The Red Devil is no joke.
Before I go on, I will wholeheartedly acknowledge that, thanks to a Facebook support group I joined after I got diagnosed, I KNOW this little demonic fucker has been much harder on other folx, and that I’ve had it rather easy in comparison to some.
But compared to my experience on the weekly Taxol treatments, OY. This shit sucks butts.
I will also acknowledge that some of my Red Devil suffering has been made worse by my own unrealistic expectations. I mean, I anticipated that I’d get hit a little harder with the Red Devil, of course—but I didn’t think I’d get hit so much . . . LONGER.
So I got my treatment on Tuesday, as usual, and despite the fact that the Benadryl is no longer part of the pre-med cocktail, I took a guh-LORIOUS nap during the first part of the treatment (and as a bonus, it wasn’t all restless and twitchy like it often is with the Benadryl). I woke up, however, for the infusion of the Red Devil; rather than slinging a pouch up onto my IV pole, hooking my port up to it, booping some buttons and walking away until something starts beeping, the nurse sat across from me (draping a pad across our laps, to ensure that none of the fluid leaked onto either one of us) with two GIANT syringes of red poison, which she pushed slowly into my port over the course of about 10 minutes.
Aside from development of a sudden headache—which made her pause the push for a couple of minutes until it faded—there really wasn’t much to it. But if you want to completely freak yourself out, Google “extravasation injury” (if you want to freak yourself out MORE and you’re not in the middle of dinner, do the image search)—which, my friends, is what happens when the drugs leak out of the blood vessel into the surrounding tissue. So while my supah-star nurse was pushing Satan into my soul, she frequently checked for blood return through my port, to ensure the port needle was in the right place and not poking a hole somewhere to let Lucifer leak free.
As soon as she was done, I excused myself to the restroom (I get a saline flush after each medication goes in, so there are a lot of loo visits during my treatments) . . . and my urine was already pink from the medication! (Luckily, I’d been warned about this, but was surprised by the immediacy of the rosé pee—which only lasted through the evening, but in order to avoid exposing my family to my still-toxic tinkle, I relegated myself to using only my en-suite bathroom, and flushed twice with the lid down after each use, for the next 48 hours.)
Because the Red Devil infusion only took 10 minutes, the entire visit went by pretty quickly, and I was back at home before I knew it. And because this was a new set of drugs, Love Tank had arranged not only to stay at home with me for the rest of the afternoon (which he always does on treatment days), but to work from home for the rest of the week, so he could be nearby (and pick up our little dude from school), since we weren’t sure exactly how the effects of these meds would roll out.
Tuesday afternoon, I secretly figured that probably wasn’t necessary; I did spend the rest of the afternoon (after lunch) in bed, but mostly because (a) I could, and (b) I wanted to see if I could relive that amazing infusion nap. I had another decent conk-out, but still managed to sleep through Tuesday night (which was ALSO a gift, because as you may recall, I typically stay awake all night on Tuesdays, contemplating all the mysteries of the universe, thanks to the steroids).
The TMI train is leaving the station.
By the end of Wednesday, though, I began to suspect that Love Tank had been right about working from home. I woke up Wednesday morning feeling kind of blecchy, but I leaned into the fact that I’d taken my anti-nausea drugs (even upgraded myself from the Zofran to the Compazine) and logged on for work as usual. I didn’t eat much during the day, because nothing sounded particularly good—but still, when my mom, with whom the boys and I usually have dinner (she treats us to takeout at her apartment) on Wednesdays, called mid-afternoon to see how I was feeling, and if I thought we’d make it, I assured her that we’d be there. By the end of the workday, however, I was pretty wiped, and decided a quick nap was in order before Grandma dinner . . .
. . . and I woke up an hour later feeling . . . not HORRIBLE, but several scoots closer to Hell. I called my mom and cancelled dinner, and stayed in bed for the rest of the evening (prompting Love Tank to skip his Wednesday night teaching gig—which made me feel bad, but by that point, I was beginning to trust his stay-at-home wisdom more and more).
Thursday morning, I again tried to start work (I generally start at 6 a.m., and take short breaks to shepherd my littler dude through his morning routine), but by the time I’d waved Love Tank and the wee dude off for their walk to school, I was ready to crawl back into bed. I made my excuses at work, and burrowed. My initial intention was to see what a couple of hours of rest would do for me, and maybe rejoin the Land of the Living after lunch . . .
