Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wedding Blues

When I was a girl, I didn't daydream about my wedding.  I didn't play dress-up with my mother' wedding veil (she didn't have one).  I suppose most young girls dream about what kind of wedding ceremony they'll have, what sort of gown they'll wear, but I never did.  I dreamed about marriage and what kind of man I would marry, but never about the actual wedding.  I find traditional weddings ridiculously expensive, boring and rather gauche.  Wedding gowns are ugly.  I've never yet seen one that I found even mildly attractive.  I don't see the point in buying a dress that costs thousands of dollars and will only be worn once.  A party is nice, too, but how can anyone afford to spend $10,000 for a one-day party?  Not to mention the expense of the honeymoon. 

My first wedding wasn't much.  My husband and I eloped to a town neither of us knew well.  We found a church near the apartment we had just rented and persuaded the pastor to marry us, even though we weren't members of his congregation and had never attended his church (and never would). I wore the only dress I owned at the time.  My husband wore his only suit (a polyester leisure number).  We had no friends or family present.  No one took any pictures.  Only the pastor and the church secretary were there to witness.  We didn't have a honeymoon.  We couldn't even afford to go out to a restaurant for dinner afterward.

My Special Someone and I have been a couple for 21 years, but we're not married.  I love him dearly, but I'm divorced, and for many years my attitude toward marriage was "Been there, done that".  He wanted marriage, I didn't.  I felt we were happy enough as a couple.  If the state we live in had a common law statute, we would be considered married already.  Marriage was a formality we didn't need.  But in 2003-2004 when I went through cancer treatment for the first time, my guy took care of me and made tremendous sacrifices for me.  And the best thing I could think of to do to show him my love and appreciation was to tell him that I wanted to marry him.  It made him happy.   It made me happy, too.  We wanted a ceremony, a special event where we could celebrate with our friends.  But as I started thinking about the process of organizing such a celebration, I started to run into problems.

As I said earlier, I don't like traditional weddings.  I don't want flowers everywhere or a poofy white gown or dancing or an open bar.  But I couldn't decide what I did want.  I did want to dress up and look pretty.  But did I want to be an elven princess or a pirate wench?  Where should we hold the ceremony - in a church, a garden, a public venue or a private home?  Did we want a catered reception?  What kind of rings would we exchange to act as tokens of our union?  And most importantly, how were we going to pay for any of this once we made up our minds?  My parents are long gone.  If I want a wedding I have to pay for it out of my own pocket.

It wasn't long before indecision, procrastination (at which I am a master) and budget woes brought all the wedding planning to a halt.  We basically just gave up on it.  We still wanted to get married, but we just couldn't decide what to do.  We can't even make up our minds what kind of rings we'd like, just that we don't want traditional gold and diamonds - I don't like either the metal or the gem.  Things got more complicated for us, with our complete inability to plan anything, when the county changed its process for acquiring marriage licenses and required both partners to appear at the county office to complete the application.  We couldn't rearrange our work schedules to meet there and get the license. Gradually the plan went from a ceremony and a party with our friends to a civil ceremony with an unfamiliar judge officiating, but we couldn't manage to organize even that.  It didn't sound like fun, so although I really do want to marry, I didn't have much enthusiasm for it.

It was cancer that brought marriage back to the forefront of importance in my mind.  What happens if I become incapable of making decisions about my care?  If he isn't my husband, legally, he won't be able to make decisions for me unless I give him power of attorney.  And the same is true if anything happens to him.  Marriage has tax advantages too, and allows us to pool our funds to increase our buying power.  And even if all that wasn't true, I want to marry him now.  I want to say that he's my husband, not my boyfriend/fiancee/Significant Other/Spousal Equivalent.  I want him to call me his wife.  I want to have a ring that tells people I have a life partner.

This weekend we'll be attending a science fiction and fantasy convention, Orycon, which we've both been attending for many years.  In fact, the only time I've missed the convention since 1990 was in 2003 when I was going through chemo and was too ill to attend.  I'm delighted that I'll be able to attend in spite of my current illness.  It's also my birthday this weekend, so I can enjoy celebrating my birthday at the convention as well.  And this gave me an idea:  What if we added another special event to the weekend?  Our friends have been threatening to drag us off to be married at a convention for several years.  Why not just do it?  Stop worrying about all the details that we can't afford anyway and just have a small civil ceremony during an event that is meaningful to both of us.   

