Hair Loss

It’s All on the Head

When it seemed like I was already carefree – lung cancer stable, bladder unremarkable, bunion under control – I got this wild-haired notion to grow my hair and recapture my long-lost youth. Time came when the hair was long enough to be pulled away from my face and neck and fashioned into a tiny Asian bun. I got all excited! I made a mad dash to the dollar store and bought the smallest black banana clip that matched my dyed ebony hair. The project was going great guns! Or so I thought.

One day while towel drying my hair after a shower, I noticed a clump of tresses on my fingertips. The same thing happened in the days that followed. I was aghast. I had visions of my head becoming as smooth and as shiny as a billiard ball.

True to character, I immediately blamed my falling hair to cancer. Of course, what else would I blame? Cancer has always been my go-to guy in the blame game.

Tarceva came to mind. When I was on Tarceva 7 years ago, that wonder drug devoured 80% of the malignant tumor in the bottom of my left lung within 100 days. Awesome! But it’s side effect transformed my hair into the equivalent of steel wool. I formed a theory about the situation at hand: Maybe Tarceva’s bad effect on my hair is now in the roots. I agree, the theory is rather farfetched. Tagrisso came next. Could the hair loss be a side effect of Tagrisso and is just now manifesting itself after 2 years? Hey, the hyperglycemia side effect of the clinical trial drug CO-1686 showed up on me after 4 months. Okay, 24 months is a stretch. Unconvinced by the theories of the blame game, I dug deep into my memory bank.

The hairy experience brought back hair loss memories from my late husband Tom, the first in the widowhood series. Baldness ran among the males in Tom’s family. His youngest brother’s head became as smooth and as shiny as a bowling bowl shortly after age 20, according to my late mother-in-law, who had a proclivity for high drama. Tom, proud of his head full of dishwater blond hair at 40, thought he had already beaten the baldness odds so when he noticed substantial strands of hair caught on his comb, he immediately saw his primary care physician, who in turn, referred him to a specialist. The specialist curled his eyebrows and nodded slowly as he indulged Tom’s recitation of his hair loss blues. Then came the specialist’s turn to speak. He gave Tom the name of the hair loss malady, the Greek word “Alopekia.” Bald-headed Jesus! Exclaimed Tom, an irreverent ex-seminarian. What does that word mean? The good specialist doctor deadpanned and said, It means you’re losing your hair.

The memory of Tom’s hair loss diagnosis failed to satisfy my curiosity so I visited my alma mater Google University to find more authoritative pronouncements. Sure enough! All sorts of hair loss information from causes to prevention to state-of-the-art treatment popped up. Now we are talking! I selected a couple of sensible informational items on preventing or treating hair loss. Here they are:

LASER COMBS. I had never heard of laser combs but they are state of the art. In fact the laser comb is the only hair loss treatment to have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. A study found a significant increase in hair density in men after 26 weeks of applying a laser comb across the scalp 3 times a week. Something about the antioxidant effect of the laser on hair follicles make the improvement happen.

I rushed to the online stores to check the laser combs out. I found they are shaped like headbands and cost anywhere from $300 to $1000. What hair-raising prices! The ad photographs show men and women modelling the laser combs.

AVOID HAIRSTYLES THAT PULL THE HAIR AWAY FROM THE FACE. Say what? That was exactly what I wanted to do – pull my hair away from my face – to gently erase the fine wrinkles on my face. Which brings back another set of hair memories. When I was around 4 or 5 years old, I disliked combing my hair for no special reason except that I was able to have things my way. One day my grandmother caught me, doused coconut oil on my scalp, untangled my hair, pulled them in a pony tail, and tied it with a strip of rag. It was so tight it took me a while to blink my eyes. Henceforth my grandmother and I switched to the staring mode.

I have begun the long-hair project abandonment. I’ll just keep the fine hair short and loose and let it all hang out.

Happy dance!

