Friday, April 23, 2010

Housekeeping, Home Health, and Hair

Today is Day #3 of Chemo #2. As I write this, I am propped up in bed, sucking on a watermelon-flavored Jolly Rancher (darn that metallic taste!). Without a doubt, this round of chemo recovery is going more smoothly than the first. I know that there are many prayer warriors who have asked this specific thing for me, and I am humbled and very aware that God is answering those prayers. Thank you, friends.

Chemo Day (Tuesday) was uneventful. It took one nurse one try to get an IV started. That alone was a vast improvement over last time! Hubby and Mom were with me the whole day. Three people in one small room for eight hours might seem a little claustrophobic, but there's no way I could make it through these treatment days without them! To pass the time, Hubby and Mom work on various professional and personal projects, and I write thank-you notes, read, and sleep when the Benadryl kicks in. I had a change in perspective toward the end of the day. The lady in the room next to me was obviously having a very difficult time. We could hear her vomiting every few minutes--difficult to listen to, excruciating to live through. The chemo nurse helped her as much as she could, but when the worst of it was over, she pulled up a chair to the lady's bedside and gave her this grim news: "At this point, there is no way to continue this course of chemotherapy for you." The conversation continued quietly, with the woman's husband asking what--if any--other options might be available. I was floored. I have been so wrapped up in feeling sad about my cancer and my chemo, that it hasn't really occurred to me to be truly thankful. What if I was the lady on the other side of that thin wall? What if Nurse Michelle had to say to me that chemo was no longer an option? Lord, forgive me for taking this awful, life-saving medicine for granted.

On Wednesday morning, Mom and I drove back down to Dallas for my Neulasta shot. Neulasta is a must during chemotherapy! It boosts my white blood cell count and helps protect against infection, especially during these days when my immune system is compromised. The labs I had done last week were right on target, so I guess it's working.

Also on Wednesday, I received a much-needed, much-appreciated gift. Precious friends from our Sunday School class are sharing their housekeeper with us! I was a little nervous when she dropped by earlier in the week to get a look at the house. I obviously have not been doing much (okay, any) cleaning. I showed her around and watched her carefully as she worked out some fancy housekeeping equation in her head. It had something to do with the number of bedrooms + the number of bathrooms - the pity she felt for me=how much she will charge. While she was figuring, Goliath charged in the front door, cheeks bright red and breathing hard from riding his bike. The next second, Little Middle and Baby ran through the back door, fresh off the trampoline. The air was filled with the smell of sweaty little boys. The tiny Latino housekeeper looked at them with an open mouth and said to me, " have three boys?" I nodded and introduced the stinky boys to her by name. She looked at them again and said (this time more to herself than to me), "TRES?!? Oy, Dios." Then she offered to knock 5 more dollars off the price of weekly housecleaning. She left my home that evening probably feeling grateful to Dios that she is not me, and I felt like I had won the lottery!

I had an appointment with Dr. M before I left for the wedding last week. He asked a lot of questions about the first round of chemo: how I felt, how long it took for me to get "better", symptoms, etc. He was not too thrilled with my report that it took a good 7-8 days for me to be semi-functional. According to the good doctor, most patients need about half that time after a chemo treatment to begin to feel more like themselves. He attributed some of that listlessness and extreme fatigue to possible dehydration. So, in an effort to ward off dehydration this time around, he put in orders for a home health nurse to come out to my house and run fluids. Nurse Debbie came for the first time yesterday. After nearly 2 hours, all of the paperwork was filled out, and my Caretakers (Hubby and Mom) were trained in hooking up an IV line, operating the pump, proper sanitation procedures, saline and heparin injections, and even removing the needle from my arm. It was pretty fun last night, especially given my drugged-up state of mind, to watch Hubby act as my own personal nurse. He did a great job, though! I will do another 8-hour IV drip today, with the final one tomorrow.

About my hair...I wasn't sure I would be able to write about my hair on the blog. I can write about cancer, my family, my faith--but somehow, telling you about my hair makes me feel extremely vulnerable. But over the course of the last week, as I stood next to my best friend during her wedding, and danced with my husband, and survived another day of chemotherapy...I was reminded that there are literally thousands of people who are faithfully bringing my name before the Father every single day. Many of you are my friends and my family members, but there are MANY more who have never even met me...yet you continue to pray. That's not something I take lightly, so I want you to know everything--even the things that feel ultra-personal. Early last week, my hair began to fall out. After a couple of days and one traumatic shower, it was obvious that I would not be the first Taxol patient on the planet to keep her hair. So I made the heartbreaking decision to go ahead and take care of it before I went to Houston for Caroline's wedding. Mom and I went to Survivor Gals, and she held my hand and sang to me while the stylist shaved my head. I could feel the hair sliding off my head and the tears rolling down my cheeks, but I still felt a sense of disbelief--a "no-way-is-this-really-happening-to-me-right-now" feeling. I did not look at my bald head until late that night. I was safely locked in the bathroom, ready to wash my face, when I peered in the mirror. One glance was all it took to sink me to the floor and consume me with shoulder-shaking sobs. I don't know why it is that my hair seemed so important, or why losing it has been so devastating. I feel real grief over it! I also feel ridiculous and impatient with myself. I have a disease that could KILL me, and I have spent much more time and energy worrying and grieving over my hair than anything else.