. . . but that was not in the cards. I felt gross, food was gross, air was gross, life was gross. I’d made a couple of attempts to eat, but not only was food gross, it um . . . made a rather hasty retreat right back out of my body pretty much as soon as I put it IN there. (At the risk of going WAY overboard with this particular bit of TMI, I will say that I never puked . . . )
The thing was, that night was my young one’s premiere (and ultimate) performance as a duck in his school’s production of Turkey Lurkey—and I was NOT trying to miss it! I reasoned that if this kid could manage to stand on a stage and say/sing his lines even though HE was feeling crappy, I could sure as hell sit on a chair and watch him do it while I was feeling crappy.
(Oh, didn’t I mention? The boy is sick. The previous Saturday evening, Love Tank made some off-hand and apparently ABJECTLY CALLOUS remark to him, like, “We need to teach you to ride a bike when the weather warms up again, Buddy!” before blithely heading upstairs to get ready for our planned grown-up dinner out with friends. When I came DOWNstairs—ready to go myself—and encountered my little dude, he was bawling on the sofa about it. (That should have been my first clue that something was up with him, but I chalked it up to his personal brand of weirdness.) He requested a hug for comfort . . . and when I pulled him close, it was like snuggling Heat Miser. Took his temperature, and sure enough, he was Mister 101.4. The fever roller-coastered through Sunday; it broke early Monday morning and stayed gone (so he was able to return to school on Tuesday), but he continued to sound gravelly. When he arrived home from school on Thursday, he came up to my bed, crawled in next to me, and conked out almost immediately (and unlike his mama, this kid NEVUHHHH naps; hasn’t for half his life now, and he’s only six). An hour or so later, Love Tank woke him to ask what he, as the star of the evening, wanted for dinner (Sonic—always Sonic), and when Love Tank left the house to go pick it up, the poor kid passed back out! When the food arrived, I woke him again and sent him down for dinner, but stayed in bed myself (as part of my plan to conserve every ounce of energy I had for the play), until it was time to leave for the school—although as soon as I set foot on the first floor of our home and got a whiff of all the corn dogs, tater tots, and chicken fingers that had gone on down there, I damn near RE-lost the lunch I’d already given up hours before, so I had to head back upstairs and wait until everyone was shoes-and-coat ready to walk out the door, and then make a run for it, holding my breath. But I digress.)
So I rode through the gastrointestinal drama (skipping dinner—which wasn’t appealing, anyway—to avoid more of it), took myself to the school, and crossed my fingers I wasn’t in for The Mousetrap (which I doubted, what with a cast full of first graders with bedtimes).
Y’all, he did GREAT—and Sir was WEARING THAT DUCK HAT like a bawss:
Pork chopsPlain rice and applesauce
Friday played out much like Thursday—except I’d learned a few things from Thursday, and therefore didn’t really make any valiant attempts to eat like a normal person. (Luckily, I’d already seen the Friday hell forthcoming, and so I’d told my team as soon as I officially bailed on Thursday that I’d be out on Friday, too, and would see them after Thanksgiving, as I’d previously arranged to take the whole Thanksgiving week off.) Yet and still, my gut was a constant pendulum of cramp: when my stomach was empty, I’d have the kind of cramps you get when you’re damn near starving, to the point where it feels like your insides are gnawing away at themselves and the backstage side of your belly button is straining to kiss your spine after years of estrangement; but if I ate anything at all, the cramps would turn into the kind you get when you’re about to throw up, and your gut muscles clench up like a line of football players grunting and hurling themselves full force against a five-man blocking sled. Rinse. Repeat.
I will reiterate, though: I never threw up. Small favors.
Saturday, I felt a bit better, and made some attempts at normalcy, like accompanying Love Tank on an errand that would not require me to get out of the car—but I still felt pretty puny, so I continued eating very little and very carefully, sticking for a second day to just unsweetened applesauce, plain rice, chicken noodle soup, and water.
And y’all, my sweet little duck, in a grand show of solidarity, ate only plain white rice himself for dinner Saturday night.
(In reality, he probably just didn’t want whatever Love Tank and my elder dude were having, but I’m sticking with the solidarity story.)
