Monday, March 08, 2004

“Pulp Fiction”

2nd Half of DI #1

OK, you know those “FBI Most Wanted” posters that adorn the local post office? Or the handwritten notes you sometimes see on the cash registers of stores about not accepting checks from certain people? Well, I’m pretty sure Kendrie and I are next in line, to have our images plastered in IHOP restaurants nation-wide with a big notice underneath about “Do NOT serve these women in this restaurant!” Or maybe they’ll just put a picture of my big fat head, with a circle and a slash through it.

You see, Blaine and I started a new family tradition this year (is it already a tradition if we just started it? When does something actually *become* a tradition? Sort of like “1st Annual” … how can it be annual, if it’s only the first time?? But I digress………..) of pairing up, one kid with one parent, every Saturday morning for breakfast. We go round-robin, so the kids take turns going one at a time with Blaine for three weeks, then the next three weeks they go one at a time with me. The goal is an hour of uninterrupted time to visit and spend quality time together, just one kid with one parent. The idea behind it is when they become hormone-crazed, drug-addled, psychotic juvenile delinquents; at least the lines of communication will be open!

Saturday was Kendrie’s turn to go to breakfast with me. The kids get to choose the restaurant and for six weeks in a row, each kid has chosen IHOP. That’s fine with me; I like IHOP. So Kendrie and I go, and I asked to be seated as close to the bathroom as possible. (Warning, graphic information ahead) She had had diarrhea for three days at that point and I didn’t want to spend all morning walking through the restaurant if I didn’t have to. The host, a pleasant guy named Jerome, said no problem, and then proceeded to walk us to the booth as far from the bathroom as possible. I said, “I’m sorry, I wanted NEAR the restroom.” He looked at me like, “would you make up your mind, lady?” and moved us. Then he asked us what we would like to drink. This is the conversation, verbatim:

Kristie: “She’ll have chocolate milk and I’d like a large orange juice. Wait. Does the orange juice have pulp in it?”

Jerome: “Pulp?”

Kristie: “yes, pulp”

Jerome: “pulp?”

Kristie, “Yeah, you know, pulp

Jerome: “pulp?”

Kristie (speaking louder, in case Jerome was hard of hearing) “pulp. PULP. Does the orange juice have PULP in it?”

Jerome: (shrugs shoulders) “Uhhh, you’re asking the wrong person.”

The obvious question should have been, “Well, then who exactly do you suggest I ask?” but instead I just said, “Never mind, water.”

Then our waiter came over and took our order (chocolate chip pancakes, which by the way were FABULOUS if you’re going to IHOP anytime soon.) While we were waiting on our food, Kendrie entertained herself by coloring on the kids’ menu cartoon with the crayons they provided. Or I should say, trying to color. The only gave her gray, green and brown which doesn’t provide a lot of options. We were visiting, running back and forth to the bathroom, waiting politely, and at last the food arrived. I reached across the table to pour syrup on Kendrie’s pancakes, and then made what will go down in history as the smoothest move ever …. Set the syrup bottle down on her crayola masterpiece, getting a single, solitary drop of pancake syrup on the picture and ruining it forever.

Immediately, tears well up and I can see my grave mistake. Despite my assurances that we can get her a new, clean menu on the way out ….. she keeps getting more and more upset. Then, suddenly, with no warning, she went past “fussing” into all-out crying and came around the table to climb in my lap.

I was more than a little bewildered (it’s just a silly menu, after all, with a crummy color selection to begin with) and kept asking her what was wrong. Finally, she whispered in a dramatic stage voice, “Those people are getting too close to me!” I looked around, confused, as the tables on either side of us were empty. “Who are?” I asked. “Those people!! (Pause) I don’t know!” she wailed. “Good heavens, the chemo meds are making her hallucinate!” was my first thought. Just then, our waiter walked past and asked if anything was wrong. “We need a new kids’ menu, please” I said, with a slight look of panic in my eye. He innocently asked, “Oh, is there something wrong with her pancakes?” Kendrie is sobbing, people are staring, and in a voice similar to the one that came out of the little girl on The Exorcist, I hiss, “We don’t need food, just a clean menu”. I could see the thought in his eyes, “Jerome was right… this lady is a nutcase” but he did bring me a clean menu.

Then tonight, on our way home from Atlanta, we stopped for dinner at, you guessed it, IHOP. The thing I love about IHOP is that they serve pretty much everything, 24 hours a day. About the only thing they don’t serve is macaroni and cheese. Tonight for dinner, Kendrie decided she wanted macaroni and cheese. (Sigh.) So the waiter was standing at our table, and I was trying to explain to Kendrie that they didn’t have any mac & cheese. I’m running down the list of the other items she can choose, she’s shaking her head at every one, and the waiter finally says, “I’ll just go get your drinks while you decide” which everyone knows is Waiter-speak for “God, I hate my job and all the stupid people that come in here.”

