Last week I went in for my annual mammogram and much to my delight it came back free and clear. After going through breast cancer treatment, I get in for my annual test and I do monthly breast checks as well without fail. After plowing through cancer treatment I never want to do it again. EVER! So what, you may ask, is going on now? It has been a number of years since I posted a cancer update for you all so it’s about time I caught up with you and tell you what I’m experiencing now. Some unexpected things happened during cancer treatment, and a few things are still going on that I personally would have thought would be long past.
Hair loss. Unless you are a recluse, most people know that hair loss is a normal side effect of cancer treatment. There are different degrees of hair loss, but a majority of people do go completely bald. As in no hair anywhere. Think of all those places – head, arms, arm pits, legs, ears, sinuses, and feet. Oh, and let’s not forget all those places between the navel and the knees. What I didn’t realize is that sometimes all that hair doesn’t come back.
Seven years later I still don’t have to shave my legs, although I have been forced to shave my armpits about once every two months. I save a lot on shaving supplies (ha-ha). The only part of all this, that I am actually bummed about, is that not all the hair on my head came back and I lost half an eyebrow. Mind you, the hair on my head is fewer strands rather than patchy bald spots. The patchiness does happen to some people and my heart goes out to anyone who has patches.
Chemo-brain. My doctor said this would go away pretty quickly post-treatment, but mine took quite awhile. I am happy to say that I’m back to my normal crazy self, so there’s that. It did take about five years though.
Breast pain. This one is still chasing me and may never be completely gone. What does it feel like? At times it is a discomfort as if the tissue in my breast has been over stretched. Other times I will get a shooting pain from the lumpectomy site across my breast and up my nipple. All in all these pains are not horrible, but just enough to be uncomfortable. I am told that these strange pains will probably be with me forever. Personally, I hope they will be gone once I pass on to the next phase after death. If not, I’ll be back to haunt my doctor.
The anxiety that cancer will return is always there. Most of the time it sits quietly in the furthest places of my mind, but every time I do a self exam, or have an upcoming appointment, I get little panic attacks. These are not the full blown, debilitating attacks that some people face, but more of a moment of fear. It is just enough to make my heart bump a little harder, and my emotions to regress back to when I was diagnosed.
All in all my health is good. Even though I never had any life changing epiphanies (I think that’s more myth anyway), I am thankful to wake up every day. I am grateful to be able to hike and enjoy nature. Most of all I am thankful to all of the doctors and nurses who were there for me (and still are) especially to those who held my hand whenever I needed strength to get through treatments.
Going through treatment for any kind of cancer just plain sucks, and for anyone who is in the midst of it, all I can say is, HANG IN THERE!! You can do it. Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. When you reach the other side you’ll be thankful that the pain and agony are behind you. Lean on your loved ones. They want to help and support you. If you don’t have anyone to help support you, then join a cancer recovery group. You can find information about these types of groups online (Google is good for this). The American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute are both good resources.
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