Friday, March 18, 2016

The Unease of Aid

There was a time, years ago, when I was married, with husband and stepson.  I was a wife and, literally, a soccer mom - or soccer stepmom, helping with homework, taking a kid to practices, and washing and folding the laundry of others ... once I picked it up off the floor and gave up trying to understand how it didn't walk of its own volition (seriously - don't play the waiting game with a chef's socks by the couch - you'll lose).

And then everything fell apart.  The marriage ended and I was alone.

I no longer knew how to do that; be alone.  I went to furnish my first post-divorce apartment and hadn't a clue what I liked.  Oh, I knew what HE liked.  What HE would have picked. 

It took me a long time to really feel comfortable with my choices.  A long time.  But I finally got to the point where my apartment is just as I want it to be, I take care of myself.  I'm fully independent, and a bit of a social introvert.  I can be social ,.. if you manage to convince me to be out of the house.  But I'm good alone.  I'm pretty happy alone.  Hell, I even enjoy going to movies and eating out - alone.

And then I got cancer.

I had multiple doctor appointments and tests - no problem - I can do those alone.  And, in all honesty, I knew I'd likely be better able to maintain my emotions if I was alone during those first tests.  Then the MST meeting arrived and my stepmom came up for that.  More tests followed and numerous family members arrived for the surgery.  A sister stayed with me after my lumpectomy for a few days and then another took her place - all as I was recovering.  Flowers arrived, gifts of coloring books, puzzle books, Walking Dead trivia game and necklace, an amazing Star Wars chemo quilt, beautiful afghan, Wonder Woman cookie jar, Princess Leia wig, Princess Leia talking bottle opener (no, really), gift cards, cards and more cards, a homemade stitched sign from my little sister, food and more glorious food from friends.

The aid just started pouring in ... the support.  And I was woefully unprepared for it.

Odd, right? 

I'd worked for so long at being independent that I no longer knew how to accept aid.  I'm still not great at it.  I remember the feeling of dread that I got when I realized that I couldn't do this myself.  Especially the chemotherapy.  I dislike the idea that someone else will have to drive me to and from chemotherapy.  I'm not allowed to do it myself.  My stepmom has been here for the first round and she's arriving tomorrow morning for the second round.  But, see, there's sixteen rounds all together.  And rounds 5-16 are every week not every other week.

The thing is ... I have good people.  No, I have amazing people.  I know I have people ready to help me.  I just hate that I need the help to begin with.  It's probably one of the few things that makes me regret that I'm alone.  I think it would be easier to accept help from a spouse.  I mean, that's kinda part of the job description, right?  Haul each other's sick asses around from time to time, as needed. 

How is it that the hardest part - or one of the hardest parts - of having a serious illness is the difficulty of accepting help from others?  I am getting better at it [I've eaten better than I have in a long time due to my incredible friends and stepmom.]  But it still makes me uncomfortable. 

I've tried to be on top of thank-you's - tried to make them immediate.  Whether it is an in-person "Thank you" or a written one, a post, or even text, I am trying to make sure that others know how grateful I am for their thoughts, prayers, food, assistance of any kind. 

Like I said, I've got good people.  And I truly hope that they know how humbled and grateful I am.

I still wish I could do it myself. 

If you're like me.  If it's killing you that you have to have someone help you through this, well, suck it up, buttercup.  You can't do it by yourself.  You can do a lot alone, yes, but not everything.  And, having been on both sides of this scenario, I can tell you that your helper really wants to be doing whatever it is they are doing.  So many things about an illness are uncontrollable.  For us and for those who care for us.  Offering aid is something your loved ones can do. 

They can't magically cure you from cancer.  [Only asparagus can do that.]  But they can make you soup.  They can drop off a meal that you pop into the oven.  They can send coloring books or puzzle books to help you pass the chemo time.  And they can drive you when you need a driver.  Those are things they can control. 

Let them.

Chemo #2 takes place tomorrow ... oops, I mean today; in roughly 10 hours. 

I've got a list of questions for poor Nurse L to answer while pumping me full of the red drug.  I'm about to lose my hair.  Dr. V said I'd lose it two weeks after my first infusion.  That's tomorrow.  Another nurse suggested I might have up until this coming Monday before I'm a cue ball.  To say I'm anxious about the loss is an understatement. 

Waiting might be the hardest part but I've been instructed not to cut my hair shorter than 1/2 inch to avoid any ingrown torture since my hair will continue to grow ... until it falls out.  Until the follicles give way.  Until I get my Elmer Fudd on.

One of my questions has to do with that.  Losing my hair.  All of my hair?  Dr. V already mentioned that some patients lose their eyebrows and eyelashes as well as head hair but some don't.  I neglected to ask the follow up questions to that, i.e., so what about arm hair, leg hair, um ... other body hair? 
Excuse me, doctor, but WILL the curtains match the carpet?  Or, I mean, will the bare window match the wood floor?
What effects from chemotherapy tend to accumulate?  I have heard that fatigue will get worse as the sessions continue but what about nausea?  And these questions tend to be drug specific.  If you're reading this and are about to undergo chemotherapy, you might lose your hair or you might not - it depends on what drug you're receiving.  The same goes for other side effects.

So I'll bombard poor Nurse L with questions, try to remain calm as the drugs go into my body, suck water down like there is no tomorrow, and hope for the best.  For a relatively nausea free aftermath.  For decent sleep this weekend. 

And for the ability to gracefully accept the temporary loss of my hair. 
Oh, who am I kidding.  Ya'll are totally going to see pictures of some weird pile of hair soon enough.  That doesn't sound graceful; but that sounds like me.

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