Monday, November 23, 2009
Taking to the weed...nov 23...
IT”S TWO WEEKS LATER
And if I could afford it, I would double my daily Cymbalta anti-depressant dose as it sure doesn’t get any easier looking down at my chest when I shower or undress. It’s sad and flat and the skin is just as I imagined –crumpled and wrinkled and unrecognizable. And to think I could have opted for radiation and NOT A DOUBLE MASTECTOMY! What was I thinking? The guilt about putting my body through this knows no bounds. (I know, I know—soldiers and car accident victims lose limbs and are far, far worse off than me, complaining bitch…but I’m sorry—I just feel better putting it down and getting it out of my brain. I doubt anyone is reading now anyway.)
Occasionally, if heading out to socialize, I pop on a bra and stuff it with Kleenex, literally, and at other times I just stick to baggy sweaters. But here’s my big confession. I am truly demented at this point I think as I am still actually thinking of CHANGING SURGEONS…after all this. Because when I visit Dr Bob a few days later, he says he wants to book me in for surgery the following Wednesday to open me up again, put in more Alloderm and replace the expander. (Yes, he admits, that he will look like a ‘goat’ if I get an infection again, but he doesn’t think I will and wants the best possible cosmetic outcome).
Now in many ways that would be fantastic but appointments with both my oncologist and the Infectious Disease doc are both issuing dire warnings that WE MUST WAIT AT LEAST 4-6 WEEKS to make sure that no microscopic infection is left that could possibly burst into bloom again once foreign objects are inserted. And my gloom and doom oncologist, by the way, who says she’s never seen anything worse, is very doubtful that putting back the expander at ANY stage will result in a decent cosmetic outcome. She’s talking about removing what skin is left and having skin and muscle grafts instead. Hot diggety dog—that sounds like fun…cutting off skin and muscle and moving it round my body.
SO, having heard of yet another great breast surgeon, I head off to Beverly Hills to meet him, desperate to hear if he thinks my breast skin will survive if I wait the month or will I need skin grafts. If he says what Dr Bob says, then I will relax…maybe. Well, it’s a tedious 95 minute wait cos Dr Cutie (he is very, very attractive this guy—looks no more than 30 but who can say for sure?) was in the back doing liposuction on some woman who had a lot of silicone injected into her butt and breasts that needed to come out. “I’m a perfectionist” he boasts and I believe him. Within moments, like the pathetically compliant person I’ve become, he drains the small amount of fluid I’ve told him that Dr Bob put in there to keep the breast skin from sticking like super glue to the chest wall and HE says, and this is where I can’t help but wonder if he is not just saying it to diss Dr Bob, that all fluid must be drained to avoid any infection breeding. BUT now, it’s like a GIANT industrial vacuum has sucked the life out of me and I am left, just moments later, CONCAVE…with a little mound of skin still above my nipple and so when I look down, I cannot see it. It’s like a very dried prune and how this can end well I have NO IDEA. He does say that he has seen skin come good again once it is inflated with the expander but I DO NOT BELIEVE HIM.
How can I wait another six weeks? I will go crazy because here’s the thing- Like a phantom limb that people claim causes pain, this lack of breast actually hurts. I swear it and now that the air has been sucked out, I actually feel a straining tension every time I breathe. IT’S DEEPLY DISTURBING AND SO, within days it’s back to Dr Bob and I mutter something about going to the acupuncturist and getting a massage to explain why the antibiotic fluid he put in has now disappeared. LET’S GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD DR BOB, I SAY …CAN WE GO BACK IN AND DO SURGERY AT THE END of the week?
But blow me down if someone hasn’t got to Dr Bob and he’s now changed his tune and says we HAVE TO WAIT for 6 weeks at least. “So what about the fact that you have been saying how nervous you are that the skin will not survive this wait?
He claims, in a veerrrrrrry soooothing voice, that he is sure the skin sticking like glue situation is NOT irreversible. I DON’T BELIEVE HIM. I wish I did .I’m sad. He is now just playing it safe and the truly upsetting thing is that because of that, I may end up having to have tons more surgeries—skin grafts, flaps and endless opportunities for infection. I’m fucked. Whatever. Life goes on. Like the insane half witted moron I am I have yet another appointment with Dr Cutie in three days—just to see what he says.
I know I know,I need to get a life and start making money and find a guy.
