Sunday, December 27, 2009

the day after

one day after chemo, two days after christmas. i've decided that all this cancer-craziness will be over by the first of february. maybe even sooner if i can work it.

from my last set of blood tests, more than 3 weeks ago, there was barely any sign of the hormones this rare uterine cancer produces. in fact, the chemo nurse was so overexcited he came rushing into the hospital room to wake me up and tell me.

the worst thing that can happen during holidays is getting sick.

a last-minute strep throat and your only choice is four-hours under fluorescent lights surrounded by moaning injuries at the emergency room, or hope for the minute clinic at the CVS - if it's still open.

all the serious doctors leave town. as they should, it's a grueling job, they need a vacation. but that means there is lots of room for being ignored. for stuff happening on automatic pilot. for nurses saying, "i can't do anything until i talk to the doctor." to a doctor. to any doctor...

the nurses who are left shuffling around the hospital continue like automatrons, simply following the printed list of instructions.

in 1995, i had a baby (zarina) one desolate weekend when my ob-gyn was out sick, her replacement called in off the golf course and his hands were shaking through the process of sewing up my episotomy (a procedure no longer deemed necessary). i ended up fainting in a pool of blood as the nurse nervously tried to cover herself because of course everyone else had jumped ship by sunday.

anyway, yesterday, i asked the nurse about my chemo and she had no real answers, partly because she didn't even know who i was, she was just filling in.

i complained about my usual aches and pains and she gave me some blood tests and my potassium levels were elevated but she couldn't do anything about it because there were no doctors around.

i got no real answers about what they were doing and when it was going to end.

here's what my doctor wants to do: keep giving me chemo even after the cancer is gone.

here's what i've learned: the more chemo you get, the higher your chance of future cancers, tumors and secondary infections.

so tomorrow i will call the doctor's office and see if i can get control of this - and a real date for when this is all over.

job 2: keeping my parents calm through the process. it IS hard watching your child suffer and be unwell. but when you're the child, keeping your parents pacified and positive rather than gloomy and pointing out all the past mistakes that got you where you are is draining.

that said, i woke up this morning feeling really sorry for myself. 3 kids, no job, no hair, no love life (let alone a husband or a partner), cancer, nausea and on top of that a god-awful headcold.

and then i saw the copy of oprah on the back of the toilet - with the interview with elizabeth gilbert (eat, pray, love) and i thought about how much i disliked her. typical, over-indulged upper middleclass white woman syndrome. moaning about how she didn't really want to be married to her husband but she didn't know why, losing sleep not over how she was going to keep everyone fed and clothed and in school but why she didn't want to have children.

then (more offensively) she had to go to INDIA - my homeland - that produces instant epiphanies in the minds of self-absorbed americans and indonesia to actually realize that it was not all about her.

and after thinking about how whiny she was. it occurred to me that i was actually being really pathetic myself.

(there are brief flashes when i remember that when you take an immediate and vehement dislike to something it's probably something you dislike in yourself.)

so here's what i got for christmas:

3 loving, healthy (in body and often, in mind) and growing girls
1 apartment that i still own (not foreclosed on) in tribeca
2 very involved and still married parents
1 very supportive brother
1 very supportive sister-in-law
2 super-cute nephews
1 delicious niece
1 amicable divorce
1 occasionally helpful and supportive ex-husband


a few really great friends
clean water rushing out of the tap, breathable air, electricity, cable tv (even if it's not working right now), internet
lots of nice clothes (even after selling a lot of them)
lots of organic food in the fridge
cheerful, not-broken furniture

1 cancer that is, apparently, highly curable

an easily-tickled sense of humor (as i say about myself, i suffer fools gladly. even romantically, it turns out... :)

a nice smile.


  1. You left out a few things which I would like to add:
    beautiful (inside and out), generous, talented with words like no other, strong and intelligent (both spiritually and intellectually). And, after all you have been through you have every right to whine just a bit...

  2. Ameena, I don't really know you very well, my road just cross yours very fast few years ago, but I still remember you as a incredible person.
    Reading your story is a gift... sorry to say that, because what happens to you is so difficult for you and your family, but your analyse is so right, the way you decide to turn the situation and to learn about your life is such a lesson for everybody... You are the one who is sick, but you are the one who give hope, love, faith and light to your readers : Thanks !!!
    hope ta read more soon, and wish you'll be ok before february !
    (please excuse my awful english...)

  3. Reading this tickled me. You are such a good writer. You always manage to place the words so that the reader feels what you are expressing. So difficult yet you make it seem so easy. Look, it's okay to be scared, tired, frustrated, angry, depressed, sad, impatient or even think that you are unlucky. You have cancer for God sake! Please milk it for all you can.

  4. I read this again today. I just stumbled on it and read it AGAIN. And it was as though I was reading it for the first time. In fact, I was shocked to see that I had left a comment nearly 3 years ago. I marvel at you Ameena. You are simply amazing. I watched my dear father go through chemo and I hoped the whole time that he could find it in himself to survive. Because it is the mind over the matter. You were deep in my thoughts during this time. Thank you for being so strong and sharing it with the rest of the world.