California 420: CBD-Spiked Caramels

The beauty of living in a premier retirement resort is that I meet some very interesting individuals who rock the planet.  There’s the lawyer who was hired by the pope to defend sexually abusive Catholic priests.  He got them off the hook.  Bad dude by some people who go by strict moral standard.  There’s the 86-year-old genius Chinese-speaking White man who designs super-high-end speakers (price tag $75,000 each) and have them built in his factory in China. Then there’s “Stan,” a married Anglo man whose wife does not know a different Asian senior babe dangles from his arm every hour at the golf course and aquatic pools.  Or maybe the wife knows! After all they’ve been married 45 years. Hey, what do I know? All I know is that Stan owns a “420” factory and kind of peddles the goods around to his buddies.

The first time I heard “420,” the term tickled my blogging mind.  What could that possibly mean? I thought 420 mg? of what? Highway 420? where the original peddler plied his trade? But there’s no such highway in CA although there’s one in Ontario, Canada. I thought, Nah.  I better revisit my alma mater Google University.  My colleagues there always come up with a good answer.

Sure enough! In the cannabis culture, starting in the early 1970’s, the term 420, pronounced four-twenty, is slang for the consumption of cannabis, especially smoking marijuana around the time 4:20pm. Whoa! Where have I been all my life? Why am I always the last one to know? It happened to young gorgeous engineer babes whose heads were buried in the sand. There were not too many of us those days.

So back to Stan. His 420 caramels come in the size of a large date, the fruit, not the romantic appointment. I remember the day he gave me a taste treat. BT and I were sitting together in my golf cart. Stan handed me a caramel and looked me in the eye. Read my lips, he said. Eat only one-half. It’s enough to get you to sleep. I don’t know where he got the idea I had a sleep problem. Stan said it usually takes effect an hour to an hour and a half after consumption.

That night at 8:30, my eyes glistened with excitement at the sight of the golden caramel candy. It beckoned me, as in Go for the whole, not a half! So I did what a compliant senior babe whose lost appetite in her early cancer days was recovered by medical marijuana (MMJ): I ate the whole thing. Let me make it clear. I have no sleep or appetite problem. but sometimes a curiosity issue does arise uncontrollably especially to one who’s still filling her cup before her number’s up.

After an hour, OMG! The bed spun out of control. My blood glucose plummeted to zero, I surmised, totally forgetting about the caramel. I had to blame something. I knew food would alleviate the hypoglycemia but I was too wasted to get up. So I did the next best thing. I straightened my body on the bed and crossed my arms across my chest the way Cleopatra did after the venomous asp bit her finger. I closed my eyes and raised my eyebrows. The pose assured me of a glamorous appearance in case I woke up dead in the morning.

But my eyes did not stay shut for long. The rest of the night I kept opening them in horror, hoping the evil images careening towards me were only imaginary.

Amazingly I live to tell this tale, to swear off Stan’s whole caramel, and to consider following instructions next time and just eat a half for a trip to a glorious high.  Weeks later I tried just a half but it did not work either.  It destroyed me  as bad as the whole one did.  Thus  my pursuit of recreational CA 420 ended.

Happy dance!!!

 

 

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The Kidney/Bladder Thing

 

So my Primary Care Physician (PCP) instructed his registered nurse (RN) to get the insurance company’s approval for an ultrasound test for “a cancer survivor who complains of frequent urination.”  That would be me.  That same day I received the go-ahead.

So compliant senior babe shuffled to the ultrasound place, a room where a pretty young lady technician looking like an Indian – as in India near Pakistan – greeted me with a drop-dead gorgeous smile.  I felt so welcome my tummy immediately yearned to be caressed by the warmed jelly of the ultrasound machine sensor.

She handed me a blue floral cotton hospital gown. Wear this gown with opening at the back, she said, promised to be back in a few minutes, and closed the door behind her.

I assumed I had to take it all off because the last time I had an ultrasound, no one gave me a gown.  If Miss India had stuck around a couple of seconds longer I would have asked for exact undressing specifications.  So I removed everything from my body and wore the gown with the opening at the back. When Miss India returned, she was horrified that my jeans were not showing under the knee-length gown! Put your pants back on! She ordered excitedly and rushed out again.

