Monday, 23 July 2012

Laughing the Cancer Away

Today is the very last Monday I will ever have boobs - exactly a week today they will be chopped off. Tomorrow I'm seeing the surgeon, a new one, because they need to allocate the operating theatre times so that he as well as the Portacath surgeon can both do what they have to do to me at the same time. I've written out a list of questions, and the main two focus on whether or not my left boob stays or goes, and whether or not I let them fiddle about with the lymph nodes on the left side. 

The lymph node removal on the right side has given me nothing but grief. To get there they create a lot of nerve damage, and I still have really unpleasant sensations in my right arm, under the arm is totally numb and feeling will never return, and I have very little strength or co-ordination. I still don't have the confidence to drive because of it. They can never take blood from that vein, I run a high risk of infection from even a tiny paper cut on a finger, and I may develop lymphodema - a lifelong condition where I would then have to wear a flight sock on my right arm 24/7 for ever, and how can you look sexy with that?

They now want to do the same to the left side, and I'm left handed, so I don't think so, unless they can convince me my prognosis significantly improves because of it. If it's purely for diagnostic purposes, and won't actually change the treatment plan, then absolutely no.

Now on to the boobs. I really can't get my head around losing them at all. I really don't know how I'll feel to be as flat as a pancake, and will people stare when I go out and about? Will it matter if they do? They'll probably look at my big fat belly and nudge each other and say "Look at that poor cow, see how far her boobs have drooped!". Reconstruction and prosthetics will probably be discussed at length tomorrow too, and I have very clear feelings about reconstruction. 

Sometimes they can do reconstruction at the same time they remove the real ones, and there is a huge bonus because they would make news ones from my big fat belly - so I'd get a much-needed tummy tuck thrown in for free. However, I don't want to get new ones straight away, and I might decide never to bother to go down that road at all. 

I feel that losing my boobs is going to be a bit of a sad thing. Even though they aren't doing me any favours and are actually trying to kill me at the moment, it will still be hard to say goodbye to them. I think I'll need a period of adjustment, getting used to the fact they are gone, before getting new ones. I think if I woke up and immediately saw newly-constructed imposters I would never feel positive towards them, whereas if I had new ones made in a year or so once this cancer has been banished completely, it would seem like a celebration and I'd have a much better chance of really appreciating them. 

It's been a very long time since anyone actually found my body irresistibly attractive (apart from WM and I think he is either being incredibly kind or needs new glasses) so boobs or not shouldn't really matter an iota either way, but somehow they do, and I can't really get my head around why. I've got pretty low self-esteem where my body shape is concerned. I've been fighting a losing battle with weight ever since my mid-twenties. Interestingly, last week the hospital told me that as well as having cancer, I also have a goitre, which is a swelling on the thyroid gland in my neck. Now I know it's there it's a really obvious great big lump sticking out, and I'm actually delighted about it. It may mean that I've got an under-active thyroid gland, which could be the reason for my weight, and once it's fixed, I could return to the barely 7 stone weight of my teens and twenties. Well less, actually, because those boobs would be gone. A girl can dream, eh?

That's if I ever live long enough to lose all that weight. This cancer could go one way or the other, and there are no definite happy endings yet. It's constantly at the back of my mind that I may not make it through this, and that I may never meet my grandchildren just like my mum never met hers. I'm doing everything I can not to dwell on negativity, because that's like opening the back door and inviting depression to come in and make itself comfortable. Depression is the real enemy that causes people to give up hope and actually die. 

That doesn't mean I don't get bad days, or bad moments. I do, and fairly often. I'll allow myself to wallow in misery for a cathartic half an hour or so, and then it's over, done and dusted, and I make a calming cup of tea. If nothing else, this cancer thing is demonstrating how short life is, and whether I make it or not, why waste even an extra minute on being sad when you can be happy. 

I trained as a Laughter Yoga Leader just before I was diagnosed. Laughter Yoga is virtually everything you need to stay well, happy and balanced, laughing lots, and doing yogic breathing. Luckily for me it doesn't mean putting your feet behind your head. The medical and scientific evidence proves beyond any shadow of doubt that laughing regularly is not only an excellent cardio-vascular exercise, but it also causes positive physiological changes at cell level to promote health, as well as guarding against mental health issues. Laughing every day can actually prevent ill-health as well as being a very effective medicine for those already ill. So I'm laughing all the way through this as much as I can, hoping that I can laugh this cancer away completely. Last week lots of friends came over and I led a Laughter Workshop in our front room, which was brilliant fun, and once I'm over this next session of surgery we'll do it again and again. 

Friends and family, you've really shown you're true colours over the past few weeks, and you are all amazing, thank you. Your love, support, friendship, care and humour really are everything I need right now, and just a couple of words on Facebook every now and again, or a text, or an email, or a phone call means the world to me. I really feel that every one of you is fighting this thing with me, my very own cancer army. I almost feel quite sorry for that poor little cancer, it really doesn't stand much of a chance at all with you lot on my side.

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