My scariest scenario
It’s Friday, 2 August, 2019. I didn’t have chemo this week and I have to say it’s been a pretty good week. I had coffee and lunches with family and friends, read a little, watched too much television, ran errands, and got some rest. Oh, and I saw the eye doctor. Pun intended. (So this blind guy tells his girlfriend he’s been seeing another woman. Her immediate thought is, this is either really good news or really bad news.) For the most part I feel good during my off days. But on chemo days it’s not unusual for me to feel nauseous and tired in the afternoons, and to have a slight headache. I’ll start my next two-week round of chemo on Monday.
Last Monday I had a bit of a surprise. When I went for my chemo shot the nurse informed me that I’d also be getting an IV with a “bone strengthener.” I don’t recall anyone telling me to expect this but all right, it is what it is. Let’s do this. I mean, how bad can it be, right?
To explain the bone strengthener, one of the characteristics of myeloma is that over time it causes bones to become brittle and easily fractured. I’m still on the front end of this thing so for now my bones are fine. However, they start myeloma patients on this treatment very early in order to slow the process of deterioration.
When she told me I’d be getting the IV, the nurse indicated that possible side effects were “flu-like symptoms,” but she assured me they’re “generally well tolerated.” Do you know what generally well tolerated means? I don’t either. But it doesn’t mean generally well tolerated. Later that evening I had chills and body aches so bad I had to put on a hoodie and cover myself with a blanket. Mind you it’s summer in Southern Arizona. It’s about 90 degrees outside after sunset. I normally keep my air conditioning set at 75 so I turned it up to 80, but I still just couldn’t get warm. I was sicker than I’ve been in years. Flu-like symptoms? Yes. Well tolerated? Not so much. This continued through the night. And here’s the fun part: earlier in the day I had taken a laxative (due to another side effect of chemo), my dog had the runs because my mom had given her meat scraps, so I had to take her out several times, and we were having monsoon rain. Fuck! I just wanted to cover up and rest. I was hating life. I don’t cry often but I won’t lie, I did. When it comes to cancer there are good days and bad days. This, I would call a bad day. Apparently I’ll be getting this bone strengthener about once a month for a while. At least now I know what to expect and I’ll be better prepared next time.
When I was young and I’d imagine myself at old age, the scariest scenario was probably to be alone and have cancer. Welcome to my scariest scenario.
Stone and cement
For three years I’ve lived in an apartment I really like. The grounds are attractively landscaped and well-maintained. The neighbors are friendly and thoughtful. We have three swimming pools and an exercise room, as well as a tennis court I’ve never seen anyone use. It’s gated and safe with covered resident parking. The management is wonderful and it’s located in a desirable part of town. I couldn’t ask for more. But my apartment is on the second floor and it’s accessed by stone and cement stairs. Who the hell makes stairs out of stone and cement anyway? Those stairs are going to be treacherous at some point, so I decided it would be prudent to move to a ground level apartment now, before it becomes too difficult for me.
The down side of all this is that I hate moving, and I love my apartment. The up side is that I really like the new apartment too. It’s in a prime location in the complex, looking out on a green lawn near one of the swimming pools. It’s the same floor plan as the place I’m in now, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It has some upgrades, like plank laminate flooring rather than ratty old carpet. And it has a large patio instead of a balcony. Plus, bonus is that my dog, Sky, who is 13-years-old and is starting to have some difficulty climbing stairs, won’t have to any longer. So I’m moving next weekend with the help of some really terrific friends and family.
I have people
I don’t really mind being alone, for the most part. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have people. I have support. Here in Tucson I have my folks, my brother and sister-in-law, new friends. And I have my two daughters and many cherished old friends spread out across the country. When I say I’m alone, I just mean that I live alone. And I like living alone except when I’m tired and nauseous, and Sky needs to go out, and I have to take meds but all I want to do is stay in bed. Then I wish I could ring a little bell on the nightstand and an angel would come to my rescue. But there’s no angel. There’s just me, and Sky.
If you’re around my age you’ll remember a cheesy 1960s sitcom called “Family Affair.” The story goes that a well-to-do New York City bachelor has to take custody of his orphaned nieces and nephew and he’s raising them with the help of his “gentleman’s gentleman,” Mr. French. Remember that? Yeah, I need a Mr. French.
Now that I’ve made my life sound pathetic, let me assure you it’s not. I’m happy and I’m quite capable of taking care of myself. Three years ago my husband and I split amicably after 17 years together. At that time I moved from Baltimore, Maryland to Tucson, Arizona to build a new life, and I’m doing just fine, thank you very much. Actually, there are some advantages to living alone. Like, I don’t have to share the television remote, I can stay up as late as I want, and nobody complains when I don’t shower for three days. I mean IF! IF I didn’t shower for three days. Not that I would do that. I’m just saying…
So, to review, there are days when I feel sick and life sucks. But there are many days I don’t. I have to move out of my apartment. But I like the new apartment. I need a gentleman’s gentleman. But I’m also quite capable of taking care of myself. Oh, and my dog is getting old. There’s no up side there. That just sucks.
The truth is, I didn’t expect to grow old alone. And certainly not with cancer. Who does? But here I am. It could be worse. Right? Like the old joke; a doctor tells his patient he has cancer and Alzheimer’s. The patient says, Well at least I don’t have cancer. In my case, at least I don’t have Alzheimer’s. Or maybe I do and I don’t remember? Oh, shit!