Money

I finally felt well enough to talk to insurance and the hospital for hours today. To no avail though, they're billing what they bill. They're billing each test as a surgery, and each doctors visit as a surgery (which insurance won't pay for in the same way as tests and doctors office visits) and neither team seems prepared to admit they're being ridiculous, they each say it is the other people's fault. 

This is so upsetting and disappointing. The hospital just wants to rush me into a payment plan so I can't question this anymore. The insurance are happy as long as I keep paying them nearly $500 a month not to cover things properly. It is all just so sick. 

It is patently obvious that neither industry has any interest in curing cancer while they can continue to fleece people who have it.

Still here

That one was a doozy, but unlike the last two treatments, it's a week later and I can actually deal with things. Doctors kept telling me that I'd have a "week off" inbetween treatments, though they did warn that the bone pain from the neulasta might make that difficult. But this week I feel like me again! Not a very good version of me, I'm weak and shaky, my stomach aches a little, my hair is falling out in handfulls, and I'm tired all the time. 

But I feel like me. 

I like this.

...

An addendum to my last post about bad test results: The lab seems to have mixed up (hey look at that, it isn't just doctors who are disturbingly mistake-prone... ugh) and emailed me the bloody last test results, i.e. the ones from when I had the infection/cold, after my second chemo. The actual test results came in yesterday and they're good, (apart from some weird bone marrow stuff that they expected from the neulasta. Let's just hope these assholes don't accidentally give me bone cancer.) Now I can finally start trying to get back to life.

Going down?

The blood test results came back from my pre-chemo test on Tuesday and yes, my white blood count is good (6.9, down from last week but still good), but nearly everything else wen't down and I'm a bit perturbed by that.

Lowered potassium will make it harder to get through the pain of neulasta (which is already pretty unbearable, so that's a shame) and how am I meant to heal if my protein, calcium, albumin, and red blood count are so low? Why have they dropped so low? Was it the antibiotics I took last week or was it a throat infection sapping me? And how do I bring these levels up?

Dr Tang says "everything is fine", which is worrying since it clearly isn't. So I emailed Dr Basho at Cedars and hopefully she'll be able to give me some more information about this. I don't know what I'm meant to do, I feel like I'm dying, but I felt like that after the neulasta last time so I guess I have to just ride this out and hope I'm not dying. This is miserable.

I'm watching Studio Ghibli films to try and keep my spirits up and Sam is here helping me out. If I am dying, at least it's nice here. I don't know how I'm meant to feel about this, or even what to do anymore.

It's coming...

The balls of my feet feel bruised, deep inside. The painful knot of neulasta has spread from my stomach down into my groin, up my chest, and now is beginning to wrap itself slowly around the small of my back and creep up between my shoulders.

It's like watching a slow tsunami roll in, too big to ignore or run away from... I'm forced to simply try and weather the storm, I can do this.

Third treatment

Yesterday I had my third chemo treatment and today my third neulasta injection. My brother Sam took me to both, which went very well. I was a bit nervous since he doesn't get to drive much, but he did great getting me there and back, and even more impressively his attention to detail and care made the 5 hours of chemo go pretty smoothly, and I was able to take dramamine and ativan so that I wasn't feeling so anxious and nauseous throughout. His calm and caring demeanor was so comforting, very happy he was able to come.

Right now I can feel the edge of the nausea threatening, looming as it does on a Thursday. I'm keeping myself as hydrated as I can and taking my L-Glutamine, hoping to head off the worst of it as early as I can. The neulasta injection feels like a bruise in my stomach, but that'll spread out by tonight and by Saturday I guess the bone pain will have started... Sam leaves on Saturday, but I've got Shannon coming by on Sunday for a bit and while Joe is at work on Tuesday, Ian will come by to help out. Hopefully by next week I'll start to recover. The pattern seems to be 10 days off, 4 days on, but my first treatment had brutal side effects because I was still taking that anti-stress supplement that had an amplifying effect on the chemo, and my second was hard because I got such a rough cold. Maybe it's overly optimistic, but I'm hoping I can weather this one a little better.

