Penny’s Blog


Posted on: December 31, 2008

Who would have thought it? I’m bored with cancer and chemo and the whole deal. (Thus the lack of updates for a month.)

I had treatment #4 last week. Christmas Eve in the chemo clinic, the nurses wearing their candy-cane-print scrubs and Santa hats. Some patients in the clinic finished their last treatments that day—I couldn’t see them, but I heard the staff applauding and singing “For they are jolly good fellows…” I saw one patient sent home without treatment because her blood counts were too low. Another patient near me wasn’t receiving chemo—it had stopped working—and was getting a blood transfusion instead.

At the pre-chemo visit with Dr. Van Deventer, he surprised me by starting out, “Hmmm… four rounds or six?” I guess stopping at four rounds of chemo is sometimes an option. However, we’ll keep going for six, because (1) the “c-myc translocation” of my cancer is usually associated with particularly aggressive types, and (2) if chemo doesn’t completely cure the lymphoma, the next step is a bone marrow transplant, and we don’t want that. Ironically, because my blood counts are bouncing back so well after each treatment, I’m effectively getting a lesser dose of chemo than someone whose blood counts stay low.

One minor, but persistently annoying, side effect of chemo has been a gummy, sickening, sweetish feeling/taste in my mouth. Dr. Van gave me a recommendation for a mouthwash (Oasis) to provide a couple of hours of relief each day. (Dr. Van plays trumpet, and was told about Oasis by fellow trumpet players, who use it to combat dry mouth.)

The gumminess and all the side effects are pretty routine by now. Nausea and fatigue are always lurking; I’m stinting less on the anti-nausea drugs and trying to remember to take naps. I have two kinds of laxatives in the medicine cabinet (severe constipation is one of the most unpleasant side effects of vincristine). The hair loss seems to have reached a stable point: Head still bald, eyebrows still present, etc. I’ve also lost hair inside my nose, so part of my morning routine is putting fresh Kleenex in each pocket of my skirt and jacket—without nasal hair, secretions just slide right out, so you have to do a lot of dabbing.

(I know some of the above-described symptoms are a bit distasteful, which is why I haven’t rushed online to inform you of them. But they give you an idea of why chemo is so dreary, even in a case like mine where the side effects are minimal.)

My therapist Rebecca was saying yesterday that she thinks the cliche about health crises bringing great insight is probably bogus—that really, people just endure them. I think she’s right. I used to fantasize about having a life-threatening illness, imagining that such an event would provide the impetus and inspiration to radically change my life. (“As God is my witness, if I get through this, I’m going to give away all my possessions and pursue my passion for teaching puppetry to homeless kids.”) But now I think that once I get past this cancer experience—my “life crisis lite”—there will probably be little or no difference in my daily routine. Check back with me in a few months and we’ll see if that’s correct.

I’m grumpy today and have a bad attitude, but don’t want to close without expressing my continued wonder and gratitude around all the gifts, calls, favors, and support so many people have shared with me. I don’t know how I can ever repay you all.


7 Responses to "Chooglin’"

Dear Penny,
With the way you live your life, I know there will never be an issue of repaying the gifts given you. Think of my balance sheet! I will never catch up…
Love to you and so many hugs and good wishes–you will always be one of my angels.

Your repayment will be to promise not to worry about repayment. It’s all put into a big karmic stew, so whoever needs it can dip into it. Didn’t they teach you that in Buddha camp? From what I can see, your recent additions to that stew have been good humor, role modeling, and willingness to share your thoughts. The occasional grumpiness just spices up the stew. -Robin

Personally, I give major props to Sparkle for all she has done to soothe you and brighten those times when you just don’t feel like doing anything.

You are a marvel of modern science, with a very old soul. Keep on choogling.

Love and happy new year! Alyson

It will end! and pretty soon too!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings so lucidly, whether you feel like it or not. It sounds like, to quote Bart Simpson, that cancer “both sucks and blows.” It sucks that you have to go through so much crap. I’m not sure I would have the patience or determination to do it. Hang in there for just a few more sessions…


Hi Penny, Just wanting to say hello-I’ve been dragging around with a cold/flu thing for weeks so have been avoiding you in the flesh- however my thoughts and prayers are still with you. I’m glad the treatment is going so well. I suspect there will be more of a change when this is done than you know of- though you may be surprised at what it is. Will be interesting to see. Love, Shabari

I love you!
Thank you for doing this. I know there’s basically no other feasible option, but it really takes a lot of strength to A) subject yourself to months of agonizing medical treatments that change everything about you physically and B) actually tell the world about it.

You are very strong, and it amazes me how casually and humbly you seem to be expressing your feelings.

Again, thanky.
And loves!

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  • None
  • dswope: I just happened by after my I received an email from a close colegue that he was headig for IVPalooza. All I knew was that it was a form of chemo.
  • Brian: Hi Penny; When I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma I found your site. Reading about what you went through was incredibly helpful to me. Tha
  • Tricia: Still here; still caring; still rooting you on!


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