Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Goodbye, My Sweetheart

Not Ilia's I-cups

Technically, my tumor was staged as IIA, but upon its departure from my body, it was found to have been 2 millimeters away from attaching to my skin.  So, while that was considered a "clean margin" by my surgeon, it was considered as Stage 3B by my oncologist, aka "put it up to 11".  The end result was 50% more chemo than the standard course.

Thirteen days after my first dance with chemo, I was sitting in front of my computer trying to deal with various English-challenged citizens of Bangalore when I felt something tickle my face.  No, it wasn't General Ilia with a feather.  Strands of my hair had just bailed on me en masse.  I put up with it for maybe two hours before I decided that I didn't want to look like the "before" in a Rogaine ad.  I couldn't bear to shave my head right away so I cut my long hair to Requisite Butch Length.  However, my RBL hair failed at being Sapphic and kept on falling out.  Four days later, I surrendered to reality.  My husband sang this song as he shaved my head.

At this point I had told only a few people outside of my family that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I had decided to be open about it after I was "all done".  (In reality, one is never actually "all done" with cancer until they're dead.)  I'm not sure why I did this, but I sent a few friends pictures of me wearing a bandanna, wearing my wig, and bald.  Luke commented that my bandanna picture made me look like a white Aunt Jemima.  Everyone else said stuff like "You look great!" and "That suits you!".  To this day I don't know if Luke was just trying to extend our eternal pissing contest or if he was being honest and everyone else was full of shit.  The wig looked OK, but it felt like my head was wearing a hairy condom.  Thus, Lieutenant Ilia the Bald was born.  I would wear the hair condom in public only because I didn't want to have people look at me with that "she's gonna die" look.

Throughout the six rounds of chemo (one every 3 weeks = 18 weeks of hell), I still could not believe that this was now me.  The evil steroid Decadron which prevented me from copious Exorcist-style barfing had made me gain 20 pounds in one week.  (Suck it, Supersize Me Guy!)  Also, I had to take a leave of absence from my job.  I had just enough left to acknowledge my family's existence, and anything past that was unpossible.

After the fourth round of chemo, my saline implant started to leak.  I'm sure that was my fault, but damned if I know how I did it.  My short term memory was totally shot. (Who are you again?) My plastic surgeon refused to operate on me until at least six weeks after my last round of chemo.  So now my husband had a deflated-boobed fat bald lady to sleep with.  Surely there's a "tube" out there for that look?

After it was all done, I wanted to go back to "normal" as quickly as possible.  However, there is no normal anymore.  It's a twisted form of existence, but being on the green side of the grass is all that counts.

And now, back to the funny.


Charlene said...

My very best friend in the whole world went through chemo and radiation five years ago. The feeling of helplessness on my and her family, and even her part was terrible.

She told everyone. Her work is as a hair dressser and all of her patrons knew because she told them. I so admired her ability to talk about this awful thing while she was fighting it. I would only hope I was brave in a similar thing but I'd not count on it.

Lieutenant Ilia said...

Your friend had much bigger balls than me. During treatment, I decided not to talk about it unless absolutely necessary because I couldn't handle the comments like "Oh, you're so brave" and the inevitable question "How did you find it?"
My responses:
1. Thanks for the compliment, but this is do or die, which I don't think requires much in the way of bravery.
2. That's saying "Help me not find something." Whatever I tell you about me is probably not going to help you, because mine was so damn obvious and I chose to ignore it until it was almost too late. So, just feel your boobies/balls for something that isn't supposed to be there and then go on with your day.

Peter said...

Lt. Ilia, I love you. When you imply (assert?) that it's not about being brave--SMASH!--you're dead on (so to speak). Whatever it really is all about, a life is a great thing to have; damn right you fight all out for it. Please allow me to admire you for your take on the matter; it's almost a pity that so many undeserving people endure facing so much less. Caveat: I'm presently half drunk (drunk). C'est la vie.

Palm Springs Savant said...

such an incredible story you are sharing, I can hardly believe you are so brave do be so open, thank you.

eric1313 said...

Holy Jeeebus, a lot has happened while I was away...

Here's to your recovery and to your continued good health, captain.