No Hair Today

Cancer Bitch has returned. Her hair has not.

Our power was out for 24 hours due to the storm that swept through Chicago and environs, but we were out while it was out. We returned to sticks and branches on the street and sidewalks, and a huge uprooted tree trunk around the corner, but our place wasn't damaged much. There is talk of siding that was ripped off, but I haven't seen it.

Last night I saw S for the first time since she left for Mexico in July. She came back while we were in Oregon. She thought I'd shaved my head; she was expecting that my hair had returned. Alas, I am still hairless. The oncology nurse said that I would keep losing hair three weeks after the last chemo. The last chemo treatment was four weeks ago. Most of my head markings are faded, too, except some messy ones around my face. I am bored with head markings. I am tired of rounding up head-decorators. I am tired of ordering tiny bottles of black jagua ink for $25 a pop, and having the black sludge inside turn runny and difficult after a month. I have a cone of henna around here somewhere that I got in an Indian market on Devon but I can't find it.

In Chicago I'm used to strangers complimenting me on my scalp and asking if the tattoo hurt. In Oregon no one said a word. It was either because it was too avant-garde or because it was too faded. I noticed very few piercings in Portland and just a few mohawks. I saw an outstanding colored spiky Statue-of-Liberty-like mohawk just east of Pioneer Square, where black-clad kids and vagrants congregate. Further east, we were excited to read in our guidebook, there's
a Louis Sullivan building downtown called the Auditorium. We went there and found a red brick building with *no* plaque on it and an empty first floor. There was some Sullivan-esque decoration, but it was an otherwise small, plain vertical building, influenced by the Romanesque. It was sort of a red-brick scaled-down version of the Auditorium (Roosevelt University) in Chicago, and was designed basically with a base, column, and capital (well, sort of a capital. The top floors have arches.) L took pictures of it and we saw a guy about a foot away from us taking pictures, too. I asked if he was a Sullivan fan. He didn't know anything about the building and was taking pictures for a collection of Flickr of "ghosts"--those faded painted advertising signs on old buildings.

We came home and consulted a Sullivan biography and looked on the web and found that the building had been designed in 1894 by Frederick Manson White. The guidebook author must have looked up Auditiorium Building somewhere and instead of realizing it referred to the one here, she thought it meant the one in Portland. She had other mistakes in her book, but this was the most grevious. You can see the building here. Scroll down.

Because of the storm, we came back Saturday instead of Friday. My neighbors had a party Saturday night and I wore a scarf with fringe. It was outside and dark and my neighbor thought I had grown rasta-strands. But alas. Alas. Just little stubs, and they are shorter than they used to get between doses of Adriamycin. The Taxol just wiped out my follicles.

Meanwhile, I am waiting. I will get the results of my first genetic tests in about two weeks. That'll tell me whether I have the BRCA gene mutation that's more prevalent in Ashkenazim like myself than the general population. If I have the breast-ovarian cancer gene mutation, I'll get my second ovary removed and then officially be ushered into menopause and will be prescribed aromatase inhibitors. I probably don't have the mutation. The genetic counselor said, based on family history, I have an 18 percent chance of having it. If the first test is negative, the blood will go through another test for more mutations. I think I'll end up keeping my ovary and going on tamoxifen, which can increase my chances of getting uterine cancer. Which could be side-stepped by getting a hysterectomy. So the fun continues.

Warning: The following is obsessive and ultimately, gross:
My attention has turned to the incision where the port was removed. It's a one-and-half-inch horizontal cut between my collarbone and (right) breast. It had super-glue-type stuff on it and a stitch or two, covered by steri-strips. The steri-strips fell off. When we left town it had scabbed up and had a little pus in it and itched. There was a little pink around the edges. Our first night in Portland we had dinner with two former steelworker pals of L's. They're both MDs now. One specializes in infectious diseases and I asked her to look at the cut. She said it looked fine. I asked if I could put antibiotic ointment on it and she said I could if I wanted to. Since, I've had a series of bandaids (some with antibiotic on them) and both the cut and the skin around the cut (where the adhesive part of the bandaid adhered) have been pink and itchy, so much so that there's a pink square surrounding the cut. I know you're going to say I'm allergic to latex, but I'm not, though just to be sure, I bought non-latex bandaids last night. The cut is now bloody and oozy. I have a large, non-latex bandaid on it and no antibiotic cream. It doesn't itch. I think it's fine. There's no pink around the wound itself, no streaks coming from it, so it's not infected. I think there are two schools of thought when it comes to cuts. One is to let it scab up, but then it leaves a scar. The other is to cover it and keep it moist, and it doesn't scar as much. But I think covering it and putting antibiotic ointment on it may make it, paradoxically, more susceptible to infection. That is my scientific finding, based on observation of a very limited population. I'm sure I'm displacing all my cancer anxiety on this small cut, but knowing it doesn't keep me from obsessing.

6 comments:

barbara said...

I was on Tamoxifen for about 4 years, and have been on Arimidex the past 2+ years. No problems except a few mild hot flashes at the beginning. Have had 2 bone density tests...no loss of bone. Of course, I consume more than a quart of milk a day, plus cheese and yogurt. P.S. Welcome back to Chicago. We got a foot of water in our basement.

Catnap40 said...

My port comes out in two weeks after 18 months. Despite your problems I am really looking forward to it. When it went in it was a signal that the fight was starting now it is a sign that we might be at the end.

Writer said...

You can keep your port. Just ask. I'm going to celebrate the end of chemo and have it as a centerpiece of some kind.
--cancer bitch

Terri said...

I might have a tattoo of a porthole put over my port hole when it comes out. Or a spur, or a horseshoe. A porthole seems appropriate, but not me.
colon cancer cowgirl

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