I guess we'll just have to see how it goes.

Shifting priorities

It became really clear to us (well, to Joe and then finally to me) that I can't work through this. With chemo every two weeks knocking me out for about 10 days, I only get 3 or 4 "good" days. And those "good" days feel a lot like having flu - the nausea and bone pain is still lingering in the background, my sciatica from the bone pain hasn't gone, my hands shake, I'm weak, and it's hard to do anything beyond care for myself.

More importantly, if I only have 3-4 days every 2 weeks where I feel even slightly capable, I need to do something nice and good for myself. Like yesterday, when Farne took me to the beach for a couple of hours. I'm lucky I live so close, we just drove half an hour and didn't even have to go on any freeways. And the beach is so beautiful, just glorious to wade in the ocean and watch Farne swimming out a little (so brave, it was cold in the see that day too!) It was so inspiring and energizing that I realized how essential it is that I do something nourishing for myself when I'm able to.

While I adore my work, it can't be all I do right now. I just do not have the strength to get through chemo and take care of all the crazy things it does to my body AND do a job, even a small one. It's very sad, and at first it scared me ("what if this is the last time I can work?!") but I have to look at the future and believe I'll have one, so that I can enjoy the time I have right now...

This is terrifying, nothing about it is easy. 

Side-effects

Over the last ten days I've been experiencing the side-effects of this last treatment. It's not great, but nothing about this is. I'm still dealing with the effects of the first one, but they're evolving too...

  • The bone pain caused by the Neulasta has irritated my old slipped discs. My back hurts and doesn't really seem to get better, even though I'm not doing anything that should irritate it.
  • About 30% of my hair has fallen out. Even using the cold-caps, we knew some hair would go, but we didn't leave it on nearly long enough after the treatment (1 hr instead of 4) and it doesn't cover the nape of my neck at all, so that's a strip about an inch deep that has just gone. And when the hair comes out it hurts, so my scalp has a sort of sunburned/plucked feel.
  • The nausea that I was experiencing lessened after the first week, like last time, but it is still omnipresent. For the last two days I've only used over-the-counter stomach meds (zantac, tums, dramamine), so that's an improvement.
  • It's still very difficult to eat dry or hard foods.
  • I'm extremely dehydrated all the time, just cannot drink enough. It's especially difficult because if I try to drink a lot, I can't.
  • The act of trying to put any large quantity of anything into my body is difficult right now, I don't understand it. All I seem to be able to do is take tiny nibbles of things or drink little sips. It is difficult to get enough and it seems to take forever.
  • Sleeping has been very difficult since surgery, I can only manage about 4 hours most nights, it's exhausting along with the weakness. I don't really know what to do about it. If I take something to make me sleepy like Benadryl or Melatonin, I don't sleep longer but I'm much more tired all day. Even when I do sleep, I have nightmares that I've accidentally rolled on to a side and I'm going to damage the temporary, saline tissue-expander or (on the other side) I've twisted the port tube which goes into my ventricle.
  • My memory has become terrible, and I get confused easily.
  • The chemo has brought on early menopause symptoms and I've got occasional vaginal dryness, which is surprisingly painful. But it's easy to deal with, I just use a little of the aloe lubricant that I already use for sex.

All of these symptoms are pretty standard as far as I can see. And there are some improvements too:

  • The L-Glutamine seems to work and I have minimal mouth pain now.
  • That cold I caught last week is almost gone (or throat infection, but I think if it was a throat infection, then the antibiotics would have helped a bit. Maybe they did, but the cold sure carried on being a cold all week.) It was very snotty. I'm glad it's tapering off now.
  • I was out of bed all day today, mostly sat on the couch doing some lettering for a comic for Joe, but it was still nice to be up. I couldn't have walked around anyway, I'm shaking I'm so tired.
  • Despite how badly I'm sleeping, today I persisted and after an hour I managed to go back to sleep for a few hours! With 8 hours altogether, I'm feeling slightly human.
  • This morning we has sex for the first time in about 5 or 6 weeks and I was on top, something I hadn't been able to do since before the mastectomy! I think that if I can't really get around, this is a pretty terrific way to get some exercise. It was difficult, but it was wonderful and completely worth it.
  • Farne has been an incredible support, making sure I eat and don't overdo it. I don't know why it's so hard for me to take care of myself. I think maybe I just can't mentally process how quickly this is happening.

