Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chemo Day 12

For the last treatment there had to be a bit of excitement. My port didn't work again. I had to have blood drawn from my arm. They ran out of the normal needle gauge size. One of my four drugs was pulled from my regimen. We set off the patient alert alarm throughout the center and we forgot a bottle opener. But all in all, the final chemo session was as fun as a chemo session can be - if that makes any sense.

Both my mom and Craig were there with me for this momentous occasion. God willing, the last time I will ever have to sit in the chemo recliner. In fact, I don't know that I'll ever look at faux leather recliners the same ever again. I think they'll always remind me of long hours spent with my feet up waiting for the drugs to drip.

I think all three of us were a little bit loopy with excitement - so ready to celebrate that this routine was over, but also careful that not everyone in the cancer center was celebrating, knowing that for some, that day may have been just the beginning of their journey and I could only hope that it'd be as successful as mine. But we managed to celebrate on the sly, sort of.

I brought in Funfetti cupcakes for my life-saving team and made them all pose for pictures with me, much to their chagrin, I think. It's probably not a request that comes often, but I never want to forget the faces of the people that saved my life and made this hell a hell of a lot easier to bear.

We had an emotional meeting with Dr. Dailey. I got myself a little paclemped trying to thank him for all that he has done to keep me sane and healthy. We talked about next steps and follow-ups and scans - though that's all a little surreal. Because I have had a
persistent cough throughout much of these past few months and had just come off the bad cold I had been fighting, Dr. Dailey thought it best to omit the Bleomycin from my last chemo treatment. So instead, I got a three-liquor cocktail: AVD for my send-off. This is because of the concerns of pulmonary toxicity that can arise from the harsh drug. Its effects could leave me with long-term lung damage. He said he was 5% concerned that the bleo could have negative long-term effects and 0% concerned that omitting it would have any negative outcome on the effectiveness of my treatment course. I was sold. Plus, that shaved a half-hour off of the process!

Luckily, the three of us secured a private room as I think we would have been a bit too rowdy for the common areas. My wonderful nurse Diane came in to "poke my port" one last time.

"Ready. Pinch," she said. The usual routine. It hurt a bit but the needle was in.

"We're out of the small needles so I had to give you a 19-gauger," she said.

"Glad you told me that afterward," I replied. Very smart woman she is.

Big needle or not, my port was not coughing up any blood again. Drawing blood is a necessity of the process and my port just wasn't putting out. That meant a stick in the arm - sigh. For all I went through with fighting to get the port it was a bit frustrating that I'd still have to get stuck, but I was just grateful that it was working well enough to take in the drugs. I can't wait to get that sucker out of my body.

So my buddy Denise came in to do the dirty work. She gave me a stress ball to squeeze and left me with a Sharpie-drawn smiley face on my gauze strip which made me laugh like a doofy little kid. As I've said throughout this, it's the little things like that that really make all the difference. For the rest of the time as the chemo started flowing my smile was as wide as the one on my arm.

Craig, my mom and I talked and joked and reminisced a bit about the crazy ride it's been. Then suddenly this strange beeping noise starts eminating through the center. No one is sure what it is. Then Craig realizes he'd been leaning on the "Pull For Help" button. Apparently no one has ever pulled it because no one knew what the sound was for a good few minutes. Then all came rushing in and had a good laugh over it - Diane saying that was the most fun she had had all day.

We pulled over a table and played Scrabble SLAM - a new favorite game. Especially good for the chemo brained as it only deals with four-letter words - nothing too fancy. We threw out cards and yelled out words as Jack Johnson played in the background and the time passed. I sucked on my ice cubes during the push drugs and snacked on healthy treats to keep my nausea down.

I had just a few ounces left in the Decarbazine bag but could not hold my bladder any longer. I was so afraid that the "end-of-bag alarm" would ding while I was in the bathroom and I wouldn't get to celebrate with everyone. It was a race to the finish, but I made it back to my chemo room to hear those final beautiful, mechanical notes.

At that, it was time to pop the sparkling apple cider that we had brought. But
who knew it would be a pop top? Craig tried desperately to pry it open to no avail. Then once again, Diane to the rescue with a bottle opener from the back room --- for the tough days.

We cheerzed as Diane removed the needle from my port one last time and I was flooded with a rush of freedom. Thank God Almighty, Free at last!