So I have a lovely friend –a writer, actress and painter whop attributes her endless creativity to pot. Marijuana. Weed. She calls it pot as she is old like me. She’s been, like many others, urging me for months to take up Bikram Yoga, meditation and pot. Since I am now officially a sleeping pill addict – Ativan and Ambien definitely do the trick as distinct from the 12 melatonin a night the homeopathic dame suggested –which I did try for a few days but they did fuck all and I do have a crumpled up prescription from my Santa Monica doctor Cynthia so I decide that despite my abiding fear of pot due to several horrifying experiences over the years, perhaps I should give it a try. But I have to say I am terrified.. I truly am a ridiculous lightweight and just one or two puffs can render me comatose One dinner party I gave an English friend about a decade ago might give you some sense of my low tolerance.
Back in the days when I had some dough I had invited a dozen people over for a lovely sit-down dinner and there we were – in the huge living room of my stunning Spanish house in Hancock Park (painted walls and a double height ceiling, a Romeo and Juliet balcony – those were the days !) sipping Cosmopolitans when a music producer friend of mine lit up a joint. So as not to be a party-pooper when handed the joint, I took one hit, ONE, and within about three minutes felt very odd and thought I should perhaps check on how dinner was coming along. I staggered to the kitchen to see how my housekeeper was doing with the roast chickens (yep, used to have a housekeeper) but found myself unable to speak and felt really, really strange so I managed to retrace my steps to the divine Malibu-tiled staircase in the gorgeous circular foyer and climb up them, into my office at the top of the stairs on my way to the bathroom to splash water on my face. But as I entered the office, I found I could move no further and had to lie down IMMEDIATELY on the office floor- no longer able to function or MOVE. Not sure how long it took for someone to find me – but suffice it to say that I spent the ENTIRE DINNER PARTY on my office floor. Every time I tried to move I collapsed again, sometimes vomiting into the bowl someone had thoughtfully put next to me. I could think a little but only horrifying thoughts of never being able to move or walk again and at least three times I muttered “Ambulance, call an ambulance….need to go to hospital.”
At that point in my life I had never spent a single moment in hospital and have an abiding fear of them but I truly thought that with this one puff of a joint I needed to be there. Fortunately they all ignored me and even my horrified but cool under fire daughter Lola, 13 at the time, had the nous to say “Mum you’ll be fine, no need for an ambulance.” Naomi Watts, one of the guests, was the most capable and she spent a good deal of the dinner holding frozen peas to my head. Several other people popped by for a glimpse but only momentarily. They were having a ball in my gorgeous dining room and didn’t need to dwell on the downer hostess. Lola was brilliant enough to get Nick, then only four, to bed before joining the adults at the table and laughing over ‘silly old mum’. By the time I could move a muscle again and get to my feet, ( I had been motionless for almost four hours, not able to move ) the dinner was over and everyone had left, including the guest of honor – a former boyfriend from the London days who knew my lack of oomph as a pot smoker and hadn’t batted an eyelid or been in the least bit worried. “You shouldn’t smoke, you know better” he chided as he headed off into the night. It was tragic and humiliating and I had missed all the fun. I was furious with myself.
And yet and yet—maybe chemo had toughened me up. And so off we head in my pal’s electric car to a “Pharmacy” on Western. It’s surprisingly neat and clean – not the grubby den of iniquity I have imagined but still I feel completely wicked though my friend reminds me that it’s just been announced that they’re not even bothering to bust these joints any more. Oh, how civilized of them to come to this conclusion. Doctor’s letter and drivers license are handed over and forms are filled out and I start to feel as I’m waiting to see another medico. Not quite sure why we have to wait since there isn’t a soul there on this Tuesday morning but finally we’re ushered into the inner sanctum where my friend is greeted like a long-lost friend by the three smartly-dressed very sober dudes in there. They ask me to describe my preferences and my pal quickly steps in to explain that I’m ‘not a smoker’ – but that I’ve been through ‘cancer, chemo, you name it’ and need a little cheering up.
Any pain, they ask. Nothing dramatic I say, emphasizing that I truly do get stoned with alarming speed and thus want the lightest pot they have.