Not used to seeing a horrified technician, I quickly put my jeans on and laid down face up on the small examination bed.  Miss India returned and did her ultrasound motions on my belly.

A week later, RN phoned and told me, There’s nothing wrong with your kidney/bladder. Come to the office and PCP will focus on the urinary tract infection (UTI) angle.

RN gave me a small see-through plastic container with my name and birth date on a paper label.  Put some urine in it and give it to the lab downstairs, she instructed me.  I was pretty sure she wanted my urine.  Excellent idea, I gushed.  I’m probably just having a UTI.  I haven’t had one of those puppies in a long time.

The following day RN phoned me.  There are some white blood cells in your urine, she said.  Pick up the cipro antibiotics that I phoned in to your pharmacist.

Little obedient senior babe moseyed on to CVS and picked up the antibiotics.  I was to take 2 pills a day for 7 days. But wait there’s more.  After 2 days on the pills go back to the lab for a urine test, said RN over the phone. You might not be taking the right antibiotic. What is this, trial and error? I asked in feigned horror.  She answered, No! It’s just good to get you started right away on an antibiotic while your urine sample is being cultured to determine the right one.

After 2 days, I did as told.  Sure enough I was on the wrong antibiotics.  It didn’t fix the urgent and frequent urination of small volume.  I was put on a new one for 7 days.  It seemed to work but the nasty UTI sensations returned after 3 days.  I took another urine test and I was put on a third antibiotic – a sulpha this time – for another 7 days.  Hope it works, said RN.  Me too, I agreed. I don’t intend to make a career out of taking urine tests.

So far, the sulfa seems to be working. RN told me to take another urine test after I swallow the last pill.

So my conscientious PCP keeps me hopping in retirement.  There’s no room for boredom but plenty of time for visualizing successes.  Successful treatment, for example.

Always look at the bright side!

 

What October Brings

Whoa! October is already halfway! It’s Exclamation Point Day!

October always brings excitement to me. In addition to the October Fest images of frosted mugs, ice-cold beer, and yards of bratwursts, it is a day in this month of the year that I look forward to:  my annual meeting with my Primary Care Physician (PCP).  It’s the time we come face to face; when he takes an inventory of everything medically wrong with me; and when he gets this uncontrollable urge to refer me to specialists.  He firmly believes that between him, the specialists, and me, I can break Methuselah’s record of 969 years of life.  I like the way his mind works.

Sure enough, on October 8th we met.   Hello Bikini Lady, he opened up.  I laughed to acknowledge his great memory.  In last year’s October meeting,  he had told me I reached the perfect weight.  Do not lose any more.   With cancer, he added, you must have some extra fat in your body.  I disagreed.  I said I don’t let cancer control my weight.  What controls it then? he asked.  I responded, My bikini does.  It can only let out so much  strings.  And I boomed a blast of a laughter.

He reviewed my blood test results.  Everything is good, he smiled.  But your kidney functions are still a tad low.  But that’s not unusual for cancer survivors, he tried to console me.  I let out a heavy sigh of relief.  What was that about? he asked.  I replied, I’m relieved beer is not the culprit.  He reviewed the bottles of medication that he had required me to bring.  He saw calcium pills, not gummies.  My compliance brought a new smile to his face.

He directed his nurse to give me a flu shot.  Afterwards, PCP asked, Is there anything at all that bothers you? Like last year, I felt under pressure to complain about a health issue but I was prepared.  It’s my bladder.  I think it’s overactive.  I’m not incontinent but the urination frequency sure gets in the way of life.  His face lit up.  Good, he said.  I’ll refer you to a urologist.  So a urologist will soon join the specialists to whom PCP has referred me.

Another excitement this October brings is the prospect of closure of my personal injury lawsuit.  It’s been 10 months since a car hit my left shoulder from the back.  A cortisone shot followed by ten months of physical therapy has brought back some range of motion for my left arm.  I can now tie bathing suit strings on my back.  My lawyer and I have agreed to submit our bill to the opposing insurance attorney.   Waiting is the word these days.

