Thursday, November 7, 2013

I am not my hair… (11/6/2013)


I am not my hair…

November 6, 2013

            My mother, the lover of glorious long hair has three daughters.  To my Mom’s dismay, all three of us have lived for countless years with hair cut quite short.  I have never been infatuated with my hair.  I’ve been blessed with hair that is fine and soft, not thick and luxurious.  It’s natural and wash-and-wear for me.  No problem!

            This past weekend Gilbert cleaned the bathroom.  I step into a sparkling tub and four minutes into my glorious shower I’m muttering under my breath.  How can Gilbert clean up and leave hair all over the place.  I adjust the showerhead to rinse it away… but there’s more… and more… and even more.  I’m shocked to realize the process has begun… and… I. freak. out.  Chemotherapy and I are good friends.  We’re on a first name basis.  I know the results of chemo.  I was told the effects of chemo… yet, when I see the hair swirling around the drain it hits me like a sledgehammer.  I don’t know if I can handle this.  “…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

            Forget about what I know and what I expect.  It all flies out the window.  I am truly freaking out here.  I jump out of the shower and call Gilbert.  “It’s okay!” he reassures me.  “Are you ready to shave it all off?”  I have yet to answer his question.  I’m confused about why I’m feeling this way because my hair has been one-eighth of an inch long for years.  How do I know?  After spending two hours at the barber shop a few years ago, I had hubby purchase an electric thingamajiggy for me and I use the one-eighth inch attachment.

            This is my chemo “off” week, so to quote Jenny, who has conquered her own battles, “I feel like a million dollars.”  Hubby and I head out to shop for the things I may need next week.  In the car, on our way home the heavy weight of my hair finally breaks me down.  The floodgates were opened previously for the pain, but never for the circumstance.  It’s an ugly cry that’s probably been months coming.  I see the helplessness on Gilbert’s face as he tries to comfort me.  He can’t do much but hold my hand as he drives and I cry.  The tears are filled with the weeks of recovery, the diagnosis, the abandonment by close family who can’t deal with it, the days of radiation, my good friend chemo and how my head will look like a person with ringworm.  The hair loss is not like taking off a wig… it’s a gradual process.  Every day more falls out in the shower.  Trust my sister to see the positive side.  As she says, “That’s great, no more shaving!”

            “Are you ready to shave it all off?”  I know I am. 

            The Daily Bread says, “Our circumstances never stay the same for long.  Sometimes we welcome change in our lives.  But often it is difficult, especially when it involves sorrow and loss.”  I am thankful though, that God remains the same – he loves me and holds me in the palm of his hand, with or without hair.  “I am the Lord, I do not change.”  Malachi 3:6


Charmaine Yvette

P.S. Don’t be surprised if you get a newsflash of Tina Turner or Angela Davis walking through Times Square – it’s me!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

THANK YOU! (6/27/2013)

Thank you!
June 27, 2013
Dear family and friends:
The road to recovery after surgery has been more difficult and longer than I thought possible.  Being reduced to less than Super Woman has been humbling to say the least.  When times get tough and the winds are tearing things apart, that’s when the valuable wheat remains and the chaff is blown away.  My Mom (86 years old, two knee replacements {which have expired}, bursitis in shoulders, osteoarthritis all over) makes sure she brings dinner for the family every Sunday – may God continue to bless her.  My husband, Gilbert… WOW! 
There were times I struggled to get up from the couch and Gilbert appears at my side.  He held out his hand and whispered to me… “I’m here.”
For the times I needed an extra support going up the stairs, he stood at my back saying… “I’m here.”
The trip to the bathroom at 2:00 a.m. – the extra push I needed to help me out of bed and on my way… he reached across the bed… “I’m here.”
Those words made me smile every time; because it’s what my God has been saying to me.
            During my first few days after surgery, the technology of the On-Q “pocketbook” (which I happily wore) filled with an intravenous pain killer they embedded in my skin in two places… “I’m here.”
Gilbert made stewed chicken… again… “I’m here.”  (I’m happy to say he’s now expanded his repertoire under my guidance. J)
As I battled with depression because it was quite obvious I would not be healed in two weeks and be able to compete in Wimbledon, I cried (copiously) and my God said… “I’m here.” … then your wonderful phone calls began coming in to encourage me!  Thank you!
The results from the lab are not encouraging… but my God says… “I AM! … and I’m HERE.”    
Psalm 3:3-5
But thou, O Jehovah, art a shield about me;
My glory and the lifter up of my head.
I cry unto Jehovah with my voice,
And he answereth me out of his holy hill.
I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for Jehovah sustaineth me.
Caretakers are the most underappreciated people - but the job they do!  Lord I thank you for all the caretakers and if you haven’t heard it today, this week, this month… Thank You!
I thank you all for thinking of me and offering up a prayer for me. 
Love to all,

