Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's a learning experience

Cancer and the related treatment is teaching me more than I would ever have expected. Things I have learned so far:

1) A cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence. When the doctor called me in for the results of my latest D&C in early April, I suspected that the diagnosis would be cancer. She told me the kind of cancer and the particular strain of that cancer that I have. I told all about it in my last post so I won't go through that again. At home after that appointment I did a lot of Internet searching and found as much as I could about my cancer. With what the doctor told me and what I found online, I realized that I had almost a 100% chance of beating this. Pretty good odds, I'd say.

2) The cancer center folks and their literature will tell you a lot about what to expect with chemotherapy, but they don't tell everything. I suspect the reason they don't go into a lot of detail is that everybody reacts differently. In my case, I tried to prepare myself for a significant amount of nausea and even some vomiting. So far, I have been very fortunate to have had almost no nausea or vomiting. Another thing they tell you is that you will probably experience "tummy trouble" from the drugs. What they don't tell you is that you most likely will need to take stool softeners or even laxatives to keep things moving. OK, I know.... TMI!

3) Chemotherapy will make you lose your hair, but it won't come out all at once. My hair started coming out over the past weekend after the third chemo treatment. At first, it was just a lot of hair in my brush. Then when I washed it, there was hair stuck all over my hands. And that was all in the first day or two! It's now been four days since I noticed the extra hair loss and how all I have to do is run my hands over my head to come away with a handful of hair. Well, maybe not a handFUL, but lots of hair. My driver's license expires in August and I was concerned about my new photo be of me wearing a scarf. Fortunately, I got notice in the mail last Friday that I needed to renew my license. Guess where I'm going tomorrow morning! I asked my hairdresser to shave my head once I started losing my hair so I have an appointment next Tuesday to get it all cut off. Wonder if there will be any left for her to shave?

4) Chemotherapy not only makes you susceptible to sunburn, it also makes you sick to get into a hot car that has been sitting in the sun for a couple of hours. Ask me how I know! I thought I never would get home from lunch on Monday. This has been a really hot week so once I got home on Monday, I have stayed inside and will do so on any hot day that I can. It's supposed to be a bit cooler tomorrow so I'll run errands early and then get back inside as quickly as I can. Fortunately, I think it's supposed to be a bit cooler on Friday, too, so when my treatment is finished around noontime, it shouldn't be quite as blistering in my car. Unfortunately, the cancer center does not have shade trees or I would park under one.

5) Listening to good music and reading a book helps the treatment time go by fast. I am on a three-week cycle. The first Friday of the cycle, I get two drugs and on the other two Fridays of the cycle I get only one drug. The two drug Friday takes approximately four and a half hours from start to finish. The one drug Fridays take only about two and a half hours. No matter how many hours it takes, good music and a good book help pass the time.

6) "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." (Friedrich Nietzsche) I have determined that this cancer is not going to kill me, but it definitely is making me stronger. I have always looked on others who had dramatic illnesses with admiration, thinking to myself that I could never do what they're doing. Well, turns out I CAN do what they're doing! I never expected to have major surgery, but I did and came through it just fine. And honestly I never would have expected to need chemotherapy. But here I am and I'm finding it's really easy to keep a positive outlook. I am determined to always smile, laugh or whatever it takes to keep my positivity going. I have found that it's much easier to laugh with family and friends than it would be to hang my head and ask "why me." My family and friends make it so easy to laugh...that's why I love them so much. And my SWAN stitch group friends have already come to my service by providing food. Sure was nice to have home-cooked food that I didn't fix.

7) And last, I have found that I heal quickly and have a high tolerance to pain. All of my surgeries have healed much quicker than the doctors expected. That pleases me. And of all the surgeries and treatments I have had this year, I have only taken one dose of the strong stuff (narcotics) and that was in the hospital. In hindsight, ibuprofen would have done just as well because the pain really wasn't all that bad. I hope I don't have to put either of these to the test, but it is good to know that I most likely will have similar experiences in the future.

So there you have it. I've learned a lot in the last couple of months and I'm sure there will be lots more to learn in the future. Maybe I'm weird (OK, no comments from you guys!), but I like learning new things even if it comes from less than desirable circumstances. I find out more things about myself and my character with each new experience and that's a good thing.

Sorry no photos this time, but I promise there will be at least one photo with the next post.

Thanks for reading my ramblings.

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