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Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Chemo Float in the Hospital Boat

Fun with Annie's new iPad
This hospital stay has had a much more distinct "choose life-y" energy than the last one. As I imagined, coming in mentally stable and knowing what to expect has made it much easier to sit here and take this chemotherapy treatment without feeling like I'm losing my mind.

As for the chemo itself, I intentionally ignore the bright green biohazard sticker on the bag and try not to dwell on the reality of what it is—liters and liters of absurdly toxic bright-orange chemicals saturating my entire body over a four-day span. 
I mean, it's obviously what I'm here for. I'm not sick in any other way, I'm not in any pain, so my sole mission here is really just to entertain myself while it drip-drip-drips its' way in. But in terms of  healing, I just have to think of it as a necessary measure to becoming un-cancered. It also helps to stage the chemo-environment with some undersea creatures (see photo).
Lobster Puppet sent by Ken Bowman,
Jellyfish crocheted by Amanda-Jean Ward

I also brought in quite the load of other items that seem to boost the Essence-of-Kia in this small, bland, dark little space. Photos of myself in stronger moments, photos of friends I wish to keep the closest, a giant poster with a drawing of a screw with the word CANCER in bold red type beneath it, the quilt Annie's mom gave us for Christmas, my own pillow with the butterfly pillowcase, and of course, Annie (see photo below). 

Basically the only real obstacle this time around has been my neighbor to the left. We call him Jerry. Jerry screams in pain, he begs to die, he moans and hollers at all times of day and night. When we try to politely inquire to the hospital staff if he's ok, they all kind of roll their eyes and say that the people who put on these kinds of theatrics are usually the ones furthest from actual death. It's still a bit unsettling, to say the least. I don't mean to be all sassy-bitchy about other people's suffering...I just wish someone would give the man something to make him sleep it off! Then I could get on with my ignoring I'm in a hospital and continue pretending I'm just traveling below decks on a really tiny boat.

Annie wins!
Here she is in my view from the bed.
Also, there are a few other elements conspiring to make this time around feel so much more upbeat, for lack of a better word. The first is prednisone. These are the same steroids they had me on last time, but instead of sending me scrambling around the room on an OCD bender, this time I am just staying really conscious about how much they boost my energy level. It's strange, yes, to feel energetic while being attached to a bag on a pole by liquid tubes that flow into a catheter embedded in your chest. No question. And yet, right now I feel like I could sit here in this bed and do some sit ups. Or bicep curls. Or jump off the bed and do some squats. I've managed to curb the athletic regimen to some light stretching, but it sure is strange to be curled up in this stiff little bed at night, unable to sleep because there is this current of sort of happy energy buzzing through me. (Or could that be something else?) Oh, Prednisone. Someone remind me to comment on how I feel once I go down from the hospital-sized 100mg dose to the 20mg I get at home.

Another major boost to my energies has been the "special" cookies I smuggled in with me—though it's not really smuggling if nobody cares, which I'm pretty sure nobody does—made by the loving and generous hands of two very special sets of friends. They boost my appetite incredibly, helping me to eat right through the chemo, which was very difficult the last time. Also, I have to say they just make the days funnier and generally more pleasant. I feel really grateful to have received them in time for this hospital stay. Probably the best medicine I'm getting in here. Viva los edibles!
Speaking of appetite—
my last meal before the hospital. Yum yum!
And yet, through all the special cookies, the Prednisone and Jerry's ranting, I have found a little time for quiet contemplation. Here's what's on my mind:

Every time I peer into Facebook, I am slapped in the face by all the fun things my friends are doing that I am not currently able to enjoy. Vacations to Mexico, outdoor cocktails, bike rides in the spring greenery, you name it, I'm not doing it. Can't do it. For several more months at least.
But, every so often I'll see someone buckling under some kind of stress or responsibility that I'm also not having to deal with at the moment, that used to weigh so heavily on me before. Washing dishes. Sweeping up dog hair. Trying to keep myself fed every day on an incredibly tight budget. Going to the laundromat. Washing more dishes. Changing the oil in my car. All those un-sexy, un-fun adult responsibilities that I carped about so often are completely swept under the rug right now as I continue to just be a Cancer Patient. And, in some way, I'm lucky to have a break from all that. Who wouldn't enjoy the chance, on some level, to be free of all their usual responsibilities, for several months on end? 
Of course, the conclusion I'm coming to about all those pesky adult responsibilities is that they are totally worth the fun-time, spring-time, summer-time, time-off activities you get to do alongside them, generally whenever you please. All that dog-hair, laundry, dishwashing bullshit is the price we pay for those ultimate freedoms. Don't take them for granted. Go ride your bike!

Taken at the Sequoia Mall,
Saturday, May 14
Lastly, my friend Elise sent me a book I've been devouring—one of the few books I've been able to stick with lately—called Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser. 
I've found it to be tremendously relevant and meaningful as I go through this. The main nugget is to use challenging times —big or small—to expand yourself into a more soulful, conscious person. To be able to be the phoenix rising from the ashes of your own personal tragedies, whatever they may be. I'm loving her voice, her own story, and the stories from other people that she shares. 
It just makes me wonder: how to put that into practice myself, in the midst of my own so-called tragedy? What am I holding on to that I can now let go of in the ashes of this Cancer fiasco? Who is that person around the corner that I'm just waiting to become? And how on earth do I make that actual transformation? I feel so on the brink of that blossoming. 


  1. I wish I could pass out your outlook on things to grumpy people who complain about nothing. I'm glad this stay is a bit better for you. You look so pretty in that first photo in the ipad! All the best to you and yours.

  2. You are already in the process of change...awareness,empathy, seeing outside of yourself is the start of it all. Acceptance of life and learning to change one little thing at a time. Not beating yourself up for not being perfect are steps to change,,,also a great sense of humor about yourself and others. Love is awesome also in the process and you have that. Enjoy you special cookies.

  3. Kia, I have known you as such a beautiful 'bud'...I cannot imagine what beautiful wonders you will grace us with when you blossom!

  4. Oh, and here's a tip from a friend who had lymphoma....she would visualize all of her healthy cells dressing up in hazmat suits before chemo...once she began doing this, her treatments went much smoother and she finished ahead of schedule.

  5. Hey Kia, you are incredible!!!!
    What you are experiencing and your watchful eye witnessing the transformation in you are all so important, for you and for us learning about your experience. You teach us as you learn.
    You have reached a higher level of being by this experience. Trust that this experience has and will take you to places others like myself have no access although it lays right in front of us.
    You have been awaken and once you are over with the present hospital routine and back to normal life you will see the gold that most of us miss in every day life.
    I love you very much and enjoyed the video. Like to see Annie in the next video perhaps.
    You are doing great and may I have your strength, intelligence and wit and be able to act from where your actions are generated.
    A big hug and a big kiss.