OK let’s be clear about this, this is not a salacious posting ;o)
One of the things which has been becoming more and more apparent to me as the chemo continues to grind away at my body to make sure the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has really gone and that I will continue to be cancer free, is that my body is changing. Yes, the first big change was my hair coming out all over my face in the shower. When that happened it really was a moment or two of panic as I really didn’t realise what was between my face and my hands, what was trying to get into my eyes nose and mouth. It may sound stupid but it never occurred to me that when my hair came out it would do so like that. I’d kind of imagined it lying on my pillow when I awoke, or maybe coming out as I combed my hair, or maybe, in a more exotic visualisation altogether, wafting gently on the breeze as I strolled down the street. I’d already shaved off my beard rather than have it fall out in patches so I was already having to get used to a new face, but, on the day my hair came out in the shower, and I mean about 90% of my hair, I went in feeling somewhat normal and came out to see a head shaped very differently to anything I’d imagined, not even the same sort of shape as is evident on my baby photos. : very much egg-shaped. I kind of felt as though I was being used as a model for the Muppet Show. Since then the facial changes have continued as my eyebrows and eyelashes have thinned or disappeared. On the plus side my hair is now starting to grow back on my skull and I’ve taken to shaving once a week to keep the bum-fluff on my cheeks from looking as ridiculous as it must have done when I was about 13 or 14 years old and bum-fluff was considered an outward sign that we boys were turning into men!
I’ve also lost a lot of body hair. My wife reckons I am, or was, a bit hairier than average so when my body hair first started to disappear it was barely noticeable, and then came the day when I put my hand on my stomach and it just felt wrong. It took me a while to realise that the touch felt wrong because I was actually feeling the skin of my stomach – something I haven’t done in probably 40 years or thereabouts as during that time there was always hair between the skin over my stomach and my hand – and it felt very odd. As time wore on it was possible to see the changes on my hands as the hair on the back of my hands and fingers first thinned and then retreated, and, in some cases, just disappeared altogether. It occurred to me that it would, prehaps, have made for interesting time-lapse photography but I was too tired to give it more than a passing thought, let alone work out how to get the same shot day after day. My arms now look as though they are fringed with hair rather than being covered in it: this is because the hair is so thin that it is barely visible against the skin but stands out against surrounding objects. The loss of hair from my legs has, perhaps been the strangest as bald patches began to appear on the sides of my calves where they make contact with the bed when I am sleeping.
I’ve also lost a lot of weight, or at least I think I have, though one of my neighbours tells me that she can’t see the difference. 16lbs loss and she can’t see the difference!?!? I guess it just indicates how much more I need to lose to get back to a reasonable weight, which, in fairness, is something I’ve been aware of for a good while now. Anyway what that weight loss means is that my body is changing shape, sometimes on a daily basis it seems, and this means that, when I do something simple such as rub my hands across my stomach in the shower, the body they feel doesn’t really match with the memory imprint, well I suppose it might if the memory imprint was to be searched back ten or fifteen years. I mean, there’s no hair, I now have ribs, and, there’s even beginning to be a suggestion of abs! Not all the weight loss is down to fat loss, no, some of it is down to lost muscle mass. Now I’ve never been hugely muscled but I’ve led a fairly active life with walking, kayaking, mountain-biking and hurling my grandkids around in ways which make them squeal with delight, so I’ve had a good muscle mass, but now it’s very much reduced. I rub a hand along my shoulders and there feels to be nothing there but skin and bone. I look at my forearms and can see that they just aren’t as thick as they used to be. My thighs are changing shape as well.
So maybe now you understand why I can say “I’m not really feeling myself”.
One thing I have been meaning to mention on here for a while now is Cancerville. Cancerville is really William (Bill) Penzer Ph. D. a psychologist whose daughter has had cancer. Bill first came to my attention a few months ago when my wife returned from a find-out-more-about-cancer event saying she’d met someone who would like to talk with my about my experiences as someone with cancer for a book he is writing, and that he’d given her a copy of his previous book “How to Cope Better When Someone You Love Has Cancer”. Bill explains about the book and how he came to write it on the Cancerville website, or you can read reviews on Amazon. Now this isn’t a sales pitch, and I have to say that “How to Cope Better When Someone You Love Has Cancer” is not the kind of thing I would have read when my first wife was diagnosed with cancer, but it will be very helpful to a lot of people and if some of your family are struggling then it may be worth pointing them towards a copy either in a local book shop or at the library. I mention this because, after several conversations and emails, I’ve come to the conclusion that Bill is a very genuine guy who will respond to your emails to him. More importantly Bill, as he admits in his book, was surprised at some of the places he found himself when coping with the news of his daughter’s cancer, so he does speak with humble authority and his thoughts on cess pits and dams are worth looking at.
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