Chemo, days 2 and 3

The phone rang this morning.  My mom, dad, my wife Sarah, and I were all sitting around the table eating kolaches and making googly faces at the baby.  My dad looked at the caller id on the phone, didn’t recognise the phone number, and said, “We’ll let the machine get it.”  They get a lot of telemarketers.  My mom remarked at how this round of chemo wasn’t giving her diarhea, wasn’t really killing her appetite, and how she hadn’t thrown up yet.  Mostly it had just made her tired.

The answering machine clicked on.

“Have you planned for your funeral?” a voice asked.  “A funeral today costs thousands of dollars, and creates an additional burden upon your family while they’re already grieving for you.  Save your family the emotional and financial toll by planning and paying for your funeral today.  Call xxx-xxx-xxxx to learn more.”

I am not making this up.

Nobody laughed but me.  And I was laughing only on the inside.


Chemotherapy is a weird thing.  It looks as if you could actually kill a patient with an over-toxicity of the drugs they use.  The goal is to have it just toxic enough to kill the cancer, but not enough to kill the patient.  In my mom’s case, the technique involved giving her enough until she was really sick, and then backing off the dosage so that each chemo session was less and less miserable.  This round, her fourth and last one, was the most tolerable to date.  The only real side effect was fatigue and a need for sleep.  No enormous aches or pains, nothing coming out of either end when it shouldn’t, just a lot of couch time.

The fatigue is serious though.  It isn’t like me spending all of Sunday on the couch or in the hammock, she’s actually weak.  She’s so weak she can’t even hold her grandson.  I sit on the couch next to her and do my best to make him laugh, which makes my mom ecstatic.  She’s got the energy to make faces at him, but she doesn’t trust herself to hold him.  She strokes his foot and talks to him.  A grin or a laugh from the baby makes her ecstatic.  This is why I brought him.

It’s also why I brought Sarah.  Since the baby’s still breastfeeding he’s not really away from his mom much.  She came along and is doing her work from my mom’s house since she has hi speed access.  We’ve really discovered how dependent we are on the nanny as well, since we’re both trying to be productive at work, watch the baby, and nurse my mom through this.  Sarah’s a saint though.  She didn’t complain at all when I asked her to come, or at any point during the trip.  It’s a huge inconvenience to her, but not a cross word at all.

As a thank you I took Sarah to Laumeier Sculpture Park yesterday.  She loves art and art museums, and so I could think of nothing better than taking her to see art and then out to a dinner of garlic, one of her favorite foods.  We hit Saleems (“Where garlic is king!”) down in the Loop.  The food was fabulous and expectedly garlicky.  We made it through the appetizers before my parents called to say that the baby was having a rough ‘witching hour’.  We ate our entrees quickly and headed home.

Tonight Sarah and I are cooking a bolognese sauce which I hope will put a few pounds on mom.  She’s lost a pound a day since chemo started, and I’m doing my best to make sure she doesn’t miss a single meal and doesn’t get dehydrated.

There’s two more days of chemo left, and I’m headed out on the last one.  I have given my sisters who live here some reprieve from being the cancer caretakers, I hope.  And brought some medicine in the form of baby therapy.   I’ll see you Friday.


  1. Stasi on September 24, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    I was excited to see Kolaches in your posting; that was a long held tradition from my Czechoslovakian grandmother and great aunt (who taught my cousin and me how to make them, somewhat impatiently as we made fun of her strict codes about handling yeast, etc.). So I clicked on the link and poof – these are not the Kolaches of my childhood! Ours looked like little danishes; they typically were sweet, but the best ones had a poppyseed center. Sigh – the ones on the website sounded good, just not like my Prague heritage!