Mary Anne Mohanraj


November 30 -- 2:34 PM

Cancer log 142: Every week of radiation, I meet with the radiation oncologist. First I meet with his P.A., actually. They're both great, though it does feel a little funny how the exam goes -- they ask if they can look at my breasts, and then I flash them. No, really. They don't fuss around with all the robe, etc. stuff that other doctors do -- they just want a quick check to compare how the irradiated breast compares to the normal one, so if I can pull up my shirt, please? It startled me the first time, but now I am completely blasť about flashing my doctors. (Sometimes there's a medical resident in attendance too.) It's easier if I don't bother to wear a bra.

So for the first three weeks, I had literally nothing to report at these weekly meetings. They asked if I was in pain, how did I feel, examined the breast, etc. No pain, no irritation, the skin of the irradiated breast still looks exactly like the other one. But this week, for the first time, I did have something to report -- fatigue.

I said I was feeling unusually tired, and also, that for the past few weeks I'd been having trouble sleeping. I have, in fact, resorted to taking NyQuil to knock me out for several nights. When I don't take it, I fall asleep normally (I have been, for the most part, a really good sleeper all my life, falling asleep easily and sleeping eight solid hours, except when the children wouldn't let me). But I wake up -- usually around 2 or 3, I start waking up, and I can fall back asleep, but I wake up every hour or so thereafter. It's horrible.

So obviously, that might be contributing to the fatigue. They asked if I wanted a prescription for Ambien or something like it, and I said not yet -- the semester ends in a week, so some stress will go away then, and I'll have more time, and I can rest more. So maybe that will fix it. Then the P.A. asked if I'd been feeling unusually weepy, and I had to admit that yes, for the last three days I've been pretty much on the verge of tears most of the time.

She asked if I wanted to talk to a counsellor -- they have them on staff. And I might, if this continues, but honestly, I think talking to you guys does a pretty good job of being my therapy about cancer. There's some other matters that are stressful (which I can't talk about right now, as they're mostly other people's concerns, though they impinge on me), and I think the international news is hitting me harder than usual too -- the refugees and the gun violence and the elections and all. If I don't start feeling more stable soon, I think I may try to take a media fast for a bit -- just read and cook and rest and try to re-center myself. Play board games with the children, and deal with nothing more fraught than convincing Anand to wait for his turn.

It's funny -- I haven't actually been to any cancer support groups, and now my main course of treatment is almost done. I didn't feel like I needed them, and I was so short on time, I hated to give up hours more. But maybe I will try to stop into one sometime. It feels a little weird starting now, when I'm, in theory, cured. But I think I should probably just get over that. It would be interesting, to see what they're like. And while it feels strange to go to a support group now, when the worst of the treatment is almost done, I think that's how I deal with difficult things generally -- I hold it together and cope for the duration of the crisis....and then I sometimes fall apart a bit afterwards.

Anyway, no real conclusions here. I need more sleep. The news is distressing. I might need a break from people for a bit, to hole up in my cave with blankets over my head. So consider this fair warning.

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November 29 -- 3:45 PM

Cancer log 141: I only have two classes left for the semester, but I've just decided to let my co-teachers take the last one, which feels like a cop-out because I *could* teach it, but people, I am tired. I don't know if this is radiation-fatigue or cancer-is-a-long-haul-emotional-fatigue or just general mommy-during-Christmas-prep-fatigue, but I have an out, and I am going to take it.

Going to close out my material on Tuesday, I think, and then let my co-teachers focus on helping the students with their final papers on Thursday, which I'm sure the students will appreciate. Was planning to spend that last class mostly workshopping papers anyway.

It'll be fine. The students will be fine. They really don't need a final 75 minute lecture on the ending of _The Bone People_ from me in order for their lives to be complete. I don't need to feel guilty. Maybe if I repeat it enough times I'll believe it.

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November 29 -- 11:50 AM

Thinking about war stories and gender after last night's reading. It's a quiet little story, "Safe," -- the story of the war's effect on one person. I keep wanting to write these stories, stories about people who are going to have absolutely no effect on the course of larger events.

It feels very different to me from the typical SF/F genre war story, which tends to center on the people who are actually shaping the battle, who are, typically, triumphantly winning the war, and who end up ruling a kingdom, showered in treasure, praise, and beautiful women.

These stories, these people -- they are the casualties, whether they survive or not. It feels feminist, telling these stories, even when they happen to be about men. It feels de-centering, in a way Derrida and Said might approve of. What happens when you make the people at the margins the center of your story? How does it re-shape the overall narrative?

Credit here to Bujold; I suspect a story of hers that I read many years ago, about a medical tech harvesting bodies in space to return to their families, the epilogue to one of her novels, is a seed for all of this. That, and the Sri Lankan civil war, of course, and my relatives who were caught up in it, their lives entirely disrupted, though thankfully, not lost.

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November 27 -- 1:03 PM

Cancer log 140: It turned out that the reason my wait was so long today is that the receptionist at the Day Hospital who checked me in for chemo had accidentally put my papers in the wrong pile, so they'd lost track of me completely. If I hadn't eventually gone up and asked what was up, I might have sat there all day. She was super-apologetic (even a little teary), and I got a $5 meal card and a $5 parking pass for my trouble, so all's well that ends well. I should have asked earlier, I'm sure, but y'know, I'm overly polite sometimes.

If I'd been home, I would've probably been doing the same goofing off things as here, so one could argue that I actually turned a profit on the whole business. Still, Kevin probably would have rather I'd come home at 11:30 instead of 2; hopefully, the kids haven't been giving him too hard a time this morning.

Treatment itself will be starting soon, as soon as they meds are ready, which they usually don't have mixed up until the needle's in (I guess because sometimes people have such bad veins, etc. that they *can't* get it in that day, and it wastes the meds? Not sure.). We tried inserting the needle into a vein instead of the port, because my port has shifted and tilted a bit, making it harder to access, but that did *not* go well; she dug around the vein for a bit, trying to get it to work, and my old vasovagal reflex thing kicked in and I almost fainted. I *hate* those symptoms -- cold and shaky and the room blurs around you. I told the nurse when it started happening, did my deep breathing, and she got the needle out, my feet elevated, my body tilted flat in the fancy chair they put us in, some cold water to sip, and we managed to stave off the actual losing consciousness, so that was something. Still, yuck. But on the plus side, the nurse thought it might be worth trying to access the port with me lying down, and in fact, that did make it noticeably easier to get to -- that position pushes it up, less tilted and closer to the surface. So one quick, nasty jab got it in, as opposed to the digging around we've had the last several months. A noticeable improvement.

I guess I'm learning how to be a better patient, which is...something? It'd be nice to just be done, though. Four more weeks of radiation, eleven more months (every three weeks) of Herceptin. Maybe hormones too -- will be talking to my oncologist about that on 12/14, so we'll see. Long haul.

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November 24 -- 7:34 AM

Plan for today: Watch Castle, go to radiation, teach classes, do a half hour of paperwork in office, go to gym and swim (the last week has been a little sedentary with lots of sitting and grading, and I'm starting to feel sluggish), come home and finish making the rich cake with Kevin to help stir (it gets to be hard work!), do an hour of e-mail, finalize Thanksgiving menu.

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