It's been just a little more than a week since I lost my hair. In some ways, it seems MUCH longer. It's amazing what you can get used to if you simply have to. In all of the pre-hair-loss discussions, I had promised the boys that I would never go out in public without my "pretend hair." The last thing I want to do is make this more difficult for them! So when we go out, or when other people are around, I wear my pretend hair. But when it's just us at home, my head is covered by a hat, scarf, or turban. All three little cowboys seem to be adjusting just fine. Last night, after his shower, my precious Goliath came out of the bathroom wearing clean pj's and my black Bank Robber hat. He did not say one word about it, choosing instead to crawl up in bed with me and cuddle. No words were necessary.

Some days I look in the mirror and tell my reflection that yes, I can DO this. That I AM doing it! Other mornings, I look and all I see is a shell of the old Allyson. Some days are sunny and hope blazes through; other days are clouded over and doubt and depression linger like the smell of sickness. I hate those days. It is on those days that I remind myself that, sick or not sick, I am precious to God. "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." Deuteronomy 7:6

I am chosen. I am treasured. And with my God's help, I will beat this!

Snuggling with my Baby

Hat time with Nana!


Jennifer said...

I continue to pray for you and your family. It's wonderful that you are filling your mind with God's truth and His Word. You are so precious to Him.

Gran said...

Snuggling with baby looks like "two peas in a pod!" Cute little noses!! Love you a bunch!!

Amanda said...

What a beautiful post and a beautiful outlook. Continuing to pray...

bhayes11 said...

Wow! I can't believe the difference between chemo 1 & 2 recovery. I am so happy to see this report. So sorry you have to be on this roller coaster but you are doing great! I'm still praying and am so thankful He heard and answered our prayers that #2 would be better.
Betty H

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Allyson, boys, and Nana!We are standing in the gap for your family with our prayers and, most importantly, His promises.

Sandy said...

You are absolutely beautiful! You looked gorgeous at the wedding and do not beat yourself up about grieving the loss of your hair. I think most every woman our age would do the exact same thing. Take comfort in knowing you look great in your pretend hair and no one will know unless you tell them that it is not yours.
Your boys are so precious and I love the picture of Pat with them in the hats. I know you have to find the joy moments in the midst of such darkness and that seemed like one of them for yall.
I am continuing to pray for all of you and I am praising Jesus that He has allowed this treatment to go a little smoother for you. I am praying that path continues!!
Keep your head held high girl, if God is for us,who can be against us?!
Sandy Klamert

Lisa Buffaloe said...

My prayers continue for your healing, Allyson. Please give your precious Mom a hug for me. It's been far too long since I have seen her, but she made a wonderful impact on my life so many years ago.

Gentle hugs,

Kandice said...

I just love you a bunch!!! You make me laugh..and are a constant reminder of the important things in life!!!! Hopefully I will get to Texas soon!!!

Lynne said...

Allyson-I have never followed a blog before, but am looking forward to your next post. I stumbled across your blog on Facebook through Chelsea Heller. You are an excellent writer and have had a huge impact on me already. What an amazing story you have to tell! Well wishes!

Beth said...

Allyson I love you and you are beautiful. God has blessed you in so many ways....I wish I still lived there to let our boys play Lego Star Wars and so we could catch up in person but I have to get by by letting your blog do the catching up instead. Hopefully this summer I can come and see your beautiful self in person. I miss you and your beautiful spirit.
ps-I cry almost every time I read your blog. My husband thinks I am crazy.

PandaMom said...

Thanks for sharing your very personal details. You truly are a gift to the rest of us reading how God is moving in your life. Bless you, friend. ; )

gingergirl53 said...

Allyson, everytime i read your blog, you touch my heart. you are such a blessing. i can't even pretend to imagine how difficult all this is for you, even the hair thing. i am right there with you about that because i love my hair too. i always think thats the one thing that would hurt the most. we just always have to remember that a woman's beauty is not what is on the outside, "Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." (1 Peter 3:4) however hard that may be for us to accept, but truthfully by just reading your blog i see that gorgeous beauty in you. thank you for sharing all you do. it is such a joy to see your strength and trust in God. He certainly never leaves your side. i am always praying for you and your sweet boys.

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