Boring cancer

Oct 15

Today I had my favorite kind of appointment with Dr. Wonderful: the kind where we hardly discussed cancer at all.  We briefly talked about my cancer-y bullet points, and it occurred to me it might be time for a medical update:

-I see Dr. Wonderful (oncologist) weekly.  I get Herceptin every week through my port.  I’m still a regular in the Chemo Room, even though Herceptin is not technically a chemo drug (it’s called a targeted therapy drug.) It usually takes about three hours for these appointments.  Today was extra-long because my mom was getting chemo, so we were hanging out.  And I brought Maren with me to meet the staff and hang out.  And my not-s0-Newbie friend was there getting her post-surgical report.  It was a party in the Chemo Room people: cupcakes, Maren Art, laughter, and, oh yes, a bunch of people with IV poles.  Sometimes it is still surreal to me that this is my life.

-I see Dr. Gold (cardiologist) every three months.  I take daily heart medication, and am monitored closely.   So far, we are hopeful that my heart damage can be managed with medication, and Dr. Gold is allowing me to stay on Herceptin (big praise).  I’ll be under the care of a cardiologist for the rest of my life, but I am hopeful that I will be nice and boring and, eventually, really old.

-I see Dr. Razzle (radiation oncologist) once or twice a week while I am getting radiation treatment.  So far I’ve had ten of my thirty treatments.  My skin is holding up so far: I have what appears to be a slight sunburn. Everyone promises it will get worse.  I’m doing the castor oil thing twice a day, and the radiation lotion (Miaderm) five times a day.  So far, I mostly feel sticky.  And the skin on my neck, shoulders, and arms is itchy (I’ve started lotion-ing those parts in addition to the radiation field).  The radiation tiredness is also starting to kick in: naps and early bedtimes for me.  Radiation appointments take me anywhere from twenty-five to ninety minutes depending on the wait time and whether I’m seeing Dr. Razzle.  Plus sixty to ninety minutes of driving time since it is at the hospital downtown.

-I see Dr. Awesome (surgeon) every six months.  Or I see her when I want her to look at a weird bump under my arm and make sure that she thinks that it is fluid.  And then two days later I call her to double check because wouldn’t you?  And then she calls me back at 8:17 on a Friday night to reassure me that if she were suspicious, she would want to biopsy it.  But she’s not suspicious.  She adds, however, that if I get neurotic to the point where I want her to unnecessarily stab a needle and/or scalpel under my arm for no reason, she will be happy to oblige.  (I love her.  Our rapport is great.  And she really does call me at 8:17 on a Friday night to triple-sure me.)

I have enough hair now (about an inch) to know that it is definitely red.  I think it is close to my original color–strawberry blond if you want to get technical about it.  Maren and I have almost exactly the same color, so it was fun today to see the office staff noticing that our hair matches.  I’ve been bald for six months, and I’d forgotten how often we used to get hair comments.  For almost a month now, I’ve been putting some gel in my hair and doing a little spikey ‘do.  I look at old pictures of myself and realize I’ve got like five years (or more) of growing to do if I want hair like that again.  Hair grows slowly, people.  After the efficiency of no hair, I’m not sure I could handle my old hair again anyway.  I am totally checking out short hair-dos as I’m out and about in the grocery store so that I can plan ahead.

Dr. Wonderful, in noticing that my hair is coming back, said that redheads are apparently on their (our) way to becoming extinct.  I had heard this factoid, but having Dr. Wonderful repeat it means that it carries much more weight.  I reassured him that my family was doing our best to single-handedly carry on the redhead gene.  Somehow this lead to a discussion of the Vikings, the Danish domination of trade routes, arranged marriage, and sickle-cell anemia.  Dr. Wonderful and I established that we are both academic nerds with many non-cancer items to talk about.  It makes me really happy when my oncologist wants to talk about the global impact of Danish taxes on sea routes instead of my cancer.

My cancer is boring right now people.  Bo. Ring.

I love being boring.  Incidentally, I also love being a nerd.


  1. jen geverdt /

    Jen, I just love you! I would like to hang out and be a nerd with you, because I’m really into medieval English history. : ) And I read books about the history of Salt. : )

  2. Shell & the crazies down under /

    And we love you.

  3. Kim Rourke /

    So this post just proves I am only here to absorb some of your higher order thinking in hopes of self-preservation of we lower order beings! My Elizabeth would be right in there with you! I will never forget when Chelsea visited her at U of M expecting a weekend of partying, only to spend Friday night discussing some random word that Ebeth and roommates had latched onto. I bow before your brains AND your red hair of which I am truly envious. Happy day, “boring” you!!!!!!

  4. I love red hair! I bet you look adorable in your short spikey do. Hmmm, do boring nerds look adorable?!?! 🙂

  5. MommaJ /

    Good morning, good morning!! One would hardly call you boring but rather highly interesting. You would’ve been the history teacher with the crowd of groupies 😉 Glad to hear your BORING update but still praying for the balance of radiation, Herceptin continuance and bountiful red hair… Kinda fun having hair to match our beautiful fall colors! Have a great day, Jen 😉

  6. I have a red-head and 5 redheaded nieces and nephews. We’re making a comback!

  7. suburbancorrespondent /

    Boring is vastly underrated.

  8. Kim Bunn /

    Yeah! Boring Cancer! Yeah!

  9. Heather /

    I am here!! I commented on your post about me!! Go look at it…my email and blog address!!!! AHHH!!! XOXOOXOXOX

  10. Ann Berquist /

    I have followed your courageous battle since March, I am a Miami graduate now living in Philadelphia PA. Your attitude is incredible! Your daughters are being raised by such a strong mama!!! I don’t know you, but I admire you soooo much! Brad must be amazing too. Your mom is amazing, too. Just know ALL ya’lls people are covered in our family prayers!

  11. No, not five years!!! I promise! It will be past your shoulders in 2 years. I’m 5 years out and grew it under pit length, cut it nape length and now it is long again. Only thing I wish I would have done was to dye it PINK when it was really short 😉

  12. It’s been a while since I commented, but I follow your journey and cheer you on avidly. My Dad was recently diagnosed with cancer, and began chemo and radiation this week, and quite frankly, if it wasn’t for your blog, and the knowledge I’ve gained, I would have been terrified. Thank you for passing on your calm and your inspiration!