You know when you feel the change in your body, going from perfectly fine (or, maybe not perfectly, what with the morning sore throats and needing to get a little more sleep) to kinda sick? No? I felt the sneeze that turned me from not snotty to snotty yesterday afternoon after a lovely, long, last day of spring break lunch with one of the first friends we made in Kzoo. There are annoying parts of every job, but I will say that forced time off, even if you don’t do anything special, is one of the huge perks of being a professor. Anyway.
As I was dragging my butt off the couch last night (after we finished watching the entire series House of Cards. Seriously, have you watched it? Can we talk? So very good. And dark. And depressing. And when will season 2 start?), Jess told me, “take something. I mean, you’re not nursing which is the only reason I had to suffer through it when I had it. Don’t suffer if you don’t have to.”
So, I went to the medicine cabinet. We have 2 (labeled, of course. I mean, have you met Jess? Maybe not, but she labels everything, and our sets of sheets are tied with ribbons. I’m just saying.) little bins for adult medicine (there is a “kid medicine” bin, too. Of course.), so I pulled them out. It is seriously like taking a walk down memory lane. We have so many many bottles and boxes of pills and liquids that I bought before my diagnosis that, post cancer, Jess joked should be labeled “not indicated for colon cancer.” Before cancer, I really resisted taking medication–I’d over used ibuprofen to medicate migraines before I finally went to a neurologist who helped me, but that Vitamin I caused me rebound headaches, so I was in pain twice as much. So, really, I was a grin and deal the eff with pain kind of a girl until the pain that a tumor growing in you causes in your gut. Anyway, I know those meds have expired, but there they are. I also have a June, 2010 bottle of post surgery pain killers (the kind the people get addicted to) that is half full, and says, “Refills: 5 before January 12, 2011.” I’m not going to lie. I kind of felt like a bad ass when I read that–I remember not wanting to take too many even in the post surgery, but still in the hospital days (once I finally got the epidural and iv out) because, really, what one doesn’t need on top of cancer is an addiction to pain killers. Still, having organs removed hurts. Um, go me?
Digging through, I found some Nyquil for cold and flu, and I left the bathroom without it. I told Jess, “it seems like overkill for this sneezy runny nose thing I’ve got going.” Her–direct quote–response, “Jill. You’ve had chemo run through your system. I don’t think Nyquil is really going to do anything to your body except alleviate your symptoms.” Point was taken (although, Nyquil will make you wake up completely in your bed after it wears off, even though it is still 3 in the morning. So, there’s that.). It both made me laugh, and make me think of how everything is relative.
I have a colleague who, when I say, “oh, you sound sick [I can hear him coughing through the walls]” will tell me that he does feel like crap, “but, it isn’t cancer.” I mean, no. It isn’t, but you can still feel shitty and have it count, you know? It doesn’t HAVE to be cancer for people to have sympathy for you! Relative to the moment (having a writing deadline and a class to teach and meetings to get to and grading to finish), a hacking cough sucks, and makes it hard to get shit done, and yeah. Maybe you could take a day to rest. It’s all relative.
After J’s funeral on Monday, I took a loaf of homemade bread to a friend (who is younger than me) who just had a hysterectomy because, post a LEEP procedure, it was determined that this was the best course of action. She told me that her doctor had just called, and said that chemotherapy wouldn’t be necessary. She told me the shock of learning that chemo was even on the table. I was so so relieved for her, even as I am feeling overwhelmed with the numbers of younger women with cancer and chemo-may-be-on-the-table cancer that keep getting added to, and I remembered that moment for me. Jess and I were talking on the phone from across the hospital from each other–she in the swanky maternity ward, and me in the not as nice post surgery wing. She was saying that we’d know more about if chemo was necessary once the pathology was back and we’d met with my oncologist (since she works there, she was instrumental in helping me get the best onc for the job). I just said, “what? I won’t need chemo. They removed the cancer.” I think she was all, “um, you have CANCER.” I burst into tears. That knowing not knowing not wanting to know thing while being hopped up on drugs and wanting to be with your partner and new baby can really, you know, get you down.
But, it’s all relative, isn’t it? In retrospect, those drugs that we still have in our medicine closet didn’t work, I still get colds, I got the bad, rather than the better, news about chemo from my oncologist. But, I’m still here. I’ll take Nyquil every now and again (but, I think, maybe not). Vitamin I is back in non-regular, but as needed, rotation. My brain isn’t quite where I’d want it to be this long after surgery and chemo (seriously–from diagnosis on 6/4/10 to end of treatment on 12/30/10 was not all that long. It’s been muuuuuch longer that I haven’t been in treatment. The leftovers should be gone.), and the neuropathy still plagues me, but here I am. Here I am. I have to keep telling myself that, drippy nose and all.