What is a Meltdown?

It might be when you're feeling very very shatterable and don't want to answer "fine" when people ask you how you are and you're feeling shaky and so instead of going to your mother's hotel to meet her and your husband for an early dinner at 5.30, you go at 5 and lie down in her second bed and start crying and saying that everything is so hard and you hate these drains they won't take out, they hurt you and get in the way (the drains being two long drinking straws stuck under your arms to siphon away blood and blood-like portions of your body that need to have somewhere to go, which is into two emptiable bulbs at the end), and its' so terribly they have to to start giving you poison for 20 weeks, even though the chemo man today said most people don't have nausea or vomiting, and she is perfect in her mother role and says yes, it's hard, and lets you sleep till 6.30, when you have to get up and teach your 7pm class at WRU (Well-Regarded University) three blocks away. And so you teach your class which isn't as lively and fun as at its best, but still has content and is hysteria-free. At the break your students have a basket at your place at the table with chocolates and soaps and colored pens and books, and you are able to be enthusastic and grateful. Truly.

Afterwards, as planned, you come back to your mother's hotel room to sleep (because your husband is sick and can't sleep with you because you can't afford to get his cold now) and watch the montage of TV you always watch in hotels: some Friends, some Tom Hanks-ish movie, CNN, Fox, actors vaguely familiar and young, mostly double-entendres that aren't funny though the lafftrack thinks everything is funny, so many particular that you can't recall a night later when you write this because you spent a lot of the next day awash in the fewer variations of TV available at home.

Then in the morning she has to leave for the airport and you leave and sit at the Starbucks and read through the big pink binder, Breast Cancer Treatment and Follow-up, and wait until you're not too exhausted to walk the block to the subway to go home and go to sleep.

At home you sleep and watch said TV and call the chemo nurse back to schedule your first round of it and you pause to weep, you think silently, and she says are you OK, and you say you are.

Your first high-quality sleep is after your husband comes home from work and still in your dream you ask him if the baby was a boy or a girl and it takes you a while to figure out that in your dream your mother was helping his ex-wife give birth, and you thought, What a great unification of the family.

And you remember you need to get your husband's ex's address. In Yiddish there would be a term for your relation with her. There's a term for your mother and his mother; they are makhetenestes. You have to write your husband's ex a thank-you note for Cancer Vixen, which you liked reading very much though the author is too high-fashion for you to love.

Your husband said at work someone asked how you were and he said you had a meltdown.

And now it is time to go back to sleep


Anonymous said...

I think the worst part of cancer ops comes after, not before, as we navigate the shift from steeling ourselves to enduring. (It's a bit like bereavement; after the shiva parties are over, the realization that we will go on living washes back in. Eventually, it becomes a welcome realization, but it takes a while) I remember when I had that catheter for 3 weeks (there is something about the body that does not love a tube or straw; god gave us plenty of draining options other than tubes--an anus, urinal tract, mouth, nose and relatively permeable skin all work much better, diarrhea, kidney stones, sword wounds and sinus infections notwithstanding; it's one of the rare cases when he knew what he was doing), I started getting this awful feeling of catheter as metaphor...that I was permanently tethered, just as I was now tethered to my cancer, restricted foreverafter, with tightly circumscribed options. It passes. The tubes and drains come out. Sometimes the tired reaction to chemo feels like a drag, and sometimes luxurious, even self-indulgent. Sometimes the fact that we're now aware of finite odds on our life span (which of course were always there but more deniable)feels scary, sad, enraging, but sometimes very sweet and motivating. I remember when I was rescued in the Pecos Wilderness after almost dying. As the rescue team carried me out--a several hour ordeal--I remember thinking, after the initial euphoria of being saved, that the journey out was a very difficult denouement, much more difficult than worrying about surviving.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I love your blog, and I think you are inspirational (even if you may not feel that you are). I also just wanted to suggest that perhaps, during chemo, you can also get some acupuncture (it's been proven to reduce the nasty side effects of chemo). I don't know if your hospital offers it, but many do, and it might be worth checking out. Keep fighting the good fight and keep inspiring the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Anon has a non-medical suggestion re: the meltdown. Have L. move back into your bed. Bed-sharing can be very healing. If the cold germs are still an issue, make him wear gloves and a mask.(only)

Anonymous said...

Alas, L coughs so loudly that he'd keep me up if we were in the same room. He's getting cough suppressant today.
Cancer Bitch

Jodi Cohen said...

my heart breaks and i also laugh at the hotel TV watching ritual. thank you for keeping us in the loop. for some reason, i keep thinking of a line from a stanley plumly poem:

I want to lie down and let the rain wash over me.

i don't know why. there is something cleansing about the image? or it is a chance to rest, amidst the rain? the tiredness comes through in your writing. the meltdown was inevitable. it is good to cry. it is good to cry with someone else nearby. this must be so overwhelming. every step is in new territory. the level of energy required to navigate this wild, techno, medical landscape and all of the reactons and responses it triggers is extraordinary. keep writing. keep crying. keep your heart tender and your tubes emptied.

Anonymous said...

A meltdown is a meltdown and they usually happen for a reason. Something builds up and needs to pop. It's better than having your head explode. If someone said you had one, well, good. You probably did, you more than likely needed it and you deserve it.

Anonymous said...

WE've been through cancer in our house this year and Cancerbitch puts into words all the fears and thoughts and frustrations that floated un verbalized throught our heads. It tames the demon to see it in writing.