Cancer pain. 

Cancer pain manifests itself in various ways. Today I will deal with the physical pain.

The Big C is sometimes referred to as painless, in that you may have some nasty tumor growing inside of you and you don’t even know as there is no pain and there are no symptoms. Now while this holds true in many cases, which can be why cancer is so difficult to detect until it is very late in the game, it is not always the case. 

Sometimes cancer can be very painful. Typically when cancer metastasizes to the bones it can be excruciatingly painful. Additionally some cancers themselves are so large or they may impact tissues and organs in the body, therefore rendering them extremely painful.

I am lucky (which seems to be an interesting choice of words given the multiple cancers) that most of my cancers were not painful nor were they caught too late. I usually found some sort of bump in the early stages. This was both due to my mom and I’s surveillance (literally my mom would periodcally come up to me and molest me just to make sure there were no new bumps) as well as thanks to the screening as a result of the Li Fraumeni. 

However there have been times when cancer was painful for me. When I first found Oscar the Osteosarcoma on my neck I had a small bump as well as the pain of a stiff or pulled muscle. Now I have previously written a post on the negligence of the doctor that visited me, who basically would not order an MRI as it was probably ‘just a stiff neck.’ Yeah whatever lady. Thanks for nothing. Then the bump grew to the point where I almost looked like a two-headed monster and the pain was terrible. I was articling at the time and I couldn’t even hold up my neck by the end of the day. 

Aside from being poked and prodded, and of course the countless cancer surgeries which were no walk in the park, the only other cancer pain I have experienced is with respect to my lungs and the insane lung episodes I have every so often. Just the other night I experienced another one of these episodes.

I have no idea what sparks these or causes them which is frustrating because I have no way to predict when they will occur or more importantly, how to control them. They just show up without warning. When they occur I am pretty much immobilized, I cannot move or breathe. I just take very shallow, short breaths. It literally feels like a truck ran over my chest and crushed every bone on the left side of my chest as well as collapsed my left lung. It’s excruciating pain on the left side while the right side remains unaffected. They usually last a couple of hours before the pain begins to subside. And lately they are lasting longer and longer. No one seems to know what exactly causes them. The only theory suggested is perhaps the tumor on the lining of the lung is growing. 

During these episodes, given that I cannot move or breathe, I think to myself that I will try meditatating the pain away. Not so easy to meditate when you cannot really breathe. Our breath is kinda crucial to meditative states. I also think of the philosophy where you imagine yourself well and send healing energy to the affected area. Yeah, also not genius in the midst of one of these spasms. So then my mind naturally wonders to that dark place. Where all I can think of is “holy shit this hurts.” “Please show me the jackass who thinks pain is an illusion controlled by our mind because I need to beat this person senselessly, till he feels the pain of course.” 

When I slowly begin to regain a touch of movement so that it doesn’t feel like all of my bones are shattered and I can take more shallow breaths than I could an hour ago, I leave my dark place and try to rest or hopefully fall asleep. Unfortunately these episodes last a very long time and take days before you feel real improvement. And the last two episodes seem to have left a lasting impact as they never really disappeared altogether. When I take deep breaths in I can still feel a soreness or pain in my left lung. But I will take this over having more frequent episodes, that’s for sure.

So there you have it, cancer can and does hurt. And it can be much worse than what I have experienced. And sometimes it doesn’t hurt. So ladies get your boobies checked, men get your junk checked too!  And seriously whoever tells you that the pain isn’t really there needs a good ass-kicking to set things straight. 

Till next time guys.

Health, love and getting through the night pain free.

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Date night.


xo

Introducing Wanda

When people think about hair loss associated with cancer treatment they think of chemotherapy. People don’t generally make the association between hair loss and radiation treatment. And this assumption is mainly true as radiation treatment to your breasts or leg for example would not cause the hair on your head to fall out. However, it would cause hair loss in the area radiated. And therefore this is why individuals that undergo radiation to the brain will inevitably lose the hair on their head. 

I have now lost my hair twice over the course of my life as a result of cancer treatments. At the age of 3 due to chemotherapy treatments and most recently now due to the whole brain radiation that I underwent in April. 

It sucked then and it sucks now. 

Although it is much more difficult as we grow older. We are so much more attached to our hair and our appearance. Or perhaps I just had an unhealthy obsession with my hair. I loved my hair. It was long, shiny and super healthy. 

For whole brain radiation they say that the week following your last treatment your hair will begin to fall out, and that it takes about five days or so for it to completely fall out. Well, me being the exception to every rule, mine took over 3 weeks to fall out and some hair at the back of my head never actually fell out. I guess my hair is just as stubborn as me in the sense that it keeps fighting and refusing to die. 

I had quite the comb over though.

