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Evolutionary Thinking
...in the midst of change everything changed

dunnbryant
Date: 2007-11-01 18:21
Subject: I'm 38 and introspective
Security: Public

It’s been a long time since I’ve stopped in here to write about anything.  My blogging had been so much about my cancer that when I was finished with treatment I wanted very much not to be finished overall.  What I found, unfortunately, is that it’s not that cut in dry.  Even though I’m not “dealing” with cancer anymore I feel it lurking in the shadows all the time.  Well, not all of the time.  There are days when I’m feeling perfectly normal and then it hits me out of the blue “you’ll probably never be able to have another baby,” or “you won’t live to see your grandchildren.”  It’s scary and humbling.  It makes me focus on loving the moments that I’m in.  And on the days I can’t do that, I’m often frightened to tears.  Welcome to the new normal…

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dunnbryant
Date: 2007-04-03 08:52
Subject: Finally, things are looking up in Tallahassee
Security: Public
After months of getting our butts handed to us, yesterday we got two pieces of stellar news. 

I'm on my way out the door to run errands and head to work.  You can get the details here.

be peaceful, y'all.
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dunnbryant
Date: 2007-03-28 21:48
Subject: An informative story
Security: Public
It's always good when your friends forward you important news articles.  Like this one I got from a buddy this afternoon. 

After I finished wiping away the tears I gave it a really hard thought. 

There is so much truth to this, unfortunately.  Something about having The Big C that makes folks either turn tail and run or work to figure out what they can do to be supportive.  I wish this was just an entertaining article - I laughed like I always do when reading stuff from The Onion - but there is a lot of truth there, too.
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dunnbryant
Date: 2007-03-25 03:05
Subject: Back from the second surgery
Security: Public
Everything went pretty well.  I'm sore as all get out and a bit tired because the drugs keep me a little foggy. 

I've got a couple of weeks before I get the pathology report back.  I'm hoping that the margins are clear so I won't have to do this again.

A little more info can be found at my new paying blog.  I'm thinking about switching over to some something else here.  I'm tired of only writing about cancer.  It gets rather old, you know?
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dunnbryant
Date: 2007-03-13 00:39
Subject: The second surgery awaits
Security: Public
Tags:breast cancer, cancer

I'm glad that I was able to schedule it during The Girl's spring break so we won't have to take her out of class, but boy does it suck in some ways to know that she's gonna spend her vacation hanging out with her mom while she recuperates.  I'm going to owe her big time.

I'm going under the knife again on Wednesday the 21st.  Let's hope this visit is better than the last one.  I don't think any of us could handle a scene like that again.

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dunnbryant
Date: 2007-02-28 22:40
Subject: So, finally, it’s over
Security: Public
Tags:breast cancer, cancer, chemo
On the 23rd the husband I headed over to the Jolly Oncologists’ office to do the pre-appointment meeting for what was to be my last round of chemo. Little did he know I had some different thoughts about that.

My time with the taxanes (Taxol and Taxotere) had been really rough on me. The first week when I was taking Taxol I was in so much pain that I had to have morphine prescribed for me. Taxotere didn’t cause that kind of pain, but I did battle with extra periods and the drastic shift between terrible diarrhea and terrible constipation. (I know, TMI.)

When I went in on Friday I had already decided that I wasn’t going to have the last round. I felt like seven was a good, lucky number and besides, I was sick of being sick.

The doc comes in and I tell him I’m done. He laughs. (I think maybe it’s a nervous thing with him. Part of me actually thinks he’s scared of my husband.)

I tell him I’m sick of all of it and that the symptoms I’m having (see TMI above) is just too much for me. And besides, it’s just one more round. He tells me that the benefit of the taxanes is so low for me that it doesn’t matter if I take the last one or not. Had it not been such a fantastically sunny day I would’ve given him a big ole piece of my mind. Instead I shook his hand and told him I’d call him after my second surgery to let him know how things went and that I’d see him in three months for my check up.

