Life as a Cancer Patient

Who in their right mind says, “Will I have cancer at one point in my life”. Unfortunately, that could happen, but we do not think that nor do we say that. Well, I have cancer. Never thought I would say those words. Never thought I would give my body up to something like “cancer”. Never did I think at age 27 I would have cancer.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, of course I didn’t really realize how much your life is about to change. The fear you are about to face. How your body changes. You can get all the prep in the world by talking to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other people going through it themselves, but it never really prepares you fully. Not until it happens and you are officially going through it.

Let me take the time to explain the “Life as a Cancer Patient” and what I go through! Now, I am not speaking for anyone else’s; I am speaking for myself and what I have been through. I am sure there are people who can relate and hopefully what I’ve been through can help someone else.

Everyone’s journey through battling cancer can be different. The chemo is different depending on which cancer you have. Side effects can be similar if you are on the same type of treatment as someone else, but different if you are on different treatments. But, each person can have different levels of how the side effects effect their body. For colon cancer, you don’t fully lose your hair, but it does thin quite a bit. For someone who has breast cancer, losing their hair fully while on treatment is common.

The unknown, is real. Every time I walk in to that doctors apt, I do not know what to expect or what I will hear. You may have a lot of questions, concerns, frustration, fear of the unknown, numbness, confusion, worry ness, freaking out mode to the extreme, and really any emotional word you can be feeling, your feeling. The unknown of how your labs are and if chemo will happen or not. The unknown of your life. The unknown of how your body is going to react. There are a lot of unknowns in this world called “cancer”.

Chemo brain…it is a thing! Hahaha Really it is. My cancer buddies out there, let me know it you deal with this too. Either message me here or message me on Instagram. AuggieJo! I’ve found myself using my calendar on my phone more to remind myself. I hardly ever had to use that. I’ve also found that I forget things easier (lot’s of brain farts) and I lose my train of thought when I am in the middle of something. There are times where I am having a conversation with someone and for a quick second, I forget what we are talking about. At the hospital last week, I over heard a lady explaining “chemo brain” to her chemo buddy while I was having round 12 of chemo (round 3 of the new stuff). People, it is a real thing. My brother likes to tease me about it!

Being young and having cancer, I’ve become a huge advocate for going to the doctors when things don’t seem quite right. I hated going to the doctors. It was a huge inconvenience, but it is so important. It is easy for us to ignore what is really going on with our bodies. It is easy to come up with excuses.

Oh that pain I am feeling, it will go away.
I just ate something that didn’t sit right.
I will just take this and I’ll be fine.
I’ll just sleep it off.
Don’t worry, I’ll call the doctor tomorrow. (Never do)

WE NEED TO STOP THAT! Especially at a young age. It bothers me under the age of 40, people do not get screened for anything. It is insane. Why? When people find out I have cancer, their reaction is, “you’re so young”. Yeah, I know. But more young people are being diagnosed with cancer. We need to start screening sooner in our adult lives than later. Getting a mammogram for a woman, the earliest they recommend getting one is 40. Getting a colonoscopy, the earliest they recommend getting one is 50. Why? Especially, when I am hearing more young individuals are being diagnosed.

For me, I was having extreme abdominal pain (more to my right side) and that triggered me to go in. Now, I did not go in right away because I just thought I had a stomach ache or ate something that did not sit right (excuses). I went in on day three. They did a CT scan and there was a lot of inflammation that showed up in my abdominal area. The doctors/nurses thought it was my appendix. It wasn’t until my surgeon went in, saw the tumor, and saw that my appendix was fine (they took it out anyways). It sure was a world wind of emotions for sure that day. My tumor ended up being perforated. The example that was explained to us was think of a bag of flour being opened for the first time. A puff of smoke comes out when opened. That is what my tumor did. I was in the hospital for 5 days and recovered for about a month and then had my first chemo treatment Oct. 5th. Getting out of the hospital was such a relief. Although, looking at myself in the mirror was something different. I was not the same girl walking into the hospital as the girl walking out 5 days later. I lost a lot of weight and I just went through a huge surgery. I struggled sleeping and just being comfortable. Going to the bathroom was challenging. Getting up walking was hard. I had horrible back spasms. It was not fun. About 40 or more staples in my stomach. Parts of me taken apart. It is no walk in the park.

