Friday, January 11, 2013

fear is fear, but chemo is just a long non-pedicure

I’m lying on top of a made bed—my favorite way to rest—waiting for the chemo hangover to kick in. That’s what Nicole called it, a hangover. I like how it makes chemo itself sound like a party. And when you think about how I spent yesterday afternoon, it’s not totally off: hanging out with two of my favorite people, playing games, wearing a funny hat, then passing out.

AK, Nicole and I took the elevator to City of Hope’s chemo room, where I strapped the first of four frozen ChemoCaps to my head, tying down the pointy, extra frozen part with a scarf. I looked like an equestrian in the Special Olympics, but the nurses were supportive and curious. I’d packed a bunch of warm clothes into my cancer tote bag (because of course cancer comes with a free tote bag), but I didn’t need any of them. Soon I started to wonder if the ChemoCaps were really going to work. Maybe they’ll work better once half my hair falls out and the hats can finally touch my scalp.

One person's Special Olympics is another person's runway look.
The chemo room consisted of two rows of recliners. It looked not unlike a nail salon, and I decided they should really hire someone to give pedicures and massages to people trapped in comfy chairs for three hours. I mean, we would pay for them and everything. It would just be a nice optional service.

We played blackjack for a little while. Nicole offered to teach us gin rummy, but the truth is I like card games about as much as I like being hooked up to an IV. I pulled the cancer card in order to not play cards. Then we played Apples to Apples, which AK and I liked, because it’s all about people and metaphor, but which Nicole was baffled by.

“It’s just so subjective!” she said. “What does it even mean to get a point, when it’s just one person’s arbitrary decision?”

We switched to dominoes, which seemed like good middle ground. That got interrupted by an IV bag switch-out. Then I took an Ativan-fueled nap because everyone says to take Ativan before chemo, even though it seems very low on the spectrum of cancer-related stressors.

I kept watching myself for signs of fatigue or spontaneous mouth sores, but by the evening I still felt good enough to see This is 40 with AK. (I hear tomorrow should be the worst.) We were thoroughly annoyed by Pete and Debbie, the main characters. They had some real problems, I guess, but a lot of fake ones too, like being in debt while driving luxury cars and living in a giant house, and being accidentally pregnant at age forty.

There was a montage of them visiting various doctors, and a mention of Paul Rudd’s high cholesterol, but the implication was that forty is rough because that’s when you have to endure the humiliation of medical tests, but only the kind that will always come back okay. The test is the thing itself. Existentially, I think this remains true for me. And fearing death because you’re middle-aged and everything’s going okay is probably not so different from fearing death because you’re in your thirties and things are not going okay. Fear is fear and FDR was right about it.

But still. There’s a scene in which Melissa McCarthy—as the unhinged mother of their daughter’s classmate—screams that they look like a couple from a bank commercial. And they do, and the whole movie felt like the problems of a couple from a bank commercial.
McCarthy: "He touched my nipple!" Rudd: "I touched your shoulder." McCarthy: "I have very high nipples!"
“During some of their really bad fights, I did flash back to some of our own worst fights last year,” AK said, wondering, I think, if that was why she didn’t like Pete and Debbie.

“Right, but the best movies make you cringe at the characters who remind you of your very worst self, and then you have more empathy for them as a result.” Charlize Theron’s baby shower meltdown in Young Adult is one of my favorite examples. Paul Rudd as predictably hedonistic male and Leslie Mann as predictably naggy female are not.

There were a couple of poetic moments, or threads, like the oldest daughter’s obsession with Lost. The last episode of the show is a holy grail she has to find after her parents confiscate her iPad. When she finally gets to watch it, first by herself, then with her little sister and estranged grandpa, she says, “See, they all die, but they’re happy because they did what they needed to do.”


Claire said...

At the very least they could have massage chairs, right?

Glad to hear it wasn't so bad yesterday. Hope you're feeling relatively OK today and onwards!

Been thinking of you, kiddo.

Tracy Lynn said...

Dialysis is also very much NOT like a pedicure. And people always want to go with me, in support, I suppose, but I have learned that I am very much happier on my own, at least for my time in the chair. That way I can doze through NCIS or Parking Wars without feeling the need to be amusing or "strong". Because sometimes I want to be whiny, and while the techs are cool with it, my loved ones usually aren't.

Cheryl said...

C: Thanks for the good wishes.

TL: Yeah, I can imagine that I might not want the party experience every time. And my loved ones might not love me so much that they love watching me sleep.

Peter Varvel said...

I loved that they showed the full, uninterrupted rant that Miss McCarthy improvised (I'm assuming) while the credits rolled.
I admire the fact that she bulldozed right through it without making herself laugh - I couldn't do it.

Was yesterday the worst? Is today better? (I hope)

Cheryl said...

I know, I loved that rant more than I loved most of the movie. It made me wish I was watching Identity Thief instead.

Yep, yesterday was the worst, but still not much worse than an actual hangover. Today was pretty decent. :-)