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It's out of her hands

As the School Board vet faces effects of chemotherapy, she learns she can't always be in control.

By MARY SPICUZZA
Published June 18, 2006


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Related story:
Looking for strength
School Board member Marge Whaley's days leading up to chemotherapy prove to be an emotionally and physically draining roller coaster.

LAND O'LAKES - One day at a time.

You are a strong woman. You can make it through this.

Marge Whaley plans to never again say those words to anyone.

Battling breast cancer has taught Whaley, 65, that it's okay for women to have some not-so-strong moments.

The 13-year veteran of the Pasco County School Board began a journal the day her doctor called about the lump. She has agreed to share her thoughts with the Times in an effort to raise awareness about the disease, which affects one out of eight American women.

In the first installment of excerpts from her journal entries, published in late January, Whaley struggled to come to terms with her diagnosis as she had a biopsy and underwent a lumpectomy.

In the second, published in late March, she began chemotherapy.

In this, the third segment, she faces hair loss and other side effects of chemotherapy.

 

Friday, March 24

Hooray. Today I feel wonderful. When you are not 100 percent it is hard to know what that is until you get there. Well, I'm there! Did lots of School Board work, made an appointment with the superintendent, answered calls and mail. Went to the grocery. No nap even though we have the new recliner.

 

Sunday, March 26

The article was in today and Leo her husband of 43 years was afraid to show me the picture. It was me trying on the blond wig. I was overjoyed, I LOVE that wig. It was a great article and the slide show was terrific. I got a lot of response at church and throughout the day, all good. Got a call from an old friend I had not heard from in 20 plus years, she is also a survivor.

 

Tuesday, March 28

Received a lot of cards today. Lots of people saw the article and really liked it. Many said it reminded them of their mothers or sisters or friends who had gone through this. I hope women I do not know are relating to this as well.

 

Saturday, April 1

As I typed the date, I thought, of COURSE today would be the day my hair falls out! I knew it was thinning but no great quantities at any one time. It looked so terrible this a.m., I was getting ready to wash it when a friend called. As I sat there chatting, I was running my hand through my hair and big clumps of it would come out. I remember my outreach person saying she pulled hers out herself. After I hung up I realized I could probably do that. So I called my "contact" who will be here at 3 to shave my head and went in the bedroom with a box of tissues, shut the door and pulled out most of my hair. Cry awhile, pull awhile.

 

Sunday, April 2

I wore my wig to show my two daughters. They said nice things but I had a roaring headache when I got home that went right away when I removed the wig. Wore it to church, same headache. Really want to go to a function tonight but do I want the headache? I think the wig may be too small. I ordered some head covers today but will be awhile until they get here. What to do?

 

Monday, April 3

Had my defective port removed today. My surgeon had very little to say about it, just as well. I have an appointment with a new surgeon on Friday and will get my new port a week from tomorrow at St. Joseph's. I will be only one week late with chemotherapy and my new day will be Thursday so that will free Wednesdays for bridge, hooray.

 

Thursday, April 6

Took a new mop into Mom's and then to the store to look for hats, have already bought one and did not find another one. I have a good supply and have ordered three more. Then went to another wig shop. Ended up with a cheaper wig that is white on the sides like my hair but also white in front where mine was darker. But the wig is longer and can be combed much like I wore my hair. We named the first wig Elvira and this wig Maude. Maude is much more comfortable.

 

Saturday, April 8

Best of all today, I picked roses, many roses and we got in the golf cart and gave many of them away, one batch to total strangers. They work so hard in their yard and it gives me such pleasure when I walk by, I wanted them to have the flowers. I LOVE doing that.

 

Friday, April 14

Second chemotherapy yesterday, felt really great during and after. Had planned a really bland meal and sorta wished it was a steak. I was afraid the steroids would keep me up but ready for bed by 10. Woke up this a.m. with a 3-pound weight gain, my cognitive mind knows it's steroid water holding but still a bummer.

 

Sunday, April 16

Am almost back to normal. For two days had blurring vision, I guess it comes and goes. Almost no computer time because it bothers me. Also unable to read too much and am just not into much TV. Shopped yesterday and a little girl at Wal-Mart said, "Look, Mommie, that girl doesn't have..." I can guess the rest of the sentence since I had on my pink baseball hat. I have been thinking about what you would answer. You would not want to say medicine made it fall out because you would have one heck of a time getting her to take her antibiotic next time. I will have to think about this.

 

Sunday, April 23

I was writing a sympathy card to a dear friend who recently lost her husband to cancer of the brain. I was tempted to say, "one day at a time," or "you are a strong woman, you can make it through this." But will probably never say those words to anyone again. What I really wanted to say is, "I hope you can find a room to scream, to rage, to throw whatever is handy and to cry and cry and cry." She has already been SO strong for her family, now it's her turn to not be.

There are moments when I am not strong. Just last night, for some crazy reason, I turned to my husband and said, "I am sorry I won't wear my wig and I know how ugly I must be to you." Well, you can imagine his reaction! Of course, I started to cry. I DO feel ugly when I am bald. I just don't dwell on it. I can joke about my Dr. Spock ears or the coolness of my new "hairdo" but deep down, I really miss my hair.

 

Monday, May 1

Today went to New Port Richey to the Look Good, Feel Better program put on by the American Cancer Society. Volunteers teach participants how to put on makeup, wear wigs or hats and talk about scarfs. There were seven of us there and I sat next to a woman who also had breast cancer and was just starting treatment. She was a retired oncology nurse and we really had some good conversation. We all also had a great time. The makeup was just fantastic. All of it had been donated by major companies such as Clinique, Estee Lauder, etc. We went through the 12 steps and all turned out looking just lovely. I don't normally wear much makeup but find that with just a hat, I need more. It was a terrific day and I continue to feel terrific.

 

Tuesday, May 9

I was sitting there by myself wondering why this day was bothering me so much, when it came to me. I expected to EXCEL at chemotherapy. Do better than most people. After all, I set high standards. How could I be average? Well, it gave me a good laugh. My poor body could do as it wished, I was out of the control mode. What a hoot, excel at cancer. I think not.

 

Sunday, May 14

Heard from a friend about her 33-year-old niece who had breast cancer. She had delayed treatment quite a while due to a pregnancy and now was quite ill. These young women, I know about way too many of them.

 

Saturday, May 27

Had chemotherapy on Thursday. A long day but felt okay and was able to go to retirement luncheon on Friday and to a dinner party Friday night. (Steroids) However, as usual, gained the fluid and was up and down all night last night. Very rubbery legs this a.m. and no appetite or energy. Took a two hour nap this p.m. and basically have just moved from chair to chair. Finally, got a load of laundry in the washer and ate a little rice and fruit. Poor Leo, I see a soup night ahead for him.

 

Friday, June 2

Packed and ready for a short vacation in Va. with family. Surely hope my body is up to this trip. Tomorrow should be "normal" day but this was a rough recovery and I have pushed the envelope nearly every day. But, off I go anyway.

Mary Spicuzza covers education in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is mspicuzza@sptimes.com.

[Last modified June 18, 2006, 07:15:27]


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