Right... so I couldn't post this three hours ago when I wrote it because I suddenly found myself insanely nauseous, dizzy, there were lower abdominal cramps, and a dull ache in my stomach and lower back (where the old disc injuries are). I couldn't stop shaking and I couldn't imagine how I'd get off the couch. A Dramamine and a glass of coconut water perked me up enough to get to bed after an hour, but it was grim. Now I'm sort of alright, but still feel quite horrible. It's been nice not to use marijuana for a couple of days, but the without the nausea never entirely lets up and it is incredibly hard to eat or drink much past that feeling. I hate it. So exhausted now, must try to sleep...

Evolving language

Farne arrived last night and spent the day with me, making me food and letting me talk too much. I feel exhausted and energized, even starting to realize how much I want to get better and get back to work and life and being able to DO things...

(As an aside, while I'm happy that I'm able to recover from chemo and deal with this damn cold so well, it is bloody demoralizing to be so utterly wiped out from a day where I was mostly sitting on the couch, talking, with a little ten minute walk down the road in the middle of the day. How much more can I rest?!)

I've got to sleep now, but I wanted to note this nifty article Farne showed me, specifically this very insightful quote, (the ideas about fasting are interesting, but I really don't know that I can handle it, with losing weight so easily):

"Human beings have had no historical need to evolve language applicable to the sensation of being systematically poisoned. Such a vocabulary has never before been necessary, so it does not exist. Chemotherapy patients are therefore obliged to deploy a limited repertoire of familiar but hopelessly inadequate substitutes; words that can only approximate to the experience, but fail to convey anything of its true essence. So we say that we are tired, and feel weak; that we have no energy, or feel somehow unrecognisably unlike ourselves. What we really mean – and this doesn’t capture it either, but it’s the best I can do – is that we feel dead without having actually died. Chemotherapy strips away every last ounce of vitality or volition, until you are left only with the outward appearance of a living person. But you are a hollow husk, empty of all the essential constituents that make a person alive. It is a cruel irony that a drug designed to stop you dying makes you feel as if you have."

Rough week

Second chemo just flew right in and I zombied right out... Wednesday getting chemo was brutal, then Thursday and the neulasta pain had really kicked in by Friday morning. Jonathan came in the day and took care of me, acted like a proper nurse and did the job better than I would've. Heidi came on Saturday and it was a bit of a blur, we talked all day and I postponed drinking and eating when I really cannot do that. By Sunday night I had a cold. Dr Tang asked me to come in, then gave me an IV of fluid, prescribed antibiotics, and took some blood to test. 

The blood test results were good!
My white blood cel count is 8.5 (normal range is 4.0-10.5)
My absolute neutraphil count is 5.236 (normal range is 1.5-8.0)

That's nice, takes a lot of the "am I dying from this bullshit?!" fear away. Gives me the space to just hate having a bad cold and feeling so beat up. I'm not taking decongestants because I don't want to give my body more junk to be dealing with (when it's already trying to deal with the antibiotics and chemo right now), so I'm a snotty mess. The nausea is dealable as long as I don't move much and keep eating, taking lots of anti-nausea meds too.

It's pretty tricky balancing all this. I'm only coherent enough today to sort of deal with typing all this and emailing some people to ask for support. The problem with being coherent is becoming aware of how bad I feel, and much worse I felt last week, and will again next. It's like having a regular appointment to get run over. It really feels that way. Going to have to go do something else now because typing this making my cry all loud and messy. Joe is out, so I can't get too confused and forget to eat so I'd better stop typing now anyway. 