I got all unhooked, said my goodbyes, and left without tears headed for a delicious post-chemo Bertuccis lunch. I don't think it all will hit me until a few months from now when the dust settles and the smoke clears and I can really look back and realize what happened to me and to every
one around me.

Until then, I'm just focused on getting better. That means more Neupogen shots. More scans. More bloodwork. A port removal surgery. I'll be working on piecing myself back together one step at a time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Last-Chemo-Day Eve

You know that giddy feeling you got as a kid on Christmas Eve? The unsettled one that's burrowed deep in your belly? That's what I've got going on right now. It's the eve of my last chemo infusion - number 12.

I'm excited about it all being over. I'm nervous that it's not over forever. I'm anxious that something will go wrong and anxious about how my mind will react when this routine of doc appointments and pill popping is suddenly ripped away. I'm even a little bit sad to not being seeing my cancer center buddies multiple times a week. There's a lot of turmoil going on in my belly.

I've been what some may call manically happy over the past couple of days. I've found a long-lost bounce in my step - was even doing distance trials sliding across the wood floors in my socks while brushing my teeth last night and doing a whole lot of singing in the car. I cried a lot on my drive home from work today. Not because I was sad or afraid, but because I was (and am) so happy about life. The striking colors of the trees' leaves against the wispy white clouds and the deep orange October sun took my breath away. I felt so happy to be alive and to know that I'm going to keep on living and get to see this beauty every single day. I blared my favorite Rent songs until the car speakers shook, rolled down all the windows, cranked up my seat heater, and belted out every word as hot tears poured down my cool cheeks. I felt so full of life that it was truly overwhelming.

Part of me can't believe that I made it here; I never thought the day would actually come when I'd be crying out of pure, unadulterated joy rather than heart-wrenching pain. Another part of me feels like this has all gone by so fast and can't even remember the bad times. It's been the longest and shortest six months of my life all at once. And tomorrow I'm going to take that prize that I've kept my eye focused on all along - closing out the "dirty dozen" as one wise and witty co-worker phrased it.

I tried to recall how I felt the night before my first chemo treatment but remembered that I didn't have a "night before." It all happened very quickly. When the extent of my cancer was determined and the decision made that waiting for fertility procedures would be to risk my life, I was sent in to chemo that day. I had no time to prepare, no time to think. I was told to drink a lot of water as it'd be a good idea to be hydrated and that was that. Oh, how little I knew.

Now with 11 infusions under my belt I go in tomorrow as an expert in something that I never wanted to be an expert in. Unfortunately being an expert in the process also means that I'm an expert in the effects of the process. One last time I again have the aches, pains and uneasiness to look forward to, but the key words are "one. last. time."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want

But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need ...

Six months into this I'm still not sure what it is that I need, but I'm continuing to try and figure it all out. Right now, I'm still trying to come to terms with the first part of the lyric.

Today I was supposed to be at the UConn football homecoming game eating grilled sausage dogs off dirty coleman grills, drinking Octoberfest beers in a coozie shaped like a jersey and circulating the tailgating crowd to bump into friends from all different groups. Tomorrow I am supposed to be at the Patriots Football stadium doing it all over again - pro style. Instead, I am home with a head full of phlegm, a garbage basket full of yellowed tissues and a cough that just won't quit. Plus, the usual painful colorectal fabulousness that comes at this point in the chemo cycle. Yes, I am bitter.

I can no longer burn the candle on both ends like I used to. I guess one thing I have learned is that my body takes more precedence than I ever thought it did. My desires are mere dust in the wind when up against the demands of my bodily functions. I knew that being out in the cold for several hours was not the anecdote to getting myself past this virus. The last thing that I need to do is set myself back and not be well enough for my final chemo treatment - I think that if I hear the words "we can't treat you today" on Wednesday I may launch into a screaming fit - two-year-old tantrum style. So I made the responsible decision - not without much whining and even some tears as Craig left the house this morning for the game.

You'd think that I'd treasure time for personal growth and introspection - a good excuse to lay on the couch, curl up and watch a movie. Well, I hate it now. I've had more alone time than I can take. I want to be out in the world galavanting so, so badly. I feel like I've missed so many barbecues this summer, so many Octoberfests, so many chances to hike, to run, to travel to see friends.

