Diem Brown (second from right)
Courtesy Diem Brown
Remember the first time you tried a Jell-O shot, apple martini or lemon drop? You’d feel as if you were immune to getting drunk off these yummy sweet concoctions, so you’d have another and another and then – boom – they finally hit you and you’d end up racing to the ladies’ room, swearing you would never drink again as you grasped the porcelain rim.
Well, that, my friends, is day two of chemo; day two feels like a hangover from hell that won’t go away.
However, the first day after chemo is like taking the first delicious sip of that apple martini. You’re on cloud nine. The heavy steroids that they now put in your chemo cocktail infusion make you feel so numb to the pain you actually believe, “Wow, I guess I’m not gonna feel the bad side effects this time, I feel great!”
So the day after chemo, I went to the N.Y.C. sports bar Brother Jimmy’s to watch Florida State University football and socialize with my girlfriends while sporting my new wig. I even tried to whip my “hair” back and forth to a song or two. I was so shocked and happy to feel so good!
Then like clockwork I woke up at 2 a.m. racing for the bathroom. Like my Fairy Chemo-Godmother had said, “Okay, you have had your time to dance at the ball, now it’s time to come back to reality this is day two of chemo, my dear. Off you go to the porcelain God.”
My reality was a brutal relentless force. I kept getting violently sick from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m., so I made my bathroom more cozy with a bathroom towel bed and slept on the soothing cold tile begging for the sick waves to be over.
I didn’t understand how I kept getting sick because after the first hour I had absolutely nothing left in my stomach. As my body continued convulsing I couldn’t help but think back to my college days, in the same feeble desperate position praying to the One-Too-Many-Shots God. Promising never to overindulge again!! Is there a deal I could make to the Chemo God to make this stop?
I peeled myself from my bathroom towel bed hoping I could get a few hours of sleep in my real bed without having to heave my guts out. I thought maybe if I’m really still the chemo side effects will just go away. Nope, no luck – 10 minutes later it was back to my bathroom suite.
Watermelon Seems Safe
This process kept on until 3 p.m., and when it was suggested that maybe I should eat or drink something, the look of “Are you crazy?” shot from my eyes. I finally conceded, but the only thing that sounded safe to try and eat was … watermelon. Yep, watermelon – you know, because watermelon is very prevalent in N.Y.C. … in mid-October?!
For the next three days watermelon was the only thing that felt okay eating. Sounds gross, but when you’re violently ill you look at food like a ticking time bomb, wondering, if triggered, how bad will it hurt if it “detonates.” Hmmm, maybe that was too much info but, whatever, it’s true!
After those three days I felt human again, I even had the girls over to carve pumpkins. Hello, I’m not letting chemo keep me from my cheesy holiday traditions. Yes, I was completely wiped out but I loved every moment: watching Hocus Pocus while trying to recreate the Lauren Conrad/Martha Stewart stocking pumpkins. I felt so blessed and lucky to be upright and social.
What’s nice is that having those awful days remind you how great the good days are.
I think that’s a huge part of life, if everything’s always great you can become complacent, that’s why life’s mountain highs and valley lows are so important. You might have a hard time dealing with life’s low moments, but it makes you appreciate life’s high moments that much more! Your high can even be as simple as laughing with girlfriends at your hideous pumpkin-decorating attempt … because that moment is a million times better than sleeping on your bathroom floor.
Thank you all so very much for your words of support and love from my video last week. I was astonished by the response – I had feared backlash from “doing a video about hair” as some people had commented about my dramatic obsession with the hair loss.
I’m excited the video is out there and happy people can get a glimpse into what the chemo hair loss process looks like. I’m going to post the second half of the hair loss video next week, because I started it and I’m going to finish it, big and bald style baby!
Check back for updates every Thursday: Diem will be chronicling her journey through fertility treatments, chemotherapy and her quest to educate others about ovarian health exclusively for PEOPLE.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @DiemBrown.
Diem Brown Blogs: Those Sneaky Chemo Hangovers from Hell