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This body of mine

July 18, 2018

Yesterday, I posted online that I had a fever. It was low, but when you’re a chemo patient, 100.5 is the call-your-doctor temp. Maybe even go to the ER. Mine just barely made it over 100, but I did text Dr. Z in case it kept climbing. He said if it did make it to 100.5, he would call in an antibiotic for me. Thankfully we didn’t have to go there. I did end up with a fierce headache that kept waking me up during the night, but this morning my temperature was 98.2, ibuprofen is taking care of my headache, and I feel pretty normal.

I’ve been wanting to write about some of the ways that my body has been affected over the last couple months. The most obvious change is losing my hair. I actually shaved my head with a razor for the third time this morning. Initially, I was hesitant to do it, but Jonathan did it for me the first time (kind of without us really planning to) and I was really happy with it. It felt so nice and smooth instead of the stubbly roughness it had been before. One of the reasons I wanted to buzz my hair in the first place years ago was because I loved how buzzed heads felt, so it only makes sense that I would want a nice feeling head still. My hair continues to grow each week, but it’s so sparse that I can’t imagine not cutting it.

Lashes and brows. Just this week (10 weeks and 5 doses into chemo), I noticed that my eyelashes were becoming more sparse. This is a change that I have really dreaded. To be perfectly honest, my eyelashes are my pride and joy. They are a big part of what helps me feel feminine and beautiful even when my hair is really short (or gone). So it’s no fun to watch them fall out and know that they won’t be replaced for a while. I noticed that the video blogger I mentioned recently did a really nice cat eye (is that what it’s called?) with liquid liner, and I realized I couldn’t even tell whether her eyelashes were still there or not. So I’ve been working on my eyeliner skills. She also has a tutorial on filling in sparse brows during chemo. I’m practicing that too.

I’ve struggled with being so dependent on makeup lately. Summer is usually when I can wear a lot less and still be pleased with the outcome, but the whole no hair, dark circles, and now sparse lashes and brows has made that hard. This is a whole other post that I need to work through still, but I’m trying to view makeup just like I do a well-fitting outfit or flattering accessories. There’s nothing wrong with dressing your body in a complimentary way, and I’ve seen how much good can come from it, so why should I view makeup any differently? Like I said, I still have more processing to do, but it’s something that’s been on my mind.

Skin. Chemo has had a surprisingly positive effect on my skin. My whole life, I’ve had something called keratosis pilaris. It causes bumps on my arms and sometimes legs and face. Because of this, and because I’m a horrible picker, I’ve never had smooth arm skin. Yet, over the last few months, Jonathan has commented that my skin is bizarrely smooth. The skin of my face is also clear and smooth. So #silverlining, right?

Chest and armpit. I never told you about when I got fitted for my breast prosthesis. It was a good experience, but here’s the most interesting piece of information I got from it: since I had my mastectomy, I had been feeling like my right armpit was still kind of swollen. Women know how sometimes you have some fat that sticks out over the top of your bra under your arm. It felt like that really bad on the right side. I had to wait 6 weeks after surgery to get fitted, so I was confused that there was still swelling (since that’s the point of waiting so long.) The lovely fitter told me that it wasn’t swollen and that every woman who has her breast removed has this problem because what held the skin taut (your breast) is gone. So now in addition to having a breast missing, I have this saggy, scarred up armpit. (I have a scar from when they took lymph nodes out last year, and my mastectomy scar runs into my armpit.)

I am, however, getting more and more accustomed to life with one breast. I have some nice bras that I can put the prosthesis is so I don’t have to think about it when I get dressed, but most days lately, it’s just too hot to pretend I have two boobs. I find myself being more okay going in public without hyper-analyzing how my chest looks in whatever I’m wearing. Honestly, I don’t think anyone notices.

One thing that does bother me is that between my right breast being gone and the port on my left side, I still have to be on guard about my chest. It’s hard to have a child sit on my lap and lean their head on my chest. The right side doesn’t hurt at all, but it feels weird, numb and tender at the same time, and there just isn’t much between someone’s little elbow or head and my ribs. And the port is right where they’d lean on the left.

My port has been behaving itself lately. It’s hard to get a blood return about every other treatment, so I have to do all these lean forward/raise your arm/turn your head acrobatics, but it works. It’s still better than an IV. I’m thankful it isn’t permanent though. Per a few people’s advice, I ordered the fuzzy seatbelt covers to use when I drive. They really make it more comfortable. Without it, I usually put the seatbelt under my arm so it doesn’t rub across the port.

The one other area that has been significantly affected by chemo is the one thing I don’t want to write about on a public blog – my intestines and butt. I have no problem talking about poop and stuff in real life, but this is evidently where I draw the line on internet vulnerability. Suffice it to say, one of taxol’s side effects is diarrhea, and I was really excited about that. Said no one ever, right? So, if you’re a cancer patient or someone you love is, and you want to talk about this aspect of chemo, we can chat.

I’m sure there are other ways my body has been affected, but these are the main ones. Last week, I didn’t feel any major effects from taxol, but to say I was irritable and moody would be an understatement. Fever aside, this week is better, and I’m ready to keep moving on with this treatment.

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