Chapter 4 – Chemo Camouflage

Chapter 4 – Chemo Camouflage

February 2

In an effort to be upfront and open with you all, there are worse things than chemo…and I have the wardrobe to prove it!

It turns out the chemo has given me an outstanding rash that feels like a severe sunburn. It makes wearing anything like normal clothes a challenge, as the waist and torso have the brunt of the soreness. So, I dug out the summer paint frock I basically hate, and with grey toe warmers, and a fuzzy top. I do look a treat!

I figure if it looks bad enough to curdle milk, it might serve as a deterrent for bad luck…along the lines of … Oh You Poor Thing! I’ll skip dumping on you this week!

No? Perhaps not.

But then I thought … maybe it is time to bring chemo camouflage into fashion. Project runway notwithstanding, do you think it might work? Do you think it will look better once I am able to score some medical marijuana? Maybe not, it might be too much of a stretch even for drugs.

The truly scary part is I no longer wince as I walk past the mirror. Of course, it helps to be nearsighted, and if you keep the lights low …


It was fortuitous that I had not packed the ugly green dress along with my other summer clothes. Instead it was lurking in my closet in a Hefty Trash Bag awaiting a trip to the Good Will Donation Box. The dress was the result of an unfortunate fashion decision made in haste the previous summer, and really, it was and still is a remarkably strange dress. However, at the time, it was perfect for my needs. It had no waistline, was made of super fine fabric that had no weight, and had enough fabric to disguise my lack of underwear. However, it wasFebruary and the spaghetti-strap scoop-neck design was a tad chilly. So, rather than freeze to death while experiencing life as a human emery board, I paired the dress with a blue polar fleece jacket, and warm grey fuzzy slippers. Very fetching … not!

In fact, the whole idea of having to dress randomly in mismatched pieces of recycled clothing was really depressing. But having sent out this email update I heard back from one of my favorite people … “My dear, have you not seen Spring/Summer Chanel this year … ‘Chemo Chic’ could very much catch on.”

She was so clever to call it Chemo Chic. I loved the idea of becoming a chemo fashionista. So much more positive than living the squalid life of the uncool. So, I learned to embrace the bizarre, and wore my bag lady clothes with panache, and a who-the-hell-cares attitude. I became comfortable with my limited choices, and learned to celebrate my new fashionista status.  In fact, the ugly green dress has become one of my favorite articles of clothing. These days I wear it during the summer when the polar fleece isn’t necessary. It serves as a reminder of my time spent living with chemo, and also that perhaps there is more to fashion than meets the eye.

Regarding the rash … It was unlike anything that the medical staff had seen before. It covered my torso, but only in the front. It went from armpit to hip from one side to the other. It was so clearly demarcated that one could have used a magic marker to delineate the edges

So … good news … it wasn’t on my back and I was able to sit and lie down. But … bad news … it was excruciatingly painful and meant that any kind of normal clothing became intolerable. Hence my limited clothing choices.

The doctor determined it was most likely the chemo targeting my nervous system. It resembled shingles, and felt like an extreme case of the same, but unlike shingles it was bilateral. Unfortunately, there was no treatment that could be administered, except pain medication which interacted poorly with my chemo. So, I had to tough it out, and dress gingerly.

It was also about this time I began to notice a distinct difference in how food tasted.

The chemo drugs were interacting with my taste buds and making certain flavors decidedly unpleasant. In fact, some old familiar flavors became absolutely disgusting. This had the unfortunate effect of making much of my pantry inedible. At the same time, my friends were bringing me that old traditional universal cure for whatever ails you … chicken soup…made with love and care and according to an old family recipe. Unfortunately, the delicate flavor of chicken soup was lost amidst the nasty chemo flavors that began to dominate everything I ate. In the end, I had to give away all the lovingly prepared broth, and requested they send cookies instead. It was a great compromise. Cookies I could deal with!

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