Transfusion Holiday

6 Jan

So,  I’ve been slacking on the blog.  I got a little caught up in the holidays.  Basically I was too busy eating to blog.  Eating and drinking.  Eating and drinking and then napping and then eating some more.  Sorry about that.

I do hope that everyone had a restful and enjoyable holiday season.  We had the pleasure of being snowed in at my parent’s house in New York which was really quite nice.  I like a good snow in every now and then.  We watched Planet Earth DVDs and hung out with my brother who was home on leave from the army.  Oh!  And my stepbrother got engaged on Christmas Eve!

In other exciting news I got a blood transfusion!  Yay!  Some people get engaged, some people get two units of A positive.  The week after Christmas my hemoglobin level was down to 8.  Yikes.  Now my hemoglobin is up to 11.  Which still strikes me as low because I’m used to my hemoglobin being up around 14 or so.  So the chemo goes…

The blood transfusion was pretty uneventful.  We just hung out in a hospital room for 5 hours or so and let the blood drip in.  I’m definitely more colorful than I was pre-transfusion, but I think I might be immune to anemia or something.  I felt fine when my hemoglobin was down to 8.  I mean, I was shoveling snow the day before they decided I needed a transfusion.  How did I not notice that I needed a little blood?  Let’s be real, my body probably just mistook all that red wine I drank for red blood cells.  Happens to the best of us.


me, having a true blood moment

I will take a moment for a PSA here.  Everyone, go donate some blood!  I would do it myself, but my blood is toxic at the moment.  Go forth and donate!

I have only six more treatments, two cycles, of chemo left now.  I am excited and nervous about this.  Excited because chemo is definitely taking it’s cumulative toll.  I have basically no hair anywhere left (except eyebrows!), I get heartburn like woah and have peri oral dermatitis, the steroids give me major moon face syndrome, minor scrapes take ages to heal and the bloody noses continue.  I get tired after a long day of sitting around the house and have to use this foul lidocaine mouthwash for my achy mouth.  I know.  Wah wah wah.  All of these are certainly better than the alternative (read: death by cancer) but it’s tough.  It’s tough on my self esteem and on my enjoyment of things.  It’s tough when your doctor thinks it might be a good idea to stick a hot poker up your nose to cauterize the blood vessels and stop the nosebleeds.  It’s tough to not ever really feel pretty or fit or useful.  It’ll get better.  I know it.  My hair will come back, my scars will fade, my face will de-swell, I’ll be able to ride my bike again and get a tattoo and go back to school.  It could certainly be worse and I’m striving to spend my free time constructively and on things I enjoy.  I’m taking good care of myself.  I am well loved.  I have much to be thankful for.

The flip side of this.  I am terrified of stopping chemo.  Stopping chemo means entering the land of wait-and-see.  Doing chemo at least feels like I’m taking action.  I’m being aggressive and taking care of the whole cancer situation.  When I stop, we all just start waiting and hoping that my cancer doesn’t come back.  I’ll be on my best healthful behavior and employ all the magical thinking at my disposal to ward of my anxieties and fears, but we’ll all just be holding our breath at every blood draw and CT scan.  Apparently the first six months are crucial.  When (if?) I go five years in remission, I’ll be considered cured.  Ten years and I get discharged from the care of my oncologists.  If it comes back, I’m no longer considered curable and we start treatments again, no longer trying to “save” my life but rather “extend” it.

My mom sent me an article she came across recently that examined the mental well-being of long-term survivors of gynecological cancer.  Most of the women were overwhelming grateful to be alive and reported increased satisfaction in their day to day lives and deepened interpersonal relationships.  Simultaneously, they reported deep anxiety and fear about recurrence.  I imagine I’ll be living with that shadow for quit some time and every decision I make…going back to school, buying a house, starting a family…will be effected.

Alright.  Enough gloom and doom.  Aren’t you glad I finally wrote a blog post!  Wasn’t that thrilling!  Here.  Here’s a picture of my bald head, just for fun.

Mrs. Clean

And then here’s a picture of me wearing the monkey hat my stepbrother gave my for Christmas.  He said if I was ever feeling blue, I could just put the hat on and look in the mirror.

Pretty effective, right?

Happy New Year!  Here’s to a 2011 that sucks less than 2010!


9 Responses to “Transfusion Holiday”

  1. Claire January 6, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    You can wah wah wah all you want!!! You deserve too!! Glad your holidays were merry and bright!

    Love, Aunt Claire

  2. Corinne January 6, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    You are so beautiful! I love you lady xoxo

  3. Kate January 6, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Scott thinks you look cute bald. Loved seeing you over break. Keep that hemoglobin up so we can drink some red wine next time I’m in boston.

  4. Marisa January 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    what freaks me out is that even as mrs. clean you are beautiful and i am pretty sure NO ONE i know could pull that off! seriously tho colleen your blog amazes me and i feel honored and privileged that i get to read every detail of this insane journey and of course i wish you only the best. also, we are legit WAY too obsessed with true blood since as soon as i saw the title of this blog it is all i could think of and i am so glad ya mentioned it in the photo caption!
    ps: that monkey hat RULES!

  5. Liza Kerrigan January 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    Hi Colleen-
    I have been slacking on my responses for the same reason you have been slacking on blogging. Truly, all the “whah, whah, whah” stuff (your classification, not mine) is good to know….

    Not to indulge you, but….. I can’t image the havoc wreaked by medical and emotional side affects. There’s a whole identity crisis let alone battling the cancer thing. You are doing a fabulous juggling act! Grace under pressure!

    Besides, to dissuade you, you are gorgeous in “bald” (really!)! Strong and fit if you can shovel snow w/ an anemic blood count, and as for useful……This blog of information? shoveling snow for your family? making us laugh w/ the goofy hat when we are all tense w/ worry ? Informing us of outcomes of cancer survivors? (I have wanted to know when “free and clear” really means free and clear). Knowing about the disease so that when you come upon it as a Dr., you can relate first hand to patients (totally invaluable-better “Doctor” material)?…..Come on, who are you kidding? That you exists, with such a fighting spirit, one that deflects your concerns and instead, engages us in humorous discussion of being human in, AND beyond disease gives us a sobering realization of who we are and what the —-is important in this world anyways. Please, continue to be so useless……I love you!

  6. Neal January 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    Of course you are bald…all babies are bald. You are experiencing a rebirth…everything that was old is new again…with is brightness, rawness and wonder…every thing you experience is now seen through new eyes. Now we just need to build a big ol vagina that you can burst through to complete the cycle…

  7. Barbara Call January 6, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    Well Colleen, you said it all, here’s to a 2011 that sucks less than 2010 and I hope there were lots of ginger snaps this year of magical thinking. So great Trip was around to put things in perspective. Roxanne is here with John & Aran ~ everybody’s growing up or something like that.

    You are a beauty, highlights the importance of having good bones at time like these…send me your home address via mom. love & light, Barb

  8. Michelle January 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    You are very well loved! I’m sorry I missed you at Corinne’s. Love the red wine/red blood cell comparison, I’ll think of you next time I have a glass…hopefully in a few hours!

  9. Jonathan January 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    the idea of red wine as blood is about perfect. i have made the same joke myself more than once, but maybe you’ve actually proven it to be true. hmmm…

    thinking of you, as usual, and missing you. glad to hear (read) from you and it sounds like you had a nice holiday. if i was there i’d give you a big kiss on your bald dome, but since i’m not—MUAH—there’s one from spain.

    love you!

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