Thursday, January 20, 2011

My new LIFE

Weekend before last, we joined our nephew/godson Finn for birthday tubing at Cypress Mountain. There were 8 of us, two sets of parents, two sets of kids and a whole bunch of strangers, tromping, sliding, laughing, trudging, and doing it again. It was a lot of fun. A lot. So much so that we were organizing the next trip before we were finished the first! Always a good sign.

But all day I was so cold. Cold through the four or five layers of fabric that wicked and fabric that insulated. That is not normal for me. I'm the warm one in my family - my sister is the one always reaching for a fleece and complaining about cold feet. And it drove home some of what my new life is like, post breast cancer. It didn't even occur to me what the problem might be, until my husband reminded me. Oh, right, cancer treatment may have changed the way my body reacts to the environment. It`s just part of my new life.

Another example - every night the hot flashes wake me up and I kick off two layers of covers, desperate to feel something cold, the air, a new section of sheet, against my skin. Then, half an hour later, cold from the sweat once the hot flash has dissipated, I am yanking the covers back over me again. My diet has changed, too. It used to be I didn't think much about having a plateful of chicken wings with blue cheese dip, a big beer and piece of cheesecake for dessert. I mean, I knew that wasn't a great way to eat but I always knew that I could just eat less over the next few days to offset the calorie overload. Now, I think about the nutritional composition of everything I eat with an eye to the impact it may have on tumours in my body. I still eat chicken wings with blue cheese, but I have a handful instead of a platter. Instead of the occasional multi-vitamin and the daily calcium, I take three turmeric pills, two fish oil, two vitamin D, one vitamin C, one calcium, one green tea extract, one tamoxifen, a smattering of aspirin, 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed, 2 tablespoons of wheat germ, half a cup of low fat yogurt, half a cup of green juice, 4 cups of green tea, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Don't even get me started about how my body has changed. The other day my husband said to me, "So, what are we thinking about doing with your hair?" OK - I'll take a moment now to let everyone who knows my husband stop laughing. Yes, Jon is concerned about my hair - in the most lovely and supportive way. But this is a man who, normally, cares not what my hair looks like. During chemo, he actually complimented the way my head looked and remarked on how great it was that I could get out of the house so much faster now that I didn't have to worry about managing that long hair I used to have. (He's a retired tank commander and has fond memories of the ease of life that comes with very short hair.) So, the fact that he is wondering if maybe I shouldn't be getting someone professional to look at my hair gives you an idea about the way the puff ball is taking over my northern hemisphere. Luckily, my face is slimming down but that's all that is. In spite of the hours I am putting in Walking it Out and watching what I eat, I am not losing any weight. At least not quickly enough for me.

OK - enough whinging. I`m really not complaining. If you are not quite as far down the cancer road as I am and you are scared about how you will cope, I'm here to tell you that you just will. You will adapt and you will be fine. Cancer changes your life and you adapt. Here`s how I see life now: I will continue to try to lose weight but I will understand that it may take longer than I want; I will look for better and more bullet-proof hair products to keep my hair closer to my skull while I wait for it to grow another few inches; I will continue to eat better and take my supplements but I will understand that doing so is no longer about having more youthful skin and some abstract, down-the-road, longer life, it is about staying alive; I will be cold and I will be hot and I will simply remember to wear layers and sleep in natural fibres. Because this is my new life.


  1. I am not a cancer survivor so I can only hear about and empathize with the alarming changes that your body goes through-- with the cancer, the treatment, the post-cancer-- it must seem, at times, like it is never going to stop...

    As I was reading your post, however, it made me think about my own aging body and and the small changes that I am noticing-- decreased elasticity of my skin, weakening eyes, sagging bits (for example)-- It's as if, for you, the cancer has sped up that process, or intensified it...

    So I am going to take a page from your book... no whinging... just GRATITUDE and the knowledge that life is always changing...

  2. See, the whole point of our eyes getting weaker is so we can`t see all that other change...


    Hope you`re having a great week!

  3. The moon face eases, and the bushy hair settles down, and the hot flashes lessen until suddenly, you find yourself surprised by them. My hot flashes were severe for a little over a year, and then they started to get a bit more bearable, and then one day, I was shivering, and I thought, "Where are those damn hot flashes when you need one?" Suddenly, I realized I wasn't having them every hour, or even every day. It'll come. I promise.

  4. From your lips to God's ears. :-) Thanks, Debby!