Birthday Chemo

Cycle 2, day 1. In about an hour, I will head off to the chemo infusion suite for my second dose of poison. Having chemo on my birthday will go down as “the only place to go is up” as birthday celebrations go, but considering the delay to get here, I’ll take it. A friend of mine suggested that I think about this birthday as making possible future birthdays, and how true that is. What is the alternative, after all? Not having chemo and letting my cancer grow and spread? Here’s to six months or so from now when I will hopefully be cancer free and to next year’s birthday which, gods willing, will be celebrated with clean scans and the rest of my life to look forward to.

I was able to turn the corner of my sadness — thanks in large measure to the kindness and support of friends — and have a weekend of visits from good friends, birthday cake I was able to taste and enjoy (calories and diabetes be damned), some lovely and thoughtful gifts from family and friends, two good 45-minute walks, a field trip to a nearby lake with my husband, some furniture rearranging (my position was, if not now, when?), and some advance cooking for the coming week. Steroid Sunday yesterday was all it promised and made much of this possible, even if it did mean a truly awful night’s sleep last night.

Yesterday in particular was only marred by two incidents that made me realize that the fear of infection and illness has not left me. The first occurred on my morning walk at a local state park where dogs are expected to be on leashes. I made my way down the walking trail only to be confronted by a large dog with an owner nowhere in sight. As I rounded the bend, the owner, wearing the leash more as an ornamental bracelet than as a useful and necessary tool, came into sight in no rush to manage her dog. Seriously? Understand that I love dogs, but right now I simply cannot afford germy paws, mouths, or tongues, and the various places they have been. I was so shocked that I probably didn’t express my ire quite as forcefully as I could have, and sure enough, saw the pair on another part of the trail, still sans leash.

The second incident occurred on our lake field trip, when we stopped into a country diner for lunch. Before I share this story, I need to confess that I really don’t like small children. Yes, I am one of those. I should clarify that I am particularly not fond of misbehaving, obnoxious children whose parents seem clueless and unable to manage them, and who — and here’s where it ratchets up to hate — think everyone should find their little bundles of joy as adorable as they do while letting them run amok. I have perfected a “death stare” that generally works, but sometimes it fails me, especially if the parents are of the above variety. Mind you, I had two of my own, and loved them to pieces (and did not inflict their misbehavior on others) and there are select small beings that I do also enjoy. When you add fear of germy hands and mouths to the mix, dislike moves right into fear. So we were sitting at the bar in the diner and a family with two toddlers was literally less than a foot behind us waiting for nearly 15 minutes for a table, with the toddlers rolling on the floor behind my chair and jumping and smearing their little nose-picking hands on the chair next to me, hacking coughing to boot. The death stare did nothing, and I finally switched seats with my husband to get further away at which point the indulgent mother criticized me for my “looks” — I lost it. I explained that I was a cancer patient (I was on full bald display) and could not be around small coughing children. She was indignant, but at least there was no further discussion. Talk about having to advocate for yourself.

Despite those two incidents, I’m considering yesterday my birthday celebration and it was a lovely day, full of energy and positive messages from friends and family. I call that a win.



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