Early this October I also met with my Onc Smiley.  He reviewed the blood test results, did his stethoscope  motions, then jabbed his fingers in my armpits and neck looking for swollen lymph nodes. Having found none, he said, Everything is fine and you look good.  We’ll do scans in February, which makes it once every 9 months. Wait a minute, I said and raised a question about the last CT scan where I read something about a 5 millimeter nodule.  Oh you have a ton of those 5, 6, 7, 8 millimeter nodules.   We don’t get excited about them because  they are neither getting bigger nor smaller, therefore stable.

Oh yes, the little fellas, the Milky Way in my designer lungs.  Still keeping me company after nearly 7 years.

Happy dance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There’s Luck!

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The Author’s Face in the Crowd, Wearing the Fateful Progressive Eyeglasses
My late mother – bless her soul – used to brag to anyone who cared to listen about how lucky her two-year-old rambunctious little Celia was; and how many times she had saved the future drama queen from drowning in the shallow river that ran through our sleepy farming town. To this day I still blame her for crushing my Olympic swimming potentials. Unfortunately, she’ll never know in her eternal resting place how lucky I have gotten.  I found what I thought had been lost for good.  I finally got reunited with my pair of expensive progressive eyeglasses which I had already written off after two weeks of diligent searching.   First, a brief background….

In the evening of the day after Christmas of 2017, a big Ford sedan accidentally hit my left shoulder from behind as I crossed a major road that traverses the retirement resort where I live.  Three weeks later at the resort pool, I learned this was how my significant other (BT) had recalled the accident to our buddies: The collision propelled Celia 80 feet up in the air then she dropped face down smacked against the pavement of the outside lane of the road.  Amazingly, she sashayed out of the accident scene like the winner in RuPaul’s TV fashion show.

BT never witnessed the accident but I love his version. It makes me feel like a trapeze acrobatic star.  But seriously, the impact of my face on the asphalt pavement flattened the eyeglass thingies on my nose.  Fortunately my nose is also flat and it helped to prevent serious harm.  However, the expensive eyeglasses which were prescribed for nearsightedness and astigmatism became worthless.

As soon as I could, I went to an optometrist’s office and used my very recent prescription in the in-house optical store.  Knowing the insurance company was paying for a new pair of eyeglasses as part of the pain-and-suffering settlement, I ordered the most expensive lenses that darken against the sun and transition from clear long distance to close-up images, eliminating bifocal lines.  The progressive eyeglasses cost $600, the most expensive ones I’ve ever owned.   Usually when quoted $200 for new glasses, my face begins to exhibit symptoms of an impending nervous breakdown.

I wore the sexy new glasses happily in the days, weeks, and months that followed. Because I never had to take them off to read menus, magazines, bills, and my smartphone, I wore them without holders that dangle to my chest from both sides of my face.

One day I took the glasses off and lost them!  I don’t remember the reason and the place but had a good idea of the events that day plus and minus another day.  Sleuthing for the progressive eyeglasses went in earnest.

I  remembered taking my glasses off when I had to put my face down on the hole of the massage table in the office the physical therapist (PT).  I called PT.  He said, No one has seen them.  I called the cabbie who drove me home, thinking I might have dropped them in the taxi.  Cabbie said Sorry not here.   BT and I returned to the Chinese restaurant where we had lunch.  Checking by phone would have invited too much aggravation.  Only the cashier there speaks English.  The lost-and-found basket yielded no progressive glasses.  I phoned the bus drivers.  None there.  At every clubhouse, I inspected the lost-and-found chest.  Zero.  I repeated the process the following days.  Still zip, nada.  I told anybody within 3 feet of me about my lost pricey glasses.

At the end of the exhaustive research week, at the retirement resort pool, a regular session attendee handed me a clipping from our local newsletter.  The article said a man with a Chinese name had found a pair of progressive eyeglasses in the vicinity of my recent whereabouts and would like to find the rightful owner and gave his phone number.  OMG, my heart jumped for joy!  What are the chances? How many people could have possibly lost progressive glasses at the same time and the same place?  I thought, Those glasses are mine! They belong to me!

