Thursday, February 25, 2010

Doing normal things with cancer

My youngest son is in 8th grade and yesterday I accompanied him on a field trip, as I have done many times over his school career.  Because he enters high school next year, and because he's my youngest child, I realized this could very well be the last field trip I ever attend with one of my children.

I was going, chemo or no.

The trip was to the Exploratorium in San Francisco.  The Exploratorium is a huge, two story warehouse just chock full of hands-on science experiments.  It's pretty fabulous, and if you are ever visiting SF with kids, or just like kid things,  it's a must.

San Francisco is approximately 100 miles away from where I live, and as Californians know, it's a traffic-filled drive. That meant I had to be at the school at 6:45 in order to gather the kids and get on our assigned charter bus.  In case it wasn't clear, that was 6:45 a.m.  Ante Meridiem.  Morning.  I haven't been up that early since my mastectomy back in October.  Chemo means I need a minimum of 12 hours sleep a night, which means I typically wake up between 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Now, you might think I'm a little crazy chaperoning almost 300 thirteen year olds on a field trip to a museum where the object is to touch and interact with stuff that other people have touched and interacted with 100 times before you got there.  And, you would be right.

But, as you all know by now, I throw caution to the wind.  I spit on danger.  I just hope it doesn't spit back, which is no guarantee with the Exploratorium.  I think approximately 10% of the experiments involve actual spitting.

The field trip went well and the kids behaved beautifully.  We watched the movies Madagascar and Finding Nemo on the bus. That bus ride was extremely cold; so cold I was getting numb.  When I got to the Exploratorium, I immediately bought an extremely overpriced hoodie so I could have extra padding, and I was already wearing a shirt, sweater, leather jacket, jeans and UGG boots.

We were to be hands-off when the kids arrived at the museum, so we let them run and just walked around making sure they knew somebody had an eye on them.  I made it through lunch and two cups of coffee before fatigue overcame me and I had to bench myself. With more coffee.

I sat on a bench in the public area and glared at any kids who looked like they might misbehave, just so they knew I could get up if I wanted to.

I promised my son that I would wear a wig, so as not to "make the other kids uncomfortable" and I kept my promise.  But, it's the last time that I'll make that promise.  The wig was more uncomfortable than my fatigue, the cold, watching Madagascar for the tenth time, and hearing the squeals of 300 thirteen year olds combined.  The last two hours all I could think about was how I wanted to rip it off my head.  I was *that* close and it was only love for my son, or rather, the comfort of his friends, that I didn't.

I get it: it's bad enough having a mom with cancer, you don't want to have the mom who looks like she has cancer.
On the way back I sat with another parent chaperone who also was undergoing cancer treatment.  He has some form of rare sarcoma but has completed his treatment and is into the regular testing for recurrence phase.  We chatted chemo and surgery for an hour or so - finding common ground.

It seems like I run into people with cancer everywhere now.

We made it home by 4:30 and I went to take my boots off.  And struggled.  Once I got them off, I saw my feet and ankles were swollen.

Exhausted, I rested on the couch but all that coffee caught up with me and my nap was fitful at best.  Last night's "Boys" American Idol performances were boring enough to have knocked me out, but since they didn't, and the coffee was still wreaking havoc on my system, I decided to take a sleeping pill before bed.  I needed to work the next day, after all, and couldn't do that with no sleep. 

It was my second time taking Trazadone.  And my last time.  The first time I had taken it in conjunction with Leukine and I attributed all of the negative side effects I experienced to Leukine and not the Trazadone. I was wrong, and the Trazadone goes down the toilet with the Ambien today.   I got a terrible migraine that it took three imitrex injections to control, and couldn't wake up until noon. As I write this, I'm still fuzzy and in my PJs and I only hope I can make it to pick my son up from school.

My alarm went off at 9:00 and groggy and in major pain, with my iPhone right there,  I sent a quick email to my boss saying I couldn't go to work.  I hope I did, at least.  I really wasn't very conscious.  It was disappointing, as the whole reason I took the pill was so I could go to work.

Today the bottoms of my feet feel burned, which is a sign that neuropathy has affected me. And, I ache all over which is normal with Taxol.  Other than those things, I appear to be unscathed.  So far.  I did forget  I was susceptible to infection and played with a couple of experiments - one where you put goggles to your eyes.  If I get an eye infection, I have only the Exploratorium and their temptations to blame. 

Maybe, like a true American, I'll sue them.  Should be a nice ADA lawsuit.  I should get money for them putting out fun things those with suppressed immune systems shouldn't touch.

Aside from overdoing the coffee and the subsequent problems resulting from trying to control extreme caffeine intake,  I'm glad I went.  It wasn't as easy as it would have been last year, but it proved to me that we find ways of gathering strength when we thought we had none.

Even if our strength mostly comes from coffee.



  1. glad you were able to join your son on this trip. I know what you mean about wanting to do "normal" things. I was so excited by joining a friend on a visit to a Renoir exhibit at a local museum. I was out enjoying an evening, just like other people. shocking.

  2. I think that it takes a lot of strength and courage to do that - to endure the cold, long bus ride, to deal with all the walking, and to put up with all those eighth graders...

    I know that I would have passed on that field trip when I was going through treatment. It's amazing the amount of strength we find when we need it. Your son will always appreciate what you did.

  3. I know as a mom that we do things that normally we won't. But girl, this trip, 100 miles and 300 kids - good grief! At least it was a charter bus, if it was a regular school bus - oh my gosh! A healthly parent would had struggled! You are such a strong and loving mom!
    Angel Sue

  4. wow, i'm not sure i would have gone NOW let alone when i was bald and exhausted. i'm very impressed, and i know it meant a lot to your son that you were able to pull through a long day to be there.

    now go back to sleep.

  5. Kudos to you. That would be a strenuous trip even under "normal" circumstances. I don't know if Matt understands completely, or appreciates what you did, but I'm sure he will one day.



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