This is how I'm living; moment to moment, trying to remember how and when to eat, drink, or take medication. Everything else is a luxury that I can't afford most of the time.

Getting back up...

Today I took a blood test (13 days since my first chemo transfusion, 12 days since my first neulasta injection) and my levels did improve enough to do the next chemo tomorrow.

My white blood cel count is 5.7 (normal range is 4.0-10.5 and a week ago it was 3.0)
My absolute neutraphil count is 3.289 (normal range is 1.5-8.0 and a week ago it was 1.35)

This is cheering me up on a couple of levels. Of course I wanted to get the next chemo out of the way and stay on course with my treatment schedule. But it also showed me that I can go through absolute hell, feel close to death even, and then 2 weeks later my body is able to recover and regrow cells until I almost feel normal. The fatigue is intense and constant, but the nausea and total lack of coordination or ability to speak has pretty much healed. Knowing that I can recover and heal (quite quickly) from such intense physical lows is pretty miraculous as far as I'm concerned. It gives me a lot more confidence that I will make it through this.

Funny thing, once I started to believe I was going to make it through cancer, I started to see all the ways in which (although terrible) it is forcing me to deal. Suddenly taking care of myself and staying healthy is my biggest concern and more unusually, doing so is giving me a lot of satisfaction and even joy! Simply being able to eat again or do a little work is tremendously joyful. It's an odd word to apply to mundane tasks, but I'm so appreciative of being able to simply live. It's a real gift and I'm holding this tight right now. It feels good to feel good again!

Useful article about how to deal with shitty cancer feels

Back when I first heard I had cancer, I was loathe to tell friends and loved ones since the passing on of bad news isn't exactly fun. At the time though, most people made it very easy to talk about it and eventually I got used to it to the point where I could stop apologizing beforehand and simply state it as a fact about my life at the moment.

But some people reacted with fear and anger, expressing those feelings to me, antagonizing my own negative feelings about having cancer (which I have a lot of, obviously). Initially my reaction was to pull away, to protect my fragile mind from the negative fury they were venting on me. A friend (a very smart writer I recently met who educates people about people) sent me this article which I was able to pass on to those people and get a very positive result and I want to post it here so that I don't forget it: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407

Evil, or just plain nuts?

What would you call a doctor who tried to scare you about a condition you will definitely have to live with for the rest of your life? A bully? Sadistic? Insane? Cruel?

I keep thinking about the plastic surgeon who got angry because I elected not to have a double mastectomy (i.e. I did not want her to remove my healthy breast) and so decided to just say nasty things to me. The least of which I suppose was telling me that a lymphedema is "extremely serious. I have patients with arms three times the normal size and it is debilitating!"

Now what logical reason could she have for telling me about the more extreme versions of this disease that I will almost certainly have. They tell me that after the surgery to remove my lymph nodes is supplemented by the 6 weeks of daily radiation (to really kill whatever cancer is lingering in that armpit and chest area) the lymph drainage in my left arm will be damaged and I will have to wear a compression sleeve to encourage the arm not to swell up with discarded lymph fluid. It's pretty horrible sounding, but as many of my doctors have said, it is a hell of a lot better than dying of cancer. And besides, my left arm already has pain and movement limitations from the surgery so it'll just be more of this. Being careful with my fragile bits is key for now, I get it.

So getting back to the disgruntled plastic surgeon... Why did she want me to be scared of the future? Why did she want me to be afraid? After this and other frightening nuggets of wisdom, she told me it was "too late to find a different plastic surgeon if I wanted to have a positive result." There it was, the threat. In other words "If you don't let me do the surgery, it will be dangerous and aren't you already afraid?"

It was frightening. So much so that I managed to find another, (extremely well-qualified) surgeon within 24 hours, just in time for him to do the surgery. When it comes time to put an implant in, if I decide to go that route, I'm happy that I have a surgeon who doesn't want me to be terrified and dependent.

