Friday, May 28, 2010

Oh, Lance.

I bet if you own a bike, you have an opinion about Lance Armstrong.

Just in case you have nothing better to read this afternoon, here's mine.

Reading "It's Not About the Bike" after I was diagnosed was mind-blowing.  The story was a good one when I read it for the first time.  But the second time was like reading about my own life.  Other than the whole winning the Tour seven times thing. And that's just because they don't let women ride in it. 

Lance is one intense mutha-fucker.  Maybe you'd call him a jackass.  As someone know for opening her mouth at inopportune times and taking ill-advised flyers off the front to a race just to get my thirty dollars worth out of it, I get that.   

I get that the first thought that went through his mind when he received his diagnosis was that it would effect his bike racing.  I get the whole thing about being weak and poisoned and despondent.  I get the epiphanies that you get when you realize that you are being given a second chance to get your shit together and go be the person in the world that you were supposed to be all along.

I get all that.

What I don't get is what to think about Lance and doping.  Here's why.  He's a survivor.

Lance went thought something significantly more toxic than I am enduring.  The radioactive substances they pumped into his body killed his reproductive system, wasted his body and caused uncontrollable nausea.  What I am going through is much more doable, but the fact doesn't change that it is all incredibly toxic.  My body and my soul will never be the same. 

After being exposed to so much toxicity, after being stared in the faced with my own mortality, I couldn't imagine going back out into the world and exposing my body to more chemicals, more medical uncertainties, solely for the purpose of winning races.  It makes zero sense to me. 

If the hand grenades that Floyd has been launching at Lance and the cycling institution turn out to be true, I'll be honest with you.  I'll be sort of devastated.  

I used to not care about this sort of stuff.  Cheaters were cheaters and we all know about cheaters not prospering.  Or dying of heart attacks at 35 or having their balls shrink into their chests.  They all get their's in the end.

But Lance?  Lance is a survivor.  No, correction, Lance has made himself into "The Survivor."  If he also turns out to be a doper it will feel like a slap in the face to thousands of other survivors who have drawn inspiration and strength from his intensity and perseverance. 

Oh, Lance.  


But, all of that aside, as a cancer survivor, I cannot help but appreciate the attention he has brought to our disease and the struggles that survivors face even when we become cancer free.  So there's that. 

So I'm suspending judgment for the time being and am planning to support the efforts of the Lance Armstrong  Foundation by riding the Tour des Chutes on July 17.   Because, when it really comes down to it, there are still survivors out there, and sometimes we need all of the help we can get.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

To the Left...To the Right...And Back to the Middle.

We all know that progress rarely occurs in a straight line. Instead, it undulates or peaks and plateaus before peaking again. This is definitely true in cycling and I am finding that it also holds true with dealing with this disease.  

After a few weeks of zen, I got sick, got tired and found myself falling back into old, less healthy patterns.  I judged, procrastinated, worried and skipped new practices that I know made my life better.  I didn't exercise, slacked on my writing, was needlessly unpleasant to bank employees and dropped the ball planning my own birthday party.  I let the fatigue win. 

Its a delicate balancing act--trying to get back into my normal pre-cancer routines (working, cycling, socializing), but keeping only those elements that are healthy and productive while eliminating the things about that life that weren't so great.  Forming new habits is hard...its always three steps forward, a step or two backwards. 

The self-judging has been the hardest old habit to brake.  The cycle of thinking that I should be working more or feeling stronger.  That there isn't ENOUGH to my I healing enough, working enough, resting enough, eating enough good food, exercising enough, getting enough from my relationships.  Enough already.

Today's lesson: Living a balanced life is not like standing on solid ground.  More like standing on one foot, blindfolded, on a wobble board.  It doesn't come naturally--without training, conscious planning, constant adjustment and the acceptance that sometimes we lose our balance and slide off. 

So for this cancer patient, it is time to get back on the wobble board.  To plan meals ahead of time so I eat well during my bad weeks.  To lace up the shoes, put on the rain coat and walk, even when the Portland weather is doing everything it can to discourage us from going outside.  To write without worrying whether there is anything relevant or humorous within the words.  To not judge myself as weak when  the concentration necessary for three hours of lawyer work kicks my ass.  To embrace the simple and eliminate the stressful.  To remember that even when I feel strong, I need rest.  To ask for help when I need it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Escape from Portland.