But I digress. The point is, by Sunday, this business was really starting to get to me. On Thursday and Friday, I kept saying, “If this is as bad as it gets, I can handle it.” But I didn’t anticipate having to handle it for so LONG. I mean, by Sunday, I did feel better overall compared to Thursday and Friday, but rather than the post-treatment pattern I was used to—a steady, inchy progression towards normal once I hit my “Friday low”—this recovery was more of a “two steps forward, one step back” kinda deal, where each morning I’d wake up thinking that day was going to be the day I would start to get back to normal . . . and then I’d end up circling the drain again. In addition, whereas the weekend used to bring an end to the ick (leaving me a day or two of glory before the cycle started over again on Tuesday), my body was still on the struggle bus come Sunday night—and it took my mood straight into the ditch.
I was TIRED of fuggin’ RICE. SICK of friggin’ “chicken” (because come on, I’m supposed to buy that those gelatinous pink cubes actually come from a bird?) noodle soup. OVER applesauce. And most of all, I was FED UP WITH FEELING LIKE CRAP. It had been almost FIVE DAYS of this shit.
I hated everything.
But then . . .
Monday morning, when I woke up, the clouds let a little sunshine peek through. Oh, I didn’t fully trust it, because I’d already experienced a couple of “Oh, this is better!” mornings already, and that Sealy Posturepedic feeling didn’t last. But I did notice that my hunger felt “normal” (rather than the navel-to-spine thing I had going on before) and the cramping was gone—so, after a couple of hours of careful consideration (read: FEAR), I decided to try venturing beyond the rice diet.
For breakfast, I made myself some Cream of Wheat (in addition to prunes, cottage cheese, and candy corn, this is one of my lifelong Old Lady proclivities).
And it was kinda gross. And I felt kinda gross after. But I managed to (a) eat it all, and (b) move past the icky aftermath with the help of several sticks of peppermint gum (and by laying low and lunchless for the day), and by dinner, I was ready to try the black beans I’d simmered on Sunday in the hope that one day soon I’d be able to pair my rice with something a little more colorful.
It is ridiculous how excited I was for this dinner.
AND IT WAS GOOD, y’all! The black beans and rice tasted good. I felt good.
The black beans and rice tasted SO good that I gobbled down WAYYYY too much of it (third helping, anyone?), way too fast, and then I did NOT feel particularly good; but once again, the peppermint gum came to the rescue, and by bedtime, when all of those beans and their rice brethren were still inside my body, I chalked it up as a triumph.
(As a completely unnecessary aside, I was reminded, when I began inhaling my dinner on Monday night (fully aware that I could end up, er . . . exhaling it), of my 25th birthday party: Bobby, a kind veteran bartender at the restaurant where I worked, threw a joint party at his townhouse in honor of me and Mike, a fellow server with whom I share(d) a birthday. As if that weren’t enough, he gifted each of us a bottle of liquor—not like a cutesy little pint just for show, either, but like a fifth.
I got Rumplemintz.
Which I have not drunk since, and shall never drink again.
But a part of my psyche shall be forever grateful to Bobby, who was still my friend even after I lost my dinner in his guest room—and to Mike, who laughed with such kindness as he gingerly plucked bits of that dinner out of my long, curly hair while I sat, slumped and regretful, on Bobby’s staircase watching Bobby scrub black beans, rice, and cranberry juice out of his carpet.
Wherever you both are, I still love you—and unlike that night all those years ago, I’m saying that totally sober. But I digress.)
So here it is, Tuesday again, and although I woke up feeling a bit shaky (I felt good enough to drive the progeny (at the elder one’s request) to a bakery 20 minutes away for breakfast pastries, but stopped short of buying one for myself), I’ve decided I’m gonna live. And now, if nothing else, I have more of an indication of how I’ll need to adjust my work schedule going forward: I’m thinking maybe I just plan on taking off treatment days AND the week following each. Because truly, with last Tuesday’s treatment, it took until Monday for me to stop hating everything, and until TODAY for me to feel OK enough to try to behave like a human being (which I did today, by meeting a friend for a (no-raw-stuff) sushi lunch that would have been a lot cheaper had I realized that the only part of it I’d find enjoyable would be the avocado roll . . . but look at me, digressing).
Another plus, I suppose, is that now I have two more weeks until I start this business over again, which I think I’ll appreciate a little more deeply now.
