It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I simply felt it was as if my life was a pretty bland and depressing version of a hamster on a wheel. You know the image? A small cute furry animal who has to run, run, run on his little wheel at the side of his cage? That’s most of us in every day life isn’t it? We wake up and hop onto our wheel and run all day long.
Well, I wasn’t even a proper hamster on a wheel.
I was a bald mangy one-eyed hamster with a massively swollen paw, clambering clumsily on my wheel.
I’ve had one infection after another. Literally, I finish an antibiotic and along comes something else to hammer me again.
Several other grossly unattractive things have come to light. Cancer is NOT glamorous ladies and gentlemen. So… when a gal takes loads of steroids, it’s not unusual (cue Tom Jones) to grow white soft downy fuzz all over one’s face.
So it’s not a blow in the breeze type of hair (at least mine wasn’t) but it’s certainly hurtling swiftly towards whiskers. Very cute on a kitten but not so nice on a 44 year old woman who already needs all the help she can get.
So thank goodness for my beautician training. I knew that money and those hours at night school would make sense one day. Out came the waxing pot and within minutes, the fur was gone! Oh the joy of it!
But if you are suffering with “whisker-itus” and you’re not a trained beauty therapist, don’t be afraid to pop along to a salon and have it removed. I know there are home waxing kits available and there are those strips for doing legs – please what ever you do, don’t use those. The skin on our face is really sensitive and it requires a different wax to legs. So ask a professional to do it. It only takes minutes. Alternatively, perhaps you’re aiming to look like your pet in which case, you can hold on to your fur and it can be embraced!
The next thing that is truly unattractive and I have it too, is lymphedema. This is when lymph, that normally trots about the body very happily, in a similar way to blood, meets a stop sign. So instead of flowing nicely it stops and there’s a massive build up with loads of tiny green men blowing you up like a balloon. Okay the last bit is a lie. There are no green men.
But there is a blockage. This is common after surgery or in my case during cancer treatment. It manifests itself as a puffy hand or arm or leg or indeed any part of the body that usually has lymph flowing through it. Suffice it to say that the chosen body part looks like a large pile of uncooked pizza dough. I’ll take a photo of mine and show you below.
Then… the uncooked dough makes your body part all swollen. It can be mottled with red colouring or even bruised looking. The feeling is tight, really heavy and can be quite sore to the touch. None of my rings or bracelet’s fit and it’s important to remove them if you notice this happening. Otherwise the ring may need to be cut off.
My right arm, which now resembles an elephant’s trunk it’s so huge, doesn’t fit into most of my clothes. So I’m in tracksuits and stretchy soft clothes. I’m obviously not delighted with this, but it’ll pass. There are a number of things that we can do while in this situation, however.
The first thing – if it’s in your arm – is to be fitted for a sleeve. I’ve just been fitted for one. This is a tight bandage style thing that has a glove also. I’m getting a separate sleeve and glove to maximise the compression on my hands. The idea is to compress the area, thus helping to take the pressure off. You need to find either a lymedema clinic or in my case, my pharmacist, Regina at Cunningham’s Pharmacy in Bray is trained to fit them. It simply means you’re measured to get the right fit. So my paw (it used to be a hand) was measured, the squidgy bit that used to be a wrist was measured and several areas of my arm. Each finger was also measured for the glove. They’re on order and I’ll have them soon.
The second thing you can do is go for MLD. Manual Lymphatic Drainage. This is a very gentle massage that basically ‘unblocks’ the lymph and allows it to move around the body once more. My entire body could do with lymphatic drainage, but the worst parts are my arm and my face. If you’ve seen me on TV you’ll have noticed my face is like an inflated chipmunk. That’s lymphedema doing it’s thing. So I had MLD for that. I go to Physiofit Woman in the Beacon South Quarter in Dublin with Deborah. The relief when Deborah was working on my face is hard to describe. It was as if I were a balloon and she was letting some of the air out slowly and gently… I felt great afterwards and then exhausted and I slept so well last night!
Okay enough depressing stuff. Lots of positive things have happened. My updated memoir All To Live For has hit the bestsellers list. So has the paperback of The Wedding Promise. Thank you to every person who has bought and read my books. I’ve had so many lovely letters from kind and gracious readers. I honestly have the best people in the world alongside me.
Anyway, I hope you’re all well? To those of you who are on this cancer journey with me, I hope you don’t have elephant’s trunk arm. If you do, just limp along with me. We’ll keep going together.
Things aren’t looking that aesthetically wonderful just at the minute. But I’ve been here before. Not quite as swollen, I’ll admit. But I’ve done this in a very similar guise before.
It gets better. The feeling as if you’re someone else or even feeling like a small woodland creature (chipmunk) or a large African mammal (elephant) all passes. It gets better. Some day soon, you’ll look in the mirror and see an image that reminds you of someone you used to know – yourself!
I’m looking forward to that day happening soon.
Meanwhile, I’ll do what I have to do. I’ll keep having the chemotherapy and I’ll have my lymphatic drainage and I’ll wear my glove and sleeve and drink my water and go for walks. Most of all, I’ll keep writing! I hope you’re doing well and I appreciate the support you all give me.
Love and light to you all!