Thursday, October 29, 2009

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Part 4

What came next was chemo brain… a documented condition which leaves you in a pleasant fog but also quite the stupidest person in the room. Not so good if you are a working woman. I was very blessed in that my manager was understanding and flexible throughout my treatment. My company stood by me in this fight. I had a laptop to be able to work from home, Friday chemo day half off and compassionate coworkers.

I had a big button made for me by a friend which said “Warning - Chemo Brain”. Someone could talk to me and I would nod and understand, then as soon as they walked away I forgot what they wanted. I learned to write everything down – something I had never had to do before. Complex problems brought a blank look to my face. Figuring out simple things was a challenge. I have always had a good mind, my manager used to call me Radar from the show MASH. I was always ahead of the game. Now, sometimes I am ahead but I still have my blank faced look from time to time. It is frustrating and embarrassing. I who love words, the way they can fit together and form exquisite thoughts. I have worked hard to regain my nimble mind and for the most part am successful.

Chemo infusions were made bearable by going to the hospital with my daughter Blondie and her friend Caramel. We would chat and talk and then go somewhere good to eat. We were upbeat and sometimes too noisy. So many patients were grim, sober in their illness. I don’t blame them. My chemo did not leave me retching over the side of a bed, pouring with sweat. I had it good, if chemotherapy can ever be called “good”.

I lost some hair but not enough to be bald. Next time I will shave my head though. It will just feel better.

I finished my chemo without anything dramatic happening.

While I waited the 6 or 8 weeks to begin radiation, I did fall ill. I contracted Legionnaires Disease from the HVAC system in the old building where I worked. Healthy people who are exposed to these bacteria do not always become ill or are able to fight it off with just antibiotics.

Since I was immune compromised from the chemo, I did not fight it off. It came on very sudden. I collapsed in the ER with a 104 degree temperature. That is the last thing I remember for several days.

My husband was told that I would most likely die and to prepare for my death. My daughter Blondie had to fight me for hours to keep the oxygen mask on my face. In my delirium I saw big, nasty teeth in the mask and was sure that I was being attacked. If she couldn’t keep the mask on me the doctors would have to intubate me. Once intubated, my chances of death were increased even further. Thank the Lord above for a determined daughter. I was not intubated.

I came to awareness slowly. To this day I have just fuzzy pictures in my head for most of the time I was hospitalized.

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