The Methotrexate days

30 01 2012

I remember practicing my “teacher voice.”  I was going to speak to my doctor…doctor to doctor.  I would be firm.  I would be insistent.  I would get immediate treatment–a shot, a pill, anything–to get this thing under control.

My doctor is a very kind man.  Very patient.  Almost sociopathically so.  He let me finish all of what I had to say.  He smiled.  And then he agreed.  “It sounds like you’re ready for biologics.”  I assumed this was a pill.  My situation turned out to be a little complex.  I couldn’t take the first two recommended drugs, so he recommended, firmly, methotrexate.

Fine, I said.  Equally firmly.  and we both seemed happy with that outcome.  Shortly afterwards, I figured out that methotrexate is that mild form of chemotherapy, used to treat among other things, cancer.  The “C” word.  I’m sure he actually said this.  In fact, I know he did.  I just don’t remember hearing or understanding that.

Swoosh.  My head went into a swirl, and I was pretty much no good for anyone after that.  Now, I have to admit that when it comes to being a hypochondriac, I’m right up there.  Unfortunately, I’m also one of those people who just get sick a lot.  If there’s a rare blood rash, or a series of inexplicable symptoms, you can bet I’ve got ’em.  And you can also bet that after about 20 tests, a very relieved doctor has found the source to be some rare blood anemia or some such.

So, when my doctor said things like “liver failure”, “kidney failure”, etc.  I pretty much presumed that this would be my fate.  Add to this that everyone, and I mean everyone in my family has had some sort of cancer.  So, I’ve seen a lot of chemo.  And you can image how unsettled I was.

I’m lucky.  God has given me exactly who I need.  And it has never been so true as in these past few weeks.  My husband (big surprise) is a cancer survivor.  And he’s taken methotrexate.  He knew what my symptoms would be, and stocked up on what we might need–and I might add, he did so without telling me, so as not to frighten me even more.

And then there’s my business partner.  She refuses, I mean refuses to let me have my pity parties.  “You don’t have time to go there.  All of your energy needs to be thinking positive.  You don’t have cancer.”  She’s right.  I don’t.

So, I’ve made it through the first week of methotrexate.  I’m on a low dose, so the side effects aren’t so bad.  Not bad at all.  If I eat a normal sized meal, forget about it.  It comes straight up and I’m ruined for the rest of the day.  I get cold.  My bones and muscles ache.  I get headaches.  The weirdest thing:  my breasts tingle, like they did back when I was nursing.  I think it makes me cranky, but that also might just be my personality (!)

But, if I drink lots of water, eat in small amounts throughout the day, and just pace myself, I’m okay.

I’m going to be okay.





Do over: A Manifesto for Writing about Women

26 01 2012

I don’t know.  Maybe I’ve had a mocha.  Maybe, it’s the incredible high I got when I found out that two human beings actually read my blog. (that is sooo cool!).  But, I’m not feeling anything like the sum of my silver skin right  now.

I teach college…well, I’m adjunct.  But, I love my students.  They’re great.  They energize and motivate me, they teach me to be a better writer, to be a braver writer.

Tonight we talked about a great documentary, Miss Representation, which if you haven’t seen, you must.  The documentary touches on the subject of body image and women in the media.  And, oh the injustice.  But, it’s not just the ridiculous images of women that came up.  It’s also the men, and the effect that this has on them.  Anyway you look at it, the images of women in the media have messed us all up pretty good.

But tonight was a night about strategy.  After showing the trailer for the movie (which you can see at missrepresentation.org), I turned on the lights in the classroom and asked the students to look at themselves, and at each other.  The majority were women!  So, we got to work on how to counter these negative images.  How to create (not positive, not even realistic, just) more diverse and interesting ones.

We decided the following:

Where there is stereotype, we will 1)refuse to go into the binary of good/bad, and choose instead to look into the gray matter.  2)  instead of clustering similar behaviors to entire groups of people, we will look at the individual by highlighting “the beautiful incongruity of me!”  That is, celebrating those crazy qualities that act in direct contradiction to each other, the things that we all have, that make us unique and wonderful.

Where there is archetype, we will expand our discourse.  We’re not going to assign cliched characteristics to the “bitch”…we’re going to make her more interesting than ever.

In terms of power, we’re going to add power, keep those hard earned titles of “Dr.” “Senator”, “Madame Chair”, and “Madame President”. and remove words that make women seem overly emotional.  And while we’re at it, we’re going to explore power and femininity…why not?

In terms of community, we’re going to change our perspective, consider that backstory.  We’ll refuse to participate in what the American Psychiatric Association calls the “psychological annihilation” of women, telling them that unless they’re the Kim Kardashian, they are not here, they must isolate themselves.  Instead, we will heal our communities, by insisting that women–all women–are here, are not alone, and don’t need to be alone.

In terms of the relationships we portray, we’re not taking the easy way out.  We’re going to mix it up, detour off the beaten path, switch roles, bend gender.  End the end, we won’t rest until men have the rights to their emotions, their dignity, their connection to their children.

Instead of violence against women, we’re going to explore tropes of understanding, solidarity, resilience.

But, isn’t that just good writing?

We ended the night with looking at some heartwarming youtube animal videos…So, I’m feeling great.  And on that, I’ll say goodnight.





And other unfortunate places

25 01 2012

Let’s face it.  Most people don’t get the whole psoriasis thing until you explain the “and other unfortunate places” clause.

“sure, it’s bad dandruff, but that’s no big deal.

“It’s just a rash.  Try not to scratch it.”

They don’t get the connection to cancer, the fact that it’s an  autoimmune disorder that makes you vulnerable to infection, the whole stress management issues.  Nope.  But, if you ever need to make it clear the true affect psoriasis has on your life, just explain the “other unfortunate places” concept.

The notion that you do, regularly, get blood on your toilet paper from your anus–and not from anything you ate or otherwise chose to do.  The fact that sometimes you wonder what that rotting flesh smell is, and then you realize that it’s coming from your belly button.  And yes, even there, down in your “mommy daddy parts” it’s there, creeping it’s way towards your clitoris and scaring you everdaytime you think about it.

That’s guaranteed to get a face.

That’s guaranteed to make people understand that this affects every single decision I make.

I wear light colored clothing, not because I like it, but because I don’t like looking down only to find that my shoulders, my desk, the floor around me are covered in a light dusting of…well, me.

And yes, it does hurt.  Every time I sit down.

And no, my husband hasn’t touched me.  And I wouldn’t want him to.

And yes, if it creeps any further into my ear, I think I might lose my hearing.

Hairdressers have refused to cut my hair, even though I tell them it’s not contagious.

Doctors refuse to touch me without gloves, even though they know it’s not contagious.

And no, I can’t get life insurance right now.  I can’t pass the drug test.

It is related to cancer.  Nobody knows why, but they think it’s the drugs that you take to manage it.  But not managing it means that you could get all kinds of infections, and just plain sick, and itchy.

I feel like nobody hears me.  Nobody understands.  And yet, I also feel like I wouldn’t want them to.  Good grief, this is just a rash.  It’s not cancer.  and I don’t want people to know me only in terms of this.

I am accomplished, smart, funny,  actually quite pretty, and for the most part, a very happy blessed person with lots to be grateful for.

But on certain days, I just feel like I’m made up those unfortunate places.