.
(Although, knowing Mama, she will actually play (read: sleep and Netflix binge) more than she means to, and only manage to get half the cleaning done that she has planned. But right now, I’m looking at my schedule for Cleaning Week, and making a list of supplies I’ll need to order within the next couple of weeks. Whoever invented Mr. Clean Magic Erasers can go ahead and start shopping for that second yacht now.)
All the love, thanks, Xes and Os!