I'm going to be charitable to the original plastic surgeon and just assume she's insane instead of evil and abusive... even though her actions and words certainly are those things. It all comes back to what I have to keep learning; I am my own best advocate and I must always stand up for myself.

Things that go wrong

Today gets a second post because I'm punchy and tired enough that I'm actually dealing with some of this stuff now and I don't want to forget all this.

On Monday the doctor asked me to come in. I went and they took a sample of my blood. On Wednesday she asked me to come in again to find out the results. I got there for my 9am appointment and at 9:30am the doctor arrived. I overheard her administering chemotherapy to all of them, nurses were asking things like; "How much do you give with this, 50 or 100ml fluid?" She replied "100ml", to which the nurse said "Oh no, I've already started the IV with a 50ml bag!" and she quickly eplained to him how to add another 50ml bag in so that the patient wouldn't be receiving the wrong dosage. Stuff like this went on for over 2 hours. Finally she comes in to the room to ostensibly run an EKG and simply says to the nurse; "You do this, then print out the results and give them to me." So the nurse does and half an hour later the doctor sticks her head in finally and simply says "You're young so this is all fine, don't worry. You're healthy." She literally only glanced at the print out for a second before saying this, so that was a bit scary. Then I ask about my blood test from Monday. "No" she says, "We didn't do a blood test on Monday, you're confused by the neulasta injection we gave you on Thursday." I insisted and she pushed back harder, getting the nurse to confirm it. The nurse dutifully agrees with her, then laughs at me telling me that the chemo is making me confused. Being alone in this I have no choice but to let them take blood again.

The blood tests came back and as I said in my entry on Thursday, they weren't great. So I email my doctor at Cedars just to let her know and she replies that she wouldn't even bother with blood tests in the first week, that there is no way to tell if the neulasta is even working that early and I need to get tested much closer to the day I'm getting chemo. That's what I'm going to do now anyway, I have to because we need to find out if I can handle more chemo and if the white blood count doesn't come up, we'll have to wait.

So it all nets out to a similar result. Except the reality I live in netted out with two extra trips to the doctor, (one of which I had to wait over 2 hours for while feeling terrible and having zero immune system) and 4+ tubes of blood I really can't spare right now since the chemo is eating it all. 

I'm sticking with this local doctor for the next treatment, but this cannot go on again. I have to be much better about noting these kind of events and the problems they cause, but more than that, I have to head them off at the pass, stop these kind of things happening. I think I can do this in the following ways:

1. Be more assertive.
I often simply nod and smile politely when doctors or nurses tell me something that's wrong. I want to avoid bothering these busy people and I want to avoid annoying these very dismissive people who seem to hate me already just because I'm a patient and it's a pain in the ass... So in future I must be much less acquiescent and more forthright.

2. Take better notes.
The only way to make these people believe something is if I have a written document. The only way to hold them accountable after-the-fact will be to have a written record of everything I've taken and everything they've done. I have notebooks, I have this blog, there is no reason not to be even more scrupulous in my record-keeping.

3. Ask more questions.
If I'm told to take a blood test, ask why and what for. If they tell me to come in on a day when it looks like they'll be busy, ask for a different day for an appointment. If I don't understand some results, I can get more information from a family friend who was a breast cancer surgeon for many years, or my doctors at Cedars. If there is any change in my health, my doctors at Cedars seem perfectly happy to keep me informed and answer questions, so I'm going to keep sending them on. 

Three things, eh? I thought there might be more I could do... ah well, they're pretty big things and I think it'll be enough (or it won't and I'll die and hey, it's been nice knowing you, world!)

"I believe god speaks through people"

Last night I didn't sleep, so I'm much more emotional than usual. I could take a lot of drugs again, but now that I'm able to stand the pain with only tylenol, I want to keep my clear head for as long as I can (such as it is). 

At first I thought I'd be able to sleep, and for an hour I did even though it was tough to fall asleep. My stomach felt strange, and then at 2:30am I woke up and realized it ached, not the same way it did with the chemo, but it hurt badly and kept me up all night.