Instead, I feel like "Bubble Boy" constantly worrying about getting sicker, catching some weird bug, eating raw meat that will send me to the hospital. As much as I love our home, sometimes it can feel like a prison. It's one thing to be tucked away for a weekend with a cold. Admit it, most of us secretly like getting a little sick because it gives you an excuse to just veg, read those books that you've had stacked up, catch up on DVRed shows. But when you've felt like shit for six months that guilty pleasure you experience is lonnnnnnngggggg worn off.

I know that someday when we have four kids, I own my own consulting business and the book deals are pouring in I'll be aching for alone time. But isn't that always how it goes? You don't know what you've got until it's gone, right?

So today I'm trying to focus my brain and take advantage of this time together with just me and me - plus the Kleenex and the germ-X. I'm headed out to get Craig's father's guitar strung and try to teach myself to play. I have some canvases to paint for our bedroom wall. I have LOTS of books to read and I'd like to try a bubble bath - I've never taken one in our house.

First, a walk with Sammy to get the creative juices flowing then to CVS for another box of Sudafed ... maybe a little shoe shopping and a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattee along the way ... maybe it's not so bad after all. There'll be more UConn football games, but never another chance to get myself back to peak health to give my body the best chance at standing up to this final shot of ABVD. What fun is drinking OJ at a tailgate anyway?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Urge to Run

This weekend was the ING Hartford Marathon and my dear friend Nicole conquered the half-marathon selflessly and amazingly. Not only was she able to run 13.1 miles through the city, but in the process she raised more than two thousand dollars for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I could not be more grateful for her drive and determination.

She ran with my photo on her back the whole way and I couldn't have been more proud of her. It's been very, very difficult for me to not be able to run like I used to during all of this. I'm far too weak, but to be carried by Nicole I felt like I was a part of something much larger than myself. She raced in honor of me and several others that she has encountered with her work with LLS and told me that anytime she was tired or sore she would think of what we were going through and keep on going. When I get better and try to follow in her footsteps I'll be thinking of what she's accomplished (a marathon last year only to come back after an injury to do a half-marathon this year - both times for LLS) to get through my rough spots.

Before I was diagnosed I was registered for an informational session about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training to run the marathon this year. Well, in the ultimate of ironies, I'm on the receiving end this year. Now, when I am healthy enough to run and raise money for others because of Nicole I'll be able to know so much better what it's like to be on both sides.

This year the only running that I did was chasing after Sammy in the middle of all the action when she got off leash and ended up jumping into the Bushnell Park pond after barking up the police officers on huge Clydesdale horses. Ah, the adventures never stop ...

Despite that minor mishap, seeing all of the healthy bodies running for all kinds of causes or just for their own challenges was truly inspiring. I found myself choked up many times throughout race day watching people of all ages, sizes, backgrounds pounding the pavement. I was choked up at the devotion people have to the causes they were running for, at the way they honored others by pushing themselves to their own limits, and at the mere fact that close to 10,ooo people were doing something good for their bodies. Not having my health right now makes me appreciate the vast capabilities of the human body so much more.

Take It Day by Day

I've often quipped "I'm taking it day-by-day" when people have asked me how I am doing through all of this. It's not just a canned answer. It really is true. Maybe even more accurate is hour-by-hour.

I was feeling really great on Monday and Tuesday. This was unusual as traditionally those are my bad days after chemo (days 4 and 5 - Sun and Mon). This was also after the toughest round yet - this chemo round hit me hard and fast. I was a waste over last weekend, was very frustrated, even a bit angry, very achey, and spent a lot of time on the couch at my parents house and my own.

But I bounced back after the weekend and went to work in the office full days Monday and Tuesday. I was feeling so good Tuesday evening that I even had a delicious Long Trail Harvest beer with dinner. Then at about 8pm my throat started to swell and it was all downhill from there.

I woke up throughout the night Tuesday with bad sore and raw feelings in my throat and difficulty swallowing past my swollen glands. This is what I mean about living hour-to-hour. I wasn't too surprised as Craig had come down with a cold/sore throat virus a few days earlier but I thought I had somehow gotten away without catching it. No such luck.

When you get a cold and you have cancer it's quite a bit more alarming. Normally, I wouldn't even go to the doctor and just ride it out. But now I know that my immune system is very compromised and that the chemo kills the good cells that fight infections. So, you get pretty concerned over what to others is a little bug, but for me could be a killer. Right to the oncologist it was.

