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Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Hair

For years I have needed to dye my hair every three to four weeks. I use the box dye that I put in my hair myself. The salon is too expensive and they often don’t get it right. About four years ago, I went in on Senior Discount Day and got my hair cut and colored. I had taken a picture of what I wanted it to look similar to. The haircut was wrong and the color she gave me was not the deep brown with a touch of red. Instead, it was all red…like not hair red but crayon red! I had to cover it up when I went back the next day so they could fix it. Then three years ago I treated myself to a haircut and color treatment for my birthday (which is also Christmas and I wanted it to look nice when the family was together). It turned out great. I was quite pleased until she gave me the bill to pay. It wasn’t the price she had quoted. It was more than twice the price. I almost passed out right there in the mall. So no more salon jobs for me. I buy a box of color for $6 to $10, depending on whether it is on sale or not.

However, because money has been so scarce (and continues to be) I haven’t colored my hair since before Thanksgiving. It is now about fifty percent gray. It makes me look about ten years older than without the gray. At least ten years older. I almost didn’t care because this was also a time when I was depressed and just didn’t care what my hair looked like or what age I looked like. Then I started to feel better when my diabetes started to get better (the wonders of medication!) and all the gray started to bother me. I wanted to look my best. I have been really busy with doctor appointments and trips to the lab for tests, to the hospital, to the pharmacy, and all of those other busy-making things so I had not had the chance to dye it. It kept getting more and more gray and I kept noticing it more and more.

Then I got my diagnosis and although I’ve not been to the oncologist yet, I know it’s not going to be a walk in the park. The biopsy, while I don’t have results yet, showed that the tumor is not only in my gall bladder but in my liver, as well. So if we come up with a treatment plan, it’s not going to be fun.

That’s when I decided to dye my hair. I was not going to wait another minute. I went to the closet where I keep extra boxes of hair dye when I get them on sale. I didn’t have any. There was one box of black that I bought for my sister but black is too severe for me so I couldn’t find any dye in the house. Finally, I found a box I had bought at the Dollar Tree. Yup, hair dye for a dollar. I was reluctant to use it because it was a no name brand with poor spelling on the outside of the box and it was old. But I figured, what the heck. So that’s what I have in my hair now. And it isn’t bad. I didn’t get all the gray but that’s okay. It looks more natural that way.

Now I want a haircut but I’m thinking I might want to leave it long for as long as I can because it might not be too long from now that I won’t have any at all. So that’s the inner debate right now. Of course, I have no money for a haircut and I won’t do it myself, so that will probably be the deciding factor in the endless hair decisions.

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Today’s the day. I leave for the hospital in about 5 hours and will be there most  of the day. They said my ride could get me around three or four. Then the waiting begins once again. I see the oncologist in a week, on  the tenth. Hopefully we’ll get a treatment plan then.  

The stress of the last couple of weeks is messing with my diabetes, too. Not fun. 

Anyway, if you happen to think of me today, send telepathic hugs. They are much needed. 

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That’s about four inches and it’s the size of the tumor that yesterday’s CT scan found growing outside of my gall bladder. From what the doctor says, the CT scan shows that it is “acting like it is cancerous.” The next step is a needle biopsy which should happen within the week and the gastroenterologist has already put in a referral to the oncologist. Approval for oncologist consult should take a couple of weeks, at least.

I’m sort of in shock. The doctor says it will have to come out, whatever it is, because it is protruding into the colon. So best case scenario is that it only has to be removed. But it is very likely that there will be a need for “follow up treatment.”

I managed to hold it together enough to call my three kids and tell them, and then my mother. I learned that hearing bad news is bad but having to relay the bad news to someone you love is far worse. So I guess we all have some more waiting to do. I wish the wait to be as short as possible.

I want to digest this news so that I can let my mind think about other things. Right now it’s kind of tough to think of anything. I’m sort of numb.

With luck, I can distract myself in a day or two so I can write and post here. I have a lot of ideas for posts.

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Seven Months

I’m on the road but I wanted to try post about this. Let’s see how posting by phone goes!