Because I couldn't sleep, I ended up chatting with friends online, which is great because this non-existent immune-system problem is making me really isolated. It would be nice to go out, be in the world, just shop or eat lunch out or something... but this was good because my friend Norcross said this beautiful thing I used to title this diary entry. It threw a little sunshine into my morning, made it seem lovely and strange to stay awake all night, meditating and listening to music and clutching my stomach... instead of scary and sad, which it also was.

Partly I think the stomach ache is related to my hormonal cycle, because it was an extremely acidic problem. That shouldn't be a problem much longer because the chemo should shut down my menstrual cycle soon, at least while I'm on it. And I also think the pain was because I drank a huge glass of fresh, green vegetable juice at 9pm last night, which is just a bad idea that late at night. It's meant to give me energy for the day, that's why I usually drink it in the morning... but with the low white blood count I thought I ought to try and help my body out a little. Ooops.

So the hormonal stuff would also explain why I'm suddenly having a really hard time believing I'll live through this. It could also be the blood test results, that doesn't help... I really don't know. But I do know that this is a miserable way to feel. In half an hour I've got therapy for the first time in a couple of weeks, so perhaps that'll help me move on from this dour nonsense. She often helps me to see myself with a lot of clarity. I hate having to have a session online, but I can't go into the office for fear of getting sick and dropping dead or just delaying treatment until the cancer gets me. Ugh ugh ugh. Thank fuck for all the internet stuff, if I couldn't talk to my friends, do a little designing, and see my therapist I'd probably be going crazy right now. No wonder people like support groups! People need people.

LOW

Yesterday they ran tests to see how the chemo and neulasta is working and we got the results:

My white blood cel count is 3.0 (normal range is 4.0-10.5)
My absolute neutraphil count is 1.35 (normal range is 1.5-8.0)

This means that I have no immune system to defend me from infection and if I get sick, that slows down the treatment. Dr Tang has asked me to try to avoid people until my next treatment, so that we can see if the next injection of neulasta helps more. I canceled physiotherapy today and I'll do my therapy with Christina tomorrow online. As annoying as it is, it's still helpful and effective to talk to her remotely. I really need the physiotherapy and I was so looking forward to it, this is very frustrating. I'm also feeling pretty isolated and was looking forward to just being able to see Ian and maybe Heidi over the next few days.

This entire thing is horrible and everything about it just keeps on reminding me of that. It is incredibly weird to be in the middle of what is basically people slowly, painfully killing this cancer and maybe me too...

1 week down, 15 more to go...

That was week one and oh boy... it was a doozy. Yesterday was a masssive step forward, and now I have a little energy to write again and communicate with people. It is incredible how intensely bad I suddenly felt... really mind-blowing to me. it was a real efffort to just stay human, I can't explain it. The pain and nausea just dominated my reality entirely.

Spoke to Norman yesterday and I think that the next one might not be quite as horrific because the port will have healed by then. Of course that's like saying you'll only be a bit shot in the head... you're still getting that shot in the damn head. Still, I have to hang on to the good news where I can, there are 7 more treatments.

I am calling on every ancestor and every secret super power I might have for the next few months of treatment, I need them.

Exhaustion, malaise, wobbly AF

Yesterday I got the white blood cell boosting injection (I don't think that's the official title, but I think that's what it does here);  neulasta. It took 5 mins. I was feeling alright, had the nausea under control with zofran, compazine, zantac, tums, and dramamine. But still weak and shakey, mouth still sore and food tastes wrong. I ate a lot of healthy food throughout the day and fell asleep relatively early around 11pm.

At 4am I was woken by a pain in the ball of my right foot, it felt as if I'd bruised it by landing on it barefoot from a slightly higher height than expected... Obviously I haven't been jumping anywhere. I don't know if this is a little early symptom of neuropathy from the chemotherapy, or if it is the bone pain which is a symptom of neulasta.

I'm tired and the small, hard cording that remains around my left chest is making it hard to type too much, so I'll stop.

