The “little c” chronicles, Part 6: Small surprises

Hey, there! Been awhile, huh? As I said in the last post, I’ve always anticipated a point when all the early-stage whirly-whirl that immediately followed the diagnosis would slow down, and I’d reach a point where I didn’t have much news to share.

And that point is kind of now, in terms of any new medical developments.

Absent any tests, scans, or results thereof, the only things I have to report are minor things (mostly weirdnesses) that count more as anecdotal babble than medical updates:

  • I’m halfway done with Round 1! I’ve now undergone 6 out of 12 weekly treatments, after which I’ll get a short break, and then start treatments at 21-day intervals for the following 12 weeks.

  • I can crack my knuckles again. If you’re one of the folx who have known me for decades, you might remember my constant cracking. And due to my own special brand of weirdness, for most of my life I took particular pleasure in being able to crack all of my base knuckles and middle knuckles in one “popping” (not ALL AT ONCE, Lawd, no; I mean one at a time with no “holdouts” that failed to emit a satisfying POP sound).

    But as I’ve grown older, particularly within the past 5 years or so, I’ve found that not only are what I used to call “perfect pops” a thing of the past, but more often than not, most of my knuckles won’t pop at all; I squeeze, and I get all PAIN, no pop.

    It’s probably been a good thing, really, because it’s broken me of the habit . . . mostly. I still give it a shot every now and then . . .

    . . . which is how I discovered, sometime over the past couple of weeks, that the boys are back in business! Now my knuckles crack with ease . . . and I’ve even experienced the heady (er, knuckly) rush of a perfect pop or two! It’s like being 15 again (although I’m not sure I really want that in ANY way other than this . . . and maybe pant size)!

  • Steroids are a helluva drug. As you may recall, my weekly chemo treatments for this first round are on Tuesdays. And typically, even though I sleep through most of the treatment (thanks to the Benadryl they give me beforehand), and then take another nap after I get back home (BECAUSE I CAN), I have no issues going back to sleep at bedtime.

And, OK, I still don’t have any issues going to SLEEP at bedtime . . . but for the past two Tuesdays, I have been popping back awake after an hour or two, and then staying awake ALL NIGHT LONG, thinking deeply about ALL THE THINGS, and feeling AMAAAAAZING. Like, “I could go for a run right now!” amazing (except I don’t, because it’s like 2 a.m.). Then I generally fall back asleep an hour or two before I have to wake up for the day.

I’m attributing this new midnight mania to the steroids they pump into me just prior to treatment. I guess my body’s decided to take advantage of them. So far, I don’t mind it (because I’m always in a great mood as I’m coming up with profound philosophical wisdom in my head all night), but eventually it might start to make me kind of a wreck on Wednesdays.

  • Alas, the once-sweet Benadryl is no longer a helluva drug. In counterpoint to the late-night euphoria provided by the steroids, I have also been experiencing bummer Benadryl naps. Previously, I’d knock out immediately and, aside from a few trips to the loo (after some experimentation with other areas of the chemo ward, I’m discovering the Bathroom Bay is my favorite), enjoy blissful oblivion for most of the treatment, typically waking about half an hour before time for Love Tank to take me back home. However, the other thing that’s been happening for the past two Tuesdays is that while I still sleep through most of the treatment once the Benadryl kicks in, the sleep is restless and wiggly. I get a lot of restless leg going on, which makes me flip and flop around in my recliner, because it’s hard to get comfortable. And the sleep itself is not so much the bliss of yore, but rather a kind of groggy anxiety.

I guess everything’s a trade-off.

At any rate, as I said, no real new medical news to report.

So instead, I’ve been focused on getting my blog moved over to this new domain, kindly purchased for me by Love Tank, who coined the moniker for me when I shaved my head.

Bonus content: The Story Behind the Name

Many, many years ago, when my life was full to overflowing with a small house I'd bought myself, an office-based day job, a coffee shop side gig, and a spoiled dog, I joined an online message board, sponsored by Petsmart, to talk with other dog people about my dog, Ezra, and the awesomeness of dogs in general. 

