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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dreaming about Cancer...or actually Hair

Last night I woke up suddenly after a very strange dream that seemed to be loosely based around the Hunger Games. For some reason I was in a line of young people who were selected to answer a question correctly or they would be stabbed (so violent, I know!) A guy behind me tried to give me the right answer as my turn arrived, but then he said, "just tell them you have cancer and you're on blood thinners and if you get stabbed, you'll bleed out!" "Oh yeah, that's right!" I said. Disturbed, I finally woke myself up!

And then I thought about the fact that, even in my dreams, I have cancer. So depressing.

Cancer doesn't always come up in my dreams, but when it does, it usually arrives in the form of my hair...because, let's be real, it always has and always will be about the hair! LOL. Shortly after I was diagnosed and all I cared about was keeping my hair, I asked a former co-worker who had just recovered from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and was rocking a pixie, if she had short hair in her dreams. She laughed and said she never thought about it, but realized that she did. She didn't seem to have the hair issues that I had...she walked around our office bald before her hair started growing in, but it made me realize that even in my dreams, the "me" that I knew would be different.

From the moment I started loosing my hair, my self image became extremely fractured. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Hair is a part of my identity (as it for many women) and loosing it, really brought the disease to life. Plus, it was the first thing someone would notice when they saw me. And I couldn't even escape in my dreams.

I started to dream about having cancer, and my dreams my hair followed my cancer journey. The day I actually lost all of my hair and pulled off the last bits of fuzz stuck to my head is seared in my memory. Yet, thankfully I seem to have blocked out every bald day after that, as I never dreamt about myself bald. I was used to seeing myself in a scarf from wrapping my hair and sleeping in a scarf in my pre-cancer days, so I would immediately switch from scarf to wig before leaving the house, never looking at my head.

And as my hair grew I started wearing hair pieces and extensions until I felt comfortable wearing my own, new, very curly hair. And that's how I appeared in my dreams as well. Now when I have dreams, I have a head full of curls...even if I'm about the get stabbed, lol.  It's so funny, I know that hair is important to me in real life, but to have it show up so vividly in my dreams makes me chuckle a bit.

As for a cancer I finally started the Revlimid that I was so excited about (while simultaneously starting a new job!) and perhaps we waited too long between drugs (damn insurance approvals) or maybe it just didn't work, but it wasn't the easy street I had hoped it would be. Even while taking the pills every day, I started to have really extreme side effects...drenching night sweats, heavy itching, and I lost almost 20 pounds in a blink of an eye. It was a really hard time and I hated seeing people look at me with sympathy in their eyes.

Since I don't usually get all 3 side effects at once, I was scared, but since I also had just started my new job (where I told my new boss that this cancer thing was totally under control and I just had to pop a pill everyday--haha--what's that saying, "if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans"?), I was more stressed out than anything.

Thankfully, I started another treatment plan last month...the combo of Bendamustine and Brentuximab (SGN-35), two drugs I've had individually, but never together, and they seem to be working! I haven't had a scan yet, but I gained 10 pounds and the night sweats and itching have stopped, so those are all good signs. Oh yeah--and this drug combo won't make me lose my hair!

Of course, life is never easy, so there are some complications in my work schedule...these drugs are given via IV and my insurance required that they are delivered in a hospital (ugh, damn insurance again!!) so I find myself leaving work early and running to the subway much more often than I would like. I want this drug to work, but it has complicated my life a bit.

Hopefully my next update won't be 3 months later and it will be good news!


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