I have cancer. And I'm angry.
When I got my cancer diagnosis in January 2011, I figured, No big deal, I'll use the blog to keep people up to date, and maybe find some ways to talk about food from the perspective of a patient.
I used the same voice and tone as I always had: keeping it light even when writing about the dark days.
And everyone said, "Oh, you have such a great attitude. So positive. It's really inspiring."
Yeah, well, we're done with that now.
Because this stupid mass of chaotic cells in my face seems bent on ways to pull the rug out from under me at every opportunity.
And I'm angry.
I'm angry at everything this stupid disease has taken from me. It's been incremental enough that complaining has seemed almost petty.
Yeah, I can't lick my lips, but I have Chapstick. Sure, I have to feed myself through a straw, but I can still taste hot chocolate and coconut chicken and ginger ice cream. Yes, I've been sleeping upright in a chair for months and missing the warmth of The Boy in bed, but it's better than tossing and turning all night, keeping him awake while I deal with neck pain and shortness of breath.
But that feels like the gentle crawl up the roller coaster. And now we're about to hurtle down the other side.
You want to go an elegant Cape wedding? Ha, no - facelumps, enlarge!
You got tickets for a show? Bought them five months ago? Shame you're just too fatigued now, ain't it?
Oh, you're invited to a friend's house for a Christmas brunch? Naw, how about — boom! — we make a hole in your face instead?
The hole appeared Tuesday, terrifying me in the bathroom mirror at 5am. Thank goodness I was due to see my awesome nurse practitioner that morning. She took it in sympathetic stride.
Apparently recent chemo had liquefied some of the tumor (science!), which had then burst through my cheek. It was the tumor that sits inside my mouth, up against my teeth, and the damage happened in such a way that there's a small passage all the way through. So every time I drink something, a tiny bit dribbles down my neck. Which means eating/drinking are hard, the after-effects are gross, and attempts to keep the wound clean are challenging.
And on Friday I found out that tumor-related wounds don't always heal.
Think about your face. Take the first knuckle of your pinkie, and hold it against your left cheek just to the left of your mouth. Imagine there's a little hole, a shelf, a cave, full of white goop. Which will need to be swabbed, packed, bandaged. For the rest of your life.
Am I still being positive?
Let's keep going.
Because the wound goes into my mouth, it's even harder to suck anything through a straw. Suction requires pressure, and you can't maintain pressure when there's a hole in the system. It takes an hour to coerce a milkshake down my throat.
My other nurse says, "Just press your hand against the dressing where the hole is. That should create a seal."
Which feels like another of the Mutant Cells' way of kicking me; The Boy and I had just been talking about how we could hack a Christmas dinner that would work through a straw. It involved cooking a mini Christmas pudding and blending it up with custard. I'm pretty sure it would have worked.
You want any kind of nostalgic Christmas traditions? Ha ha ha!
This rant may seem to come out of nowhere, but it's been building for a few long months as little chunks of control, little fun pieces of life, are taken away. Going out with friends. Going to the movies, the mall, the grocery store. Getting a haircut. A manicure. A frappe.
These days, I don't want to leave the house. Talking is really hard. It's painful, and my words are mushed and foggy, which means I have to repeat half of what I say if I want to be understood. I avoid it whenever possible. I communicate with Diego through terse sentences and "Mmmm"s of varying emotion.
And don't say, "Oh, it can't be that bad. No one will notice. You're still beautiful."
We're way past that. Sorry, but we are.
How's my attitude now?
Don't worry: I have started meeting with a lovely social worker, who's helping me through this. So it's not desperate.
And what of The Boy, patient and long-suffering? Of course he's trying to take it all in stride, even though that now includes dealing with my sudden explosions of frustration - and with wound care. Yep, he's the one who gets up close and personal with this grossness, cleans it out, packs it with gauze and bandages me up.
I know none of this is my fault, but I still hate that my problems have become his problems. Richer or poorer, sickness and health, whatever. This is not what I want for him.
But hey, I guess you have to stay positive, right?