There's a tv ad for some product, I think perhaps for a smartphone, that features a whole group of friends spontaneously organizing a wedding for a couple using some social networking app.   They arrange for a venue, a band, decorations and a potluck reception dinner.  It's all very sweet and romantic and unrealistic.  It would be great if life was like that, but real people have jobs and budgets and children.  Real people can't be that spontaneous.  Pity.  It would be fun to just show up someplace and have someone throw a surprise wedding for us. We've got a marriage license now; we just need somewhere to use it.  I hope that place will be the convention this weekend, if we can manage it.  It won't be the kind of ceremony we hoped for, but maybe we'll be able to do that later.  Or maybe it will be better than anything we could imagine. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why I Hate Chemo

Okay, I admit it, I'm tired and bitchy today. 

Why I hate chemo:
1.  Fatigue
2.  Constipation
3.  Fatigue
4.  Not being able to eat my favorite foods
5.  Worrying about exposure to bacteria and viruses
6.  Fatigue
7.  Not having the energy to enjoy my usual social activities
8.  Not getting to see my friends as often as I'd like
9.  Fatigue
10. Fatigue

Thursday, October 18, 2012

There Is A Fungus Among Us

I'm happy to say that I'm not experiencing some of the most unpleasant potential side effects of chemotherapy.  For those who aren't aware of this, chemo can have a lot of unpleasant side effects:  Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, hair loss, fatigue, sleep disturbances, peripheral neuropathy, infections, skin disorders... The list is nearly endless, and almost all chemo drugs have these same potential effects. Last time I went through chemo, I had most of them.  I still have neuropathy in my toes as a result of chemo, and my digestive system's behavior never returned to its pre-chemo state.  I get nauseous easily, and have more lower GI issues than I did before I went through chemo.

My recollection of my previous chemo experience focuses mainly on diarrhea; it seems to me that I had one continuous eight-month stretch of it, though I think in reality I had a few periods of diarrhea-free time.  All the antibiotics I was taking to prevent infections killed off my beneficial gut bacteria and allowed my mortal enemy Clostridium Difficile to overpopulate, turning my GI tract into an express tunnel.  It was miserable.  So diarrhea was my biggest fear this time around.  But I haven't had any.  Instead I seem to be having just the opposite.  Food goes in the pie hole and nothing comes out the other end.

On top of that, since my immune system isn't at peak efficiency right now, my asthma inhaler has caused me to develop an oral fungal infestation, commonly known as thrush.  It doesn't hurt, but it is uncomfortable and annoying.  I have to take Nystatin, an antifungal mouthwash essentially.  It comes in banana yellow, and oddly tastes a little like banana, too.  Not the most offensive liquid medication I've ever taken, but not my favorite taste sensation.  Good thing I like bananas. My oncologist has indicated that I should expect to be taking a lot of Nystatin during chemo. 

But at least I'm not on the regimen of antibiotics, antifungals, and steroids that I had to take last time. I just have to get used to making Nystatin part of my daily beverage choices, and find what method works best to keep the train running smoothly in the intestinal tract.  And deal with the fatigue.  The fatigue should improve as I get farther away from my most recent chemo treatment.  But this week I am feeling pretty worn out.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cancer Saga, part 2

I've finished my first chemo treatment for this round.  Only two days at the infusion center, and the second day was just a couple of hours.  I didn't get nauseous, and the Dexamethasone didn't give me the jitters or keep me awake like it did last time. The dose is much less this time.  I haven't had any "Shedding" yet, either, as Jay Lake likes to refer to one of the other lovely side effects of chemo.  I'm just really fatigued, achy, and feeling a little down.  It's harder to keep the morale up when the fatigue sets in.

Diet is fun during chemo.  I love fresh fruits and vegetables, and sushi is one of my favorite foods - nigiri sushi, with raw fish.  But I shouldn't have those things while my immune system is vulnerable.  And then there are the people.  I have to avoid people.  They have germs.  When I go to work on the bus I'll be wearing a mask and gloves to protect me from other people's germs.  If my co-workers have colds, I'll probably work from home.

But all of the above is still better than being in the hospital a week out of every month, and having to take injections to increase my white blood count.  I can work.  I can watch television.  I can drive, at least some of the time.  I spent a lot of my first day of chemo studying my Chinese textbook.  I wouldn't have been able to do that the first time through treatment.

That doesn't mean this is going to be super-easy.  Just about the time I start to feel pretty good and back to normal, I'll have to have another treatment.  But this time I won't miss OryCon.  I've attended OryCon every year since 1990, except for 2003, when I missed it due to chemo.  This time my next chemo session isn't until after the convention, so I should be able to attend.  That makes me happy.  It's a tradition, and this year my honey is a program participant so I want to be there to support him.  I'll just have to support him while wearing a mask to avoid the germs.