Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cancer Is Very Much A Battle

When I read that John McCain has brain cancer, I was upset.  I don't always agree with the guy, but he's a true war hero.  As a military brat, I respect that.  The news of the cancer hit Americans hard, and thousands of well wishes came pouring in.

And then came the poop on the party.  Several opinion columns hit the internet, taking umbrage with some of the well-wishers. I felt my face getting red while I scrolled down. President Obama's tweet, and other people were in error, and should not say what they did.  Their crime?  Discussing cancer as if it were a battle, or a war, or a fight. It is wrong, these columnists said. 

I disagree.  Cancer is very much a battle.

When a person gets a diagnosis of cancer, the very first thing they have to do is decide whether to fight.  There is the enormous decision to do whatever it takes, to try any treatment, take any pill.  To fight.  The first step in reaching any goal is to decide to get there.

Cancer is very much a battle.  There are strategy sessions with an oncologist, to locate the cancer and determine a course of action. There is arguing with insurance providers about coverage, and human resources about FMLA. There is tearing a stitch at the hospital because the stupid nurse won't come and help you sit up when your back hurts, and you are too darn stubborn to wait.  There's lots of hand to hand combat with needles, IV bags, scalpels, and radiation machines. There is the fight to get out of bed the day after chemotherapy, because your very bones hurt.  There is the struggle to eat, when sores have popped up in your throat.  There is the battle to keep a cheerful look on your face, so your son won't get upset. 

Some people who are diagnosed with cancer decide not to fight.  They don't want to deal with all those small battles, because they add up to a mountain of exhaustion. They would rather live out the rest of their days without all that fuss .  My dad has told me multiple times that if his cancer comes back, he is not going to do chemo.  He's an old soldier who no longer wants to fight.  I hate that, but  I will do my best to give it to him.

Cancer is very much a battle to me.  It is a way to reframe my situation in a manner that wasn't as scary, since I grew up fighting everything. It is positive to strive for what you want, no matter the issue.  "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't" was my motto, even though most people would have no idea that I even know who Anthrax is.  I was okay with people encouraging me to fight, to battle, to war with my own genetic mutation.  It's the framing of the problem into tangible milestones. First surgery, then chemo, then radiation, then reconstruction.  Considering cancer a battle focuses your resources and galvanizes your courage. 

John McCain is a former soldier, he has a history of attacking all of the obstacles in his long life with the gusto we expect from him. It is likely that he might therefore see his situation as a fight. People who know him, like President Obama, are speaking encouragement to him in his language. That is okay, no matter what anyone says And losing the fight with cancer does not make you any less than you were.  Are all those soldiers who have died in battle over the years are no less significant for losing their battle.  It seems wrong for anyone to judge.   It's ridiculous to get so upset about the vocabulary of cancer!  I guess some people have to whine about something.  Remember that at the heart of all these encouraging statements is love and support, no matter what path a person takes. 

Respect that.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

It's Not Summer Unless There is an ER Visit

Zane had a cough.  He's had a cough for some time, and he'd already had one doctor visit for it at the beginning of June.  Just a random virus, the doctor said, and sent Larry and Zane home.  In the back of my mind, I thought of the possibility of allergies.  This is central Texas, after all, and everybody and their dog has allergies here(I am not kidding--our dog has allergies, too!)  Then I filed that thought under 'random things to worry about at 3am' and got busy doing other things, like being gainfully employed. 

And then last week, Zane still had a cough. No behavior changes, talking normally, no wheezing, nothing different...except that I burned my hand on his forehead.  My boy had a fever.  I gave him ibuprofen and went to work.  That night, Zane still had a fever, which had not really responded to just ibuprofen. We added acetaminophen, alternating them, like we have been told to do.  Just a cough and a fever.  Probably some random virus, Larry and I said.  We would call the doctor in the morning. 

And we did.  The doctor's office did not seem to be worried about it.  We were even told to stop the fever reducers, just to see if Zane could fight the infection off.  Okay.  Our family went about our business, which included painting the downstairs. Zane acted normally, which meant whining about the stinky smell of paint and not being allowed to play on the Xbox.  Around five, we took Zane's temperature again, and it was higher than expected.  We called the doctor's office and were told to give our boy ibuprofen and to bring him in the next day.  That would have been fine, except that Zane's cough had become rather barky-sounding.  And his fever went up, not down. 

