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How Do You Get Down from an Elephant?

November 30, 2010

My friend “Karna” demanded to know where my latest hair photo was. Demanded! As in, “Where’s the latest picture of your hair you wrote about earlier?”

God! So demanding! “Karna”, I still don’t have a photo for you. I’m waiting for the right lighting in this gray state of ours so that I can stand on the patio, put on that fake smile, and get the right angle.

You know what I like doing? I like putting “Karna’s” name in quotation marks so that it looks like I’ve given her a disguise-name. Which I haven’t because her name is Karna. She hates being in the limelight and I’m taunting her. That’s what friends are for.

I keep thinking this about my hair…Remember that old joke, “How do you get down from an elephant?”

My answer, “You don’t. You get down from my fucking head as it is still the same downy softness it’s been since it started to come back in. So fucking weird.” Am I swearing enough for you?

I should have taken names whenever anybody told me that my hair would come back thick and curly, as it is neither thick nor is it curly. It is as thin and straight as it was before this whole cancer adventure began. I went through all that chemo for nothing, people. Nothing! I want to verbally assault everyone who guaranteed me thickness and curliness.

Unless they were right. I suppose there’s still a chance.

On Sunday I had a flip-out day because my hand and arm had gotten swollen. More swollen than they’d been in a long time. I lost my mind, people. My mind. Bawled like a baby and then headed to the cookie exchange I’d baked all those cookies for, and then baked them again, with the reddest of eyes and teardrop track marks down my cheeks. I was lovely. Kindly, no one said anything to me. I’m sure they fear my fragileness. Which must be very difficult for the group of women I was meeting on Sunday as they have never known me to ever be fragile. I finally ‘fessed up to my horrible morning to my buddies Carissa and Lori as we were departing in the parking lot. I’m so much fun these days.

This morning I met with the doctor who specializes in lymphedema and as we were discussing this and that, it dawned on me why all of a sudden Sunday became my lymphedema moment. I’d gained 5+ pounds over the thanksgiving weekend. And you know what happens to people with lymphedema who gain weight? Their lymphedema gets worse.

{Okay, what the hell WordPress. Why are you insisting that lymphedema is not a word and red squiggle underlining it? Fucking WordPress! You get lymphedema and you’ll know how it’s spelled. I’m telling you.}

So I’ve given myself cancer by being overweight and I’ve given myself increased symptoms of lymphedema by eating too much because of thanksgiving.

Because I know I gave myself cancer, what with all those studies about overweight women’s increased risk of breast cancer.

Just another fun mind game that comes along with the rest of the breast cancer buffet.

This lymphedema has really made me angry. I don’t know of anyone else who’s had it – and I’ve known way too many breast cancer victims for a person who’s not working in a breast cancer clinic. I know of two women who have it and I tried to call one but she didn’t return my call and I asked a friend if her friend who has it would be willing to talk with me and I’ve gotten no feedback at all. So maybe I’m surrounded by women with lymphedema but it’s like Fight Club and you’re not supposed to talk about it only I don’t know that yet because I haven’t gotten run into a lymphedema fight club club, or something. I’d be happy to join and beat the shit out of somebody with this giant paw of mine.

I am happy to hear that if I lose weight I might actually cause my lymphedema to go dormant. So I sat my fat ass down at the computer and I signed up for Weight Watchers online. Again.

Cancer. It’s never going to let me go, is it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Beth permalink
    November 30, 2010 4:49 pm

    Mother Fucking Cancer.

    I have nothing more for you, but I’m sorry you have to deal with this crap.

    I am wishing you thick, luxurious hair.

  2. November 30, 2010 4:50 pm

    I hate to burst your bubble, but my hair did not come in thick and lustrous locks of hair thicker and more manageable than before! In fact, it is fine, thin, and I still have bald spots. My hair was always thin and fine. It didn’t cover well. It is worse now. Some of the problems are most likely associated with medicines that I am taking, but what is the option there??

    I don’t want to talk about the weight issue. I thought chemo would make you sick enough that the appetite was gone. My onco had the nerve to give me appetite stimulants. I guess he didn’t really look at me. The 50 pounds I lost pre-cancer found friends to bring back for the homecoming and that was 5 years ago. Humph.

    Cancer is just so much fun. It gives you something to fill your extra moments with!

    Hugs to you, and I am so proud of the way you are taking your hair. I am hiding under wigs and baseball caps. You are a survivor, and things WILL get better. You just have to look at the bigger picture.

  3. November 30, 2010 5:01 pm

    lymphedema sucks! I would suggest that you speak with The Mistress” who has had lymphedema since her mastectomy 10ish years ago…. but she doesn’t take care of it properly so that likely wouldn’t help unless learning not what to do is what you want to know – if so I can give you her contact info.
    Wish I had more… a magick cure that would make it all go away {{hugs}}

  4. November 30, 2010 5:56 pm

    No, it doesn’t let you go; you will be consulting with these doctors at least once a year for the rest of your life.

    My hair was always thin and fine. When I was a kid, my ears usually stuck through it unless my mother made curls (that never lasted). I told you my grey hair came back first. It is still there, thicker than the dark hair underneath. So what I have is thin, fine, grey hair. Just in case I was thinking of telling someone I was only fifty.

    I think I slept on my arm (the lymph node, do not compress one) last week. I had this weird feeling reminiscent of what I felt immediately after surgery. I should not be developing lymphedema for the first time six years or more after the surgery. Nevertheless, I kept my hand higher for a couple of nights, and it seems to be okay for now. (I’ll tell the doctor next week.)

    Even for those of us who had it easy, it’s nasty stuff. I wish I knew how to make it better.

  5. December 1, 2010 6:51 am

    Sorry, but if you want to be more effective when you are angry, you gotta quit being so funny: “it’s like Fight Club and you’re not supposed to talk about it only I don’t know that yet because I haven’t gotten run into a lymphedema fight club club, or something. I’d be happy to join and beat the shit out of somebody with this giant paw of mine.”

  6. December 1, 2010 9:31 am

    I have lymphedema, and I’m a physician and I treat patients with lymphedema, and up to 40% or more of patients who are treated for breast cancer have lymphedema. However, most physicians aren’t aware of it, so it goes unrecognized and under-treated.
    We recently had an article published in the Washington Post, and there is an active thread on lymphedema at
    The web site was created by some of us who “met” on the thread.
    Here are the links to the Post Article

    You are not alone.

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