Thursday, April 2, 2015

How Cancer Affects me

Had a CT scan today. My theory is, no news is good news. If there is spreading (which I am convinced there is) he would call me in immediately. While we wait, let's talk about the C-word. I have not been watching the Cancer series on PBS. A lot of people have written to me about it. I probably should be watching it. I probably should be more educated.

All I really know is how cancer (and chemotherapy) has been affecting me:

(I seriously don't know if I should be writing effect or affect. Chemo brain).

1. My hair has greatly thinned due to my chemotherapy. I look like Skeletor's mom. Luckily, I look good in a hat. Here I am, on the left:

2. From October to December I lost over 40 pounds. I have held a steady weight since then, thank goodness. I lost a lot of muscle, which makes things like picking up my son impossible. I miss those muscles. I was always 15 - 20 pounds above a healthy BMI. Now I am 25 pounds under. In my situation, I would rather be over. But I don't miss the muffin top. 

3. I have night sweats. And I drool at night. What is up with that? I drooled during pregnancy too. I wake up and my shirt is drenched and my face is in a puddle. Gross. Luckily I find that wearing men's sleeveless undershirts to bed REALLY helps. The night sweats went away for a while but now they are back, another cause for worry.

4. I have hot flashes. My oncologist and I think I most likely went ahead and went through menopause. Great, my body thinks I am 20 years older than I really am. Not that I miss the cramps . . .

5. Because I am only 37, and never smoked, and never drank alcohol, and loved exercise and veggies, I tolerate chemo better than some people who go through it. Not to say I was in great health (see above - I was 20 pounds overweight) but man, did I have energy. Teachers have to have energy. Single mothers have to have energy. Outdoor enthusiasts have to have energy. And I was all three.

6. Not to say chemo is a walk in the park. As it builds up in my system I feel it more and more. Last week I slept exactly 70,000 hours. I was so comfortable with never leaving my bed again. Drowsiness and lack of energy have been 2 of the biggest effects from chemo on my body. I sometimes also have the "pins and needles" feeling in my fingers and toes (and sometimes calves) that is famous in chemo patients.

7. Sometimes I get "chemo brain" and I can't remember the answer to Jeopardy questions. I know, I can't believe it either. I used to be so smart. Also, who was that kid in sixth grade who called me carrot cake? Why does it matter?? "Chemo brain" is a great excuse when forgetting a birthday or showing up late. I don't remember how to get anywhere. Or when to use "effect" and when to use "affect."

8. I have a caregiver. I used to call it caretaker until someone finally corrected me. Anyway, my mom has lived with me since October and she is the BEST. Sometimes people ask me how I handle having her here all the time, don't I miss my privacy? But she is awesome and respectful and AMAZING and luckily . . . a past nurse.

9. Sometimes I get nauseated and throw up. Luckily this does not happen often for me. As in, last Monday I threw up for the first time since January. 

10. I have to deal with a colostomy bag. Hey, I have colon cancer. This by far has been the biggest change to my daily lifestyle. I really need to find a Young Person Colostomy Bag Support Group. I have had this thing for almost 6 months and I am finally comfortable cleaning, changing and caring for it myself . . . but did I mention my mom was a nurse? For those of you who don't know, a colostomy bag is an adorable little pouch on my waist which collects my . . . poo. I actually call it the poo pouch. I have to call a special company to order supplies through the mail. Its all fine and great but the thing can be so loud. Sit down to a nice dinner with family and friends and sounds like I sat on 12 whoopee cushions. There is no controlling the passing of gas. Last month it happened at Barnes and Nobles. I just rub my belly and apologize to the floor, refusing to make eye contact. 

All of this really isn't too bad, but the site itself (the stoma) makes me nervous. I am constantly afraid I am going to twist it, or it will pop off, or pop in and never come out again. I can't play rough with my son, who is currently a STOCKY 36 pounds of pure . . . boy. 

11. I can't stand up for very long. This was a problem before I was diagnosed, and this is how I found out I had cancer. I would be fine sitting down, but when I stood I felt like I wasn't getting enough oxygen to my legs and head. I would feel dizzy and tired. I napped a lot. I was diagnosed with low red blood cells (anemia). But then they had to find out what was causing the anemia . . . hello, cancer spreading to my liver.

This still plagues me, even though my red blood cell count is normal. I use a walker in stores unless I know the store has a great seating selection. 

12. I don't work. Right now I am not working because chemo lowers my immune system too much. Also I receive chemo every other week, so that is a lot of time to take off. But,  I have decided being a teacher does not support my lifestyle and I will probably not be going back to a full classroom. I can no longer deal with big class sizes, testing and being held accountable for test scores. If stress set off my cancer than we know what set off my stress. However, I would love to be a reading teacher and pull small groups. Even if it means a pay cut because I go to a new county or become an assistant or a tutor. 

i just wish I decided this three years ago, when B was an infant. But there is the money thing . . . and daycare . . . and a brand new car . . . and just the cost of diapers alone . . .

13. So I spend my days drawing, going to doctor appointments, scrapbooking, crafting, and playing with my son. 

Some examples:

Love, love, love the 9 4x4 squares!!!

An insert of 3 4x4s, front on the left and back on the right.

Today's sky on way to hospital for a CT scan. No filter was used. 

And some doodling I do, to relax my mind:

1 comment:

  1. Karen, for what it's are being prayed for. I love your photos.....the shot of the sky and how you caught that light is so beautiful. Keep doodling, it's a great pastime! Happy Easter to you and your loved ones!


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