Thursday, November 13, 2008

Italia redux

Karen went with me last night to Wayne State battling traffic and very little parking. Fortunately, the program is run on "Italian time" so we didn't miss anything despite being late. Notte prima degli Esami is a light-hearted comedy that was very popular in Italy about some Roman seniors stressing out about their final exams. This doesn't quite translate well-these exams determine whether they can go to college so they are more important than the American finals. When we asked the Italian students (back in Italy) what they liked best about America, they all said, 'the music'. Lots of American music in the movie-even the Italian music had broken English phrases in it and the kids were wearing t-shirts with American cultural references. It was very funny. Now in American comedies, you always know how things are going to eventually end but not so in Italian cinema. The good guy doesn't necessarily get the girl. It was very amusing and I tried to figure out as much as possible without reading the subtitles. Della mia famiglia d'Abruzzo (o la nostra famiglia d'Aterno-as Drew calls it) the twins Stephania and Maria were there along with Holly, Jeannette and Robert. Elena and Piero were there as they are hosting the film. Afterwards, the Piccirellis and Karen and I, went to Traffic Jam and Snug, one of the few bright lights in Detroit adjacent to its small island of niceness-the historical district on Canfield. Most of the rest of Detroit is a scary, ugly place.

Naomi is out of control and very behind in one of her classes. Have to deal with this. How come she can't be good for once? She is so incredibly immature and selfish.

I've been reading a lot of first hand accounts about reactions to chemo. Maybe it would be better to go in blindly. There is this school of thought that thinking the worse will make it the worse. There was even some study giving people placebos telling them that they were getting anti-cancer drugs and the people's hair fell out merely because of anticipation. This was in Susan Love's Breast Book. Of course I don't believe that last study at all-who would agree to take chemo for no reason?

During Lamaze training, in the late 70s, they were careful never to use the word 'pain' in describing labor with the idea that anticipation itself is a large component of pain. My friend Mary was a new instructor then and practiced her talks with me. (she had had 2 babies already and they were very painful births so I thought it was funny she was trying so hard to avoid the word pain). However the down side of that as I quickly discovered, was that when you actually experienced pain, you thought something was terribly wrong with the labor or that you are just a big cry baby. I finally had given in and asked for drugs and was denied them as it was 'too early'. I said fine, give me a hammer and I'll just knock myself out. This upset my friend who was with me and she told the nurse that something must be really wrong for me to say that. She said, no-she's fine. Everyone says stuff like that-this is quite normal. Indeed, in the few breaks between pure pain, I could hear several women screaming on the top of their lungs. At least I was a quiet sufferer or maybe they were experiencing something quite worse. At one point, the OB wandered in and asked how was I doing. I said very calmly 'it hurts'. He was clearly irritated-well of course it hurts. Did you think it wasn't going to hurt? Well actually I didn't and this book that has your name all over it as an advisor, didn't say anything about pain. But no, I didn't say that as I was too busy surviving not debating. As I pushed out Shanna in a reasonable time, my labor was probably normal or even 'easy' as far as that goes. My point, as roundabout as it is, that the pain is real, not a product of negative thinking or a faulty mindset. It will be what it will be.

Aside from discomfort, extreme fatigue that lifting the remote to press it is a chore and hair-loss,
another common side effect of chemo is weight gain. Indeed women who have been thin all their lives turn into voracious eating machines when they get a break in their nausea. Alot of this seems to be due to the steroids used to prevent allergic reactions. But this scares me-I'm having enough trouble with obesity under 'normal circumstances', what will I do under steroids? And for more fun, they have linked 'negative outcomes' with weight gain-which seems counter-intuitive. But a general trend seems that the younger the patient is, the more chemo seems to bother them. I am hoping that my relatively older age will lessen my reactions. Alot of these people still have jobs that they need and/or young kids to tend. Also heart-breaking is that some TNBC women hadn't gotten around to having their children yet and are now finding that their dreams of being a mommy are dashed.

The MRI machine is down so my chemo-brain study session is cancelled for now.

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