My husband and I jumped in the car, rolled down the windows, and started three days of celebrating: we played our music loud and let the wind hit our almost bare scalps; took long walks with the dogs, and had a celebratory dinner on Saturday night after I got off work. Saturday night we went to watch Pride fights at a friend of my husband’s and I had two whole beers. Sunday my daughter and I went to the dog show and spent a good part of the time naming every dog we saw in the ring. (A bulldog we named Bonnie took Best in Show)

It was a great way to turn my back on chemo and start the road towards my new normal. I know the next surgery isn’t going to be a breeze and that radiation brings with it it’s own challenges, but I’m thrilled to be done with the chemo. And grateful for the upcoming few weeks where I’ll be able to exist in a way that was becoming a memory for me.
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dunnbryant
Date: 2007-02-06 01:04
Subject: Bottom line: my life sucks right now. Read more for details.
Security: Public
Mood:discontentdiscontent
Tags:breast cancer, cancer, chemo, rant

It’s been a good long while.  Things are tough this way and it’s much easier for me to just sit as still as humanly possible when things are this way.  I get selfish (or express self-love, who knows really?)

 

The nutshell.  That’s all I can do these days.

 

This move might well have been a mistake.  I don't do well without a crew and it’s hard as hell to meet anyone working from home/in the midst of cancer treatments.  I have to say that would have been a big benefit of hanging tight in DC.


The cancer…Lord.    .  I have two more treatments, another surgery, and then about six weeks of radiation.  My good humor has departed and I’m surly as hell.

 
The job market in Tallahassee has not been good to us.  There is more of a demand for my skills than Teef’s and even with that people are not biting.  Our income was whittled down to about 20% of what we made in DC.  Without me picking up COBRA it would’ve been doable, but that wasn’t an option.

My fab job with XVQ…over.  It's been coming for a long time.  I could tell by the way they kept changing the direction of the site (and with each change the 20 host parents got less and less important).  The fired 12 of us, but not until they screwed up our payroll (didn’t pay us) five times in three months…our account continues to bounce.

This situation is worse than I’ve ever experienced.  At least when I was broke before I could get off my butt and do something.  Now I’m at the mercy of the poison they shoot me full of very other week.  Given the fact there's another surgery in line it is hard for me to think about committing to a full time job.  Given the struggle I need to.

I just finished my last assignment with the XVQ job.  It's an odd feeling to be finished and done.  It’s hard because the job represented the last bit of the romantic notion we had about moving to Florida.  Without it I am forced to look for a “new normal” on that front as well.


That’s it folks.     I’m sitting on my butt post fall trying to convince myself I meant to do that.  It might be a good thing.  A chance to start completely fresh without any illusions.  Or it might be the nudge we need to rethink this whole idea and get someplace a little more real.

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dunnbryant
Date: 2006-12-31 22:52
Subject: Tired of being tired
Security: Public
Tags:breast cancer, cancer, chemo

So I’m halfway through my chemo and I’m over it already.  The ups and downs of it all are getting to me and I’m tempted to just call the whole thing off already:  the fatigue, the terrible taste in my mouth, the chemo brain, and the joint aches.

And now that I’ve gotten used to the first regimen of drugs, it’s time to switch to another one.  What a way to start the New Year, huh?

Hopefully the new drug will be “easier” like the oncologist is saying.  (Even though all I’ve read on the message boards is that it’s going to be a bit of a pain…)

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dunnbryant
Date: 2006-12-24 12:25
Subject: On: brave/vulnerable me
Security: Public
Mood:uncomfortableuncomfortable
Tags:brest cancer, chemo

It had to be done.  Thursday night I reached up to scratch my shoulder and I felt a bunch of hair on it.  My pillows were covered, if I tugged at the tiny bit of hair I had it gave way without even a bit of fight to it.  I studied my head in the mirror and noticed different patchy places.  It had to be done.  I could either act like some middle aged man and hold onto whatever strands I had no matter how foolish I looked, or I could grab the clippers and go down to the skull.

I see myself as a bit of a badass.  I tend to do whatever needs to be done and I keep it moving.  So going from ¼ of an inch to nothing is no big deal.  Right?

