Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cause of My Post-Cancer Dropsies? God Knows

After I got out of bed the other day, I dropped my iPhone on the floor. A little while later, I opened a new carton of milk to pour on my cereal. I dropped the top on the kitchen floor. About 90 minutes later, when I was in my exercise class, I dropped my water bottle. When I got home, I decided to bake banana-strawberry muffins. When the timer went off, I pulled the muffin tin out of the oven, placed it on top of the stove and was going to pierce one of the muffins with a toothpick to test for doneness. The toothpick dropped from my hand, bounced on the stovetop and landed under the burner, which was under the muffin tin.

“Crap!” I said. 

A sugar-free hard toffee dropped from my mouth, bounced on the stove, and hit the floor, rolling underneath the edge of the oven.

It was not yet 11:30 a.m.

It was a typical day for me. Since I recovered from cancer, I seem to have a case of the dropsies. An extreme case. I drop things or knock them to the ground, large and small, easy to pick up and impossible to pick up. All day, every day. Some things are so preposterous that if you wanted to drop them, you couldn’t do it. 

On occasion, I ask myself: Did I always drop this many things? Or does every incident now burn itself into my brain because it’s SO ANNOYING to pick it up now that I am disabled? I believe it’s a relatively new thing. It’s just since I was stricken with cancer almost 10 years ago and rendered disabled that I have been dropping things at home and at stores, in parking lots all over town, sometimes in impossibly aggravating and laughable ways. 

I have three theories on this. One is that it’s somehow related to the tumors that were in my brain, creating nerve damage that cannot be reversed. (Real life examples of this are my neuropathy, screwed up leg veins, balance and walking issues.)

The second is that it’s related to chemo brain, a real side effect of going through toxic doses of chemotherapy (in my case massive). I’m not sure if it can last more than six years after your last dose of chemo, or if it can render you not only fuzzy-brained but clumsy-handed, too. 

My third theory is that God saved my life not once (when I survived a rare, horrible type of lymphoma) but twice (when I made it through a scary bone marrow transplant). So now he’s just screwing with me for his amusement.

It reminds me of beguiling scenes from the 60s movie “Jason and the Argonauts,” when Zeus and Hera were watching and controlling events on Earth from their vantage point on Mount Olympus. It was like a board game, only in Jason’s case it involved ships and multi-headed monsters and the Golden Fleece and in mine it includes an unending number of falling items.

When I came home after more than four months in the hospital and rehabilitation facilities battling cancer, I couldn’t walk. Intensive chemo and rehab therapy had gotten me out of a state of paraplegia, but the recovery was slow. As I slowly got better, it was difficult to carry things. I remember dropping things or knocking them over, but someone was alway there to assist me. As my strength grew and my flexibility and balance increased, I marked my progress. I remember telling my friend triumphantly that I had dropped a grape on the kitchen floor and I was able to pick it up myself. Yay!

Be careful what you celebrate. As if to test my new abilities, I started dropping and knocking stuff over like crazy. Some are easy to pick up. But others -- many others -- are not. At home, I will often have to ask for help. In stores and in parking lots, I politely ask strangers to come to my aid. In the grocery store, when I have my fold-up walker inside the basket and I am pushing the cart like every other shopper, I don’t appear disabled. So I will point this out when I ask someone for help, just so they know I’m not just bossy.

Some dropped items are merely annoying. These include pills, medication bottles, remote controls, phones. Others are more than that.  At home, I sit at the kitchen table on a chair with two pillows on it. One or both of the pillows are frequently falling, sometimes as I get up, sometimes minutes after I’ve left the table. Many
days, when I eat at the table, something will drop between the plate and my mouth, bounce off my lap, and land on the floor dead center beneath the table, just where I can't reach it. Peas, grapes, pieces of popcorn, nuts: it’s like a trail mix in the making on the floor down there.

Many dropped things require outside assistance. Like when I drop shampoo, conditioner, razors and soap in the shower. Or when any number of lip balms and lipsticks hit the pavement as I exit my car and hang my purse from my walker. Or when I miss the mail slot at the drive-though box and the wind blows my letter away. Or when I drop my keys outside my car door on a rainy day and they bounce directly under my vehicle.

A few are costly, such as when I dropped a nearly full bottle of my favorite perfume on the tile floor on my bathroom. Or the time I dropped a nice bottle of white wine as I was putting it away in the lowest shelf of our refrigerator door. I had just poured a glass, so the bottle was nearly full and I hadn’t even sipped the wine, so I wasn’t tipsy. It fell about four inches to the ground and shattered to pieces. 

Some are just puzzling. Once, my husband found my debit card behind the passenger seat of my car, on the floor. I didn't know my card was missing.

I’m a dropping maniac in the grocery store. I often leave fresh fruit or veggies on the floor as I shop in the produce department.  I’ve unleashed avalanches of tomatoes and apples. When I grabbed for some asparagus once, two bunches tumbled to the floor. I’ve dropped yogurt trying to toss it into my basket. Once, I dropped just the envelope of a greeting card. The definition of impossible is
picking up a single envelope on the floor while my walker is inside my shopping cart and I am balancing myself by holding onto the basket handles. I left the envelope there.

For two days, I kept a record of everything I dropped just to quantify things.  Each day, I totaled 10 or 11 items in a 12 to 14 hour period. Three were pill bottles, two were containers that held hairspray and mouthwash, one was a container of cantaloupe, breaking open upside down, spreading little wet chunks of fruit all over the floor. One incident occurred when I draped a belt on a towel rack and the rod broke off and fell to the floor, spilling two towels, the rod and a belt. The final episode one day happened when I removed a casserole from the oven, dropping it just a few inches from the stovetop, sloshing hot sauce inside the oven door, on the stove, onto the floor and on my ankles.

There are days when I think my third theory (divine intervention) is definitely in the lead, when clumsiness alone cannot explain these mishaps.

A fateful visit to Walmart was one of those days. I was going there specifically to return something and because I had old eyeglasses to put in the Lions Club box so they could be reused by people in need. To understand the context for this bizarre combination of mishaps, you first need to understand my shopping routine. I exit the car after dragging my portable, lightweight walker across my lap. I walk to an empty cart and balance myself while I fold the walker up so it fits in the basket, handles up. I put my purse in the front of the shopping cart and I am ready to shop (and drop). My first stop that day was the return desk. While in line there, both of my handles on my walker -- which I wasn’t touching -- fell off simultaneously on the floor. Then they bounced and landed in front of me, beneath some empty carts. These are five-inch handles that had NEVER fallen off. I can’t yank them off if I want to.

After I enlisted help to retrieve the handles and attach them to my walker, I proceeded to the return desk. Then I realized I had left my pack of eyeglasses in the car. So I walked back to my car and placed the cart leaning against my vehicle while I reached in and retrieved the glasses, then shut and locked the door. Just then, my shopping cart, with my walker and purse in it, started to roll down the inclined parking lot, coming to a stop against a car about 25 feet away.

No one was around. I stood, holding on to the side of my hot car for balance while I waited for a non-criminal-looking type to come to my rescue. My purse, phone, wallet and car keys were across the parking lot, ripe for stealing. 

I spotted a man who looked like he wasn’t a serial killer exiting the store quickly with a bag in his hand. I had to holler at him to get his attention, then yell to explain that the shopping cart far away from me was mine. I asked if he would please bring it to me. Which he did. 

I went into the store and delivered my bag of used eyeglasses. A charitable act, for God’s sake.

I think I may have heard snickers coming from Mount Olympus.