Catching up with me

Tommy Roe DizzyI missed my book club meeting tonight. It’s nice to feel some semblance of normalcy to my life, and that includes getting out once in a while and socializing. I’ve been lucky to be able to keep up with my pared-down calendar for this long; but now that I am smack in the middle of my chemotherapy schedule, it has become clear I can’t keep on doing it all. It’s caught up with me. I need to limit my activities, especially if they involve anything physical, and that is the new normal.

As I’m fond of saying, if this is as bad as it gets, I’m very fortunate.

So, fatigue is the main thing—no pain, no nausea, nothing horrendous, just a lot of sleep. I did have a health adventure last week pretty much unrelated to the chemo: extreme dizziness, which turned out to be Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Have you heard of it? Apparently, little calcium crystals live in our inner ears, and they can get stuck in the wrong position and impede the flow of the liquid in the semicircular tubes that tell our brain where we are in space. I was thrilled to be diagnosed for once with something beginning with the word “benign.” Better still, it was cured (!) by a simple physical maneuver that took all of 2 minutes to apply. Best medical success story since being told my liver would grow back in 6 to 8 weeks!

I’ve completed the first chemo infusion of Round 4, which, if you think of my chemo schedule as an LP—which, of course, I do—means I’ve just flipped the record and played the first song on side two. If I’d thought of this metaphor sooner, I’d have had time to explain the nearly week-long or two-week-long gaps between the songs, but I’ve got nothin’. The record is skipping? I’ll work on it.

Vertigo soundtrack coverIn any case, I’m now officially in the second half. Some say I’m on the homestretch. I appreciate the optimism, and am pretty optimistic myself, but that’s kind of like heading to LA on the I-5 and thinking you’re almost there when you pass that big, smelly cow ranch. I’ve got to practice patience more than ever and just know that even though it doesn’t feel like it, this is healing. And it will be over soon in the overall scheme of things.

There will be celebrating, to be sure—a big party for all the kind people who have helped me through this, at the very least. But for now, I’ll continue to take it a day, an hour, a moment at a time.

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Love conquers all

Awesome Singles LoveWell, dear readers, Internet is down at home with no solution in sight, so I’ll put together a quick update here at the office. No real theme this time except to bring you up to date on the events of a very busy week. I swear all of this happened since I last posted:

We got a new director at work, after 20 months in limbo, and I couldn’t be happier. Not only am I glad to have the uncertainty settled, and glad for the prospect of having actual co-workers, but I am also really pleased with the choice. I’m feeling so much better about work already. Wonderful news!

My friend Jane took me out for a fabulous V-Day lunch, and the blog broke records. The Grindr is off my phone again — what was I thinking? — and I disconnected from all the dating sites. What a relief. I finished 1Q84.

Speaking of connecting with people the old-fashioned way, the Singles Awesomeness Day party was a smashing success, beyond all expectations. It was really and truly a mind-blowingly positive experience and represented, for me anyway, kind of a seismic shift. After an evening of drinking, laughing, sharing experiences, and eating Wheat Thins with about 15 very together, happy, self-loving singles (from 11 different countries, no less!), I honestly feel different about being single now. I know I’m not alone. I’m in good company, and there are no limits to the kinds of connections I can make with other people. Others had similar reactions.

I had the next day off and spent it in Napa with a dear girlfriend. I was reminded I’d traced a similar route almost exactly a year before on what would turn out to be the last such trip with my last boyfriend. What was interesting and somewhat new, though, was finding I could look back on that trip and that boy with loving fondness, without feeling sad or lonely or that I was somehow missing out by being single. It was a great day.

Sunset, Sonoma, February 2011I was still riding that high yesterday when I got the call — 3 months to the day since I got the all-clear from my last surgery — with a repeat of the infamous Dia de los Muertos diagnosis. Yup, ‘fraid so.

The exact-sameness of the circumstances was kind of eerie: routine visit to the dermatologist, didn’t look like anything too serious, but let’s test it anyway, a call 2 days later to say it was melanoma, surprise, the surgeon will be calling to schedule something…only this time, less explaining was needed since I’ve just gone through it all.