I googled the finder’s name, hoping I’d read more about this awesome gentleman who had taken the time to write an article in the paper about found glasses and look for the owner, who would be me.  I’ve got to know this dude in advance.

Several same-named guys popped up in my research, ranging from computer expert to an oncologist, to a fortune teller.  I thought only women are into fortune telling.   I went ahead and called the finder’s number.  Major disappointment!  A man had already claimed the progressive eyeglasses.

I gave up.  Or so I thought.  I took a vacation in Calgary and stayed with a couple of my favorite people.  I focused on enjoying great hospitality,  nutritious food, beautiful sceneries, and surviving the worst pollen allergy in my memory chest which also held my dear glasses.

Three days after returning home, BT and I set out to pick up my prescription and order 2 for $69 eyeglasses at a special sale.  But first we needed to eat lunch.  We headed to our favorite Chinese restaurant.   As I sauntered into the place, I felt a tug at my gut.  Just one last time, I told BT.  I will check the lost-and-found basket.

The restaurant cashier handed me the basket. Sunglasses of every style! I sorted through them, and underneath, saw a pair of clear eyeglasses like the pair I’d been searching for. My heart skipped a beat.  I tried the glasses on and voila! The sky opened, the angels broke into Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and I could see the cash through the restaurant register.  I am the only person on this earth who can wear this!!!!, I exclaimed to the nearby waiters none of whom understood a word I said. They simply exchanged bewildered glances.  I sashayed back to our table, ear-to-ear smile, sporting two pairs of eyeglasses: the lost-and-found expensive ones on my face, and the old cheap ones dangling on my chest from my neck.

Don’t we all love happy endings! Happy dance.

 

 

The Summer of Refunds, Odds, and Ends

 

This blog update is overdue and in response to some faithful followers who have been wondering: What’s going on? Is Poksa still boogieing? Did she get her six-figure-pain-and-suffering traffic accident settlement and decided to just keep filling her cup until her number’s up?

I can explain. What happened was, I was too busy trying to get refunds and tying up odds and ends.

The pursuit of refunds began when my Plus One, henceforth referred to as BT, convinced me to plant a fruit salad tree in the front yard of my minimalist manor.  What do I know about fruit salad trees, you ask.  Nothing. I am a retired professional civil engineer whose knowledge of plants was limited to the old cherry tree on the ground near the Albuquerque sewage treatment plant.  It sure bears the sweetest cherries  I have ever tasted.  Anyway the fruit salad tree that I was talked into planting was a tree that had a variety of citrus fruits – oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits – already on the branches.  They had been grafted.  I paid $149 for the tree which I fondly named Hugo, (variation of Jugo, Spanish for juice).  Hugo was guaranteed to be a source of my lifetime supply of citrus.  Money back was also guaranteed if Hugo died and is returned to Home Depot within a year of purchase.  BT promised to provide the horticultural services free of charge. In his previous life, he supplied plants to offices and businesses.

Well, in spite of BT’s tender loving horticultural care for and some heart-to-heart conversation with Hugo, it still went kaput.  He blamed the soil, the mites, the root system, a sick palm tree,  everything.  Hugo’s demise broke my heart but the prospect of the refund of my money softened the blow.  So BT dug poor dead Hugo up from the ground, loaded it on my golf cart, and off he drove the three of us to Home Depot for Hugo’s proper funeral and refund of my mullah.

As it turned out, what Home Depot didn’t tell me when I bought the tree was that the refund was going to be in the form of store credit.  Prior to the tree purchase, I had not been a Home Depot store kind of guy.  Now I have to think of a home improvement project to get my money back.

Other purchases with guaranteed money-back return possessed me: a hidden microphone finder that promised more than it could deliver and a door bell video that required more technology than I had imagined.  These purchases happen to little old ladies who live alone and watch a lot of True Crime TV.  By the way, the retirement resort is very safe.