Today marks seven months since my surgery. I cannot tell you how much my life has changed since I was wheeled in to the operating room. I can be myself again. I can enjoy my grandchildren. I can leave the house. I’m no longer stared at. But most of all, I feel so much healthier.

However (I bet you were waiting for that however), there also the not knowing how many days this will be true. They say that this kind of cancer rarely returns to another part of the body but there’s still a chance. That has really made me realize that up can’t waste time. Every chance I get I have to grasp and drain every bit if joy from it. Especially where my grandchildren are concerned. Every smile; every laugh; every hug; every time they ask “how many more minutes?”; every single opportunity to love those little boys…I have to grab and enjoy every single moment.

This is a good thing. We can not and should not take anything in life for granted.

Life is precious. Life it’s fleeting. Life is to be lived.

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My hair is very gray. I usually dye it about every three months. I do it myself, at home. I found a dye recently, well less than a year ago, that is much better than what I was using. It is a foam in product that is much easier to apply and to see where you have applied it to and where there is no product, which means that you don’t have those “untouched” spots that translate into dyed dark hair (deepest brown is my natural color) with a lot of gray peeking in here and there. At $10 an application, it is more than twice what I pay for the other stuff that leaves gray in but it is well worth it. Plus it leaves my hair conditioned and feeling great!

I haven’t dyed my hair since Thanksgiving. That means that it is almost completely gray all over, down to my shoulders where there is still some of the dark coloring left down to my mid-back. I toyed with the idea of letting it go completely gray but I’m not ready for that. My daughter agreed that it’s not time yet. You see, I’m 59 years old. With my gray hair I look like I am well into my 60’s. With it dyed, I look late 40’s. No brainer. I decided to dye it.

Today is my grandson’s last day of pre school. He begins kindergarten in September. There will be a little presentation of certificates and pictures. I decided that today I was taking myself back. It has been a really rough three months and I am ready to start being myself again. So I rummaged through the cupboards looking for the good dye package but didn’t find any. However, I did find the old stuff that doesn’t cover the gray well. It was after midnight so I decided I would use the yucky stuff just this one last time. Maybe I should have waited until this morning or gone out at midnight. When I washed it out and dried my hair, I could definitely see a lot of gray. It seems that I left a lot untouched just below both temples. Then I realized that I only got the surface so when it is moved slightly out of the way, all the gray is underneath!

Oh well! It will have to do. It will wash out in less than a month anyway and by then I will have gotten to the store for the better stuff. I think I’ll stock up on it.

Then came the clothes. At about 75 pounds lighter than I was in April, nothing fits. I have two pair of leggings that fit loose but well enough to wear. I also have two pair of jeans that fit kind of baggy but they don’t fall down! So that’s what I have been wearing around the house. To go out though, I had my daughter take me to the store where I found two pair of nicer pants, not leggings and not jeans, that sort of fit. They were on clearance and then half of the clearance so I paid about $16 for the two pair. I’m wearing the dark blue ones today. The tops are harder to find so I dug through boxes of clothes that never made it to the Goodwill donation center, clothes that were too small when I was so much bigger. I found a few that looked less larger than others and gave them a fresh washing. One in particular is kind of gathered with elastic at the sides, creating a waist. That one is not huge on me. It’s a size or two too big but it doesn’t look like I’m a two year old playing dress-up in my mommy’s clothes. So I’m set. I’m stepping out! It’s only to my grandson’s pre school graduation but it means a lot to me.

I’m taking myself back. I’m ready to. My mind is anyway. My body isn’t entirely ready and I will have to remember to not over do things but I’m not waiting. I’m coming out, not as the sickly shell of who I used to be, but as the person that is looking forward to so much more than doctor’s appointments and medicines and fear of the cancer recurring. I’m not thinking of that today. Today is about an ending and a beginning.

I’m ready.

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Lab Report

This is a copy/paste from my Facebook status. I’m really very tired and somewhat weak so I don’t have the energy to write much more. I’ll be back as soon as I can bounce back with more of me. Hopefully in a couple of days.