Per common practice on the site, my user name was Ezra's Mom (I mean, some people went rogue and called themselves ONLY by their dog's name, and sometimes people with multiple dogs would actually be bold and eschew the de rigueur naming convention so as not to play favorites, but for the most part, the only variations to the practice were for dog DADS—or for British people, who used "Mum" instead of "Mom" . . . but I digress). 

As I spent more time on the site and developed my first little cyber friendships, people on the message board began abbreviating my name, referring to me as EM. 

At some point during that time, my sister became pregnant, AND I WAS THRILLED. And because by that time, I'd developed some pretty solid friendships on the message board (some of us sent each other Christmas gifts!) I shared the news there and, knowing I was from Kansas, some clever cyber friend asked, "So can we call you AUNTIE EM now?" 

I loved it more than cheese.

So, when I decided to branch out and join another message board (this time without a single focus, such as dogs, but more just a space for super-smart, liberal nerdy types to showcase their oddity and intellect), guess what I chose for my user name? AUNTIE EM! 

And it was that user name that first captured the attention of Love Tank, who was lurking in the corners of the site. He thought perhaps I shared his enthusiasm for the Oz books by L. Frank Baum (and I had no such proclivity—which he learned the hard way when he tried name-dropping some of the more obscure book characters to woo me (see? oddity and intellect), and I had no idea what he was talking about—but somehow I snagged him anyway). 

Occasionally, over the years, Love Tank will still refer to me as Auntie Em; however, now that Ezra (that weird-ass dog) is long gone, and my sister's children are adults, I have a new "Auntie" moniker to roll with, at least for now. 

Ya gotta admit, it works.

Who loves ya, Baby?

Ohhh, yeah, so it’s probably obvious by now (especially for those of you who saw Love Tank’s post on Facebook a couple of weeks ago) that I am in full-on Kojak mode.

I’d gotten to a point where my clothing, pillow, and anywhere I lay my head to rest became instantly adorned with multiple strands of my hair. Love Tank joked that if I were suspected of a crime and the Fuzz needed DNA evidence to bring me down, all they’d have to do to get a sample would be to walk behind me for half a block in a mild wind.

Same, I guess, if someone wanted to put a spell or curse on me. But I digress.

Point is, my hair had begun falling out at an alarming rate—running fingers through it would get you a handful of it (“How does that not HURT you?” Love Tank wondered aloud), and a BRUSH? A brush would get you enough to knit a small dog sweater.

So I decided it was time for the hair to go — because of the rate at which my scalp seemed to be setting it free, yes — but more specifically because it needed washing, and there was no scenario in which I could imagine that happening without me winding up mostly bald, anyway: if I kept my weekly blow-out appointment, the force of the dryer would likely blow 70% of my hair off my head and directly into the face of the poor, innocent lady in the next chair—and if I were to try to wash it myself, the mere attempt to detangle my wet tresses in the shower would result in a drain full of Cousin Itt and a foggy mirror full of Gollum:

So a couple of weeks ago, after an uneventful dinner at home, my little family and I had a low-key Mama-shearing party. My older son had been QUITE eager to be the one to shave my head when the time came, and I was fine with that, but Love Tank astutely (and privately) pointed out that if I thought I might cry, I shouldn’t let the boy do it, because making his mother cry would only make him feel awful (and y’all remember age 14—there is no shortage of things to feel awful about, with those kind of hormones whipping around). So Love Tank ended up doing most of the honors.

Both of my younger dudes did, however, get to chop off quite a bit of the length before the shearing began in earnest. (Amazing how the YOUNGER-younger dude enjoyed participating in chopping my hair off, since HE’s the one who burst into tears when I told him, earlier in the day, that we were going to get to shave my hair off after dinner!)

Somewhat surprisingly, I did not cry, and I gotta say, I’m not mad at the results!

“Dude, you are going to be in SO MUCH TROUBLE when she sobers up . . . ” (I kid! Sadly, I haven’t had a drink since starting chemo. Sigh.)
Headed out for post-shearing shakes in my debut statement earrings from Kenya.

