The Meanest Woman in Town

“If I hadn’t seen the light in that old lady’s eyes
I’d try to be a man you would hate an’ despise
I’d rave an’ I’d rant an’ I’d scream an’ yell
An’ I’d chase my neighbors from here to Hell…
But I can’t be this bad because my folks are too good.”

Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie, from the song “Meanest Man

This week I have been learning all about the power of steroids, which induced within me a grumpy and tense state of mind. Now that they are wearing off, I am infused with a sense of relief and exhaustion.  While under the influence I felt like being the meanest woman in town. Thankfully the folks around me are too good, which kept me from getting too whacked out.

I've been feeling a bit prickly this week...
I’ve been feeling a bit prickly this week…

Steroids are given with chemo treatments to prevent an allergic response, among other things.  During the first round I was still recovering from the reaction to the anesthesia of my port placement, and didn’t notice the effects of the steroids so much.  Going into round 2,  I was feeling so much better just prior, that the mood-altering effects of the steroids was notable.  From the rabid Squirrel Girl that I became at the infusion in PDX – I transformed into a sleepless, twitchy, and grumpy hag. This, despite feeling so grateful for all the love and support being sent our way – indeed  without the love, support, and timely visits from some luminous folks  “I’d have nervous fits, I’d go insane“, to quote Woody & Billy again.  My uncharacteristic moodiness was tempered by the loving kindness of those around me, who miraculously didn’t take my snarly self too seriously, and helped to distract me from the feeling of being a stranger to my own body. All of which goes to show how love is an antidote to many ills.

It makes me wonder about all the substances floating around in the food supply.  Do we give steroids to cows? How often are our moods being influenced by foreign substances that we pick up along the way?

Baby Sam napping around 1999
Baby Sam napping around 1999

Yesterday morning Martin woke up around five AM, got into bed with us and went back to sleep for a few hours.  It has been several years since I have had him sleeping next to me. At first, my insomniac, steroid-grumpy alter-ego interpreted the situation as negative: “I feel crowded. GERR”   Slowly the precious nature of the visit settled into me and I remembered how quickly the moment would pass. That old feeling of comfort, from sleeping with my beloved children when they were little, washed over me.  I used to sleep while holding onto a baby’s foot, which served the dual purpose of reassuring and orienting both of us, and preventing anyone from being kicked in the ribs repeatedly. I realized yesterday morning that being sandwiched between Martin and Joe was exactly what I needed.  I was being gifted reassurance and reoriented to the sweetness of life, plus I was too constrained too kick anyone.

As the steroids fade out of my system my heart feels more love coming in, and going out. Like breath, like the tide, returning me to the rhythms I recognize as myself.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. You are a gifted writer, dear friend. Love you! Talk to you sometime this week, okay?! hugs, ~ Janet

  2. Meg says:

    Iris, your description of the steroid rage is spot on! And the hormone treatments for cancer are quite a ride too. I’m amazed that you have the clarity to be self aware during this and not just wallow in it. You are an amazing and wonderful person.

    Love you,

  3. Amy says:

    All that science training is coming in handy. And quite the poet you are!
    I love how well you are loved
    Thank you for sharing the journey. Amy
    Ps your hair looks cute short

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