So… the lab results came back with a “borderline malignancy” which has to be classified as cancer because it can recur. The organs are gone and so is any surrounding tissue. During the surgery they took samples of surrounding organs and tissue and all of those came back as benign. The type of cancer that was found almost never recurs. Almost a full 100% of women with it will not have a recurrence and will lead a normal and full life. Mine was not the typical ovarian cancer from which most women die; it was a different type. So that’s good. There is also no need for chemo or radiation. Another good. I will have to go in for pelvic exams every three months for the coming year then it will reduce to every six months then once a year. All in all, it was a good visit. I got the staples taken out. One kind of troubling thing is that I continue to lose weight. I weighed 205 on the day of the surgery April 16). Then on the 27th I weighed 157. Yesterday, nine days later, I am down to 148. So I need to try to get my system to keep food down. I’m also feeling very tired and very weak. I guess that has a lot to do with the weight loss but also the doctor explained that all my organs are in shock as a result of the surgery and they expect my recovery to be protracted so probably a full 8 or more weeks instead of the 6 to 8 weeks. I’m also at a high risk for peritonitis because the fluid in the cyst had leaked all over the inside of my abdomen causing an inflammation throughout. So I need to keep an eye on my temperature and whether I am keeping food down or not (right now, I’m not). Anyway, thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes. It has all helped me tremendously.

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Gordy

Gordy was my cousin. His real name was Manuel but, because of his physical characteristics, he was known as “Gordo” then he became Gordy. I think a lot of his friends didn’t even know what his real name was; only that he was Gordy.

Although he was my cousin, I didn’t meet him until shortly before my parents moved us to southern California. I was about seventeen and Gordy was about twelve. We shared a birthday. That was pretty special because our birthday was/is Christmas day. We used to have that as a bond. We both knew what it was like to have to share our special day with everyone, making it not so special for us. We both knew what it was like to never get a birthday card or a birthday cake or a birthday party. For us, our special day was sort of skipped as everyone celebrated Christmas.

Although Gordy was my aunt and uncle’s second child, he was the oldest son so he grew up quickly and took on a lot of extra responsibility. My uncle was gone a lot. He worked the overnight shift so he was basically gone from about 9 pm and didn’t come home until 7 am then he slept until mid afternoon. Gordy learned to do a lot of things around the house. My aunt had him repair things and build things and even discipline his younger siblings.

Once, when Gordy was about fifteen, my aunt asked him to turn on the pilot for the hot water heater. It had been very windy and the pilot had blown out. When Gordy went to light it, it sort of exploded in his face. He sustained third degree burns from his upper lip down to his neck and his chest. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The doctors treated the burns and the extreme pain but they told my aunt that he would have the physical scars for the rest of his life. My aunt was stubborn, thankfully, and would not hear of her son being physically scarred like that. She began a treatment on her own. Every day, several times a day, she would apply aloe vera gel (from a huge plant she had in the yard) all over the burned areas. When the burns healed, there was no scarring! The doctors couldn’t believe it because they were sure he’d have much scarring.

Later on, Gordy got involved in a gang. He lived in Long Beach and there were/are a lot of gangs there. I went on to college and married right after graduation. My parents split up. We sort of lost touch with that part of the family. Eventually, I did hear that Gordy had settled down and married and was no longer involved in gangs. He had a well paying job and had bought a house. Many years later, after my divorce, I sought out that part of my family and my kids and I visited them a few times. It was tough to always be the one going out there, a drive of over an hour in each direction. We tried but the effort was one way so we lost touch again.

One day, my aunt called me to ask about lawyers. She knew my ex-husband was a lawyer and she needed information. She wanted to sue Gordy’s doctors. Gordy had died. He was about 32 when he died. It seems that he had a growth of some sort on his tongue. It was removed and the biopsy showed it was malignant. Part of his tongue was removed. Over a period of months, more and more of his tongue was taken until in the end, he had none left. The cancer spread through his throat and eventually took his life. It was sad to hear my aunt’s pain at losing her son and I could sympathize with her as I have three kids of my own. I couldn’t give her answers, or at least not the answers she wanted. It didn’t really sound that there was much she could legally do but I did understand her need to lash out and blame someone; make someone pay; make sure it didn’t happen to another. But there really wasn’t much to be done.

I’ve been thinking about Gordy a lot recently. I don’t know why but I decided that maybe I needed to share him with my readers.

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