Who Cares What You Look Like? You're Alive
I am currently at war with my own body and I'm not just talking about the cancer, I'm talking about my appearance.
As mentioned in my previous blog, about my chipmunk, marshmallow cheeked Lara Flynn Boyle bloated hairy as wolverine looking face, my body has also decided to join the bloating party and it seems it was byoc as well, bring your own cellulite.
Since beginning the immunotherapy Keytruda (I had treatment via infusion through a port in my chest, once every 3 weeks) in November, I have gained about 8 kilograms (about 17.5 lbs or 1.25 st), 8 kilos you say, that's not much, well on a 4ft 11 inch framed woman, an 8 kilo weight gain is very noticeable, in fact 2 kilos is very noticeable. It's a combination of the drug dexamethasone I am on (a steroid) as well as other drugs I'm prescribed and well .......eating, my appetite is insatiable 24 hours a day (drug side effect).
Basically I'm retaining bucket loads of fluid (they call this disproportionate bloating, so it can make you look lop sided or fatter on one side of your face, stomach and limbs than the other, this has happened with my under the chin fat, yes I now have under chin fat, from here on in, under chin fat is a real word) but I am also frantically eating my parents out of house and home. I eat a loaf of bread (gluten free as I'm coeliac, we'll get to that in another blog) a day, pasta, drink Coke by the bucketloads (a year ago you could count on 2 hands the amount I would have drank Coke in a one year period), eat red cloud lollies, gluten free special K (YES!!!!!! Kellogg's has joined the gf revolution and made gf Corn Flakes and Special K and might I add they're delicious) ham, chicken, chips, cheese, you name it and if it's not healthy I am eating it.
My belly is bloated solid, to the point where my friends who are posting their 7 month pregnancy belly photos on fb are actually smaller than mine. It is rock hard, I also have hard lumps all over my stomach from injecting drugs, so they look very attractive, like ping pong balls under the skin, it basically looks like an exaggerated cartoon form of cellulite on my stomach. I can't wear form fitting clothes, due to the bloating, the obvious lumps and bumps and pain from clothing pushing on my tumours.
My legs are bruised, bloated and lumpy, also from the drugs I inject. As I've mentioned before people say "Who cares? You've got cancer and you're still here fighting it, who cares if you've gained weight or have a hairy face?". I'll tell you who cares about weight gain and appearance? Every single woman that's ever been born, that's who!
Just because a person gets cancer does not mean that they automatically become this self loving enlightened individual, why should cancer make me behave like any less of a woman, because I am sick am I meant to leave the "old" me behind and embrace the "new" me like some long lost relative? What makes people think that all we are is our cancer? We are not just our cancer, we are wives, girlfriends, mothers, entrepreneurs, best friends and most of all we are still WOMEN!!!!!
We are all our own worst enemies, we always have been and always will be, we can't help but critique ourselves relentlessly, it's part of our genetic makeup.
So do me a favour, if you have a friend that has cancer and they are going through treatment or may still be recovering from their treatment, they may be bald, have no eyelashes and eyebrows (yes this is the worst, no eyelashes and eyebrows make you look like an alien, Chemo makes you look more sick than the cancer itself in most cases), have bad acne, skin discolouration, cold sores, be bloated, fat and the list goes on, don't tell them they're lucky to be alive, who cares what you look like? Instead maybe empathise with them, obviously you're not going to say "Yeah, you do kinda look like a bloated hairy in all the wrong and not hairy in all the wrong places alien with bad skin, tally ho", perhaps tell them you could never begin to imagine how they feel, so you're not even going to try.
Your friend has just been through or is going through one of the most harrowing experiences any human being should ever have to endure, tell them you love them and you are there for them no matter what, so if they want to spend an hour bitching and moaning about how ugly they feel, just be there, just listen, don't judge and certainly don't rationalise, there is no rationale when it comes to cancer, just let us vent and hate the world and ourselves for a minute and then as any good friend would, go to the kitchen and get the tub of ice-cream out and 2 spoons, because the post cancer diet, like all diets can always start tomorrow.
My name is Lisa Magill and I have been navigating the minefield that is cancer since just months after turning 30, people have been saying to me for years that I should put my thoughts into writing and as time has progressed I thought I had left it too late, well here we are nearly 4 years in and for some unknown reason I've decided to start to write today.