Monday, 4 December 2006

living after Cancer

It began over easter, I noticed that I was leaking not just when I sneezed but at other times, even as I slept I would awaken to discover that I had leaked from my bladder. It was only a slight trickle but enough to be annoying. I thought it must be down to my age (38) and my weight which had crept up since the birth of my fourth child, I began to wear sanitary towels. Afterall we have all seen the ads for such protection against leakage as we get older. After months of this and the problem increasing I finaly told my mother about this embarrassing problem. She convinced me to see my Dr as it could be a prolapse of my womb. Eventually I got to see my GP about my bladder problem, she wrote to the hospital and I was sent an appointment for December with the urology dept. By the time of my appointment I was experiencing pain. I was examined by the urologist who suggested that I should see the gynacology dept. Within a week I had been to see them. I was given a date to go into hospital for day surgery for an explorotary operation. When I came around after this operation I was informed that I had a tumour. 3 weeks later I was given the news that my tumour (size of an orange)was malignant.I had cervical cancer. I could have had a hysterectomy except that my tumour was too large to be operated on. I was scheduled to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I was lucky the decision was made to give me extra radiotherapy and avoid the chemo. I was away from work for 9 months in total during my treatment and recovery time. I was given the all clear in September 2001. next month I have my final consultation before I can be signed off.
I have now been clear of cancer for a little over 5 years yet my illness has had various after effects all invisible to others. It would be lovely to think that once you have been given the all clear that is it you can forget about having cancer, it isn't that easy. There is the constant round of medical appointments although as time goes by these become less frequent. There were the appointments with my consultant at first every 3 months usually in the middle of the day meaning a day off work. The menopause clinic as I had now had a non surgical hysterectomy, I need hormone replacement therapy to prevent the development of cancer of the womb. (I now have a non working womb). One effect of my treatment that I have found the hardest to deal with is my change in diet. When the radiotherapy began I was given instructions about what I could not eat during my treatment. Anything with fibre in it, fruit, vegetables, wholemeal bread and many more. I was encouraged to eat a diet that would normally be considered unhealthy. This would be fine for a few weeks, I was eating very little anyway. But this continued after the treatment had ended. My treatment had been so close to my bowel that it had been affected. I had to be extremely careful about the amount of fibre in my diet as it just went through me. This meant that I had to continue with my 'unhealthy diet' this coupled with the lack of energy resulting from my treatment my weight ballooned by 4stone in the next 6 months. this meant more appointments (dietician). I can now at last say that the continuous round of appointments has virtually come to an end, although I am still on the hormone treatment. I nolonger see the dietician she has given me all the help she could. I am now able to at last eat a fairly normal diet although fruit still gives me problems I cant eat too much. My weight has gone back down although I would still like to lose a little more. But I am now discovering another effect that my cancer has had on my body.
Whilst I was undergoing my treatment and for some time after I was constantly being told that I should have very regular intercourse to prevent my cervix from closing up. I declined as the thought of intercourse with my husband was not something to relish. I was provided with a dilator to use instead. At every appointment after my treatment had finished I was asked about my libido had it increased. It hadn't until feb 2004 when my hormone treatment was changed. I now take progesterone, at first I thought I was dying the effects were so harsh and acute. I felt as though I had gone into labour. These settled down after a couple of weeks, thank heavens I had persevered !!! Suddenly I remembered that I am a woman, not just a mother and wife. My quest for fulfillment had begun. I set about divorcing my husband and now find that I am not only interested in sex but enjoy it enormously. However since the advent of my renewed sex life it has come to my notice (I have been told by several of my sexual partners) that my cervix has changed. Apparently I am not very deep (I dont know if this was always so) but Im told that on investigation with fingers I dont feel like other women. I have been assured that this is not unpleasant just different. I have come to the realisation that another effect not a bad one but unexpected is that I don't feel the cold as I used to do. I can be in a skimpy top and shorts or skirt while others are in jeans and coats. One draw back is that I sometimes get complaints that I have sweaty palms, this was never an issue before so I can only assume that my radiotherapy has caused these two changes.
I am however very happy to be alive and in the main quite well (headaches aside). Life was passing me by, but nolonger. I am in this life for the ride and want to enjoy as many experiences as I can.

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