Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Another Day, Another Milestone

I reached a new cancer milestone today. After months of preparation and weeks of slow, deliberate build-up, I finally achieved something I never thought possible at the ripe young age of 43. Something I didn't expect to achieve until well into my golden years, if at all.

Today, I required the use of a wheelchair.

I woke up this morning to pretty achy hands and feet. With my neuropathy worsening in these later weeks of chemo, working has become difficult and I've warned my manager that I am afraid it may continue to be difficult for the next three weeks until I am done with chemo. I work when I can. And I work hard when I am working. But it is not always a good day to work. My hands hurt. I have started dropping things incessantly, so I can't be trusted to carry anything of any value that you do not want scattered across the floor. That includes my laptop. And typing - or even the simple act of maneuvering my mouse around the screen - has proven a painful affair. My fingertips are extremely sensitive to touch sometimes and typing often feels like tiny hammers beating me in the fingertips over and over again.

(It's as fun as it sounds, really.)

So I called in sick today. Typing was out of the question this morning. Ruanita also stayed home from work today because we've had an extremely stressful couple of weeks. Things are coming to a head this month and we will finally see if and how the last FIVE FREAKING MONTHS of chemo have affected my cancer. We will also have decisions to make about surgery and reconstruction. We want to do everything we can to avoid a reoccurance - something no one is guaranteed. As a natural-born worrier, Ruanita is living on pins and needles right now as we await the end of chemo and the results and the upcoming decisions that must be made. That stress and anxiety can make concentrating on work just as difficult as physical pain can. So she took an FMLA day today to "deal" with my symptoms and diagnosis. She felt extremely guilty about it (of course - guilt is what she does best), but my answer to that is, "Fuck that. This is the most stressful situation that we may very well go through in our entire lives. Her workplace has been phenomenal and they will understand. If she needs to take a mental health day to deal with all the whirlwind of shit coming her way, then she needs to do it. Guilt be damned."

That said, however, though I did not feel well this morning, I did not feel like languishing in bed all day. Other than my hands and feet, I felt generally...okay. As okay as I can feel right now without being able to work and without actually bringing money into the house. (I am pretty talented at the guilt thing, too.) I wanted to be productive, in some manner. Somehow. Then I remembered that the kids still need new school shoes before school starts later this month. And I had the utterly brilliant idea to take the kids to the Mall of America to shop for shoes.

What the hell was I thinking!?

I'll tell you exactly what I was thinking. Apparently, I was thinking that the last three weeks of being able to walk no more than a few dozen yards without my legs turning to jelly would somehow right itself and disappear the minute I stepped foot into the 4-floor, 4,870,000 square feet (I looked that up) behemoth that is the Mall of America. Only one of the largest malls in the country. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, time for full disclosure. There is a Famous Footwear very near my house (a few short feet from my favorite Target) where we have historically shopped for the kids school shoes. We could have easily zipped in and out of there to buy their shoes. And in actuality, after looking in three or four different stores at the MOA, we ended up buying their shoes at the Famous Footwear in the mall anyway. So we could have saved ourselves a lot of time and a lot of grief by simply stopping in the shop near our house.

BUT...I had a craving.

I have written recently about being given steroids (which has worked wonders for my leprosy-like rash). The steroids are great other than that I could easily eat my own body weight in potatoes right now. And pasta. And crackers. And meat of any kind (my apologies to my vegetarian friends, but I LOVE me some meat right now). And anything that I can get my hands on that wouldn't possibly eat me first. My cravings change minute to minute, but they are always strong and usually completely and totally unhealthy.

And today I had a serious craving for a dozen or so Long John Silver hushpuppies. I am not proud. Long John Silver is not exactly a particularly popular fast food restaurant here in Minneapolis. As a matter of fact, there is only one in the entire Twin Cities metro area. There is one and only one Long John Silvers within 50 miles of my house, and it just so happens to be in the Mall of America. So - full disclosure - my brilliant idea to shoe shop today was mostly just a pathetic ruse to convince my family to stop in the food court for some Long John Silver.

So what does this have to do with a wheelchair?

I managed to make it from the parking lot, through Sears, and to the Famous Footwear store right next to Sears (with Ruanita giving me some severe side-eye the whole way) before coming to the devastating conclusion that I was walking like someone with cerebral palsy. Like someone with cerebral palsy, my legs were not following the directions my brain was so vehemently putting out there. I was dipping and dragging and swaying and scuttling. My legs were like jelly and simply did not want to move me forward as commanded. It was quite a weird sensation. I realize it is all temporary, but it was sort of scary. And it really made me feel for people dealing with permanent conditions where their own bodies do not cooperate with their minds. I can't imagine that sensation being a permanent situation.

But I digress.

After leaving Famous Footwear, we immediately walked (well, as immediately as I could, shuffling along at a snail's pace) to the front entrance and rented a wheelchair. I should have known it was likely a bad idea when my 13-year-old son, Lucas, immediately became almost giddy at the prospect of pushing me around. He did say that I was "pretty light," which was either 1.) a blatant lie, or 2.) some sort of weirdly obscure transformational property of physics that I never learned about in college. Either way, I'll take it.

My son, however, is a wee bit lacking in basic wheelchair etiquette. For example, when pushing someone in a wheelchair into an elevator, etiquette dictates that one should turn around and back them into the elevator so they are facing the front and it is easier to disembark when the time comes. What one does not do is shove the wheelchair-bound person at full speed into the corner of the elevator, knocking their toes painfully against the glass in the meantime, and leave them shoved with their nose in the corner while you laugh about how bad you are at driving a wheelchair behind their back (in a fully packed elevator, no less!). In other words, he would do well to remember that NO ONE PUTS BABY IN A CORNER!

I found it interesting, also, the looks I received wearing a head scarf and being pushed around in a wheelchair. People moved out of our way, but I got some pretty pathetic "poor sick lady" stares. And not just from the kids. Though it did seem to be "kids day" at the mall. We came across numerous groups of pre-schoolers in matching day-glo t-shirts being led around the mall by college-aged staff. All the little kiddos gaped at me open-mouthed. I simply sat in my wheelchair and smiled, but it was weird. I am not someone who likes to be the center of attention and riding around in a wheelchair sort of invites that attention. Especially when being flung forward ten feet at a time in front of my dorky 13-year-old son.

BUT, we managed to get new school shoes for all three of the kids today and, though I was unable to work today because of my hands, I was not a completely useless piece of humanity. So I am going to call it a productive day.

My only regret?

That my son picked out the most gawd-awful boring pair of size 13 wide gigantic boats he could possibly find anywhere in the entire mall.

Clearly, he did not inherit my stellar sense of style. 


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