My Journey to Radiation... Where is God? (9/8/2013)

My Journey to Radiation…
September 8, 2013

For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you!!   Isaiah 41:13

It is another long day for me.  After work there is a smile on my face as I greet the bus driver on the M42 bus to go crosstown to First Avenue, where I change to the M15 bus that drops me off at the Radiation Building.  God rides with me!  In the Radiation Building all adults are scheduled for afternoons/evenings as the mornings are reserved for children.  We all gather in the main waiting area. Unless you’ve lost your hair due to chemo, you cannot tell who is here for radiation and who is here to support.  Across from me sits a big strapping construction worker with his heavy work boots; then a very tall, distinguished older gentleman in his Armani suit walks in talking on his I-phone; a middle-aged woman sits with her knitting needles and next to her is a very young lady who never stops texting.  

Kenny calls us out one by one… “Ms. Sandy, please get undressed!” I grab a robe and a key for the locker and head to the changing area.

In the inner waiting area our nakedness defines our battle.  The suits are gone, boots, needles… no more texting.  Under our robes I begin to recognize… those naked from the waist up are battling cancers of the upper body: breast, thyroid, brain. Those naked from the waist down are battling testicular, cervical, ovarian and other pelvic cancers.  Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me…

There isn’t much conversation, not much friendliness.  I guess everyone is concentrating on their own survival.  I talk anyway, and find out we are all recovering from a surgeon’s scalpel… we’ve all lost a summer.

I thank God for Kenny, Ava, Juan, Gerard, David, Jennifer, Mark and all the others who work there.  They greet me with a smile and a kind word every day.  Ava is like one of my girlfriends, we talk and laugh out loud.  The security guard in the Chemo Building greets everyone with a smile and God’s words flows from his lips every time I see him.  It blows my mind to think how many people they see every day, fighting a battle, wrapped up in the battle.  Where is God?  He’s right here!  thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me…

Your words and your prayers continue to uplift me.  Juan and David tell me I smile a lot.  It’s simply the God in me, for I wouldn’t have the strength to do this on my own.  Maya Angelou has said “…He has created the leaves and the trees, the birds and the insects and I am humbled that God loves me!

God loves me!  Amen!  Love you all.

Charmaine Yvette

P.S. Thank you Gilbert – I love you! I am always amazed by your creative use of ingredients… in addition to the cheddar and ketchup sandwich, the new menu item – stewed string beans and plantains… together!  I came home to a feast fit for the entire Brooklyn this week. Gilbert baked 10 lbs of fish, 20 lbs of potatoes, cooked 2 lbs of rice, peas, spinach and stewed string beans and plantains. J It’s a very welcome sight as I get home close to 9:00pm each day and it will last all of September!

Weakness... (10/28/2013)


October 28, 2013

Before I continue with my journey, I wanted to talk to each and every one of you for a moment.  Please know that your thoughts, your prayers, your notes… the responses… all my friends and family, Cheryl’s “Reflectionites”, the technicians and nurses, my new sisters in Sharmaine and Jenny, co-workers Kim, Fior, Diana… I received them all and I am humbled.  Your outpouring has made me cry.  Claudette and Mimi you are wonderful! Ava, that you would track me down during my therapy session to give me a hug.  Gita, that you would take a few moments to encourage me from across the ocean... it all means the world. Because I don’t mention your name does not mean your thoughts and words were any less impactful, but it would take me four pages to properly thank everyone by name.  I thank you!

