twenty one

Diary: 2nd August 2014

Standing in the shower, I let the hot jets of steaming water wash over me. I could hear Bren playing his guitar from where he sat at the foot of our bed. It was one of his favourite ways to pass the time.
“What’s that your playing?” I yelled. No answer.
I turned off the taps, squeezed the water from my hair, grabbed a towel and stuck my head out the ensuite door.
“What are you playing?” I said again, “It sounds nice.”
“Just something I’ve been working on.”
“Babe — it’s great. Did you make it up? I love it.”
“Lucky, it’s your song.”
“Mine,” I said as tingles floated across the top of my arms. “What’s it called?”
“Your song.” He looked up from the strings as he played, grinning at me.
I pulled on my PJs and sat beside him to listen some more.
“Oh my God, I love it,” I said, kissing him as he turned his face toward me.
“Good!” He said.
“Babe, there’s lots of hair on the shower floor,” I said, watching his fingers move effortlessly across the chords.
“Yep!” He said, letting out a breath he’d held onto a few seconds too long. “I’ll ring Dean to come and shave it off. He’s been wanting to take to me with hair clippers for years. He said he’d come when I’m ready.”
“You sure you’re ready?”
“Yep. It doesn’t worry me that much about losing my hair. It just makes it more obvious I’ve got cancer.”
“Yeah, it’s shit, babe.”
“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.”
“I don’t want that for you either. But babe, you’ve got cancer. People are going to feel sorry for you. It’s normal. Having a bald head will be the only obvious change. Lots of people are bald.”

“Yeah, but usually they’ve got eyebrows and eyelashes.” He said, smiling back at me.
“You still look fit and strong. You’re still hot, babe.” I said, nudging him in the ribs with my elbow. “People will react to you, not to cancer. Right! What do you want for dinner?” I said, getting up to go to the kitchen.
“Something that doesn’t taste like metal, please.”
“I’ll do my best,” I said in the least sympathetic tone I could muster. “But you know my cooking — no promises.”
Dean will be here Sunday for the big shave.

Bren’s hair loss happened sooner than we expected. The next oncology clinic was coming up on Thursday. His once-thick hair was gone, he was bald, and he was right. He looked every bit like a cancer patient because he was. At least he was feeling well.
In the city again, in prep for cycle 2, Bren had to have a blood test and CT scan before the clinic to ensure chemotherapy could proceed. We went window shopping afterwards, while he felt well enough to get out and about — before heading back to our accommodation around 4:30 pm. An hour later, we went to a great local pub a block away for an early dinner. An early-ish night followed to prepare for the long day ahead in day therapy.
Day therapy went without a hitch this time, and many staff who remembered Bren from his last treatment complimented his new clean shave. He was in bed by 7.30 pm and was not well—no dinner out tonight. By 11 pm, like clockwork, he went through an almost identical experience to the previous cycle. The vomiting, motion sickness, and overall misery and malaise were soul-destroying.
By the time we pulled into our driveway the next afternoon, I was tired, and Bren was exhausted. He said a quick hello to the kids and Margaret, who stayed with the kids again while we were in the city, and I got him into bed. The days that followed were terrible.

Diary 18th August 2014

With this cycle, the side effects have worsened for Bren, and eating has been especially problematic. Some nights I laid beside him as he slept, listening to his laboured breathing, or sat close by watching him lay exhausted on the lounge and thought — how did this become our story? How did everything change so quickly?
In the leadup to his diagnosis, we had mistaken what now seem like obvious symptoms for persistent, niggling sports injuries. Would it have made a difference if we had caught the tumours earlier? Probably, but that’s something we’ll never know now. So many questions with no answers. All we can do is keep going.
Like last time, day 8 post-chemo was Bren’s turned a-corner day, and day 9 — if I don’t find something to do, I’m going to go crazy day! He is easily exhausted. An hour of doing anything means he’ll need to rest for a few hours afterwards. He doesn’t let that stop him.
Cycle 3 is almost here, and an oncology review will follow early in September; we have everything crossed.


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