When it comes to it, we have to be our own best advocate and listen to our bodies. Do not ignore things anymore. If you feel something unusual and it has been a couple of days, go in. Do not come up with excuses and do not ignore it.

Pet peeve of mine…when you are having a conversation with someone who finds out you have cancer and their response is, “Oh this person I know had cancer, but they died”. Ummm, don’t tell a cancer patient that. We want to hear success stories, not un-successful stories. Plus, I lost my mom to cancer when I was 15…I know what can happen. It won’t be me! We already know we have cancer that could take our lives (just being real). Sorry if this offends someone, but I am just speaking for myself. Don’t respond like that. I want to hear about people beating cancer, not losing to cancer. I don’t want anymore anxiety demons to worry about, plus I don’t want to place myself in those shoes.

Next on the list…

The feelings. One minute you can be feeling totally fine, the next minute you can be fatigued to the extreme, sick to your stomach, wide awake, sluggish, the list goes on. Diarrhea sucks. Change of taste buds suck. Not having much of an appetite sucks. Sometimes just the thought of eating doesn’t sound good. I’ve found red meat and pork recently hasn’t tasted great to me nor has it sat well in my stomach. I’ve stayed away. Chicken has been fine. Smoothies have been great for me and have hit the spot. The smoothies I drink are packed full with protein, berries, and spinach. Also, with colon cancer, you do not lose your hair, but your hair will thin. Thank goodness I had thick hair to begin with. I try not to put product in my hair or heat tools as much. I’ve also learned your hair not only thins, but it hardly grows. I cut my hair back in October and it looks the same. People still say, “Hey, cute hair cut”.

With cancer, you sure learn not to let the fears of the future take up much space in the present. Enjoy each moment of life as it comes. That can be hard at times. Cancer tests you in every physical way possible. There are moments where I struggle mentally, emotionally, and physically. When I am having a good day, I make sure to get out of the house even if it is just to go to the grocery store. But, when I am not having those good days, rest and relaxation is the best form of medicine. It is hard sometimes. It is hard not to think the negative. For me, I am 27 dealing with this. I think to myself, will my life ever go back to being “normal”? Will I be able to buy that house I’ve been wanting to buy? Will I ever find that person I am supposed to be with? Will I ever get married? Will my hair ever stop falling out? Will taking a shower not be so much work sometimes? Will eating not be so much work sometimes? So many unknowns with where life will take me. Right now, I am a recipe trying to get perfected and trying to find that right ingredient to make it turn out right. I’ll find it!

The BUDDIES in our lives are so important. Friends and family. Love you guys! Our chemo buddies. They laugh with us, cry with us, get pissed with us, support us, get our cravings for us, love us, stay up late because we cannot sleep, takes us for car rides just to get out of the house, the list goes on. Our BUDDIES are important! They get you by, they push you because “you” know you can do it, you may just be a little tired. They keep you company when you sit in that chair for a couple of hours. I would assume it could get boring when you don’t have that buddy to talk too. My chemo buddy has been my big brother. I’ve had other buddies come with me too and I thank you for that. My brother though has been to almost ever single treatment with me. He keeps me company, makes me laugh when I need a good laugh, he gets me something to eat, and he also entertains the nurses.

The life style you once lived changes. I had to cancel two vacation. One to go visit my best friend in Connecticut and one to visit a great college friend for her wedding. It was upsetting to cancel those trips. Taking time to remove yourself from everyday life and take a trip is always mentally refreshing. Something everyone loves! I couldn’t go. To risky to catch a cold. As a cancer patient, you have to be careful with who you are around. If you catch something, it just prolongs treatment and prolong killing that stupid cancer. I HATE cancer. But traveling on an airplane, I have to be careful. I cannot take that risk, but sometimes I think, “who cares, let’s vacation”. But still need to be careful. Lot’s of staycations!!! Your body changes. With not having much of an appetite or just nothing is sounding good, you lose weight. My hair has thinned. My skin has changed. I’ve felt more sluggish and fatigued on this new chemo treatment than the last treatment I was on. For me, I haven’t been working a whole lot. Mostly because for a while, my neutrophils (white blood cells) were in the danger zone multiple times. When your neutrophils are low, your body is at a high risk to catching the horrible flu or a basic little cold. But a basic little cold for a cancer patient is a big deal. Not something to ignore.

Let me know if there is anything specific you are wanting to know.

Thanks for reading!

xoxo,

Audrey

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