He said that because of my situation he would treat it like a virus and give me antibiotics which I was happy about. I was told to rest and drink lots of fluids which I'm trying to do. I need to get myself strong for my next - and final!!!!! - treatment. Not to mention the UConn Football homecoming Saturday and Patriots Game at Foxboro Sunday!

Must. Get. Better.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A New Line on the Resume

You can't beat the convenience of working in the hospital where you're getting treated, that's for sure. But at times it can create a strange colliding of worlds - worlds that I may otherwise want to keep separate. Today I went from a meeting in high-backed chairs in a board room with several key members of the hospital right to the cancer center where I slunk into a chair in the waiting room to wait for my shot with the rest of the patients. In my suit, heels and Hartford Hospital name badge I know that I stick out among the others.

Sometimes it's hard to let myself transition between those two worlds. At times I have to make a very conscious effort to pull myself together. Now that my treatment is almost over I get very sad seing other patients. I saw a woman yesterday in the cancer center who was my age with four young daughters and her husband there with her. The family was so adorable and her kids were running into the bloodwork room hugging the nurses and giving them pictures they had drawn. It nearly broke my heart to think of this woman going through all that I have while trying to stay strong for her little girls. I tried to stay focused on the story drafts I had brought with me to review while I waited for my shot but it was nearly impossible to hold back the tears. Even just being there for a quick shot you feel vulnerable and helpless. The Neupogen shots burn like crazy and leave me achey and sore but with a deep breath and a Band-Aid I get through it. I tucked the printout of my blood count paperwork under my meeting folder and headed back to my office - several squirts of Purell along the way. I've learned to swallow the lump in my throat, take my patient hat off, put my employee hat back on and get back in the groove. And I am so grateful that I have that opportunity. If my "patient hat" was the only one I was wearing during this whole experience I never would have made it.

I really never considered not working during my cancer treatment. From the moment I was diagnosed I knew that if I could physically do it, I would keep my life as "normal" as possible. Over these past five months I've learned that normal doesn't exist and I'm happy about that. Normal is boring. Instead, let's say that I've been able to keep my life as "uninterrupted" as possible and being able to continue with my career has certainly helped that.

I'm lucky enough that the type of work that I do -- writing, editing, design, websites -- can be done remotely and with the digital world that we live in I can feel like I'm still part of the team sending e-mails back and forth just as I would if I were actually in my office. And I'm lucky enough to have a boss and a team that are more supportive than I ever could have imagined.

Now that I'm in the home stretch I've been at the office more - being a little more daring with my immune system, less worried knowing that the cancer is gone. I'm realizing that I need to ease into things and go easy on myself. I do a lot of internal kicking of myself after I feel like I say dumb things or miss office jokes. It's hard to be patient with my brain which processes still a little slower than it used to. Multitasking requires more work. I'm looking forward to the chemo brain effects fading. However, having chemo brain has actually taught me to be more effective. I am more focused than I ever was because I am more conscious of being focused. I am more organized than I ever was because I'm overly paranoid about losing or forgetting something. I am more diligent in rereading, editing, giving a very careful eye as I have lost that (what could be hasty) confidence in my skills. I keep detailed "To Do" lists and file all my notes, which I continually go back and review. My writing flows much easier than it ever has - maybe becuase it's abit more liquid up there in my head. I also have a much better perspective. I'll never again allow myself to get stressed over finding the right words for a headline or because I can't get a webpage to render correctly - I now know what's really worth stressing over. Call me crazy, but I think cancer has been a good thing for my career.

The one part that is tough is being the hairless kid at the meeting table. I don't even think about it within my deparment, but it does set in when I meet new people I may be working on projects with. I have a feeling that the scarves I wear are a pretty obvious indicator that I've been going through cancer treatment, but I always wonder what people are thinking. Do they treat me differently because of that? Do they doubt my capabilities? Do they think that I had some fluke accident where I singed off all of my hair? Do they look at me with pity and think that I'm on my way to the grave? It's times like that where I question whether I should have gotten a wig, but I know for me that I would have felt more uncomfortable with that - always worried that it was crooked or didn't fit right. I feel awkward even wearing lipstick. I've always been the au natural/mascara-and-lip-gloss only type so I suppose it's appropriate that the same would go for my choice of headwear. The tough part is that my hair isn't instantly going to grow back when I'm cured. There are many weeks of scarf wearing to go ... .

