“I was hideous. Hideous. In preparing for chemo I’d thought about the hair loss, of course, and concentrated on the fact that it would grow back. I thought about losing my eyelashes and decided eye shadow and liner would work miracles. I knew of the bloating weight gain the steroids could cause but told myself that was better than nausea and again it was temporary; after all, Seamus (dog) had gained 20 percent of his body weight and just as quickly was back in fighting shape. Menopause would come, sure, but it was going to do that sooner or later anyway, and before it happened I was no more aware than anyone else of the true meaning of hot flashes and how you burn from the inside out, so that hadn’t bothered me either. Somehow I had overlooked skin rashes as a side effect and never, never had I given thought to what these side effects would all be like together. Not until that moment, face to mirrored face. …….. How does one recover from this? Impossible. ……. I can’t do this. I can’t”.
Heaven forbid and if one ever has to go through cancer treatment, having read this book not only would help one navigate the morass of health care system, but also giver clear hope that not only “it too shall pass” but it is worth waiting for the “cookie moment”.
Teresa poured her heart and soul (not to mention her hard earned money) to take her beagle, Seamus, survive through an aggressive form of cancer. She cried buckets of tears, took him for his biopsy and chemo appointments, rushed him to the hospital when his white blood count dropped dangerously low, and stood up to the neglectful veterinarians, to get him the care he needed. However, in one of life’s cruel ironies, before long she discovered that she had a lump in her breast and the biopsy showed it to be the one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, a triple negative breast cancer. How does one survive such traumas? The answer is “love”.
Some may consider this a story of surviving cancer, but this is a story about the rock, the glue, and the toast. After being divorced twice, Teresa had a new boyfriend Chris, ten years younger, smart, funny, wise, and infinitely kind. Little did they know that he would be the rock (the pack leader) on whom she would need to lean during both Seamus’s and her own illness and treatment. When Teresa is completely dejected and feels she can’t do this anymore, he bakes her cookies at four in the morning, drives her to all her medical appointments, tries out wigs with her, and in solidarity as she looses her hair, he grows his hair, making a deal that he would only cut when she needed a cut, after the regrowth of her hair.
Teresa for her part is the glue that holds their family together. She leans on him but gives him space. She is infinitely grateful and brings her and Chris’s family into the fold, eventually bringing them to meet each other. Seamus who loves toast, steals people’s hearts with his cuteness. He brings much needed joyful respites to their little family.
I cry easily but this book did not make me cry. I teared up often reading this touching tender story, but I also laughed a lot. Deep grief is wrapped in smart, witty, humorous, funny anecdotes. And then there is treasure trove of information about little questions that are hard to get answered. Is it painful for the radioactive tracer to be injected in order to locate the tumor for a biopsy, how long it takes for a chemo treatment, how long does it take for radiation, and more.
And while majority of the health care personnel and physicians are compassionate, committed, and are deeply dedicated to the welfare of their patients, there are some who are clearly uninterested, detached, and neglectful. Teresa stands up (unfortunately not always succeeding) for her right as a patient to get timely information and reasonable care. One of the physicians who rarely sees her patients, leaving actual care in the hands of the nurses, assures Teresa (about her dangerous white blood count crash), these side effects are very common, and the nurses know how to deal with them. We deal with this stuff all the time.” Teresa points out, that the nurse did not have the answers on how to deal with them and says, “it’s not common to me. I don’t deal with it all the time”. Contrarily, she is enormously grateful and highly appreciative of the compassionate and thorough care she received at the UCLA cancer center and particularly Dr. Amer Karam.
This is an engaging, funny, sweet, uplifting, heartwarming story. After all, who would not like to read about a cute dog’s hilarious antics?