The port hurts, a raw wound of an ache as you'd expect. I can feel the device, a hard lump grinding against things when I move my arm to type. Right now it overwhelms the nausea, weakness and aches because I'm half an hour away from my next dose of tylenol.

Unsurprisingly with all of these anti-nausea drugs, I'm a little constipated. It's only been 2 days but it only adds to the sluggishness and ache.

On the plus side, the L-glutamine and biotin seems to have really helped the painful mouth and throat, so I'll definitely keep doing that.

I haven't washed my hair since Sunday and I'm only supposed to wash it once a week at most. I've never left it this long between washes, not at this length. It's not helping the feeling of sluggishness. 

Today is the first day alone in a while. I'm a little shaky but glad to have the space to feel as truly disgusting as I do, without having to put a facade on it in any way. I feel pretty beat up, I'll take things slowly.

Nausea

Welcome to chemo and feeling really fucking nauseous all the time. 

It helps if I can eat. Eating is very hard, everything tastes weird and I feel like I can hardly swallow because it is so nauseating. 

I can can take another zofran in 30 mins. Eac=h minute feels like 20, so this'll be a long one...

ready?

Prepping for first chemo in a couple of hours... Port insertion was horrible, lay there under my plastic tent feeling them root about in my clavicle. And the pain yesterday evening became a bit unbearable, had to take a vicodin to sleep through it. It left me quite terrified about what shape I'd be in today, but now here I am, able to do my exercises on just tylenol. This "bounce back" of a sort, healing in 24 hours from this insertion surgery... it gives me hope that I am able to withstand the rigors of chemo while it ravages any microscopic remainder of the cancer.

Off to shower and eat in preparation now... wish me luck!

Fight-ready

When I was a kid, I went to a shit school in a shit neighborhood. So whenever the older girls were gonna have a fight, if they were smart, they’d take out their earrings (so the other girl couldn’t rip them out and tear the ears) and get their friend to hold them.

I kind of feel like I’m at that stage with the cancer treatments now. Someone hang on to my earrings, I'm going in...

Tomorrow at 7:30am (because mornings don't suck enough already) I have surgery to place a port into my chest which connects to my big vein (the one that goes to my heart) and then the next day they start my first 4 hour treatment. I've been going through every emotion imaginable over the last days, well... every negative emotion mostly, heh...

I don't want to do this. But I do want to live as long as I can in as healthy a condition as I can. So chemo it is. I guess I do want to do this if that's the only option... but the desire to run is strong. Just leave this existence and hide in the desert for a couple of years until I die, alone and in peace.

But love, there is so much love in my life. I love Joe more every day, and if I feel that way now after we've known each other for so long, imagine how much bigger and more beautiful that feeling could grow to be... Even now, I find myself stunned sometimes by how much love I feel for him. Just stroking his sleeping head has given me so much comfort when I can't sleep (and luckily he's a deep sleeper or it would suck to have your loving partner mooning over you while you finally get some rest! And my brother Sam, who has grown into such a nurturing and kind adult, who astounds me with his ability to calm and care for me, his partner, my parents, and even himself. I want to keep living to keep feeling these marvelous things, I want to keep watching people I love grow and change, even Joe's crazy kids! Isn't that wild, the little nutjobs are such a handful but somehow I've grown to care about them and love them, despite every attempt not to. It is incredible.

Friends have been offering to help and now I'm at the point where I finally know exactly when the chemo will be (every other wednesday), but I want to see what a treatment is like first so Joe and I'll do the first one alone on Wednesday... fingers crossed, and all that stuff grandma used to say. Actually I think she used to spit three times, both of them did in fact... but the english one only made a noise like she did in a very ladylike way, while my american/polish grandma would do it for real, only a tiny bit, but enough so I had a better understanding of the ritual involved. 

Do other people think their dead relatives are rooting for them someplace? It certainly comforts me to think about my grandmas, grandpas, and my baby brother all with me right now, sending me strength and love.