33. Dear Booze, thank-you....or a mini chemo diary days 6 -10.
You and I have always had a capricious relationship. We came to each other much later than one might expect. I was in college during our first encounter, and chipped my front tooth on a on a bottle of Bartles and James when another drunk drama student bumped into me.
Not the most auspicious of beginnings.
As a fledgling tippler, I learned pretty fast that I was not made of the stuff of binge drinking. (An unforgettable evening with an old high school friends and “upside down margarita shots” taught me that lesson.) So when I began my mini-career as a bartender at 22 at the “The Village Idiot,” one of New York’s most notorious dive bars known for its drunken interactions and sharing of shots with the patrons, I was skeptical. But as a young aspiring actress, I made money that was almost criminal, or at least an amount that would make you think I was taking off my clothes.
So you and I formed an uneasy friendship.
I learned that vodka was the” best alternative to avoid a hangover,” and better yet, if you could backwash into your chaser, you could save yourself the next-day pain and suffering. Yet, all those tricks didn’t protect me from an array of hangovers, sometimes just a mild headache, sometimes a 24 hour stint of on-again, off-again vomiting. And as I became a newbie fitness instructor, and stupidly taught classes post the 4 am bar close, I learned how to work with hangovers, pushing them to the side to deliver a cycling or bootcamp class.
But as I grew older and moved to Los Angeles, I learned that you could turn on me with no warning. While I could chalk it up to loss of body fat, a healthier diet, and drinking socially rather than as a “profession,” it seemed like you purposely decided to play with my tolerance.
Sometimes after several drinks I was “10 Feet Tall and Bullet Proof”and there would be no residual effect. Other times one drink would knock me flat on my ass and have me puking for a day straight. This roulette wheel made things interesting; when a single drink turned into a tension headache, I sucked up and taught through it. When too much wine did nothing, I laughed at my good fortune.
Now standing here, halfway through this first run of chemo - day ten FYI - I have just one thing to say:
When my Mom was sick, she once told me she felt like “one of my worst hangovers.” (She once became extremely ill drinking liquor, so she didn’t anymore.)
And a hangover, or a variety of hangovers, turns out to be a great chemo comparison.
While days 1-5 started on a “ten feet tall “ steroid fueled, tequila high, days 6 through 10 have shown some nuance.
Day 6: It’s my birthday (whoopee). Feel like I’ve had too much champagne. But I have shit to do so I best suck it up .Dull constant headache that threatens to get worse, which I am battle with Excedrin Tension Headache. Tons of water, and Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier. It seems I am actually winning !!!
Day 7: OMG yesterdays regime plus an early bedtime has proven victorious. It’s like I’m one of those annoying 21 yr olds who drink all those gross novelty shots and are all shiny and happy at 7 am the next day. ( granted I am NONE of those things, but you get my drift, stupid age.)
Day 8: Apparently I GOT too much sleep Saturday, so last evening was like reliving the fitful slumber after a night of machine mixed frozen margarita’s and the sugar rush that jolts you upright in bed at 1 a.m., heart racing like a fire alarm. Hours later but still awake, alarm goes off. I ave a cup of coffee. (I haven’t really been drinking caffeine either, so it’s effect is pretty potent.) Go teach my four classes and I feel great , though I am sweating like someone detoxing their system after a Vegas Bachelor Party. When I am done, I feel that high from both a mini reunion and a job well done. I take the rest of the day off. Headaches, body pain and any other side effects seem to be still gone . HOORAY, I SLEEP!
Day 9: Sleep literally is the “cure all.” I am up early, I feel great with no side effects. I get a bunch of stuff done. Hell yes! Post-chemo is over…. at least til we do it again in a few weeks. Go and watch Midterm returns, get stressed, then oh no, the “champagne style headache” starts to kick in.
Day 10: Manage to get some light sleep as my alarm sounds at 4:50 am. Headache in the background and sinuses super dry. During my early classes notice that I have no "mask” resonance, I am sounding like Brenda Vaccaro, or frankly, like my former 4 a.m. smokey bar closing, too many shots having self. Thankfully sweat helps a lot, almost as much as sleep, and I feel a bit less heinous by 1 pm.
So you see, Booze. You have helped me know the signs, when, despite my best efforts, my body gives the pain medication the full middle finger.
Because of you, I have a landscape for how awful my body can feel from medication, and I know I have survived that ride, and will survive it again.
And perhaps when it’s all over, I will raise a glass of you to you. Little did I know that you would teach me to navigate this stretch of the cancer road.
So SALUTE, ’til we get to fully meet again.
Yours in reluctant sobriety,