It’s a very strange feeling to be over 16 months out from chemotherapy and yet be back to square one with the hair where it all began to fall out in April 2013 from FEC – D chemotherapy. Punk Chick and JRF helped me treat the hair loss as a celebration of sorts, a path to wellness. “Piece of cake!” I said, since it wasn’t going to be permanent.
In retrospect, what a genius idea it was to document that process for the SHITTY TITTIE CHEMO CUT CHALLENGE. None of us had any inkling that so much of my hair would be killed off permanently by my life saving chemotherapy.
Just yesterday, I had the pleasure of lunch with the radiant, rainbow coloured, hairdresser Punk Chick and my dear sisterlike friend Kenny. They agreed my head could do with a shave as there wasn’t a lot of other options holding out for me in haircut land. So this had to be. A clean slate. Starting afresh, moving on, and all that.
As it stands, this must be about Shitty Tittie Chemo Cut Fourteen, and hopefully one day very soon, I won’t think of this as a chemo cut anymore but just as “my cut”. The association between this and chemo is very strong. But so was the constant reminder of cancer from looking like I had the hair of the Three Stooges.
(Yes, all of them together) And many people still thought I was still having active treatment anyway.
I’ll continue ingesting Minoxidil and Spironolactone through the summer and then I think I’ll just forget about it. The hair specialist says the hair I have is likely to fall out once the meds stop. But I have so much to be thankful for and it’s time to direct my energies to more important things. You know, like things that actually matter.
So for now I’ll run with the slogan , “the family that shaves together stays together”. Or something like it.
I have always thought the word “lump” was a miserable and unimpressive little word. As a noun it has many uses…
- a compact mass of a substance, especially one without a definite or regular shape.
- a swelling under the skin, especially one caused by injury or disease.
- a small cube of sugar.
- a heavy, ungainly, or slow-witted person.
It is also used as a verb…
- to put in an indiscriminate mass or group; treat as alike without regard for particulars.
- carry (a heavy load) somewhere with difficulty.
The origin is thought to be from a Germanic base meaning ‘shapeless piece’; the Danish call lump ‘lump’, the Norwegian and Swedish dialect for “lump” refers to ‘block, log’, and the Dutch call it “lomp”which means ‘rag’.
The last time I felt a lump was 23 months ago I wasn’t really concerned. I actually had two lumps back then that were oddly found to be connected by a strand on mammography and ultrasound imaging. There was a 4 cm lump at four o’clock, connected by a 3 cm lump at 3 o’clock. Oddly, the 4 cm one ended up as benign and that damn 3 o’clock one was not. The cancerous one felt like a chocolate liquorice bullet, long and thin. The benign one was not easily palpable. Then there was also a mass in one silly little lymph node.
The act of feeling a “lump” for a breast cancer survivor makes the blood drain again, it strikes terror and reawakens the kind of anxiety that lies deep within. Last week, in the shower I discovered nestled deep in my armpit area, two, maybe three small lumps of various sizes. These are sitting about one inch from my mastectomy incision scar. They can’t be lymph nodes because they were all skillfully removed by my breast surgeon.
Hello Dread Dragon, its been a while. You have been far, far away while I have been busy enjoying myself, taking interstate trips with girlfriends, having my photo taken for a National Portrait Prize entry, working on getting my pre treatment fitness back, rolling with my busy family life.
On the health front my energy has been improving. I have returned to running and riding. I am seeing small gains, and although small, they are gains. My hair is getting longer but is still awfully thin and receding, despite nine months of taking Minoxidil (Rogaine) for my head hair and Spirinolactone to facilitate the growth of eyebrows and eyelashes (and facial hair!!!). Tamoxifen maintains it’s daily presence, and I’m waiting for a specialist appointment to see if anything can be done about my mutant post treatment ovaries. The trans vaginal ultrasound (also affectionally known as dildo cam) has been a frequent part of my testing repertoire this year, while we monitor said ovaries. I’m also still waiting for the exchange surgery for the expanders. But on the whole life is pretty awesome! I am needing to write less and less these days as my cancer experience fades. I’m trying to protect my children from it more and more. So much of the last few years has been about cancer.
I was hoping my GP would just say… “it will be scar tissue and you don’t need it looked at”. But after a quick palpate as I laid on my back with my arm above my head, they went and said “An ultrasound is warranted given your history”. And the ultrasound order clinical notes read “left breast cancer and axillary clearance, now several palpable hard lumps, prob scar tissue“.
It is most likely JUST scar tissue or fat necrosis from radiation. But the very instance one feels a lump again… I don’t know. I don’t think you can understand this unless you have been through cancer yourself.
I guess this is my life now and as the saying goes… “You can like it or lump it”, which is kind of apt given that synonyms for this include…
… put up with it, bear it, endure it, take it, tolerate it, suffer it, accept it, make allowances for it, abide it, brook it, weather it, countenance it; stomach it, stand it, swallow it, hack it, wear it.
So lump it I will.
Two years on, and no Melbourne half marathon for me yesterday. But inspired by my amazing friends I just ran a few kms for the first time around Melbourne’s “Tan Track”. And the great thing about looking like this 13 months clear of active treatment is people get out of your way when they see you coming. I can also highly recommend getting double tissue expanders, for I haven’t had to wear a bra since! #lifeisgood #thatswaterbytheway #lovemysolesisters