We often hear cancer patients waxing lyrical about what cancer cannot take from them and I'll admit I'm one of them, although in my position if I'm honest with myself, like so much of this disease, I say and do things to make others feel better, to make others feel more comfortable with my illness. Just as you do in everyday life, like when the Macca's chick asks you at the drive thru "how's your day been so far?", your response "greeaat", you know the long dragged out great, because you're actually lying to the minimally payed teen who in reality couldn't give a flying pickle how your day has been, it's just something you're told to say in training and she'd much rather be at the beach with her friends, than doing this so called "character building" job.
Just as the Macca's chick lied to you about caring about your day and you lied to her that your day had been great, when in reality you lost your engagement ring somewhere in between the pedicure massage chair and the uv lamp drying station, just as you have lied to each other, we cancer patients often lie to you. So here's the actual truth about what Cancer "takes" from us. Cancer takes a lot from us, it takes waaaaay more than it gives and when it is giving it's usually something unpleasant.
Here's what cancer takes from us, firstly the obvious, it takes our health, you can go from a perfectly healthy person who accidentally felt a lump when she was trying to squeeze her boobs into a bra two sizes too small, to a nauseated, pain riddled fragile shadow of the human being you once were within weeks, I must stress I do not have breast cancer, this is strictly for blogging purposes.
It's takes your looks, well technically it's not necessarily the cancer that takes your looks, more often the treatment, but if it weren't for having the bastard of a disease you wouldn't need the chemotherapy that takes your hair, bloats your face and body, burns your skin, gives you painful rashes and remember those boobs that you were trying to squeeze into that bra, yeah well Cancer's taken those from you too, in place of your once glorious orbs of fun are either scars or new boobs that rarely come out as good as a proper boob job does, yeah I didn't know that either. I just thought you lose your boobs, you get a new set, but apparently it's not as simple as that. I don't claim to be an expert on breast cancer as I don't have it. I've just been told of the pitfalls by other breast cancer survivors I've spoken to who have had a mastectomy or double mastectomy, the boob reconstruction is not as pretty as a normal boob job and it's a bloody lengthy process, years sometimes. You see it's not like Angelina Jolie, where she had healthy breasts that had no prior surgery, so her reconstruction was immediate, boobs came off, new boobs went on. For those that have had cancer in their breasts removed and lymph nodes removed, followed by chemo and or radiation, the reconstruction isn't as simple as the Jolie op. Your body needs to recover from other treatments firstly to reduce risk of infection, many don't have nipples unless your plastic surgeon constructs them, you most often have no feeling in your new breasts, then there is the scarring.....anyway I could go on all day, but as I'm not a breast cancer patient I can't claim to be an expert, I'm only relaying the stories I've been told by patients.
It often takes a large chunk of your mental health, meaning that people going through Cancer often become depressed, anxious, paranoid and even suicidal. For some people the thought of having cancer is so scary to them that they would rather take their own life than face up to Chemo's, surgeries and radiation. Even after "cure" we often still focus on our cancer, we are scared at every cough, ache or headache, we often become reclusive, in our minds we don't want to burden people with our problems, so we avoid phone calls, door bells and text messages, we also become hermits, firstly if we are receiving chemo we get tired of sanitising everything in sight and every cough or sneeze we hear is like a sickness sniper seeking to take us out and we get tired of ducking behind clothes racks so we don't have to burden you with our hideousness. Yes we become so embarrassed by our appearance that box sets and chocolates seem way more appealing than having to try and draw eyebrows on, apply fake eyelashes to lashless lids and then last but not least try and make a wig look like hair and not a wig. God I hated those days, firstly wigs are uncomfortable, they're itchy and sweaty, they knot really easily and I would spend the entire time I was wearing a wig in public thinking everyone was looking at me thinking, she's got a wig on, I got a couple of compliments from staff in shops about my hair and I would immediately ask were they saying that because they could tell it was a wig, to which they'd say no and I'd still not believe them. Yep give me Netflix and track pants any day of the week.
