April 29, 2008
Dr. R, I suspect, is not pleased. Since the day we started chemo, seven weeks ago, he has impressed upon me that I need to call him immediately if I have any signs of fever. Today I let slip that I don’t own a thermometer.
I have a theory that only three groups of people own thermometers:
2. Newly married women who are either (a) trying to get pregnant and become mothers or (b) trying not to get pregnant because they’re not ready to be mothers (yes, I know people who employ this method of birth control).
3. Hypochondriac ex-boyfriends who can’t face down a simple cold without whining for their mothers.
I may be a failure at Fahrenheit, but as an ex-reporter, I can take the pulse of the people. I am sure that a simple Single Girlfriend Poll (“Do you own a thermometer?”) will bear out my theory. Flash returns of the SGP (conducted while writing this) indicate mixed results, but when all votes are counted, I am in a clear majority. Even Dr. Lisa doesn’t own a thermometer and she’s a surgeon. Neither does my weathergirl friend in New Orleans, which really struck me as funny since, you know, it's her job to know the temperature.
If I am under a pile of blankets, shivering, sweating and alone, I figure it’s time to call the doctor. Anything less than that? Take two Advil and suck it up. (This, by the way, is also why I don’t own a scale. When the jeans start to feel tight, it’s time to start skipping dessert and stop skipping the gym for awhile. I don’t need a flashing red LED display to tell me that.) Besides, with all my moving around, a thermometer is just one more thing to break, and then you have to worry about the mercury spilling (that’s right, and just imagine my surprise at the CVS this afternoon…)
The last time I felt truly feverish, it was more in that Peggy Lee you-give-me-fever-when-you-kiss-me kind of way, no trip to the ER warranted, except maybe for dehydration. I suspect most of my poll respondents also live in the world where fever (Fever! In the morning... Fever all through the night…) is desirable.
In my defense, after my first few rounds of chemo, I stayed with my mother who, naturally, owns a thermometer (see #1 above) and is also exponentially more worried about my health that I am, so no fever was going to escape her unnoticed. Also, I left chemo today, immediately bought a thermometer, and have been compulsively checking my temperature every half hour (97.9 at last check, nowhere near the 100.5 required to call Dr. R at home on his cell phone). Now if I could just get a consensus on normal. Back in the day (of my hard-to-read mercury thermometer) you had to be exact. (98.6? 96.8? I could never remember…) Now you’ve got a digital device that gives you a precise reading to the first decimal, and two pages of instructions on the vast range of “normal.”
Anyway, I am now being punished for my negligence because I am sick (although not feverish.) Not from the chemo, mind you (I am, evidently, the Chemo Queen) but from a nasty cold that started Friday night (“They always start on Friday nights,” observes the wise Dr. R) and now has me in the infusion room red-eyed, miserable, and hacking like I’m the dying diva, about to bring down the curtain on the final act of La Traviata. Today’s chemo date (my mother) is alternating between giving me “my poor baby” looks and trying to pacify the cancer patients in the room (“She’s not contagious. Really. She’s been getting this since she was four. Usually when she’s really tired and run down.”) Hodgkin’s they can handle, but tuberculosis tends to put people on edge.
The good news (!) is that chemo treatment #4 goes on as scheduled AND Dr. R says it’s okay to take the heavy duty anti-cold medication (what’s a few antibiotics and a generous helping of narcotic thrown into the alphabet soup chemo mix?) He prescribes a Z-pack and the biggest bottle of Robitussin with codeine I’ve ever seen. (My second drugstore surprise of the day.) Don’t even ask if I have an appropriately sized teaspoon for measuring the exact dose. If you don’t know the answer to that, you’re not reading closely enough.
The bad news is, I have to work this week, the kind of work where I’m on TV so I’m supposed to look good. On Monday, I guilted my friend Cynthia into sending her own sick child to school so she could schlep me and my stuff into Center City for one of my on-camera interviews. When I complained about how awful I looked, my childhood friend, who never says an unkind word about anybody, conceded, “It’s not your best day…”
It is, however, amazing what fake hair and a good makeup artist can do. A quick check in the mirror, and I am passable for the task at hand. I feel like one of those golf courses in New Jersey, built over a sealed landfill… my exterior is all finely manicured landscape masking a toxic waste dump beneath.
I feel like shit but I finish the interview, and, in another weird twist, the photographer doesn’t blink when I ask if, instead of dropping the DVD off at the office the next day, he can swing by the infusion room so I can screen during chemo.
“You’re going through that, too?” he asks.
Pre-chemo Monday nights have been identified as good drinking nights since I usually feel pretty good, but with the cold/possible TB, I decide it’s best to cancel. I call the girls at the bar.
“Are you finished with the interview? Come join us!” says Single Girl #1.
“I need chicken soup, not alcohol,” I cough into the phone. “Do they have soup over there?”
“They have lobster bisque.”
A few minutes later, steaming crock in front of me, I am still in the game, regaling my girlfriends with my latest discovery from Cancerland:
“Did you know there’s an online dating service for cancer patients?” I announce, in the just-try-to-trump-this-one approach I’ve adopted since being diagnosed.
There is a moment of silence.
“You mean there’s an entire, untapped pool out there?” says Single Girl #2, incredulously.
“So, are you going to do it?” asks SG #1.
“She doesn’t like to associate with those people,” SG #2 reminds SG #1. “I’ll bet all the men are sensitive and caring, though.”
“Maybe you should do it,” offers SG #1, suggesting that SG #2 go online and apply with my information.
We consider this. Given that I have no desire to participate, we rationalize, in a two-martinis-in kind of way, that this might just be acceptable.
Then again, we could all be suffering from delirium, which, while sometimes brought on by severe cases of fever, can also be caused by (according to my Webster's) "intoxication and other disorders."
Now you’ve listened to my story
Here’s the point that I have made:
Chicks were born to give you fever,
Be it Fahrenheit or Centigrade.
They give you fever
When you kiss them
Fever if you live and learn
Fever! ‘till you sizzle
What a lovely way to burn…
What a lovely way to burn…