Health

Week 15- vaguely human, but skint!…

The second week ‘post-chemo’ was better. It was still difficult to gauge when you would feel alright and when you would feel as if you could just crawl into bed and not come out, but it was hugely better than the nausea and puking of the previous week.  I got to the point where if I had been a shrub I would have been called perennially tired.

The feeling of not knowing as and when your always reliable body would let you down was something that I knew it would be difficult to come to terms with and was no doubt going to be one of the true tests of endurance in the difficult months ahead.  I had decided that as and when I could this winter, I would still try to ski, but I would now have to get my head around the fact that I might suit up, get to the top of the mountain and not have the energy to do anything else.  Undoubtedly, the psychological ramifications of going through chemo are just as hard, if not harder, that the physical ones.

Start preparing for the longer term…

When I was at The Shining having the first chemo, I was told in no uncertain terms that the longer-term side effects would begin to kick in during this week and so they did.  The first thing that I noticed was that everything had stopped growing.  I had broken a nail the day of the first chemo and even into the second week, there was no sign of growth whatsoever.  Weird.

My very own Buddha…

Obviously for 99.9% of people, the hair starts to leave the head, and indeed, albeit very slowly there was a bit more hair shedding than normal in Week 2.  The hat buying duly began.  I was also advised to buy an eyelash strengthener, because given that I was having 12 rounds of chemo in total, those babies would eventually start to go.  I think the hair loss is tolerable with chemo, it is when the eyebrows and eyelashes start to disappear that the ‘alien-like’ look begins.

With that in mind, a lovely friend in the UK treated me to some false eyelashes specially designed for people having chemotherapy and those with alopecia which stick on to the eyelids themselves rather than onto the eyelashes.  These precious things will no doubt be saved for special occasions, but it was good to have them ready and prepared. I was also advised to get some eyelash strengthener..so off to Amazon I went again…

Another wonderful side-effect of chemo is getting a very sore mouth, both through mouth ulcers and general soreness. I had been advised to change my toothbrush frequently, i.e. every ten days or so as they are a harbourer of germs and not wanting to add to the mounds of plastic already in the world, I found some on Amazon made of wood just to ease my conscience a little bit.  The other simple but effective way to try to combat mouth problems is mouth washing with saltwater, so that became a daily ritual as well.

Finally, although no doubt there will be many more side-effects to come, was the nail issue.  When you have a lot of chemo, your nails begin to break and, in some instances, even go black and fall-off. Bleurgh.  I was inadvertently going to find myself in the company of long-distance trail runners, for whom black nails always seems to be part of the sacrifice, although without the glory of having run 100 miles.I was told in no uncertain terms that there was only one brand of nail strengthener to buy, so that was another 20-odd quid spent on Amazon. 

What you don’t realise and anticipate is that breast cancer is one of the most financially damaging illnesses you can get. Not only is there the loss of income which is stressful when self-employed, but also the added financial outlay. The mastectomy bras, hats, and all of the products listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I would recommend anyone who is self-employed to take out a critical illness policy. One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetimes and it would take a good deal of the stress away. Oh well, as least my shampoo and razor outlay would go down over the coming months…every cloud and all of that…

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