I’m not particularly worried they can’t get it all again (this one is independent of the last one, which is good news…or at least less bad). It was caught early, I think — hey, 3 separate experts each gave me a full body check just a few months ago and none of them caught it, which means it probably wasn’t there — but I am really not looking forward to going through that whole process again. Surgery is not fun.

It’s also more than a little disturbing to wonder how many more of these buggers I’ve got lurking. I’m not so vain — well, ok, maybe I am — but who wants to get a chunk of their flesh cut out and sewn back together every few months? Thank you, sweet boy, for saying my scar was sexy the other night, but really, scars are not sexy.

So, once again, wish me luck. The surgery is not scheduled yet, but chances are good I’ll be out of commission or recovering and not doing any yoga pretty much the whole month of March.

Addendum (March 6, 2012): The surgery is scheduled for March 21. I liked it better when they rushed me through the process really fast…feeling just a little less special this time around.

Addendum (March 13, 2012): Make that March 16. And all kinds of tests beforehand. They can’t be sure this new one is independent of the last one, so are doing every test in the book to find out.

November challenge

Dia de los Muertos San FranciscoPosting on here as much as usual, around once a week, has been something of a challenge so far this month. I knew it would be busy because I was taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge — that’s National Novel Writing Month, and it’s a race to write 50,000 words in 30 days. You don’t get a big prize at the end, but you do get bragging rights. And you get to write a rough draft of that novel you’ve had kicking around in your head for however long. For me, that’s almost as long as the grilled cheese restaurant idea.

In the days leading up to November 1, I cleared my calendar, alerted friends that I would not be as available socially, and got done a lot of annoying little projects I knew would nag at me and pull me away from my writing if they were left hanging. I knew it would be a tough challenge — once you figure in sleep, work, eating, and commuting between and preparing for all of the above, let’s face it: most of us have 3 or 4 hours of free time a day and that’s all. This was going to require discipline.

I mapped it all out and tried to be realistic, giving myself days off like BayBee’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and a couple of others, when I knew I would not be able to write. That left 25 days where I’d write 2,000 words. I didn’t quite know how long it’d take to write that amount, but I guessed almost all of my free time would be taken up.

Never mind that I didNaNoWriMon’t have much of an idea what I would write about. I’d figure that out as I went. I knew it would be about relationships — what makes them good and how they fall apart — and I came up with a structure, inspired while writing a recent blog post, of having each episode correspond to a hit song by the Carpenters. I even had a working title, “What to Say to Make You Come Again.” I was ready.

I got home from work on November 1 and churned out 2,244 words nonstop. No editing, no looking back, just letting things flow…quite a change from my usual way of writing, but a good one. I even had a few passages I liked.

Next day, I received a phone call from my dermatologist saying the mole he’d biopsied two days earlier was cancerous: melanoma. We hear words like this all the time, and know they’re bad, but what did I know about melanoma? I googled it while still on the phone and learned “melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.” Oh great. He needed for me to come back in right away.

Good thing I had gone to that half-day workshop and meditation on death and dying at the Saraha Buddhist Center just a few days before. Seriously. Life can be funny that way. I was a little freaked out, true, but mostly I felt an amazing sense of calm and clarity. Did I mention this happened to be Dia de los Muertos?

I got an emergency appointment to have the area excised that same day and spent the next few days getting blood work and x-rays done, meeting with the melanoma specialist and surgeon, and having what sounded like a pretty minor surgery but ended up feeling pretty major. I’ll spare you the photos. They’re gross. I’m still kind of amazed the entire process took just 10 days.

Pre-op self-portrait with markingsSo now I’m recovering and waiting for results with fingers crossed. I’m also back to my writing and am not even all that far behind schedule, now pushing 20,000 words. It’s actually good that I have a big project to occupy my time since I’m spending so much of it at home recuperating. And, of course, playing my records in reverse chronological order. Gary Numan graced my turntable today.

Wish me luck. Because in this life, so much can be planned, but it really almost all comes down to luck.

Addendum (November 16, 2011): Good news just in: They got it all, and there’s nothing in the lymph nodes. That means I just need to heal, and get checked every 3 months, and stay out of the sun, and stop taking my shirt off, and write like the devil. Thanks to all for your love and support. It means the world to me.