But don’t get me wrong.  I am not of the chicken persuasion.  I am not a bit scared.  As a matter of fact, last year when my little sister was a guest in my manor, she went out with friends and later when she tried to return through the retirement resort gate, the security guard refused to let her in citing a technicality.  Instead he sent a security trainee to my house to get my consent to let the “pretender” guest in. The young clueless man knocked on the door.  I ignored the tapping at first.  Next thing I knew I was seeing the silhouette of a man’s face and the palms of his hands plastered flat on the drapeless glass window, like a scene in a horror movie. What do you want? I yelled. Of course the glass window prevented him and me from hearing each other.  So I rushed to the house front – put on a robe first – opened the door then asked the same question: What do you want? He asked if my sister was trying to gate crash.  I said, She has a pass. Let her in.

The security story ended happily and taught me valuable lessons.  A minimalist manor is good but it needs the minimum required bedroom window curtain for privacy.  Also turn the cellphone on when expecting someone.  The phone serves its purpose that way.

On the health front, it has been uneventful.  I’m not complaining.  Uneventful is good.  All I had was my every-three-months callus scraping from my podiatrist in my primary care physician’s office.  The scraping/buffing always takes less than 30 seconds.  I often wonder how much he collects from Medicare.

On the fronts requiring closure, some good news.

My fight with the insurance company is over.  The case concerned the liquid biopsy after the end of my CO-1686 trial participation.  A year has passed and I never heard from the insurance again after the letter that said, We agree with you.  Thousands of dollars that I did not have to pay and did not want to pay!

The AARP gentleman volunteer lived up to his promise to file my income tax towards the end of summer.  I had to pay a whopping $6.00 to the federal government.  Win some lose some.

The physical therapy for my right shoulder which was injured in the traffic accident the night after the 2017 Christmas is winding down.  The latest MRI showed progress has been made but there is still some inflammation in the traumatized area of the shoulder joint.  Since some important range of motion has returned, the physical therapists are concentrating on strengthening the left shoulder.  By October everybody hopes to settle the price of pain and suffering.

It’s a good thing I take things in stride.

Happy dance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June, CT Scan, & Tagrisso

Last month – June – brought exciting events.  June is my cancerversary month – the 6th this year. A few days after posting my 6th cancerversary story, I had my scheduled chest and abdomen CTscans, the kind that requi red me to drink two bottles of the white chalky raspberry-flavored barium shake over a period of 2-1/2 hours. It had been 7 months since the last time I went through those motions.  Then came the CT scan procedure and soon it was over.

After dislodging myself from the CT scan contraption, I thought, Wow, the results better be awesome, after all I had just crowed in my blog update how great I am doing, hopefully boosting the spirits of the afflicted others. The fans who exist only in my imagination would be terribly heartbroken if I post that something horrible is seen in the latest scan images.  I like to fantasize being deeply cared for by wonderful humans other than myself.

The moment of truth came.  My smartphone notified me that Onc Dr Smiley had a message in the Patient Portal.  I went there and there it was: a short paragraph from the happy-faced doctor announcing that he and his family will be off for over a week for their summer vacation.  I quickly glanced at my face in the mirror to look for indications  that I gave a hoot about his family’s whereabouts.  Finding none, I returned to the smartphone. There was another email!  It contained a short paragraph summarizing the radiologist’s good report on my CT scans.

But I wanted to read the full report.  I had this crying need to use the knowledge gained from my web oncology degree.  Use it or lose it, so they say.  I don’t know who they are.

I sent a message to Dr Smiley who was by then in transit with his clan. I said, Kindly post the full radiology report in the Patient’s Portal.  Lo and behold, I had barely hit “send” when his registered nurse phoned me and said that Dr Smiley had asked her to respond to my request. She then proceeded to read the same short paragraph that I read. Like I was illiterate!  Later in the day, under Dr Smiley’s name, the full radiology report appeared in the Patient’s Portal.

So I read the report, word for word, line by line, reading between the lines, periodically asking my distinguished colleague Dr Google for his interpretations.  Long story short, my take: Everything in the chest and abdomen was stable or within normal limits. The tiny nodules too numerous to count still populate the lungs.  Conclusion:  My designer lungs persevere!

There we have it.  Tagrisso has been rocking it for 19 months.

Feel free to ask questions.