The biggest silver lining in what I’ve experienced this past week, however, is that it’s given me an excuse to do very little except binge-watch ALLLLLLLLL the HEARTLAND. I mean days and days replete with Heartland! I’m still only on season 6, because although I’ve been watching it for years, I don’t watch it regularly—but I have made quite a bit of Heartland progress (which they call “PRO-gress” in Canada) this past week. It’s been immensely comforting. Heartland is like the mashed potatoes and gravy of television. The homemade mac and cheese of the small screen. Horses make everything better. (Nevermind that I’m afraid of them in real life.)
Slide some oil to me
In other news, since my last post, I’ve met with the amazing, adorable woman (at my age, it’s tempting to call her a girl, because she’s young enough to be my daughter—and I don’t mean in a “teenage pregnancy” way, either, I mean in an “I chose to establish my career and enjoy my 20s before having kids” way, so it kinda blows my mind that she’s a full-fledged adult) who’s going to be designing my outfit for the Bra Couture KC event in April of 2023. We can call her Galentino (although in real life, she has the same first name as one of my former bosses, which means when it came time to text her my measurements for my runway couture, guess who I accidentally sent them to instead? But anyway . . . ).
Galentino is a pure delight! And so, it seems, is her family: apparently her grandfather restores old motorcycles, and since I’m going with a motorcycle theme for my runway look (I tried for skulls, but that idea was kind of a bust for a CANCER-related event, so I offered up that my motorcycle is my happy place), she is a perfect match for me. Y’all, I’ma be wearing motorcycle parts ON MY HEAD. When Galentino first mentioned the idea, I was game, but a bit wary, because I didn’t want to wind up looking like Nipsey Russell in The Wiz. But then she sent a photo of the design elements she’d mined from her grandpa’s shop for my headpiece (which I like to think of as a crown) . . .
. . . and I was sold. The reflectors are EVERYTHING.
Aside from the headpiece, however, I will refrain from sharing any more spoilers about my runway design. I’ll just say that I’m really excited to see how everything turns out! My sister, who happened to be in town visiting, and so went with me to meet my designer for the first time, seems to think—based on eavesdropping on some of the conversations between the other models in the room and their designers—that my design is gonna be the best game in town, but there was A LOT of immense talent in that room. And to be fair, my sister’s a little biased; I mean, her idea of fun was shooting straight from the airport to the roller rink on the evening of her arrival in town, just to hang out with me and my kids at the smaller one’s school skate night and eat shitty rink pizza . . . which makes it obvious that she loves me and mine more than the average bear (hence the bias). So although I DO think my design is going to be FIRE, I think the rest of them will probably be equally spectacular. You know. Minus reflectors.
Gonads and strife
And speaking of fire—particularly as it relates to the flames of love . . .
Remember how I mentioned we’d gotten sweet new baby rats after the sad demise of our pandemic rats? Well, what I may NOT have mentioned was that when we get rats, we always get two girls. I always figured (based on my 1970s-era conventional dog owner wisdom) that two boys would constantly be fighting for dominance (although since the 70s, I’ve read that once a bunch of male dogs establishes a pack order, they pretty much stick with it, whereas it’s the GIRLS who are always fighting for dominance . . . but I digress)—and I had ZERO interest in what would happen if we got a girl AND a boy.
So when we went to the pet shop to get our new fuzzballs, we fished around in the tank of little baby rats, and came up with three girls. (It’s pretty easy to tell which are which, because male rats—even baby ones—tend to have VERY (indeed, disproportionately) obvious . . . boyness.) My children, of course, wanted to get all three, but we narrowed the field to two based on the fact that (a) two of them were almost identical (which means one of them would have to go, in order to avoid confusion), and (b) one of said “twins” was demonstrably less skittish than the other.
Off we rolled with two new rats, for whom we worked out names on the drive home (a conversation to which our children contributed the vast majority of suggestions), finally landing on Philly Roll for the gray one, and Hot Jack for the brown one.
When we got them home, we gave them a couple of days to stop freaking out about what I imagine they viewed as an alien abduction, and then my elder son started working his magic to socialize them (he’s really dedicated, and good at it). As part of that effort, if we were sitting around doing nothing, he would often bring one rat to me to play with while he played with the other one.
