Editor’s note: Elizabeth Churchill began writing her blog in 2006 after a grapefruit-sized tumor wedged between her lungs was diagnosed as a malignant highly aggressive stage IV lymphoma. Before her cancer diagnosis, she was the author of a horticultural column, an avid weightlifter, and a homeowner with a beautiful garden north-east of New Orleans. Once she started treatment, she couldn’t work, her relationship with her fiancé ended, and she became so in debt she had to sell her home to pay the bills. Unemployed and with no health insurance, Churchill started writing to keep family and friends informed and herself sane. Here, we excerpt a few of her entries.
Hello from Cancerland! Over here at Le Lymphoma Shack, we have just been informed that we face the most daunting challenge of having to pony up $4,000 in cold hard cash every three weeks for the next six months to pay for a drug called Neulasta that is necessary to prevent us from shuffling off this mortal coil. We have developed a sneaking suspicion that positive attitudes may be a luxury of the fully insured.
What, am I bitter? Just because it’s been six weeks since my diagnosis and new tumors are popping up everywhere? (Yes! Say hello to Sylvia and Phyllis, the newest Easter-egg-sized tumors in my armpits!) Just because all I’ve done so far is have surreal conversations with 12-year-old oncology residents whose scripts were clearly a joint collaboration between Franz Kafka, Lewis Carroll, and George Orwell? Okay, maybe just a little.
Other news from our little Shack O’ Negativity: I will start my chemotherapy treatments on Wednesday the 11th, so yesterday I went to chemo school. It was with my old friend Pam, the nurse who helped me survive my first biopsy in August. We watched several entertaining videos. The one on how to inject drugs into your own excessively squeamish self was my personal favorite: “If you accidentally touch the needle, discard the whole thing immediately in your puncture-proof bleach bottle with the Clorox label still attached so the neighborhood junkies will never suspect it contains used hypodermics, and start over with a new syringe.” Uh-huh, and this would be the pre-filled Neulasta syringe that runs me $4K per pop.
From the videos and the several thousand cheerfully glossy brochures Pam gave us, we learned these fascinating factoids:
1. Only white people get cancer. Not just that, but only affluent, fully insured, attractive white people with utterly bland, earth-toned home decor get cancer. I’m wondering now if perhaps I should seek a second opinion on my diagnosis.
2. Chemotherapy causes these affluent white people to float through their bland earth-toned homes with dreamy, beatific smiles as they go about their ordinary daily activities, which consist mainly of eating breakfast on the patio with the guy from the Cialis commercials and watering the bedding annuals along the driveway. Nobody ever goes bald, gets abysmally depressed, or projectile vomits all over the boring Macy’s bedspread.
Pam also had the thankless job of informing me that once I start chemo treatments, all my bodily fluids will become lethally toxic and my boyfriend must “take precautions” not to come into contact with any of them, or he too will lose his lunch and his hair and have to pay $4,000 for his own frickin Neulasta. I also have to make sure the dogs don’t drink out of the toilet after I’ve used it (which means what, remove those little wee step ladders??), and I have to always take care to flush two or three times so the next person isn’t injured by my biohazardous waste products when they splash around in the toilet bowl.
So, dear friends, we and our negative attitude are down to the wire here at Le Lymphoma Shack. I almost feel like I’m about to be deployed to Iraq! I have to be at the hospital on Monday morning at 5:00 a.m. for the surgery to install my mediport. Then on Wednesday at 8:00 a.m., I’ll be going in for my first chemo session. It should take about 6 or 7 hours because they have to drip the evil stuff verrrry slowly or else it will send me into dramatic toxic shock seizures.
So what, you may be wondering, can YOU do to help out at this point? Well, those of you who are fully insured can adopt the elusive positive attitude for me on Wednesday morning.
That’s it for now. But next week the plot will finally thicken and ensuing episodes are guaranteed to include PICTURES! Pictures of my new mediport poking through my bruised skin, pictures of the Red Devil being dripped slowly into my jugular while I pose for Edvard Munch, pictures of me industriously holding bake sales and bikini car washes, because I believe that One’s Own Positive Will can surely raise $4,000 every three weeks to pay for the Neulasta, even if it occasionally involves projectile vomiting all over somebody’s just-washed BMW.
Love and negativity to you all!