Chemo Day

Just another chemo day today, seventh in a series of eight. In two weeks it will be over, everyone says, except that's not exactly true. The chemo will be over then. Then I'll take pills for 10 years. The chemo itself isn't so bad. I mean it's not great fun to spend six hours at the hospital, even if it's Fancy, but there are worse things. Like four days later when the bone pain and depression/weeping sets in for the next three days. But I hope to stave that off with heavy drugs--Tylenol w/ codeine, generic Ativan, and if necessary, I'll dip into my little stash of generic Valium. I will report on the results here. I still have some numbness in my fingertips and toes, though it gets better (which is less) each day. Nurse L said I can increase my dosage of pink anti-numbness capsules from one a day to two.

My friend G picked me up and took me to chemo. We got there about 20 minutes early and had to wait. The women who take blood from my port are always very nice and cheery and motherly. It doesn't hurt very much--and I think I have a low tolerance for pain. They spray "cold spray" on the site where the port is buried (upper right chest) to numb the skin. If any of you are considering getting cancer and having chemo, I would recommend having a port inserted into your body, even though it feels alien the first week or so and fills you with regrets. But the alien feeling does fall away. And now je ne regrette rien. At least about the port.

G had to leave at 3:30 and passed the baton to L. We watched part of Nicholas Nickleby from the selection of DVDs and video cassettes in the chemo ward. Nurse L brought them to us in what reminded me of a little red wagon. The movie was rather melodramatic, with good as Good and evil as Evil, so when the Taxol was finished being dripped into me, we decided it was not necessary to stay around and see the rest of it.

At one point I asked L to get me a blanket because I was cold, but by the time he found one, I'd had a hot flash and was sweating. As I told Nurse L, the hot flashes are the least of my problems. Feeling the void in the world is the worst, followed closely by bone pain and then weeping mixed with irritability.

I was very tired and so was L. We took the bus home. I sat next to an older woman with dyed brown-red hair who goes to Thailand once a year. On the other side was a Buddhist or Buddhist-file. The older woman's cat escaped yesterday and she was upset about it. At least he had claws so wouldn't be defenseless in the world. He doesn't have a tag, though, or a computer chip in his ear, so he'll have to find his way home himself. She put up Lost flyers but the rain wrecked them. She and the other woman talked about shih tzus and one of them said they were originally ratters in China. Didn't the Chinese have cats? I asked. I don't know, the Thailand traveler said, maybe they ate them.

L and I tried to figure out why people are more apt to talk to one another on buses than on L trains. Because buses are more contained, are more like a passenger car, are quieter? We don't know.

We had a very nice dinner at home: broiled salmon with garlic and paprika, steamed cauliflower mixed with curry paste and lemon juice and sauteed onions and garlic, and a little steamed kale. We didn't take a picture of our meal, as our cancer cousins in Marin do. But we could have. We have very nice plates in two patterns. Salmon has omega-3, which is supposed to help combat chemo brain. It's hard to figure out what's chemo brain and what's middle-age word-retrieval slowdown. G is on a committee to plan an international writing festival. I was suggesting she recommend ----Umberto? Humberto, the Uraguyan who wrote Voices of Time and was a big hit when he spoke at the Museum of Contemporary Art here. About 15 minutes later the name came to me: Eduardo Galeano. I don't know where Umberto came from. I also thought of the Polish-born French writer Agnes ____ . At home I found her trilogy: Le Grand Cahier, La Preuve and Le Troisieme Mensonge. Her name is Agota Kristof . I was close, but no cigar: she was born in Hungary and lives in Switzerland. I discovered her work when I asked a friend who teaches French to recommend of a book that wasn't too difficult. The three novels are simple but stunning in their depth and darkness, and twisty at the end.

Yesterday my friend J from Ohio was in town and we had brunch with her hosted by the rabbi (and his wife, who was the chef) who married us as well as J and her husband M. J graciously decorated my scrubbed and shaved head with curlicues, filigree, tiny peace signs and grape leaves and an easy-to-read U.S. out of Iraq in back. My head was quite the hit in Chemolandia today. J is a professional artist and did a lovely job. Most of it is henna, which is a greenish paste that dries black and eventually peels or falls off to reveal red-brown underneath. I try to keep the dark on as long as possible but it's so tempting to peel and pick. It's like fifth grade when everyone was pouring glue on her/his (mostly her) palms and pulling off the dried "skin." It's as satisfying as stomping on plastic bubble wrap. Not everybody appreciates that pleasant activity. Which is too bad.