Last night I was flipping through the channels look for something to watch. I really wanted to watch Scrubs, but WGN is still showing the episodes I’ve seen 400 times. When I saw that last night, I wanted to go off on my rant again, but at this point, why bother? It’s obvious they haven’t read my strongly worded letter yet.
Because of the WGN situation, I was forced to check my standby stations. Some of my standby channels are: VH1 (which was showing Daisy of Love or Charm School – and while I’m usually a sucker for both of these shows, I’ve sworn off Daisy of Love because not only is Daisy annoying as fuck, but the guys they picked for her are even more annoying than she is. I’ve also decided not to watch Charm School, because half the girls are from Real Chance at Love and I didn’t watch that one. Plus, I’ve over the whole Charm School concept, after tuning into the first one with Monique). Anyways, since VH1 came up snakeyes, I tried the Food Network, Biography Channel, BBC America, Discovery Channel, TLC and QVC. All were showing nothing I was overly interested in. I was left to surfing the remaining channels, in the hopes I could find something.
I came across the Farrah Fawcett documentary (“Farrah’s Story”) on her battle with cancer on Bravo. As a little kid, I was a Farrah fan. I watched “Charlie’s Angels” and I even had one of those busts of Farrah where you could style her beautiful feathered hair and put makeup on her. I know they still make these types of toys – although certainly not Farrah anymore. Today they’re some Bratz incarnation where the doll looks like a whore instead of a wholesome, All-American cheerleader in the form of feathered-haired-perfect-teeth-beautifully-blonde Farrah.
I remember getting the Farrah bust for Christmas one year and nearly dying over it because I loved playing with it. I also remember being super pissed at my mom that year because she made me share it with her boyfriend du jour and his two daughters, who I swear, fucked up Farrah’s hair. Or used all of the purple eyeshadow, or some other heinous crime. Anyway—I’m getting away from the topic at hand.
I decided to watch a bit of the documentary because I was curious. Howard Stern had been talking about it all week last week – his comments were specifically on how it’s sad how Farrah is dying of cancer, and he wondered on why someone would want to film the battle in all its graphic detail. He wondered if she was so hungry for fame, that she’d stoop to filming her horrific battle for a last morsel of attention. I doubted that she filmed it because of a sick quest for fame – I believe she filmed it because it’s something that no one has done before, or at least no one famous and in such a graphic manner. I’m pretty sure she wanted to show how cancer attacks and makes you a shell of the person you once were. At one point in the documentary, her voiceover was talking about how cancer robbed her of the life she used to have – the life that she took for granted, and how much she wanted to fight to get that life back so she could appreciated it this time around.
I didn’t watch the whole thing because I ended up going to bed around midnight and there was still an hour left. But I have to admit, it affected me – and not for the obvious reasons. Yes, Farrah Fawcett has a special place in my childhood, and yes, her battle with cancer is both fascinating and heartbreaking. But what affected me was that it reminded me of the battle my mom had with a disease called Amyloidosis. My mom sort of looks like Farrah Fawcett – she’s a beautiful petite, blue-eyed, blonde with a pretty smile – which is what first made me think of her while watching Farrah’s story. Amyloidosis is a very rare blood disease that is treated in a number of ways – mainly with chemotherapy. My mom found out she had this disease during my first year of law school. She got very sick, and was in the hospital for months. She underwent chemotherapy, lost a bunch of weight (she was already thin to begin with, but probably got down to about 100 lbs.), lost a lot of her beautiful, thick blonde hair, and also underwent a stem cell transplant. Most people don’t even know they have amyloidosis until it’s too late, because the symptoms usually point to other problems. For example, with my mom, it started with her ankles swelling up. The doctors all thought something was wrong with her liver, and she underwent a million tests on her liver (with the final one being a biopsy). Nope, no cancer…but finally one of the doctors recognized it was amyloidosis.
What I remember most during her diagnosis and treatment was all of the stress I was under. I know it sounds selfish, but picture this – I started law school when Daughter was 8 months old. By January of that first school year, my mom was in the hospital. She was the primary person that was helping with Daughter, because Husband was a new father and like all new fathers, was a bit of a dipshit when it came to babies. I couldn’t really visit my mom all that much in the hospital, because I was working full-time during the day, went to classes Monday-Thursday evenings, and then tried to study and do all of my homework on the weekends (besides still trying to be a mom and wife). Plus, because of the chemo and stem cell transplant, my mom was uber-sensitive to germs, and we all know babies who go to daycare are germ factories. So it was probably best I didn’t visit her, in case I was incubating some germ that would kill her.
She got out of the hospital in March, and then was basically under house arrest for 90 days. She wasn’t really allowed to got out in public, again for fear that germy people would expose her to a cold or something, which would be fatal. Through the whole thing, I did talk to her on the phone a lot, and she sort of lost her marbles for a time being. She talked a lot about God, and how she was going to survive and all of that. She really did have a great mental attitude, even if she was a little bit loopy (seriously, she was kind of spooky-crazy. Difficult to describe, just trust me on this one.) Of course, she tried to mask the seriousness of her condition from me, because she’s a mom and that’s what mom’s do. They try and protect you from the truth and try to make you not afraid. By then, though, I was a grown woman and therefore, not stupid or immune to the seriousness of her condition. I mean, come on, mom. I’m just one of those people who keeps all fear and emotions bottled up. So just because I’m not balling my eyes out or babbling on over how scared I am, doesn’t mean I’m not scared shitless that you’re gonna die and not see your granddaughter grow up. I just choose to stick my head in the sand and not face it until it’s absolutely necessary.
And in case you’re wondering – my mom is definitely 100% cured, even though every now and then she gets scared that amyloidosis is going to come back (or that the damage it caused to her liver and heart will become serious). She’s gained back the weight she lost and pretty much looks the same as she did before she got sick. The only real difference, which is not really noticeable to the outside world, is that her hair is so much thinner now. Like I described, her hair was so thick (I mean, I’ve never known anyone to have such thick hair as she did) and it was so blonde and pretty. I always envied her blonde hair (I have to highlight mine to get it anywhere near blonde, whereas hers was natural). Although she doesn’t have a bald spot or anything, if you touch her hair now, it’s baby fine and thin. It makes me think of Farrah and her world-renowned blonde hair, and how much it was her identify, and now, in her last stages of cancer, she’s probably bald. Oh, the sad irony.
Anywhoosit, from what I understand, most people die from amyoidosis, because it attacks your organs (with my mom it started in her liver, damaging that along with her heart). People much older and weaker than my mom find out they have it – thus cannot survive the aggressive treatment of chemotherapy or the stem cell transplant, and instead just take medications that treat the symptoms and not the disease – and then die not too long after their diagnosis. However, 6 years ago, my mom was 48 and was determined to treat it with the most aggressive means. I also know that most people do not survive amyloidosis after five years, but this summer will by my mom’s 6th year being totally “cured”. She is a walking miracle. And in case I ever forget this tidbit – she reminds me all the time. As an example, I texted her while I was writing this because I couldn’t remember the name of the disease:
Me: What was the name of your disease again? I forget.
Mom: Amyloidosis. Rare blood disease. Look it up and be in wonder of God’s miracles.
Yeah. So, y’all. Look it up and be in wonder of God’s miracles. Sorry, I’m being sarcastic here, even though I really am thankful to God that she survived the disease in order to torture me on a daily basis with The Crazy. Really. I swear.