Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Yippy Dogs and Gypsies

Posted Aug 28, 2008 2:32pm

Funny thing about this cancer, it never lets you ignore its existence. It’s as though I cheerfully agreed to pet-sit a spoiled, yippy dog for the rest of my life, and didn't realize what I was getting myself into. Never satisfied, it nips at my heels when I try to walk away, yelps for no reason in the middle of the night, and growls whenever I consume anything that is not potentially curative to my condition. My life and work go on as usual, but we are both bound by the leash, and I’m never quite sure which of us holds the controlling end.

One of the few things I collect is Tarot cards; apart from any mystical correlation, they are like mini-galleries of the art, history, and the mythology of different cultures. The first card of the Tarot is “The Fool,” (on our modern deck, the Joker), a wanderer who dreamily gazes at the sky while nearly stepping off the edge of the cliff. He represents that part of us that operates on intuition, hope and faith, and connects the real world to the imaginary.

Across cultures, this card illustrates a little dog at his heels, a constant companion that is always ready to warn him of impending danger so he can safely continue his adventurous life. In my Fool’s journey, I always have faith and hope, occasionally pat the yippy dog on the head, and thank this annoying critter for reminding me to do everything I can do to stay on track and get well.

The positive side of this is that it forces me to be more creative in designing each day, and communicating that I can still function, despite this pest. I am repeatedly surprised during follow up calls to patients that seemed to have fallen off the map this summer. They typically ask, “Oh, are you back at work??” My goodness, I never left! Each surgery was on a Thursday or Friday, and I was back to work the following Wednesday – just a couple of long weekends off, shorter than most summer vacations. Sorry - I'm not sure what I said or didn’t say to confuse the issue, but I am trying to clarify it.

So I’ve sent out blast-emails with cheery promotions to let everyone know the office is still open, I’m alive and plugging along as usual. In case anyone is afraid of what they may see, be assured to know I even look a little healthier than usual. I’ve been quite faithful to the eat-all-you-want-of-the-foods-you-hate-diet, dropped a couple of pounds, and the profuse sweating from the hot flashes gives my skin an extra special glow.

August was a little wild on the dietary side, but I used my birth-month as an excuse. (Leo’s have an entire month to be worshiped for their existence, as opposed to common non-Leo folk, who get only a day.) I had thought a diet consisting mostly of vegetables was supposed to enhance my state of serenity, so you can imagine my surprise when the sight of kohlrabi made me hostile. I lightened up a little on the strict diet for a while, but now I’m back to the healthy routine. I do feel a lot better, and I attribute some of that to the distant, sweet memory of TJ’s peanut butter malted milk balls.

I’m happy to say that I snapped out of the recent hair panic episode after receiving a beautiful, burnt-orange pashmina shawl as a birthday gift. Suddenly inspired by a brief scene about a sultry violin-playing gypsy in a recent movie, I thought, “Hey, I bet this would look good on my head!” After a few flips and wraps and ties, my head was wrapped in a stunning turban-like configuration with its long tails and fringe cascading down the front of my shoulder. Add some big earrings, and hand me a violin. Oh boy… I dug into my assortment of colorful shawls, scarves and sarongs that have been hidden away for far too long. Only the tablecloths escaped my wrapping frenzy.

Dave came in at the point where I had completed the task with a cherry red cut velvet shawl, its beaded tassels falling into my forehead in a dripping crown. I announced it was my “Christmas hair” and he shared my excitement (or at least humored it sufficiently). This could be more fun than wigs.

Tomorrow I have my first chemo oncology appointment with Dr. Ong, and on September 12 I meet with Dr. Goldstein, the radiology oncologist. From there my treatment arrangements for the next year will unfold. I’m planning a visit to the east coast from Sept. 26 to Oct. 5, divided between a visit with my family and a girls’ trip, so I don’t want to start any treatments until after I get back. These first visits are preliminary, as there is a lot of preparation involved, so I think I’ll be right on schedule.

Rumor has it that not everyone loses their hair. That would be nice, but I may wear the head wraps just because they look so cool. My understanding so far is that even with chemo, most people stick pretty close to their regular work schedule, although maybe not with their usual pep. So the office is open, we’re as social as ever, and you never know what I’ll have on my head!