Last Tuesday I walked into a very unassuming building on East 53rd Street in Manhattan.  It’s in the midst of the corporate world – this is the Chemo building.  I’ve been here before but numerous times I’ve walked past this building myself as I hurried to catch the # 6 train.  I never once thought of what goes on in here.  As I enter the building Nick smiles and greets me… it’s always the best; he holds my hands… “Good morning Beloved, it’s wonderful to see you again.  How are you today?” (He makes me feel joyful, he reminds me that wherever we are, in the midst of it all, God sends a word.)  I smile as I respond – “I’m blessed and highly favored.”  Nick responds “Keep walking in faith.”  My day begins…

A day at chemotherapy is very different from radiation therapy. The waiting area is much larger (I believe to accommodate the larger groups of family members).  People stroll out of the elevator with large totes and luggage.  Some carry their favorite pillow or the comfy blanket to snuggle up with.  In one suitcase I glimpse socks and books and a teddy bear.  Therapy spans 5-6 hours. I initially thought it would be an injection, but the chemo is slowly dripped into our bodies.  We make ourselves comfortable. 

Cysplatin… Carboplatin… Paclitaxel… Potatoe, Potato all the same right?  I’ve had a dose of chemo before.  After my dose of Cysplatin and my days of radiation I was lulled into a false sense of my own strength.  I’ve got this! I can handle the burns and the fatigue and adding Imodium pills to my diet and staying away from fresh fruit and vegetables and always having a piece of candy in my bag and the fact that even water has a strange taste.  Then Carboplatin and Paclitaxel was introduced to my system as the fight has been ramped up – as Dr. Makker says, we are dealing with this very aggressively. 

As I get comfortable, take off my boots, put on my socks and place my bag in the appropriate area so I can get to my phone, the crosswords and the Kindle that Nigel has graciously allowed me to use.  My nurse friend prepares me for infusion.  The veins on the inside of my elbows have too much scar tissue, they can’t get a line in there.  They must go in by my wrist – it’s more painful.  There are lots of medications… saline solution, anti-nausea medication, Benadryl, Carboplatin, etc.  Everything has its purpose and Nurse Showda sits to monitor me to make sure there are no allergic reactions.  I would love to say I sat through all the hours thinking and writing and playing Subway Surfer.  The Benadryl knocked me out… I wake as they change medication bags… wake again as they bring lunch… I am finally awake as Gilbert calls and says he’s waiting for me downstairs.  They warn me that the effects of all the medications would begin wearing off in two days.  By Thursday afternoon, I slipped away from work early.  I’m feeling it! I feel the battle in my body… nausea – yes, weakness – yes, flu-like symptoms – yes… my toes hurt, every muscle aches… indescribable feelings (whether imagined or real). 

I’ve been knocked from my happy place.  Gilbert is not comfortable seeing me like this.  My response of “I’m okay” to his question does not cut it for him.  On Sunday he declared that I must go back to the doctor and tell her that this medication does not agree with me and I need the previous medication.  LOL! 

As I curled up in bed Sunday night trying to feel comfortable, cuddling up to my aches! and pains! and feelings! it comes to me that God, with his infinite wisdom rarely goes into the house of the strong – they don’t NEED him.  When we are strong, we pat ourselves on the back and accept the accolades.  It’s what I’ve been doing – you go girl! you can handle this!  

Then the realization that I’m not in control … I am weak!... in my weak moments… in my weakness…  Help me Lord!

2 Corinthinians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Psalm 145:14   
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

Amen!  Love you all.

Charmaine Yvette

P.S.  My Mom and sisters, Cheryl and Barbara… my prayer warriors!  Thank you!

P.P.S. I’ve been told these notes are the dinosaurs to a blog so I should probably get hip right??!!  Mimi, I’ll be calling you J