I’m still dealing with my hurting foot. It gets better and worse, depending on how much bandwidth I have to devote to it. When the kids aren’t in school, as they were not for two days this week, and will not be for two more days next week, I have to give myself over to their need to be amused. (Which means to hell with self-care, usually.) But this week, I took them to the transit museum, one of their favorite spots, and did not do too badly. They’ve been there a million times, so I would park myself strategically on a subway bench or bus seat and wait until they were ready to move on. Wherever possible, I paused on a staircase to stretch my Achilles tendon, which tends to bring instant relief.
This week, I also took the kids for their first dermatologist appointments. I was an adult before I saw a dermatologist for the first time. But my children don’t have that luxury anymore. They have family history. I am their family history. I filled out two sets of forms for them, conveying this information, even though the doctor is my own doctor, and knows very well what is going on. When the assistant came in, though, she went through the questions as though I had left the forms blank. She asked, in front of the kids, “Any family history of skin cancer?” YES, I glowered. “Oh! But not melanoma, right?” she replied. I almost bit her head off. Meanwhile, the kids seemed too preoccupied with exploring a strange new exam room to notice her carelessness. At least I hope so.
In the end, all was fine. Young A doesn’t have the dread molluscum contagiosum on his elbows, as the pediatrician had suspected. Just dry skin, maybe a touch of eczema. Young J has freckles, like me, but they haven’t spread all over his body, as mine did. And if I have my way, they never will. Both kids swore a solemn oath to the doctor, that they would always wear sunblock and protective clothing, and in that moment I instantly began worrying about them at sleepaway camp next summer, without me around to do quality control on their sunblock application skills. I guess there is some time to practice.
I’ve also discovered that my sore heel, rather than needing a lot of cushioning, actually does better with a more rigid support and a bit of a heel on the shoe. My strappy summer sandals came in handy as I walked around with the kids in unseasonably warm temps this week. My fall boots have been coming in handy when it’s cooler out. That leaves my sneakers, which at present seem to cause me more pain than any other pair of shoes I own!
When you can’t count on your sneakers for relief, everything seems topsy-turvy. Counterintuitive. “Fair is foul and foul is fair,” the witches in Macbeth chant.
A fellow melanoma traveler pointed recently on her blog to a study done in Italy, of twelve patients on the same BRAF/MEK inhibitor therapy that I am on. Each patient had serious reasons for suspending treatment, having to do with side effects. Half of the group relapsed (with two dying), and half did not.
I’m not yet seasoned enough to read these papers dispassionately. I scour the table of data on the patients, hunting for anyone remotely like me. I compare their side effects to mine. I wonder what their names are, and what their families are going through, and where in Italy they live.
And I realize that as long as this treatment is working for me — and it is working, and I’m so grateful for that — I don’t really need to ask about going off the meds. That isn’t a reasonable goal, since I’m doing well on them, and they haven’t given me fevers or damaged my heart (knock wood) or elevated my liver function very often.
Just some eye troubles which I know how to manage. Just a three-hour fast, twice a day. Just a calendar pockmarked with appointments for scans, checkups, reminders to recount and reorder meds. Life with cancer. Possibly improved by a little punctuation: Life, with cancer.