However, as my friend C., who has been through this, commented the other day, this is a rare time in my life to be an observer, to really notice and think about life - the positive, the difficult and the truly bizarre.
Listed below is a random list of some of the more absurd things I have observed and experienced in the last several weeks:
- My insurance company requires a letter from my doctor, including my diagnosis before they will reimburse me for my prosthesis (the prosthethis cost $350 and Medicare pays for $180). "Why is this necessary? Who would buy a prosthetic breast just for fun?" I asked what I thought were rhetorical questions. My spouse replied that it takes all kinds and that you never know what could turn up with a Google search. I don't dare try this.
- My anatomy was recently enhanced with a 'portacath', a disk with some tubes attached that are connected directly to a vein that goes to my heart. It was inserted beneath the skin, a couple of inches under my collar bone, on my left side. It makes chemo infinitely easier, as I can now use my arms during the hours I am receiving treatment and no longer experience the burning sensation that I did when chemo was infused into a vein in my arm. Chemo also hardens and shrinks the veins, so the portacath is saving me the trauma of being poked repeatedly as the nurses try to find a vein in my arm. My portacath is a really nifty thing but I do feel that I more closely related to the 'Borg' from Star Trek than I used to be.
- Acupuncture is supposed to help with nausea, so I thought I would try it out. I've been seeing a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine who has considerable experience working with cancer patients. He also has a considerable number of eccentricities. For example, the first time I saw him, he greeted me warmly, then handed me a piece of paper stating that, suspecting that someone was spying on him, he'd had a private security company in and they'd found listening devices all over his clinic (I have no idea if he is delusional or if this is true). Since that day, he asks that all his patients communicate with him in writing only -even while we are being treated. When he does talk, the doctor communicates chiefly in song titles: "You are always on my mind," and "I'll be waiting for you."
- At my last appointment, my very cool oncologist suggested that smoking dope would be the best thing to alleviate nausea and other side effects from chemo. My mother-in-law responded by couriering me a pot cookie.
- I took part in Look Good Feel Better, a free session put on by the cosmetics industry. The idea is that women in treatment will feel better if they can be shown a few tricks to look more like themselves. And you get lots of free stuff (I love getting free stuff). I thought it would be a lift, a bit of light-hearted fun (and so what if I left wearing more makeup than I usually apply in a month). However, the 'team leader' for my session was a martinet, barking out orders like we were in boot camp ('Apply mascara now!' 'Left hand on left eye! Right hand on right eye!'). I spent the whole session frantically trying to catch up (and giggling madly). When the martinet informed us that it was time for 'a moment of silence to remember the fallen', I stopped laughing. I doubt there was a participant in that room who needed to be reminded of the 'fallen.' Or who hasn't had many moments of silence filled with the fear we might join them.