Kendrie reluctantly agreed to eat mashed potatoes, and I clearly explained to the waiter that I needed them to be served WHITE. No pepper, no peel, no herbs or spices. WHITE. So then of course he brought them out with brown gravy on them and I had to send them back. He did then bring white potatoes, stopping only long enough to spit in them, I’m pretty sure. Then Kendrie didn’t touch the potatoes and only ate the butter that came on the side. Then she decided she wanted ice cream and the waiter looked at me like, “you have GOT to be kidding me!” and I broke down and said, “Hey, she’s on chemotherapy and I let her eat whatever tastes good, just so she eats.” But I still don’t think it bought us much sympathy. Especially when she announced the ice cream was “too cold” and didn’t eat it either. So I figure the next time I go into either of those two IHOPs, I will see my picture on the wall as a mug shot of sorts, and all the waiters will be playing even/odds to see who gets stuck with our table. Good thing there’s a Cracker Barrel just down the road.

Oh, the other interesting thing that happened at IHOP tonight was when a family came in and sat across the room from us. I could see the kids looking at Kendrie, and whispering to their parents, and I’ll admit I was a bit surprised. She had on a hat and I didn’t think it was obvious she was bald, but those kids could tell something was up. Then, when we got up on one of our numerous trips to the bathroom, I realized the guy in the booth behind us was an albino! I don’t know why I think that was so fascinating, except I can only remember seeing an albino one other time in my whole life. And hey, he WAS a lot more interesting looking than a little bald kid.

So our dinner at IHOP capped off a very long day for Kendrie, as she started the second half of her Delayed Intensification phase. The day began with an exam and port access at 8:30, then she had a spinal tap at 9:30, then an hour of iv hydration, then received zofran (anti-nausea drug) and two new chemo meds, cytoxan and cytarabine (both of which disrupt the DNA in cancer cells, preventing reproduction of those cells) followed by three more hours of iv hydration (to prevent possible bladder damage that these drugs can cause). She was tired and grumpy and bored and fussy.

Adding insult to injury was the fact she caught the stomach bug that Brayden and Kellen had last week and has had diarrhea for five days. In fact, she lost three pounds this week because of it. That's ten percent of her body weight, which is quite a bit for a little kid. But the insult came with the discovery that the AFLAC cancer center apparently orders their toilet paper from the "Acme Tree-Bark Company", and it was not a pleasant discovery, let me tell you. So bad, in fact, that I wound up going down to the parking garage to get some extra baby wipes out of the car. But, too little too late and we came home with an additional prescription for butt cream. So I have no doubt that sitting around the clinic for eight hours today didn’t help matters any. Also, once we arrived home she started her 14 days of oral 6-TG, and we’ll be giving her shots for the next three days.

I expressed concern to the oncologist that her counts hadn’t fallen yet. Chemotherapy is a double-edged sword. You want your child to feel well and not suffer too many side effects, but when their blood counts stay high, you worry that the chemo isn’t effective enough. After all, if it’s not even killing off the “good” cells how can it kill off the cancer cells? The doctor’s comment was “Don’t worry, even if her counts haven’t fallen in the first half of DI, you can bet they will in the second half.” So now we’ll wait and see what happens. Cytarabine (the shots we will administer) often causes fever so we have been instructed to watch for that. It also causes nausea so we will be giving anti-nausea medicine half an hour beforehand. But the biggest challenge comes with the oral medication, which must be given on an empty stomach at bedtime, no food or dairy for two hours before or two hours after. Preferably given right before bedtime. If the raw heiney doesn’t push her over the edge, going to bed without her beloved glass of chocolate milk certainly will.

Oh, and speaking of being pushed over the edge, apparently the little rodent who invented the computer virus that wiped out my hard drive last week has an even bigger geek cousin --- who hacked into my Pay Pal account today and bought a thousand dollars worth of Star Wars memorabilia and games with my credit card! Star Wars games!!! I mean, for Pete’s sake, if you’re going to be a thief, be a cool thief and buy big screen TV’s, or clothes, or jewelry. But Star Wars junk????? Come on! Thank heavens the site they ordered from raised a red flag since the person spent over a thousand dollars in less than 24 hours and so the company cancelled all the orders. Pay Pal assures me my card is secure …..

If it gets too crazy, can I call one of you to have dinner with me at IHOP and commiserate?

WORST THING ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Spending all stinkin’ day at that clinic! AND! I got a back poke and was supposed to get something out of the treasure box and my mom forgot about it with all the other stuff going on!

BEST THING ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Doing arts & crafts with Ms. Laura, the child-life specialist. I made a butterfly picture that she is submitting for a cancer-card contest. If they decide to print it, I will send everybody one!

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