Why I’m Lucky

Yeah, I know. This is a loaded title. There are just too many ways and too many things I can think of. But I am going to start with a couple of ideas and maybe soon there will need to be a part deux, trois and even quatre.

I am tolerating the Taxol pretty well. For you newcomers or those who just, ahem, haven’t been keeping up to speed (tsssk tsssk), that is the chemo drug that I am currently on. Sure, I have a couple of irritating little side effects, but nothing the honey badger can’t handle. One of them is zits (or as the English like to say, “spots” which is what I thought one found on a dalmatian). Yes. I broke out. Ridiculous. Hair loss, then a break out. My young and gorgeous gal pal and fellow survivor pointed out to me at lunch the other day that it’s like going through puberty in reverse. Throw in that I had to give up my boobs and that something else (if you catch my drift) hasn’t shown up in a while and she’s really got a point.

So I decided I didn’t need to be dealing with that bullshit (the pimples, people) and went straight to the dermatologist (okay full disclosure I also had some irritating little rashies developing on my hands and head… so it was a multi-purpose visit) who promptly put me on something to curtail that unwanted effect. It’s working. Part of feeling good is looking good, right? Balk if you will, but to me this is important. To the dermatologist too. Which is why I love her.

When you think about it, it is not at all surprising that one might erupt on the outside given what’s going on on the inside of one’s bod at the moment, no? No.

So what else? Bone pain. Not bad, just a little. Not enough for me to run out and buy the cane (read Countdown if this isn’t ringing a bell) but enough to remind me I have bones and they hurt. Just the legs so far. I don’t even need Tylenol (sorry Brits — Paracetamol). Just a little homeopathic stuff and I can deal. In fact I’ll pop one right now… excuse me. There.

And for some reason it hurts under my finger nails, especially my right thumb. I took off my fingernail polish yesterday to investigate and lo and behold there was some brown discolouration under there. I had read that this could happen. In fact your entire nail can fall off. (Ew!)

Oh — sorry. I am rambling and you are confused. This is where the “why I am lucky” part comes in, in case you were wondering what the hell the title was about since all I have done thus far is bitch about insignificant side effects. I’m getting there…

Today I visited the nail salon to get a polish change on my fingernails and a pedicure. I wanted to see if there was more brown discolouration under my toenails and get new polish on all the nails to strengthen and protect them. I do a lot with my hands (cook, mow the lawn (really), give my kids a bath, you name it), so it is pretty annoying to feel weakness and vulnerability in that area.

So I was chatting to the aesthetician about all of this when I noticed a woman watching me and slowly approaching. Call her Greta. I would say she was about sixty-five. Short white hair, blue eyes, one eye completely dilated. Attractive.

Turns out she was a fellow breast cancer survivor and had heard me talking about it.

She was about six months out from treatment, having gone through a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But unlike me, she did not have an easy breezy time of it. She ended up in the hospital for three weeks during chemo because her white blood cell count didn’t rise as it should have despite her having had immune booster shots (as I do) after every treatment. Her right eye was dilated because she had developed a serious infection in that eye and they were now watching it closely — the outcome unclear. She had a prosthetic breast and hadn’t had a reconstruction because her body couldn’t tolerate it after chemo. She had had a hell of a time. But there she was, out and about, standing before me. Dealing. And she was lovely.

She was also both empathetic and encouraging, without any preachiness or gloom, unlike previous “mentors” I may have unwittingly had (see Assaulted at the Global Festival: Things Not to Say to a Cancer Patient for that story). She didn’t tell me how I was going to feel or prescribe anything except courage, basically. I really liked her. I hope I see here there again.

She made me feel like I am having a cake walk. Just an inconvenience. Just a few months out of my year so that I can kill this piece of crap and get on with my life, thank you very much.

I’m not Job, sitting on that dung heap. No sir. I’ve had way too easy a time of it.

I’m lucky.

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