I went through various hair phases actually, anything ranging from looking like a scary white supremacist to a cute little old man with a little hair at the back and some fuzzies on the sides, and of course, the infamous comb over. Now I am at the point where there are lots of fuzzies on my head.

I guess these hairstyles helped to lighten the mood a bit. Additionally they also helped to show me that I might actually rock a pixie cut. Who woulda thought?

To be honest it was tough to see the hair fall out especially since it took so long in my case. However, I have to say that the worst part was the first time I put on my wig. I thought this was going to be fun and make things a little more normal. Instead, it felt anything but normal. 

It was this mop on my head. It felt like a foreign object each time I put it on. Very unnatural. Just looking at it made me upset. What made it worse is that I didn’t feel comfortable touching it or moving it. I was terrified of someone noticing it was a wig or having it fall off my head to end up looking like road kill on the side of the road or something. Plus in order for it to fit properly so that I wouldn’t feel like it was going to fall off, it had to be on the tightest setting. So it was squeezing the heck out of my head. And the absolute worst part is that the wig itself is beautiful. Virgin human hair in all its glory. This made me feel so guilty because I hated wearing it. Bottom line: it isn’t my hair. 

When I am home I typically keep the head bare in order to let the scalp breathe or sometimes I wear a little hat or headscarf. I only put the wig on when I leave the house to go somewhere other than Princess Margaret Hospital.

Well this past weekend I had my cousin’s wedding and although I haven’t really been going out, I did want to be at her wedding.

So I decided that I needed to make the wig my friend. And what better way to do that than giving the wig a name. You all know how much I love naming things, right? So I introduced Wanda to the world.

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Everyone cannot seem to get over how similar the colour is to my natural hair. And I think the more you wear it, the more comfortable you become in it. But it still feels weird.

I am not sure if others undergoing cancer treatments can relate to this, but for some strange reason every time I put Wanda on, I become filled with this overwhelming urge to tell everyone I see (including complete strangers) that I am wearing a wig. No clue why this happens. It’s almost as if I need to find ways to throw in that I am wearing a wig into normal conversations.

Random sales lady: “It’s been so hot outside lately, hasn’t it?”

Me: “Yeah I know. Really makes the wig I am wearing on my head right now feel very warm. You see this wig, right here on my head. Yeah that’s the one.”

This can get uncomfortable for some.

We will see how the hair will grow in. It could grow in a different colour or texture. It can also grow in sparse, in patches or with bald spots. I will be taking tons of vitamins to help strengthen the follicles, but in the end, anything can happen. I will aim to give you guys an update and some visuals on the growth process. Stay tuned!

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Health, love and baldness.
xo

Despite the bad days, there will still be smiles

Hello loyal readers!

I have missed all of you. I have to confess that the fatigue, the overall weakness and the general anger and irritability have kept me away.

I am working on getting myself back in shape, both physically and mentally. Unfortunately cancer and all its nasty side effects do not simply manifest themselves in the physical form, but rather they also wreak havoc on our psyche and mental wellbeing. The gift that just keeps on giving.

What I have realized throughout my long and arduous cancer journey spanning 32 years is that sometimes it’s okay to be pissed off and angry at the world or to want to kill the next healthy person that tells you to be positive and thankful for what you have. It’s okay to vent or cry, this doesn’t mean we are weak. Our bravery and strength is not defined by our happy face or constant smile. It’s much more meaningful than that.  Our courage does not decrease if we don’t aimlessly walk around with a positive attitude at all times. Sometimes life hurts and it’s okay to feel that way. Our strength in facing cancer or hard times is embedded deep within us and it gives us the courage and resilience to move on despite the bad days. A bad day, week or month does not affect our bravery or determination to beat this dreadful disease.

Obviously we need to move past our bad days, our sadness and our anger. However we must do this on our own time. No one can really feel or experience what we are feeling so no one is qualified to fix the issue. No one but us. We have to work through it. Of course the support is always appreciated, but ultimately it is up to us to fix the issue at hand.

And we will. We won’t let cancer win, not to worry.  But the journey will involve crying and homicidal rages every so often.  I’ve been there, done that. It’s completely normal. And truthfully speaking, individuals with cancer or that have gone through extreme difficulty in their lives generally tend to put life into perspective much better than the average person and they are more thankful and appreciative of the good in life.

Now for some light at the end of a dark tunnel, I do not have cancer in my stomach. Booya!! Although given my history and current disease, it was believed to be a cancerous mass, but the biopsy revealed it is not the Big C. It is referred to as a desmoid tumour, and the way it stands currently, there will be no surgery to remove it. Thank the heavens as I was dreading another major surgery.

So you see right now I am focusing on this great news and am extremely thankful. However it doesn’t mean I can’t have a bad day or a rough time every now and then.  That’s just life with metastatic cancer. But for now, I am all smiles 😊

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Health, love and good days.
xo