This situation is one of the times that I forget that I am an adult.  I wanted my dad, because my dad always knows what to do in emergencies.  My entire life, if there was an emergency, my dad just rushes out there and fixes it.  However, my dad happened to be on vacation, so it was up to me.  I looked at my son.

"We're going to the ER," I said. 

Zane freaked out, because I never say stuff like that.  I freaked out, because I really don't ever say stuff like that.  Larry didn't argue about anything except which ER.  I wanted the closest, he wanted the children's hospital.  We calmed Zane down and headed to the children's ER.  I let Larry do the talking, because that helps with his anxiety.  All Zane cared about was not having a strep test, which of course, he had to have. 

And a chest xray. 

And two breathing treatments. 

And steroids.

And TWO antibiotics.

My son had pneumonia.  Pneumonia? PNEUMONIA.  If the doctor hadn't shown us the xray and pointed it out, I would have said he was nuts.  It wasn't severe just yet. You could barely hear it with a stethoscope. But there it was.  We went home with two pages of prescriptions, and over the past week, I have learned a couple of things:

1. Children with ADHD on steroids are not going to sit quietly as they recover. They are going to bounce off the walls and act like they normally do; and

2. Parents of children with ADHD who are put on steroids should be given a prescription for Xanax, so they can recover from having an ADHD child on steroids.

I have also learned that I can do adulting, if I need to.  Yay me. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

I'm A Little More Melty Than I Used To Be

When I was younger, air conditioning wasn't really a thing.  Sure, some of the places that we lived had it, but other places didn't.  The temperature didn't rise enough to be concerning.  We opened windows, and a pleasant breeze would move through the house. I can remember falling asleep at my grandparent's house, a soft wind making the curtains flutter, and not in a horror movie way. Occasionally we would turn on a fan to circulate the air.  No problem. We survived without air conditioning, just like our forefathers had before us.  I even opted for a dorm room without air conditioning my first year in college, despite the general rumors about "sweaty women" that circulated on campus.  

I thought about this the other morning, when I woke up to a strange feeling.  I was hot.  Why was I hot?  Was it another hot flash, courtesy of my chemo drug?  Not this time.  This time Larry was hot as well.  As it was early, and we hadn't had our coffee yet, it took us a good thirty minutes to figure out the problem.

Our A/C was broken. 

This realization was generally considered to be a calamity by all in the house.  It's June in Texas, and not only is the temperature up, but the humidity can only be described as "oppressive" with delusions of "tortuous".  Larry called our home warranty company, while I began opening windows and turning on fans.  A slight breeze began blowing through the house. 

"Why are you opening all the windows?" Larry demanded.  Rather than explain my tiny knowledge of thermodynamics("hot air rises!"), I went for my usual answer to all questions.


It was early in the morning, and a nice breeze was blowing through the window in the kitchen.  I  sipped my coffee and fondly reminisced about my childhood without air conditioning.  We would be fine. I was calm. The birds were singing outside the open window as I answered the phone. The nice lady at the A/C repair company was more than happy to schedule a time for the service technician to come out and make repairs. 

"Wonderful!" I said.  "When?"

When she said it would be two days, it wasn't so wonderful.  I'm not ashamed to say that I yelled.  Then I begged.  I confessed to hot flashes.  I told her about my cancer.  I would have told her who killed JFK and where Jimmy Hoffa was buried, once I got that ball rolling.  The nice lady was sympathetic, but firm. Two days.  I hung up the phone feeling panicked, as the pleasant early morning breeze stopped. What were we going to do?  TWO DAYS WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING?????  I hyperventilated a little. I've done this before, I told myself.  I've survived. 

Then I thought about my current sleep patterns, which cycles from ZZZZ--OMG! I AM SO HOT!!! to ZZZ--WHY IS IT SO COLD IN HERE???---ZZZZ--- most of the night.  I'm a little more melty than I used to be, back before electricity.  Without air conditioning, my hot flashes would likely set the bed on fire.  I would not be getting much sleep under those circumstances.  This was not acceptable.  I need my sleep, for everyone's sanity. 

Shopping was in order.  We headed for Walmart and looked at portable air conditioning units.  Larry and I picked one out, loaded up the car, and headed home.  It took over an hour for Larry to translate the directions and put the thing together, but once we did, the machine did cool off the bedroom enough to make sleeping a possibility.  The downstairs might be unhealthily warm, even with the fans, but our bedroom was comfortable cool.  We parked Zane on the floor in the bedroom and invited all the house animals to join us. 

And we survived.