Taxol: Once More, with Feeling

I had my second round or session or infusion of Taxol on Monday, with chemo escort S. I received three medical responses to my report of "bone pain" from the first session. First was the unfamiliar self-identified "nurse who works with Dr. --" who bounced into the exam room and checked my breathing and breasts. I told her about the pain and she said to try Aleve or ibuprofen. Next was the oncologist (who also checked my breasts and breathing), who told me I could also try Advil, and if that didn't work, to call the office, even on the weekend, and I could get a prescription for a steroid to help. Third, was L the Platonic Ideal of Oncology Nursing. She's the one we ran into when we went to eat at Caliente a couple of months ago. The first time I talked to her, on the phone, she sounded like she was meeting the friend of cherished friend. She is always friendly and seems genuinely glad to see me and whoever's in my entourage.When we first talked about small mouth sores I was getting, she wrote me out a prescription for this vile pink mouthwash mix that I ended up getting filled last time around. When I told her about the bone pain, she asked what number it was from 1-10. I said 3, but that I felt like crying. She laughed and said it sounded more like 10, and she wrote me a prescription for the short-term corticosteroid (dexamethasone), to take prophylactically. I went to the drug store last night. As I was giving the paper to the clerk, I noticed that L had written 2006. I said to the tech, It's got the wrong year. I can change it. She said, aghast: You can change it? (It must be a felony. Maybe even suggesting it is a felony.) She asked the pharmacist if she could fill it, and she said OK. I said, I didn't even have cancer a year ago. (The prescriber was an oncologist.) That, my bald head and the crispness of the prescription must have convinced them.

Last night was the first July 3 we've spent in Chicago together that we didn't go downtown to the fireworks. L (husband, not nurse) thought that being surrounded by a million people wouldn't be the best thing for a Cancer Bitch with a depressed immune system. We rode bikes, looking at houses and condos we're pretending to be interested in, then went to a new branch of a Mexican restaurant around the corner, even though we'd bought all kinds of organic produce Monday night. The guacamole was good, the chips were oily. At home, we spent about 10 minutes on the roof looking at the top edges of the fireworks behind the Hancock Building. The rain drove us in. In the middle of the night I threw up.

I woke up this morning with slight joint pain, took the steroid and went back to sleep. Now the pain or discomfort is gone. (That's the $64,000 question: What is the line between pain and discomfort?) When I mentally scan myself for bone pain I wonder if that's what the cancer feels like when it sneaks back inside you.