Any depression, I’m asked? Yes!! Trouble sleeping? Absolutely, a big problem!! And perhaps something to get me going in the morning I suggest, suddenly rather thrilled at the prospect of these precision strains of pot. From under the glass counter jars of pot are produced for me to sniff. They all smell rather lovely but the different aromas are utterly meaningless – I’m hardly a weed sommelier. “Just something light and breezy” I keep repeating. “Nothing too strong!”
They look at me quizzically and I finally suggest “You decide, I trust you”. It’s odd when words come out of your mouth that you simply didn’t plan. Whatever. They are happy to be in charge and I am given three containers with different labels
Morning – “Big Wreck”
Day –“Blue Haze”
Evening – “Sonoma Black”
Not sure I want to spend the day in a ‘blue haze’ but too late she cried… now we are ushered over to the refrigerated section. The stress of my first purchase over, I’m now on a roll. I buy liquid pot – some sort of lemonade soda that boasts a warning “This bottle contains two strong doses”, a pot brownie and a sort of chewie thing that’s ‘like a protein bar with a kick’.
They then ‘gift’ us both with a gorgeous colorful glass pipes – or is it called a bowl? Hand over my credit card, am given my future discount card and it’s out the door with my score like a giggling schoolgirl. Head back to my friend’s house and she shows me how to load the bowl, put my finger on the hole and light ’er up. (Strange, I know –to be such a totally hip sophisticate in so MANY areas – just not the dope-smoking one.)
I take one tiny puff, then another and feel completely fabulous in about thirty seconds. Mainly with the anticipation of having fun -such a novel concept. Am too scared to go home and face the boxes I am meant to be packing up for my big move to new digs in a week so I drive off to the local Thai Massage Parlor for one of the 40 buck sessions I have been meaning to try for the last year. But it’s only once I’ve been directed next door to the Peruvian chicken joint to use their ATM machine and come back and forked over the cash that I remember why I’ve been avoiding a massage. It’s because I can’t lie on my stomach and I am wary of arms being pulled and really only want my head and and legs and feet massaged, lying on my back. My masseuse apparently speaks NO English and I am finally forced to pull up T-shirt and show ghastly lack of breast and mime that it hurts so she will understand. By the time she finally summons the cashier who speaks English and I go through it all again, I feel fairly straight and I start to notice the place is hot and stuffy. A cup of tea and some toast at home is sounding good but I daren’t hurt her feelings so I lie there tenser than I’ve been for quite a while she tries to rotate my arms and do other painful things. But when she starts to walk on my thighs, approaching my stomach, I draw the line and make a run for it – pointing to my watch and pretending I’m late. She gives me a filthy look, realizes she ain’t getting no tip and I’m outa there.
Home Sweet Home. For that much-needed cup of tea and well, it’s downhill from there. I begin a very unfortunate read of the New York Times which has me in a white hot blaze of anger within moments as I read a truly horrendous story about how mammograms are next to fucking useless and how the bastards at the American Cancer Society now admit that the benefits of mammograms have been OVERSTATED. The American Cancer Society now actually admits that mammograms “mainly detect innocuous tumors that will never become life-threatening while they FAIL to detect most of the dangerous tumors.”
Oh REALLY !!!????? That’s great guys…well done. Fantastic work. So you’ve made a bunch of radiologists and oncologists and drug companies and surgeons rich because of INSIGNIFICANT TUMORS THAT HAVE BEEN DETECTED and silly bitches like me have rushed off to be opened up, blasted with chemo, radiation and whatever other shit a bunch of dinosaur doctors can come up with. I’m so angry I have to get the stepladder and reach up to the very top of the kitchen cupboards and find the American Spirits and light up immediately before heading off to pick up the teen from school. I sure as hell don’t dare take a hit of pot and risk freaking out as I ponder whether my tumor would in fact have finally dissolved of it’s own accord or been of no danger whatsoever. HAS THIS WHOLE FUCKING YEAR BEEN AN INSANE WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY AND TEARS??
What can I say? Another night of takeaway, history homework and Ativan. Who knew that the Duke of York both named and used to own all of New York and treated the farmers like shit, charging them huge taxes. Men can be foul. What’s the bet it was a bunch of guys and not a female who decided we ALL NEEDED TO PUT OUR TITS IN THOSE CHARMING MAMMOGRAM torture machines and then get diagnosed with cancerous tumors? When the darling daughter finally gets home exhausted from college at 10.30pm, I give her a Tiger Balm neck massage. And then she gives me one. That’s the kind of fun-loving folk we are.