| Musings |

Yes, No, Maybe

We went the “eenie-meeny-miney-mo” route. Seemed as good an option as any

Tomorrow will be three weeks since I had my first intravenous chemo infusion. As a reward, I get to start all over again.

My family has been incredible, wonderfully supportive. Each have displayed quiet, positive resolve. I have a sneaking suspicion that their private WhatsApp messages to each other might reveal another story.

Following the surgeries and after the initial meeting with the oncologist, we did what all good-standing members of the tribe do — we went for a second opinion. And because we’re very religious, we went for a third.

Hearing the different doctors and their differing opinions and attempting to wind our way through a maze of specialties and sub-specialties turned out to be a humbling exercise in insurance road-rage. Try asking a keypad for a human voice; I dare you.

Making the final decision regarding which opinion to follow meant gathering all the information we’d accrued and going with the most experienced and intelligent position possible. We went the “eenie-meeny-miney-mo” route. Seemed as good an option as any.

As a result of the course we’d chosen, we were treated to a three-hour “teach” session. The only thing missing was popcorn. Four different professionals winked, presumably smiled under the requisite masks, and cluck-clucked their way through the various aspects of the timeline, the treatment, the what-ifs and the maybes — plus 20 bonus minutes spent on discussing parking.

They then handed us two huge folders — one for him and one for me — that I couldn’t possibly carry home by myself, in case I wanted to know more.

I didn’t.

I mentioned that I’d already consulted with Rabbi Dr. Google — which they kept saying I shouldn’t do. They didn’t fully appreciate my level of expertise. After all… information gathering? I’ve been privileged to accompany children to the chuppah. Just call me Sherlock.

I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it was listening to all the side-effects I was going to be experiencing once the protocol began. Because I like to be prepared, I experienced more than half of them before the first drop of chemical hit my veins.

“Eat high-calorie foods.” I asked the Physician’s Assistant to repeat that while I quickly rummaged through my purse for a little lip gloss. I was convinced that after someone said those words to me, the next sounds I would hear would be the heralding trumpets of the Messiah, and I wanted to make sure I was looking my best.

Being given new prescriptions to help counteract the anticipated side effects as well as ensure the proficiency of the chemo (huh?) meant keeping a running tab on what to take when. Better living through chemistry…

The five a.m. meds had to be taken on an empty stomach. The six a.m. and six p.m. pills had to be taken exactly on time and with food — Patricia was kind enough to circle this instruction in ink on the paper she handed me, in case I missed it.

“Take this one starting the day before, the day of, and the day after. That one is to be taken the day of, the day after, plus three days after that. And continue taking your daily meds as usual.”

This wasn’t to be confused with the anti-nausea pills that could be taken as needed — but eight hours apart. You could usually take two of both the round maroon and rectangular white carefully during the first week, but not the round maroon during the second week, unless you needed them, in which case you could. And remember to monitor your temperature and drink a gallon or two of water daily. I slosh when I walk.

By the time I got to the infusion center, I was exhausted. Judy, my primary care health nurse that day, promised me she wouldn’t tell anyone that I wasn’t wearing nail polish. Talk about heroes…

In honor of the occasion, I wore something new because — why not? And when I came home, I prepared my Shabbos candles because Tuesday is a good day for everything — especially Shabbos candles.

“Everyone is different” is a mantra that has to be experienced to be believed. Think labor, except no one really wants to hear each delectable detail.

Have no fear, the side-effects have begun, and my moods have been swinging. Hubby should be nominated for sainthood.

I’m determined to accomplish one thing every day. Thursday was the day that I kept both eyes open at the same time (but not for long). I earned an Olympic Gold medal for that one. I think someone timed me.

I know there really are more important things in life than eyelashes. Today, I’m just hard-pressed to find out what they are.

Friends and family have been kind and supportive, reaching out with gestures of support and caring. To save energy and time, here are some of my responses:

Yes, I know you are trying to reach me and yes, I know you need to know what’s happening. I’m sorry this is upsetting you. It’s not doing too much for me either. No, it’s not necessary to leave another message. I’m measuring your love in the 22 minutes of frantic communication I already have.

No, I don’t know your cousin, and I’m sorry this treatment didn’t work for her. Yes, I’m hoping for a better result and no, I don’t need to talk to her nurse’s sister’s aide.

Yes, I’m using a good doctor, and yes, I did get a second opinion. No, I don’t want to hear what your allergist’s wife thinks.

I’m not sure who you are but thank you for the name and contact info of the witch-doctor, whose name I cannot pronounce, who treats “this.” Do you mind if I pass?

No, there was no one else I recognized at the infusion center when I was there.

No, I don’t want your friend to visit and entertain me the next time I’m there. Yes, I’m sure she is very funny. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.

No, please don’t call the doctor to tell him how special I am.

Yes, I know how adorable your little grandson is and no, I don’t want him to come over to show me how cute he is when he mispronounces the word “spaghetti.” No, you don’t have to send the video either. I believe you.

Yes, I’m happy to hear that your results came out wonderful. No, I don’t think they made a mistake in my case. No, this isn’t catchy.

Yes, I hope my husband doesn’t feel neglected either. Yes, I’m trying not to bother him too much. No, he doesn’t want to hear your little grandchild’s mispronunciation either.

The frozen grapes really worked out well, thank you. Next time please don’t wrap each one in extra-thin tin foil.

No, it’s still not as good as slightly thawed vanilla chocolate-chip ice cream, or its cousin, the Trader Joe’s soy cherry-chocolate version — I promise.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 779)

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