I'm through with chemo, through with cancer--but I'll never really be through with cancer. And right now I am still Her Baldness, to borrow a title from another chemo-head.
This morning I was on my way to meet a client at The Little Cafe when a young man on a bicycle asked me for directions. He wanted to know where the Howard Brown center was. I asked if he wanted the clinic or the lesbian-gay center (which doesn't have Howard Brown in the title), and he said the latter. I directed him--two blocks south and two blocks west, shiny new building--and he asked me about the message on my head. You must feel really strongly, he said. I felt unmasked. My head as canvas was a side effect, not a deliberate political act. I told him that I lost my hair from chemo. I started to feel that if I were really committed, I would have shaved my head back when I had hair. But I guess a button will have to do when the hair sprouts back.
I am still on the never-ending quest to get my port removed. It's taken a few phone calls so far, and I still don't have an appointment with Interventional Radiology, the people who insert and install and remove the ports. I had to go today to Fancy Hospital to get blood tests (three tubes) that will qualify me for port removal. One of the regular nurses who took my blood before chemo did the honors. She is especially friendly and also laid-back. She also remembers me, which I think is something, considering all the people coming through. Then, blood drawn, I went down to the fourth floor to get a routine MRI of the remaining breast. The sole breast. The surviving breast. The first two times I got MRIs I brought someone with me. This time it was just me and my generic Valium. I was able to sleep some in the MRI thing, even though it's very clang-y and buzzy. Before I went inside the machine, the tech needed to mark the places on my breast where I had scars, and she used Vitamin E capsules to do it. She just taped the golden ovals onto my breast. She said the Vitamin E shines up brightly in the pictures. I asked her who thought of that. She didn't know. When I told L tonight he said, To help heal the scars? and I said no, though I've read that Vitamin E does help scars fade. I'd forgotten they were there and one had melted by nighttime.
Afterwards, I checked my e-mail down the hall in a machine set up in a waiting area, and then went to WRU to photocopy some handouts for an upcoming class. I saw H there, who mans the desk in the hallway. I told him I was through with chemo. So you're in remission? he asked. I guess, I said. Just like I hadn't thought I was a survivor yet, I didn't think I was in remission yet. But I guess I am. Which scares me because J, the son of B and S, was in remission. And then his cancer came back.
I stopped in at B's tonight. He was in the midst of moving himself from one mechanized wheelchair to another. He fell. It took quite a while to get him from the floor to the sofa. He can move his arms and hands but he doesn't have much strength in them. His legs are dead weights. He told me that Kelly the Irregular had called to say she couldn't come tonight. I said, I'm not going to help you get ready for bed. I keep telling him he has to hire someone better. He says a reliable service is too expensive. I figure if we don't help he'll be forced to hire someone else. L came over later (he was at Soldier Field to hear the Democratic candidates) and we moved B to the chair. I relented and we were going to help B go to bed but he wasn't ready. He wanted to watch Jon Stewart (nee Jonathan Stewart Leibowitz). So we didn't. We shall hope for the best.
He has the kind of MS that just gets worse and worse. There is no remission. His wife S has put him on some supplements, which seems to make him more alert. The doctor says the disease is eating up his spine. He has pain and spasms and his legs shake. I said, You still get pleasure from life, don't you? He said he does sometimes. He said when he wakes up in the morning he doesn't hate the fact that he's still alive.
I will get the results from the MRI in a few days. I need to remember that there are often false positives with the MRI. That's the origin of two of the scars: core biopsies taken earlier this year, which proved to be negative for cancer.
A quote from Her Baldness, on chemo: "Something has broken into your body and it has murder on its mind."