Friday after running a host of errands and picking up some temporary tattoos (gotta adorn the dome, of course) I grab my husband’s clippers and start buzzing away.  The thought at first was to do a low Mohawk since the hair in the middle of my head was still hanging in there.  FYI:  Mohawks aren’t easy to shave in straight.  Mine was very wavy and even with all my optimism, was not a good look.

Me bald was a bit of a shock.  I think it was more of the finality of the situation than anything.  I know, it’ll grow back.  But this meant that I would truly walk out into the world looking like a cancer patient.  So far I’d been able to mask that part of me and go out “normally”. 

Yesterday my husband I and hit the street to get the last few presents for our daughter.  We ran into a hobby shop to return something (I’d found a bigger better version of the same thing for a much better price) and one woman in the store looked at me with a combination of fear and pity that made my stomach freeze.  She could barely get herself out the door for staring.  (In this day and age, is it really that unusual to see a chemo patient out in the street?  Mind you I’ve seen one woman – away from the hospital – out in the street…)

I didn’t notice anyone else on our other stops because I made sure I stayed close to him chatting away...

Later, though, we went over to his boy’s house cause he was throwing a party.  Had there been a needle on the record when I walked in, I’m sure someone would’ve dragged it just for the effect.  It’s often hard for me to be on of the oldest people at these parties (I’m estimating the average age to be 25 at best) but it was worse last night to walk in with my bald head screaming “ha ha you young whipper snappers, none of us are immortal after all!”

It could’ve been me, it could’ve been them.  But, besides the folks hosting the party I barely spoke to anyone.  I had a coupla beers to try to relax a bit, but it just wasn’t working and we left pretty quickly.

All of the bravado faded as soon as we closed the door to the bedroom.  I broke down.  It had been a hellish day.  My husband is good in the clench and told me that I’d walked around all day being both brave and vulnerable and of course something like that sucks.  I appreciated the fact that he didn’t poo poo the situation and offer some platitudes.  He was real with it:  rolling out of the house bald sucked.  It was good that he saw it too, you know.  It didn’t make my hair grow back, but it helped.

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dunnbryant
Date: 2006-12-16 12:01
Subject: On: Chemo Brain
Security: Public
Mood:frustratedfrustrated
Tags:brest cancer, chemo
I’ve been quiet here lately because I’ve been battling one of the worst demons ever: chemo brain. All of the research I did told me to be prepared for some short term memory loss and the chance that said memory loss may persist even after the chemo. What nobody mentioned was another very important side effect: the effect on language.

After the first treatment I noticed that I was forgetting little things. But, being the prepared girl I am, I just carried a little notebook with me and wrote down “important” things right away. Crisis averted, right?

I was talking to my husband when I realized that I couldn’t remember the names of some things. Simple shit, too, not high scoring Scrabble words. The stumble I remember right now: videotape.

Eventually that faded away and then I had my second treatment. Same shit, different impact. I was not only having trouble speaking and remembering words, but writing became an excruciating experience. What would generally take me minutes to tap out on the keyboard was taking hours. Whenever I overtaxed my brain I would get terrible headaches. I was terrified that I was an unusual case and that having gone through with the chemo relatively untouched; I would be the one lucky s.o.b. to lose her capability for language. (Oh irony, you are cruel.)

Before my most recent treatment (number three if you’re counting) I mentioned to my oncologist that this was happening. “Perfectly normal,” he says. (Dude, I believe you knew I’m a writer. When we were talking side effects, don’t you think that might have been one to mention?)

So far it comes in cycles. I get treatments on Friday. For three days after I’m on a good run because of all the drugs I have to take. Monday I get a Nulasta shot to boost my white blood cells and by Monday afternoon I’ve crashed. The word I like to use to describe myself during the crash, which lasts about five days, is feeble. What I’ve done to keep from frustrating myself is slowed down my life to a crawl. I explained to my bosses what’s happening and I “bulk up” on work on the days when my brain works the way I’m used to, and during my feeble days I do very little and spend most of my time watching inane things on t.v. and sleeping.

The thing is, though, that the writing helps. No matter how painful it is for me emotionally or, now, physically. So I’m getting back on the horse and wearing a helmet for the times I’ll fall off.
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