Saturday, December 29, 2018

Let’s Talk Side Effects

I was thinking a lot about the side effects we face because of cancer and it's treatment.  There is the more obvious ones:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss...wait, what was I talking about?
  • Hair loss (my least fav)
The stress of losing my hair was very traumatic for me.  I felt like it truly made me look the part as a cancer patient.  Some may say that is vain to be so upset about hair loss and maybe they are right.  But that was the trigger point for me in my cancer journey.

As for the rest of the in treatment side effects, I did okay.  I was pretty tired and sometimes, all these years later, I still am.  I dealt with the nausea just fine.  That was a surprise as I thought that would be so much worse.

Let's move forward to the long term side effects.  Again, there are the obvious ones that reflect the initial side effects:

  • Fatigue (yay, more tired!)
  • Memory loss...didn't I talk about this already?
  • Early menopause (I was diagnosed at 32 so this was an "amazing" gift)
  • Cataracts (wait....what?????)
Yes, CATARACTS!  I couldn't believe this one.  These lovely foggy lenses formed on my eyes about 6 years after my initial rounds of chemo....lovely.  I was terrified because my eyesight was fading and foggier (not sure that is a word, but go with it).  I started needing my glasses more and more.  Light would reflect off them and it would get so bad, I'd pretty much need sunglasses at night.  I was convinced I had cancer in my eyes or brain or something (because when anything goes wrong, I assume it is cancer, of course).  Freaked out and went to the eye doctor.  Turns out it was a delightful duo of fast growing cataracts - thank you steroids and chemo!!  

I had to wait and let them grow and grow....and grow until they were about as bad as they could possibly be for having them removed.  Lets just say that is one of the worst things to have to deal with.  I know, I know, I went through cancer and that was THE WORST, but cataracts were so not fun.  My eyesight got so bad, I was using a massive magnifying glass to see anything and everything!  It was the size of my face and yet I still could barely see.  Now, it was pretty funny, I must say.  I tried to keep a good attitude and laughed at myself.  I mean, how often do you go into a meeting at work carrying your laptop and one extra large magnifying glass to see anything?  That was a first for me.  Needless to say that this past summer, those lovely cataracts got to their much needed max fogginess and I got them removed.  Oh everything was so bright and colorful!!  I missed seeing green grass and blue skies.  During cataract season, everything had a yellow tint to it.  It was such a wonderful feeling to see again.

Cancer and all it's side effects are less than enjoyable.  However, I do believe it is how we tackle said side effects.  I'm not saying embrace them and cherish them (um, that is just not normal) but practicing a little bit of acceptance goes a long way.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Dislike of Change

Okay, am I the only one who HATES change?  Some could argue I get stuck in my ways, which is not always a good thing - fair point.  But, I am human, so that's what I know....and I like it.  Going to something I am unsure of from a new job, new experience, new friends, etc?  It can fill me with anxiety.  So, what to do?  Well, my first instinct is to complain about it.  That works wonders, well, not at all.  It is certainly easier!
In reality, we are always changing but just not really noticing all the time, or at least not acknowledging it all the time.  We tend to get stuck on the big changes or experiences that make the biggest impact on us.  The biggest for me was the whole cancer experience.  Yeah, that can pretty much change everyone.  My life changed, my body changed, my mental status was basically destroyed.  Everything I knew at that time basically turned to dust.  So, what to do?
At first, I had no clue so I just ran from it.  It took me years to realize that didn't work, but was actually hurting me and more so, changing me for the worse.  My second idea, after a long time of running, was latching onto the word acceptance.  I was going to continue down the road of nowhere fast, if I didn't accept or at least start the acknowledgment process.  I started seeing a therapist to help me get with those words.  They are not easy to open yourself up to on your own.  Lastly, I gave myself a bit of a break.  I thought I could wake up one morning and be like - "Hey, I love change and everything that has happened to me!!"  I beat myself up constantly because I was so frustrated that I was not changing overnight.
Bottom line is change is inevitable.  Self care can be a huge key to that acceptance.  Give yourself a break.  Whether it is a caner diagnosis or something else - change is happening and your reaction to it is the beginning of a good CHANGE that can happen in your life.

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