I have to admit I shouldn’t really complain right now (although I probably still will)… I’m writing this post from a sofa over looking a lovely Moroccan garden, a pool and with a couple of peacocks and a tortoise thrown in for good measure.
I decided to write this after reading the heading of a blog by Helen Bliss…
“So You’re Cancer-Free Now, Right?”
I’ve popped the link to Helen’s full blog at the end, check it out, she’s one inspirational lady.
After my amazing news in March (clear pet scan) I have had to address some annoying treatment related side effects. It feels so ungrateful to moan about the relatively small issues caused by my rarely performed surgery and potentially life saving/extending drugs…. BUT SERIOUSLY F.F.S!!!!
Lymphedema – A chronic and sometimes debilitating condition in which excess fluid called lymph collects in tissues and causes swelling (edema) in them. Symptoms of lymphedema include swelling in one or more extremities, often caused by damage to the lymphatic system during surgery or illness.
Having experienced this less than pleasant condition temporarily during recovery from my sternectomy I was fully aware of what was happening to my precious pointy finger… it was getting fat. I’d not banged it, strained it and as far as I could tell I had no nail or infection issues… it was just getting fat!! The panic set in, is sausage finger permanent? Will it spread all over? Will I balloon Violet Beauregaurde style and eventually pop???
After a few unexpected (and obviously terrifying) scans to assess that the cause was indeed damage to my lymphatic system from past surgeries, we got on with treating my fat finger… well it turns out my original fat right arm issue had also flared up too, along with said fat finger, the result of this news is a pair of sexy compression garments, one for my left had and one for my right arm. The garments are beige, this enables the medical professionals, especially those that don’t have to wear them, to try to hoodwink you into believing that they are barely noticeable, personally I feel like I have mannequin limbs and I am uncontrollably compelled to do very bad robot impressions for some reason…. somebody please stop me!!
If anyone reading this uses these delightful garments, check this site out… I’m soooo ordering me some of these!!
So now I’m gloved up and doing what I can to rid myself of my excess lymph fluid, and all I have to do is wait and see, just what we all want to hear when discussing a chronic and potentially debilitating condition, we can move on to shitty side effect number 2.
AI induced alopecia (hair loss) – A possible side effect from AI drugs, those that inhibit estrogen production, often used in the treatment of hormone positive breast cancer.
This one really drags outside, and kicks the living crap out of any smidgen of self-esteem left over after the hormone related weight gain and stupid mannequin arms. As I am on 2 drugs that can cause hairloss/thinning in women, 2!!!, I had no chance really. My hair grew back OK after my 2nd bout with chemo, not as thick but OK. I have been on the meds for 4 years now but it didn’t happen immediately, maybe 2 years in it became apparent, I saw a photo of the back of my head taken at a friend’s party and I was totally distraught to see such a clear view of pale scalp around my crown… Sexy!!!
I know, I know…. It’s not too bad, you’ve seen worse, you can barely even tell….. Well it’s not your head peeping out through your barnet is it???
It has got progressively worse since then with some extra thinning at the front, it is essentially like male pattern baldness but on a woman, a scruffy woman who often goes out in her PJ’s, hardly knows how to use a hair dryer and thought until recently that contouring was a civil engineering term. The art of styling hair to cover balding areas is not coming easily, special products, brushes and techniques, all a mystery…. and before anyone says “Now you know what men go through”… although I have the upmost sympathy for balding men it’s not the friggin’ same!!!
In my attempts to disguise the issue I have done/used/worn……
*Caffeine shampoo – nice but not sure it helped.
*Posh and very expensive shampoo – no effect.
*The Nioxin system – has helped a bit.
*Dry shampoo – helps to boof up whilst styling.
*Got2b Glued hair spray – helps cover ups in non-windy, rainy or roasting hot conditions.
*Superdrug’s Instant Colour Hairspray and Colour Fix ranges – these are my current friends, there’s one in the bathroom and one in my bag.
*Hats and scarfs – check out youtube for scarf tying tutorials.
My latest endeavor to rescue my ever-decreasing locks was a trip to Lucinda Ellery in Hammersmith. They are a company started by a lady (Lucida Ellery) with similar hair issues to myself who wanted to provide a system of extensions to thicken your do without damaging the new and existing hair, one that looks natural, with low maintenance and that is comfortable to wear. I can see by the testimonials that they have had many happy customers, and a dear friend found their system of real benefit whilst having treatment for cancer. So I attended my free consultation, excited and curious what they could do for me with my very short-cropped hair.
Already completely out of my comfort zone, I could probably count the times I’ve been to a proper hair-salon on my fingers and toes, I am greeted by a smiley, pretty women and ushered toward a waiting room with a purple/crystal/sequin vibe. The lovely girl that talked me through the process was very professional, but for me lacked the humour and maybe years on this planet to really connect with my issues, and me, fuck I’m old… I left feeling that I’d been taken through a spiel, sales patter but with a touch of arrogance…
“If you don’t like it no refunds, you can put it down to experience ”
Honest I suppose, when making such a large financial and emotional investment. I think maybe I was just overwhelmed by the purple sparkles and glamorous ladies departing the salon looking like they were about to take their seat at the Captains table on the QE2. Personally, if my opinion counted for anything, I’d suggest a less stylized (sparkly) environment, not all ladies with thinning hair want to spend 7hrs in a sequined purple paradise, and although I was assured that the natural look was an option, some before and after images to prove this fact would be magic.
I’ve not ruled out the Lucida Ellery system totally, but for the meantime I think I’ve popped it on the back-burner.
Hot Flushes – For some women, hot flushes and night sweats are infrequent and manageable. But for others, they can be intense and interfere with quality of life. Women experience these symptoms due to an imbalance in their hormone levels.
Crap side effect no. 3…. Only need to be brief on this matter really, it’s fairly self-explanatory. The on-going drugs cause menopausal flushes, for me it starts with a wave of anxiety, closely followed by a wave of heat from the waist up, then sweat and tomato face, superseded by my thinning mop sticking to my head and face like I just got out of a shower, finishing up with a damp, cold sensation, sexy. All that’s left to say on this matter is that it can happen anywhere and more often than not it’ll happen just when you could do without it!!
Top tip…. Acupuncture helps!!
There are many more…. dry skin, eyes, and throat…. well, dry everything!!!…. The stubborn weight, the tiredness, the aches and pains and don’t forget the forgetfulness, oh and of course the unremitting capability to moan!!
As women I think we all feel a certain pressure to look and feel good at all times. It’s repeatedly shoved down our throats in magazines, social media and on T.V. that feeling sexy is being sexy…. Nobody will love you if you don’t love yourself!!!… I’m still working out how exactly to feel sexy whilst contending with the issues in this post, but one day I will become a 40 something, slightly overweight, balding, sweaty, mannequin armed lady who feels sexy from the inside out!!!!