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Chemo Round 59, Austin, and Miami

Even with this annoying pulmonary embolism (Pierre) weighing heavily in my lung, I don’t let anything slow me down or hold me back. Chemo Round 59 and the adventures that followed were perfect examples of that fact.

Infusion went well, as always. I was taken care of beautifully by my nurses in the day hospital, cozy in my bed with about half a dozen warm blankets piled on me. I had a great time with Dr. Lenz and Taline, as always. And I got through the next two days pretty well. The only real problem with my chemo regimen is the Zaltrap, which is extremely fatiguing. I can get through the headache and overall grossness from the FOLFIRI, but I feel the Zaltrap lag for days and days after the other side effects have lifted. To add that exhaustion to my already labored breathing because of Pierre means I’m not nearly as active as I’d like to be.

Having said that, though, I should add that on Wednesday night, when I should have been tucked away in a bed, I was at Union Station in Downtown L.A. boarding an Amtrak train to Austin, Texas. Why am I so crazy? Well, Austin City Limits, an awesome music festival, was starting that Friday and I wasn’t planning on missing it. Why in God’s name did I take a train? One, because of Pierre and my desire to limit flying until this clot is less of a beast. Second, because I knew I’d be going on a plane the following week. Third, I’m a strange girl and I thought it would be fun.

My mom came with me and we did have a serious adventure on our way to Austin. We made the mistake of not booking a private room for the trip over there, but that mistake made for some interesting encounters. Our area was on the lower level and pretty private, only holding about 12 people, but some of those 12 were…well, unique. The first lady we sat next to, who wound up getting moved to the general passenger area since that’s what she paid for, was clearly addicted to meth. She was missing a tooth AND a bra. We were nice to her, and she mentioned that she only had $4 in her purse and was going to the middle of nowhere in Arizona and had no idea how she’d get to her final destination. We smiled and clutched our purses a little tighter. Another dude walked in and was studying the overhead area where the luggage was as if he was scoping out a spot for his stuff. The only problem was that he had no stuff. We pulled our carry-on luggage off the upper ledge and put our bags under our seats. And a couple of guys, who wound up being very nice to us, staggered in during the middle of the night. One of those guys couldn’t stop burping and hiccupping beer smells through the night. Luckily, my mom was closer to him and I had my headphones on, because I don’t know if a slightly queasy chemo tummy could have handled that.

We got to Austin a day and a half later, on Friday morning, and we were quickly picked up by my buddy Jordan, who was already in town staying with his parents. He brought us back to his family’s home, and I luxuriated in the most comfortable accommodations ever. Jordan’s parents are some of the most wonderful people on Earth, and made sure that despite my chemo-related fatigue, I was as cozy and well-taken care of as possible. His mom even bought me a blanket, the cushiest and warmest blanket that Pottery Barn has ever made. I was tired, but happy.

We wound up skipping Austin City Limits on Friday because I needed to rest and Depeche Mode really isn’t the kind of band that would get me out of bed when I'm that beat(no offense to Depeche Mode fans). But on Saturday, after relaxing for most of the day, my mom and I met Jordan out at ACL and had a great time. I caught the end of Kendrick Lamar’s set and had fun rapping along with him, and saw most of The Cure’s awesome set. Because I was so exhausted and because of Pierre’s jerkiness, I wound up getting a wheelchair for the festival, and it was pretty phenomenal. My mom and Jordan took turns wheeling me around, and every now and then I’d break away from them by pumping my wheels with my arms to the slight dismay of my mom. I figure as long as this clot is going to give me trouble, I shouldn’t continue to tax myself unnecessarily. After getting over the fact that sometimes I’m going to use a wheelchair temporarily, I loved it. Why not, right?

The next day, we got to ACL a little earlier and wound up catching Tame Impala, an awesome rock band from Australia that has a Led Zeppelin-ish sound. Then, the big event – the band that made me say, “Who cares that it’s a chemo week? I’m going to Austin!” ATOMS FOR PEACE. Atoms for Peace is a side band that Radiohead frontman and musical friggin’ genius, Thom Yorke, created. I am a huge, huge Radiohead fan and an even bigger Thom Yorke fan, so I knew I had to see my boy. Atoms for Peace did not disappoint. They were inspiring, incredible, and filled my heart with joy. I was moved to tears. This was why I endured the exhaustion of traveling during a chemo week. And it was worth it. So, so worth it.

The next day, we caught the movie Gravity with Jordan and his mom (the movie was amazing), was given an awesome driving tour of Austin by Jordan (and got some legendary shaved ice), and were soon back at the train station for our journey home. This time, we got smart and upgraded to a private room and it was great. The room itself was tiny, but we had a bed. We were so psyched to have a flat surface to sleep on that we didn’t even realize that there was a memory-foam-like mattress on the upper bunk that was meant to go on top of that flat surface. So for the first several hours of our sleep, my mom and I were basically resting on the equivalent of a park bench. We laughed until we cried when we found the mattress at about 3 in the morning. Then we slept like babies.

We made it back to L.A. a day and a half later, at 5:30am on Wednesday. Tired and bleary-eyed, we made our way to Norris because I had appointments for scans, blood work, and fluids. I was relieved to finally plop in my bed for fluids at around noon, but didn’t actually sleep since a bunch of my favorite people at Norris came by to hang out. I figured I’d sleep when I got back home, but I worked on Foundation stuff instead. My mom and I had little downtime since we were leaving for Miami the next morning. Thankfully, my mom and Will handled my packing so I could spend more time relaxing (if you call working in bed “relaxing,” which I do).

And so, the next morning, my mom and I were off to LAX. We missed our flight by a hair but were quickly booked on the next one, and had a smooth and fun flight to Miami, where the Colon Cancer Alliance’s National Conference was set to kick off the following day. And guess who was slated as the first speaker at that National Conference? Yup, your chemo-guzzling, Austin-loving, train-riding friend, WunderGlo. It went really well.

And now, here I am in Miami, enjoying the conference and bonding with all of my cancer warrior buddies. Next stop is Savannah, Georgia, where I’ll be meeting another one of my warrior buddies, Carlyle, and staying in a HAUNTED HOTEL (yes!! I am a serious fan of ghost stuff so this is going to be amazing). After a couple of days in Savannah, we’ll be off to Durham and Duke, for basketball and a Foundation event.

Cancer. Chemo. Clots. None can stop me from doing my thing and loving life.

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