That is the best way I can describe, using letters instead of frustrated and unintelligible noises, how Round Three has gone so far.  

Chemo was Monday this time around, due to a scheduling issue with the doctor's office.  And I woke up Monday morning with a head cold.  So I knew going in that R3 not going to be the cakewalk that R2 had been.  

The infusion problem.  As the owner of a brand new iPad, I spent the two hours geeking out on my new toy.  Some out there might say that porn is the best way to kill time on the internet.  I am not one of those people.  I am a person that spends an hour in a measurement conversion application calculating that I weigh 10.71 stones and averaged 16.7 knots at Jack Frost this year.  All very useful and important information. 

By Monday afternoon, I could feel the fatigue clamping down on me.  And it didn't let loose until Thursday afternoon.  Cold fatigue on top of chemo fatigue was not fun.  Didn't exercise, didn't cook.  Just shuffled in a bermuda triangle from the bed to the couch to the kitchen.   Slept, dazedly watched bad TV, ate burritos and tried to stay hydrated.  (One of the strange things about masking nausea with medication is that it really doesn't affect my ability to eat.  What it does affect is my fluid intake.  There is something about drinking water that made me feel more wonky than eating a heavily loaded bean and cheese burrito.  Go figure.)

I now have a serious case of cabin fever.  It started yesterday afternoon when I was driving home from acupuncture.  The treatment did wonders for clearing up my sinuses and lungs--one of the last things that I need right now is a respiratory infection.  Stuck in the construction traffic on MLK, I had an overwhelming urge to get on to I-84 and drive until the car ran out of gas.  To go anywhere with wind and fresh air and sunlight and without a incessantly beeping clothes dryer.  Something to jerk me out of falling back into bad habits of funk, procrastination and ambivalence.
A horn honked nearby and I was jerked back to reality.  The reality of my body and its need for more rest.

I gave myself another twelve hours of couch surfing, tea drinking and wedding-reality-show-watching.  But this afternoon I am headed to Astoria to spend some time with a friend, then to Pacific City to meet some teammates at the end of the Reach the Beach ride.  Time to get back into good habits--writing in my journal, finishing a book that has taken me too long to read, walking, connecting with people. Living, not waiting.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hair We Go.

This cancer shit can never be simple, can it?

My hair started falling out over the weekend.  Whatever, totally expected.  What was not expected was creative path my hair decided to take before its curtain call.

There isn't an "easy" button for chemo hair loss.  Because that would be nice.  Press the easy button and all of it falls out at once, I rinse out the shower and that would be that.  I could then proceed along with being awesomely bald or, at least, able to wear hats and wigs without my stubble catching, pulling and hurting my suddenly sensitive head. 

Of course, it doesn't really work like that.  Instead, I have been up shedding stubble all over the greater Metro area and, after six days, am still left with a hair yarmulke. 

Yes, my hair is falling out....everywhere but from the crown of my head. 

I feel like the cancer monster is getting back at me for kicking ass through the second round of chemo.   In exchange for increased energy and a healthy GI system, I am now afflicted with the opposite of male pattern baldness.  Its so ridiculous that it is, quite honestly, hilarious. 


I made two big steps forward toward normalcy this week.  First, I went back to work.  For those of you that just started reading this blog, I am a lawyer.  I have a specialty practice area and only work for a few attorneys, all of whom I adore.  However, I can't say that I adore working in a law office.  Even in great firms like the one I work in, there is always this overarching vibe of panic mixed with self-importance mixed with entitlement and expensive cologne. 

After two days back in my office, I can already see that my biggest work challenge will be not letting this vibe ruin my new sense of zen.  My office is on a busy hallway and I frequently found myself trying to concentrate over loud conversations that made me want to tip over my desk and  run around in a circle screaming "NONE OF THIS REALLY MATTERS."  Nothing would ruin zen like a psychotic episode. 

Second, I started back up with strength class on Tuesday.  I'm sore.  But it's a welcome soreness because it is movement related, instead of caused by surgeries or medication or being unable to sleep.  I have to be very careful not to stress my affected arm and, this morning, learned the hard way that I have to focus a bit more because misjudging the speed and trajectory of a medicine ball could mean taking an eight pound weight directly into the chest.  Not good when one has a port on the right side and a structurally compromised half-boob on the left side.