So there I was, chilling in my bed one evening, watching Philly Roll wander around on the bedspread (and watching diligently for droppings or drips), when I suddenly got a good, clear look at her backside and thought, “Why does it look like she’s growing . . . boyness???” (It wasn’t as obvious as the boys in the pet store, but . . . boyish nonetheless.)
I pointed this out to my son (only later imagining him at age 27, sitting on a therapist’s couch and saying, “I think it all started when I was 14 years old and my mom made me check out rat genitalia . . . “), and his eyebrows raised. “OH . . . !” he exclaimed, before handing Hot Jack over to me and taking Philly Roll downstairs to show Love Tank—who is apparently the official Arbiter of Rat Boyness (I was going to say “Rat Sex,” but there was a possible interpretation there that wasn’t quite working) in this household.
He came back with the news that Love Tank, too, suspected Philly Roll was packin’ balls.
I looked down into my hands at sweet little Hot Jack.
Since then, SO FARRRRR, there have been no midnight Barry White parties in the corner of my office (where the rat cage lives) that I know of . . . but it’s only a matter of time, I’m guessing. Although, maybe, with the comparatively small jewels Philly Roll is packin’, there may be some fertility issues? At any rate, I’m now wondering about the cost and logistics of neutering a rat. I mean, what do you say to the vet? “We thought we were getting a girl, so please cut those off”???
Gritty, grimy gratitude
I will say that aside from the surprise cojones, the Universe has actually been delivering quality gifts to me—most recently in the form of good-ass friends.
After my last post, SO many of you reached out with offers to clean my house that I honestly felt a little guilty; I hadn’t made the post to compel anyone to help, but rather just to vent about the fact that my pathetic little “vacation” plans had been thwarted (although, after this past week, I’m glad things happened the way they did, because if I had gotten treatment TODAY as I’d originally planned, Thanksgiving would be RUINED). So of course I politely declined the numerous offers to spic and span my stuff . . .
. . . until one particularly bossy friend (who started out texting me about it, but then actually CALLED to give me a good talking to when I kept foisting her off) came at me with the offer of professional housecleaning services. She and a group of mutual friends, who’d been looking for ways to help, had come together and decided that this was a good way to do it. She was recruiting her OWN housekeeper, and the group would split the cost for her to get my shit shining.
I explained that, although my house was (and still is) currently kind of a disaster, what I really needed was not so much someone to dust, vacuum and mop, but rather someone to go deep: to scrub my walls (that’s the big one); to scrape the scritch from baseboards and corners; to wipe down cabinet doors; to clean the OUTSIDE of the fridge (and beneath and behind it)—that kind of stuff.
“She can do that,” my friend said.
So by golly I’m gonna let ‘er. I’ve made a list. Turns out the hardest part is working out a time, because between the housecleaner’s work and school schedule, and my treatment and other drama (like kids with fevers), we haven’t been able to land on a good day/time for her to come. But I’m hopeful that by my next treatment, I’ll be able to lick the wall behind my refrigerator.
And I sincerely thank the hell out of all of you who offered to help. You are amazing. You’re just, apparently, not bossy enough. 😂
The countdown begins
Other than all of the above, the only other news I have is that my plan for the boys’ countdown-to-Christmas calendars is set, the stuff is purchased/arranged, and now, once this week (during which they are both at home all day errday) is over, I can start filling those suckers up. If you know me, you know that this is HUGE, as typically I’m scrambling on November 30 to get my shit together (because as you also know, I can get kind of elaborate with these bad boys, so I often make the plan way in advance, but then falter when it comes to the timing of the execution). And I suppose I could still end up scrambling with execution on November 30, but at least I won’t still be buying stuff halfway through the month for the days toward the end of the month, and praying Amazon pulls through. AND, knowing I have another treatment (read: another Hell Week) coming the first week in December, I’ve even worked out the plan so that none of the calendar goodies for the 8 days following my treatment require any effort or participation on my part. Look at me go!
Now, I just have to get my mom’s countdown calendar arranged (I started that tradition during the 2020 holiday season, what with so much time to engage in projects at home), but I have a plan for that, too: tomorrow, I’m giving each of the boys a budget, and setting them loose to find 24 Grandma-tastic items to stuff her Advent drawers.
Let the season begin!
Lots of gratitude, love, and merry to you all, as always.