Taking Taxol/I feel petty, oh, so petty

What can I say about chemotherapy that hasn't already been said, in a million pop songs? That's a line from an essay by Marjorie Gross. I don't know what chemo-poison she was referring to. The chemotherapy agent of the hour, of my hour of discontent, is Taxol. Sounds like toxic. It seems like toxic. A drug that's injected in your veins that makes your bones hurt. Not like when you were little and your mother would mention offhand to your doctor you felt "growing pains." No, this is an ache in the joints and along the bones, that seems maybe it's not so bad, it's not acute, but it's there. Deep and unrelieved, and it makes you cry during yoga when you bury your head for child's pose. Because it doesn't seem like it should hurt so much. And you cry partly because you suspect you're exaggerating the hurt, and partly because of the hurt itself. And you look the same on the outside as you did the day before, when it didn't hurt, when all you had was apprehension about the possibility of this bone pain. But it's real, and it's from the wiping out of red blood cells, and it's there in the pink oncology binder, in black and white, under "side effects." And the nurse told you about it, that it might happen. It's the subtlety of it, as cruel as meangirl gossip, almost not-there, but there. And in your teeth, making them feel loose, and in your gums and a sharp sore on the side of your tongue, and an ache in your back, and you feel it in your endometrium, like a bad cramp, though there aren't bones there.
***
After yoga Friday I drove downtown to pick up L so we could meet V for dinner in the South Loop. When he got in the car to take my place (I hate driving) I was crying and we pulled to the corner and I told him I felt so bad. I had picked up a magazine at the park district where I do yoga, so I'd have something to read while L put me on the L to go back home, and he went on to dinner with V. He took me home and called V to cancel. I was so pathetic, so grateful that he was driving me home. He had planned to go on to Gary after dinner. He has a house there. We stopped at Blockbuster and got four DVDs: Curb Your Enthusiasm, first season; Sex and the City, second season; The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Sweet Home Alabama. At home I settled on the couch and he unloaded the dishwasher and did other household chores while I watched Sex and the City, which he can't stand but gets sucked into anyway. I took acetaminophen, which he said I should have been taking instead of ibuprofen. And lo and behold, it was the pain-reliever of choice in the pink oncology department binder from Fancy Hospital. I felt better and also whiny and self-indulgent. Friday he asked me what number the pain was, from 1-10, and I said 3, thinking that 3 sounds very small. Like nothing.

Now it's Sunday evening and what I've done this weekend is Nothing, meaning watched the videos and read some and slept. And wrote a pissy letter to the editor about the whitewashing of Nicaraguan history in the Travel section of the paper. I did what dogs do, which is lie around and nap and then get up and sleep. If dogs read, I'd be the perfect dog. L is in Gary right now. This weekend he has told me on the phone and in person that I'm silly to feel guilty for doing nothing, aka Taking Care of Myself. I was invited to a BBQ, which I've skipped, and was supposed to go to a Muslim festival to help publicize a Muslim-Jewish poetry anthology I'm helping put together. You have cancer! he tells me, and I say, Supposedly the cancer is gone, but he counters that I'm going through cancer treatment, and what I'm feeling is because of that treatment. Which is true. The bone-pain has lessened much, and I'm wondering if what I felt is what it's like when the cancer returns and it's in your bones. And that scares me. The fact of it returning to my bones scares me.

The pain is down to 1, or 0 in some places. The side of my tongue is still sore despite using this special chemo mouthwash cocktail I got at the pharmacy for $31, and oral analgesic ointment. There are so many pains a person could have, so many acute pains. The world is awash in suffering. Would I get used to it if I always felt the way I did on Friday? Would I want to kill myself? Once when I ran out of BuSpar tablets I felt so upset, so weepy and full of self-loathing, that I thought if I felt that way all the time I would kill myself. I was taking the generic for BuSpar and concluded it didn't work for me. But now I take the generic all the time because our new insurance plan won't pay for the name brand. What is the lesson of that?
***
Last night I dreamed I was looking for job postings at the WRU Press office to pass on to our grad students, and I took off my dress to do it, because that was the protocol. I thought. But I was wrong. And I felt embarrassed to be there, that I didn't belong there, and put my dress back on, and went to look for more job postings in the journalism department, and looked for my mail box there, but it wasn't there. I didn't belong. I didn't belong anywhere, even though WRU Press had published my first book (in the dream and in real life). In real life, too, my faculty mail box disappeared from the journalism department many years ago, because I had started teaching non-credit instead of credit journalism classes, and the Decider of Mail Boxes had decided I didn't deserve a box. Though there were lots of empty boxes. I eventually got hold of an empty cardboard box and put it on top of the mail boxes, with my name on it. That was taken away and then I got another box and labeled it ETAOIN SHRDLU, which is an old journalism (nonsense) phrase from the days of Linotype. I told a good friend about all this a few years after and he told me how terrible I was. He used the word asshole, which was the first and only time (I think) anyone has called me that, to my face. When he said that I felt I'd been petty and immature. It is unwise in academia to be petty and immature unless you have tenure.

But hey, he, the Decider, started it. And he removed the ETAOIN SHRDLU box, too. And I needed a box, dear readers, because I was teaching a for-credit undergraduate interdisciplinary class that met in a residential college I didn't have a key to. The students needed a place to drop off and pick up papers. We ended up using a student mail box (down the hall from my erstwhile one) and that worked out fine. OK, you can argue that the journalism department didn't owe me a box for the use of liberal arts students, but it would have been a nice courtesy, wouldn't it? And I did receive mail there occasionally.

I still have a mail box problem. I'm a part-time, year-round employee at WRU but my mail box downtown is removed during the quarters I'm not teaching downtown. I have tried repeatedly to change this, but the person who makes and inserts the mail box labels goes by a book of faculty names she gets every quarter and that's that. There's a separate area for full-time, year-round employee mail boxes, but it just so happens that there is no space there for an extra box. The assistant dean tried to intervene once but he couldn't get me a box. Sometimes I make my own mail box label and feel like an illegal squatter and wonder if the mail sorters will ignore it because the label isn't like the others.

This non-box-ness makes me feel disappeared. I try not to think about it. I had a permanent box in the suburban WRU mail room for about a year then one quarter it too disappeared. It was easy to get another label there and it was clear it was an oversight. Thank goodness.

Until I had these real estate crises, I used to think the comic strip Dilbert was ridiculous and unrealistic.

3 comments:

Terri said...

It makes me cry because you cry because the crying is real. It's crying because you're not used to the pain because mostly you've always felt good and suddenly you feel like shit and it makes you want to cry. And then, one day between treatments, you feel better, almost normal, and you wonder why you ever cried. But you'll cry again. And then the treatments will be over, and you'll feel like eating and drinking and celebrating and you probably won't remember the pain at all. That's my prayer, at least, my hope.

Today I felt good, finally. I felt like eating Indian food.

Colon cancer cowgirl
http://cowgirlattitude.blogspot.com/

Elizabeth Stock said...

First, I am happy I have found your site - it is good to have a fellow blogger in the same city going through the same exact shit! I will be partaking in my second taxol treatment tomorrow and I too had the pain you are talking about. I thought I could only take tylenol, but it became so intense that I took a pain pill I had left over from my surgery, and it worked! Hang in there!

Writer said...

Elizabeth:
It just dawned on me today that I could have done that. I have some tylenol3 left over.
--C. Bitch