It often takes your womanhood, well it has mine. I've been in and out of menopause more times than Paris Hilton has earned royalties on sex tapes. I'm currently "in menopause", I don't think Aunty Flo is going to visit again either, I'm pretty sure she's gone to a great big tampon heaven in the sky somewhere. Sex drive? Sorry what was that? I said Sex Drive? Once again I ask what was that? I'm meant to be in my sexual prime at my age, but once again Cancer, you sneaky son of a bitch, you've managed to steal one of the only free forms of entertainment I enjoyed.
Babies, yes it often steals babies, from both men and women. Men don't always get the right advice about what to do with their swimmers before radiation or Chemo and don't reserve some, treatment then renders them infertile. Women, well depending on the cancer we are often warned against having babies for a number of years if at all after treatment, some cancers are hormone reactive and pregnancy puts the woman at a high risk of recurrence. Me, well I was basically scare mongered by different specialists and fertility centres into not going through the process of freezing my eggs or making embryos, because we are so unsure about my cancer and what triggers it that they didn't think it was wise to go through all the hormonal treatments required. I was just not destined to be a mother, I was destined to be a kick ass Aunty, which is more than fine with me. Can you imagine having a baby and going through this shit show at the same time? No thanks and then there's the psychological repercussions, but it for you, your baby daddy and baby, waaaaaay too much head fucking. It's hard enough looking after myself, never mind a baby.
Confidence as I briefly mentioned earlier, I used to strut my stuff down Pitt Street Mall, petite with a tiny waist, big boobs and long dark shiny hair swooshing from side to side, men would give you the side eye and that was just part of everyday life, weeeelllll not anymore! I couldn't tell you the last time a man took a second look at me, not that I need a guys attention to make me confident, but let's admit it girls, feminist or not, it gives you slight pleasure when someone gives you a bit of attention, a little ego boost for the day. I am so embarrassed by my body now that I find myself explaining to every Tom, Dick and Harry why I look the way I do. I know I know, I wish I was better than that, but I'm not, I'm sorry to all of you out there who love yourselves the way you are and you are saddened by my dissatisfaction with my own body, but at least I'm honest about it. I could sit hear and preach about self love and you can only love someone else when you love yourself and all that bullshit, but that's what it would be, bullshit and I owe you more than that.
It's taken my independence, my freedom, my adult status, I have been reverted to my childhood state, "Mum, can you drive me here? Mum, can you make my bed? Mum, can you go to the shops for me?". It's never ending and it's sad and demeaning. I have lived out of home since days after turning 20, I've ran my own household since then, earned my own money and drove my own car and now here I am sitting in my room hoping that Mum and Dad have their TV on because they're actually watching TV and not having parent sex whilst I sit in the bedroom down the hall.....it's just not something I want to think about. I mean good on them if they still go at it, it's just there's a very high likelihood that I'll be somewhere in the house when they're doing it-insert Mr Burns shudder here. Dads building a shed, oh shit, is that going to be their shag shed?
Moving right along, there are so many more things cancer takes from us, my mind is constantly a blur (chemo brain) I often can't complete sentences when speaking, it takes your fitness, I used to take the stairs for actual fun, nowadays unless those stairs are electric, I just won't go upstairs (exaggeration there, I do take stairs, if there are no other options), it takes friendships and relationships, people often drift apart through sickness and there is so much more cancer takes from you, but I'd never stop writing.
My leaving note, people often say "Cancer can't take your personality or your spirit or hope", well it actually can, I'm a completely different person to what I was before cancer, in fact since starting regular pain meds, I'm a different Lisa from the Lisa 6 months ago and spirit and hope, well, I still have it, it just goes on vacation occasionally, but so far it has always come home. One thing Cancer has given me, well it's given me you! My beautiful, loyal, supportive fabulous rockstars and who knows? If it weren't for my cancer I may have never started blogging, I'm still not going to thank Cancer though, Cancer can still go do one, as far as I'm concerned. Stay fabulous rockstars ❤️🤘🏼
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.