Despite all of these insecurities, what I've found is that people don't even react. During all of this I have never felt that I've been treated differently because I have cancer, that I've missed any opportunities because I have cancer, that people shied away from me or gave me breaks because I have cancer. Maybe it's because I work in the most empathatic setting you could pick, amid doctors and nurses who fully understand the realities of disease. Whatever it may be I know that I am extremly lucky to have been able to feel accomplished and keep learning and growing in my career throughout this fantastical world that is "cancer."

Cancer does not mean that you have to end your life as you know it. Sure, you'll have to make some major adjustments, but it does not mean that you have to curl up in a ball and await your fate. It's amazing to have witnessed first hand the strength that we all hold within ourselves and this is what allowed me to keep doing the things that make me happy despite my disease. That's not to say that there aren't days when you can do nothing but lie in bed because, believe me, there certainly are and being in a ball is the best thing you can do for yourself. Any time I was feeling really low my Dad would tell me to "dig deep." I've dug deeper than I ever knew I could and discovered things about myself I likely never would have without facing cancer.

A fellow Hodgkin's patient shared with me something that someone told him: "cancer is a thinking man's disease." You have an awful lot of time to think about life, about death, about your place in the world. The key to making it out of it alive is to be able to keep those thoughts in check and balance the big thoughts with the simple ones - like how much I love ice cream. For me, keeping my mind stimulated (and distracted when the heavy realities become too much ) has been just as important in my recovery as the chemo meds.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chemo Day 11

I always blog about my treatment day experiences several days after and realize that much is probably lost in the interim. So, because for some reason I have not been able to sleep after this treatment, I will write. Forgive if this makes no sense whatsoever and is riddled with bad grammar and punctuation. I blame the drugs.

Today was number 11. One away from number 12, the final infusion in my chemo regimen. That means I can now say: "Just one more to go!" That sounds much better than the days when six months and 12 treatments were set up as obstacles ahead of me. I've hurdled over nearly all of them and honestly, it's hard to believe.

This morning I worked from home for a couple hours. In fact, worked right up until the last possible second before I had to get in the shower and pack my chemo bags. Avoiding the inevitable, I suppose.

No funny chemo t-shirt today. It was too cold out this morning so a henley and a toggle tie wool sweater were in order. It turned out to be a wise choice, though when the sun came out it was much warmer. It was a wise choice because there was a lot of action in my port site today and the button downs made it that much more accessible.

Weight was stable. White Blood Cell count and granulycytes were very low as usual, but not as scarily low as before the last treatment. Blood pressure was good but heart rate was up. This was noted both by Denise (my fav lab tech) and Dr. Dailey but to no huge concern. My nurse chalked it up to anxiety. I hate to admit it, but yes, I did have a lot of anxiety today. In fact, I may have experienced what some may call a minor anxiety attack ... . It again goes back to the counterintuitive nature of chemotherapy. I might as well walk up to one of those beefy men who pull 18-wheelers via straps held with their teeth in those Strongest Man competitions and ask him to punch me in the face, then kick me around about while I'm wriggling on the floor - a couple of swift ones to the gut and the lower back. Of course I have anxiety about arriving there. Every time I know better what the effect will be on my body but yet I'm the one walking my body in. I almost lost my breakfast in my mom's car and then in the red bin full of discarded fluid bags and bloody gauze. My chest pumping "bring it on," "eat lighting and crap thunder" attitudes I used to plow into the Cancer Center with. Now it's more like "let's get this shit over with."

Our meeting with Dr. Dailey was again very positive. He checked my lymph nodes, noting that my neck is still lumpy and asymetrical but nothing to be concerned about. Many of the lymph nodes may be scarred from being stressed so wide when filled with the cancer and this may never heal fully. He also said that I may need to see a neurologist if time does not heal the dead leg I experience in my left shin/outer leg area. That's okay, I can deal with a lumpy neck and a leg that works, despite its numbness. He seemed very impressed with how my body is still responding so well to the ABVD. I had been expecting these last few to be the hardest yet, but they've really proven to be quite manageable - or maybe my expectations of what it means to "feel good" have just been lowered. Next steps: final chemo treatment Oct. 21 (big day, very big day) then another PET/CT Scan. In my last PET/Scan, though he declared me in remission, there is one area near my sternum that showed some "hot spotting," but Dr. Dailey is doubtful that it is cancer presence. We both hope that the spot is gone altogether in this next scan.

