OCAM - Battle Scarred

11 March 2016

Needless to say my body’s taken a battering over these last few months; with some outwardly visible reminders.

In the words of a 4 year old, I now sport an “X marks the spot” where my surgery scar intersects with the scar from my caesarean section. I’ve also developed a “third boob”, otherwise known as a hernia, from where I had the surgery.  Despite the prominence of the hernia and the fact it impacts what I can and can’t wear, it was a relief to know what the persistent bulge was. Once I’ve finished my treatment I can consider whether I want the hernia repairing. It wouldn’t be advisable to have it repaired now due to the medication I’m on and the recent abdominal trauma I’ve had.  I am self-conscious of it but in the scheme of things I’m happy to live with it for now. That doesn’t stop me from being frustrated by the fact I look as if I have a wonky pot belly despite doing more exercise than I’ve done in a long while. 

I can’t say I’ve missed my ovaries! Following my hysterectomy I started on hormone replacement therapy – to date I’m not aware I’ve experienced any symptoms of menopause but given the treatment side effects and the emotional trauma of the diagnosis it’s difficult to ascertain what aspects relate to what.  

During my chemo my nails were better than normal. Usually they were brittle but during chemo I struggled to get the nail clippers through them.  Towards the end of my chemo my finger nails became discoloured. A few weeks post chemo a few finger nails looked as if they were coming away but that seems to have alleviated now and hopefully the visible signs of the chemo will soon grow out.  

I felt lucky to hang onto my eyebrows and eyelashes until nearing the end of my chemo; I was only without them for about six weeks. After getting used to losing my hair I thought losing my eyebrows/lashes would be small fry – what I hadn’t appreciated was how the lack of them would completely change my appearance.  I was shown how to draw on my eyebrows but I decided they looked exactly that – drawn on.  A lack of nasal hair meant I’d experience a runny nose for no apparent reason intermittently.  The drugs also irritated the linings of my nasal passages; I’d often find I had nose bleeds when I woke in the morning.

In January 2015 I had a portacath (port) fitted – a device that sits below the skin near the collarbone connected to a vein. This is used to take blood and administer my maintenance drug. If I’d known my veins weren’t going to hold out for the duration of the treatment I wish I’d had the port inserted sooner to save the anxiety of whether or not they would be able to get the cannula in. The device itself is not visible externally; however there is a lump that can be seen under my skin about the size of a one pound coin. It was tender after having the port fitted but it’s not caused me any bother since other than an occasional twinge when I over reach. I was cautioned about swimming with it in due to the risk of dislodging it. I stuck to breast stroke when swimming and to date I’ve not encountered any issues with it. It’s quite painful when the nurse accesses the port but the pain soon wears off and it means I’m hands free for the duration of the time my drug is being administered. I soon discovered a cannula in my right hand (when the veins in my left hand weren’t playing ball) wasn’t conducive to typing emails or online shopping!

Never before have I experienced such vivid, mad dreams as during chemo. I’m unsure whether this was related to the emotional trauma or to the drugs I was having but it sure didn’t constitute a good night’s rest and would often cause me to wake at which point real anxieties would set in.  Once off the chemo the crazy dreams seem to have passed.

I’ve no doubt my surgery and treatment has had many other impacts on my body that I don’t even know about but I’ll worry about those if and when I need to.

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