I’m pleased to announce that my bare scalp did not reveal any weird lumps, dents, or ripples—just a mole I already knew about, and a small scar I’d forgotten about, from stitches when I was a kid. So I don’t half mind being bald! It eliminates all the sturm und drang around trying to shower without ruining my blowout, and I can pretty much walk out the door to anywhere without having to check and see if I need to wrangle my hair first. I just rock a ball cap (because Love Tank, who has a few years of baldness experience on me, reminds me I need sun protection) or go straight-up Mr. Ms. Clean, as I have decided head wraps aren’t for me—and thanks to the deluge of statement earrings that have flowed my way from people I love, I think I’m kinda rockin’ this shit.

One thing that HAS been a bit surprising is the fact that my hair keeps growing back! I guess I thought that shaving it would somehow signal to my follicles that it was OK to just go ahead and give up production—BUT IT HAS NOT, so I still have to take an electric shaver to my pate every once in awhile, to get my Kojak back.

Hoops and dangles and bling! Oh, my!

No matter what complaints I may have about this whole adventure (eat my shorts, Benadryl), I can never, EVER complain that I’ve felt unloved! So many of you have sent messages and other goodies that have been carrying my heart and ass through this business in a way that leaves me—not gonna lie—feeling kind of arrogant about the number of amazing people who like me, but also humbled and grateful.

And when I said I wanted statement earrings, Y’ALL UNDERSTOOD THE ASSIGNMENT:

The ONLY earrings on this rack that I owned prior to diagnosis are the silver hoops at the top left.

And that’s not even ALL of them! I just bought this rack a couple of days ago, and it was basically inadequate from jump (good thing it was only 10 bucks). But at the very least, this will give my little dude—who gets to choose my earrings for outings (so far, he’s partial to the Kenyan ones at bottom left, the orange tasselly ones at bottom right, and the black stars on the bottom row)—a little more visibility to most of the options, which were previously jumbled up in a basket.

So thank you, accessory patrons, for hooking (yuk yuk) a bald gal up! Y’all are magical.

Costume Conundrum

NOW all I have to do is figure out how to parlay my new look into a Halloween costume! I mean, the options are legion:

  • Uncle Fester (of course)
  • Mr. Clean
  • Kojak
  • Daddy Warbucks
  • Yul Brynner
  • Sinead O’Connor
  • Shel Silverstein
  • Captain Picard
  • Caillou (although that could get me murdered, annoying little bastard that HE is)
  • Bull from Night Court

One friend pointed out that I could don a bike helmet, spend a few hours in the sun, and go as George from Alien Nation (which I kinda love) . . .

. . . however, thanks to another friend, who sent a couple pairs of funky sunglasses (in addition to a deluge of earrings) to complement my new look, I quite accidentally stumbled upon the best costume of all . . .

When the package with the sunglasses arrived, my elder dude brought them up to me in bed (I’ve been fortunate thus far to only have spent a couple of (baaaaad) days confined to the bed—but that doesn’t mean I don’t take advantage of this situation to camp out up there on most evenings after work). I unwrapped them and donned a pair, and instantly both of my kids cracked the F up. Having not seen myself yet, I picked up my phone, turned the camera on, and flipped it to get a glimpse of what I looked like . . . and what to my wondering eyes should appear but (where are my old-school Sesame Street people?) a Bip Bippadotta backup singer!

No, not the pink Mahna Mahna cow creatures—these guys.


I’m not going to go quitting my day job or anything, but I think I have a halfway decent side gig possibility, here.

Anyway, that’s what’s up for now: rockin’ the clean dome, settling into a groove with the treatments, and counting the days until November 1, when I’ll get my last Round 1 chemo treatment, and then commence a short break before starting the second chemo round. Is it weird that I’m planning a week off work during that time—to clean my house? I’m legit SO EXCITED about it. Those dog hair tumbleweeds behind the fridge are going DOWN.

As always, thank you for being here! It means more than you know.

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