We were then escorted to one of the private rooms where my Mom and I got comfortable. My anxiety doesn't really go down until the port needle is inserted and the meds start flowing. That's when I can breathe a little easier and the nausea subsides. These feelings weren't nearly as extreme in the beginning. I think everything is just accumulated over such a protracted treatment regimen. My nurses' sighs as she was trying to draw my blood vials led my anxiety to new heights. Try as she might, my port just was not cooperating. Every treatment she draws blood for testing, in addition to the CBC finger prick that I get. My port was flushing well and accepting the pre-meds no problem, just not giving back. She explained that there might be a fiber or some clotting behind it. Despite how much she assured me that that's very normal to happen, I was pretty shaken up thinking about a clot traveling from my port site to my brain and leading to horrible things ... . But apparently those worries are unfounded and I'll trust the experts on their word.

Because the port was taking in the meds no problem that scene went smoothly. I get more woozy from the anti-nausea and steroid pre-meds. My vision blurs a bit and my processes slow. I get giggly and goofy and everything feels a bit off. Add to that my shaky hands and tight muscles as I unwound from my anxiety frenzy and the first hour was a bit rough. But my mom held my hand and relaxed me and I just kept apologizing to the nurse about what a baby I've become because again, Karin pre-cancer wasn't someone used to anxiety - nothing could throw me into a tizzy. Thank goodness for the visualizations and breathing I've learned in yoga that helped to get me back to reality.

We popped "Confessions of a Shopaholic" into my laptop – fantastic chick flick – and that really helped to pass the time from A to B to V to D to bag of saline. When the meds were done, we tried again to get some blood from my port. It spit and sputtered a bit but not enough to clear the tube and fill a vile. She had me lean forward, lean back, raise my arms, but nothing worked, so a needle in the hand it was. Luckily my nurse is fantastically steady and skilled at getting it in painlessly so I just turned away while she kneeled on the floor and I made a fist with my very sweaty hand. The blood was taken and I was free to go.

It took me a bit to stand up and get my bearings and I don't really know what I was saying when I was talking to the secretary to schedule my next appointments. Leaving there is like waking up groggy from an unexpected nap – the reaction time and processing speed are very sllllooooowwwweeed. This is why I do not get behind the wheel and instead rely on Mom to chauffeur me to CVS to pick up my take-home drugs then to lunch for whatever I may be craving. This week it was a hot chicken parm sub, but once I saw the menu it was a Caesar salad and spinach-and-gooey cheese calzone that did the trick of absorbing all the chemicals that were making me feel uneasy.

Usually I crash once I get home but it's now 8:45pm, I've been up since 6:30am and have not slept a wink. Lots on the mind I guess? I've been glued to the couch, watching Ellen then Oprah, doing lots of Facebook stalking. Then I ate more when Craig got home - some delicious homemade chicken soup my mom brought over. I feel on-and-off hot flashes, the room spins and blurs a bit and I have to proceed with caution on any attempts to get off the couch for fear of seeing stars or inducing nausea.

The body pains have already started and that just makes me sigh. Blah. I get these pains throughout my legs especially which make them feel very heavy and very tight. My hips pop and creak and my hamstrings and Achilles' tendon are so taunt I feel they could snap at any moment. These are the same hamstrings that carried me through a 15 minute run with no breaks on Sunday morning followed by a day on my feet at the fair. These are the same hips that bent easily into the pigeon pose at yoga Monday night. For the 11th time I again feel a bit beaten and broken but I know that it will pass for an 11th time.

I looked in the mirror on one of my many bathroom trips. The only time I don't have much of a choice but to look at my reflection. I look like a completely different person than the face that stared back at me this morning before leaving for chemo. My eyes are bugged out and glazed amplified by dark circles beneath them. My usual healthy color is gone and I look like one of those drug addicts you see on the made-for-tv movies.

Luckily, I have a husband and a dog that shower me with affection despite the fact that I look like a man with a very sad hair-loss problem, with a face that's a little green, the three-second memory of a fish and the attention span of a two-year-old. Right now they're each cuddled on my hip (those are my legs under the fuzzy blanket) and watching the Yankees game and I couldn't feel more assured that it's all going to be okay no matter what.