Friday, 16 January 2009

The final countdown.

Well crikey, that was a brilliantly busy couple of blog days. And not just on a followers/hits/Stephen Fry (Stephen Fry!!) front, either. It's been an education. Without all of that excitement, I wouldn't have known about the Straight Pube Phenomenon.

In all truth, it's a while since I paid any attention to my bikini line. Largely because I haven't had to (Lessons In Cancer #1: at least some of the hair-loss stuff is a blessing). Frankly, it's been so long since I looked south of my belly button that I wouldn't have been surprised to find that my oestrogen-suppressing drugs had gifted me a cock and balls. And while, thankfully, that's not the case, I wasn't any less alarmed to discover that my pubes are growing back unusually straight. (Too much information? Sheesh, I've not even started.) 'Now there's a thing,' I thought, slightly baffled by the down-there development but nonetheless determined to remove the lot of them as soon as I get the chance (translation: as soon as I can stop staring at them). And I thought little else of it... until yesterday.

Lessons In Cancer #2: I'm not alone! According to the more loose-lipped amongst you who've emailed over the last couple of days (and thank you), the Straight Pube Phenomenon is yet another of those unspoken cancer consequences, like the sunken eyes or lost fingernails or crippling piles (speaking of which, it turns out aqueous cream is good for more than radiotherapy burns). Nobody had previously mentioned the weird leg-hair regrowth, either. Remember when you were a kid, and your Mum used to say that if you started shaving your legs, the hair would grow back faster, thicker and darker? Fallacy. Just like traffic wardens and the 'I've started so I'll finish' myth. What your Mum meant was that your leg hair will grow back faster, thicker and darker if you've lost it through chemo. And, frankly, that would have been a far better hair-removal discouragement for the 13-year-old me to hear. Mums fib about the chocolate = spots thing, too. She and I had blamed my teenage acne on everything from a bad diet and pollution to trashy make-up and trashier break-ups. Turns out it was all down to that pesky oestrogen stuff (oestrogen's a bastard, ain't it?) because, since taking Tamoxifen, my skin's never looked better. (Advice for teenagers: eat crap and epilate.)

It's been quite the week of revelations, actually. For starters, the female half of Dollar (better click back here if the 1980s radiotherapy reference is lost on you) told me this morning that – drumroll please – I'm her favourite patient. Hoorah! It's an accolade I've been working hard to achieve for some time, actually (hell, how many other patients lie back on the treatment bed singing along to The Four Tops?), and it's a comment that's bought the radiotherapy staff a barrage of cupcakes at my final treatment session on Monday (that's right, people – 27 down, a measly one to go). I've mentioned before what an utter suck-up I am around health professionals, and it seems I'm not becoming any less embarrassing the more I visit the hospital. I reckon I've turned into the annoying, brown-nosing patient that all the other patients hate. And I (not so) secretly love it. Maybe I'll go all-out on the milking-it front on Monday and turn up in a T-shirt with 'FAVOURITE PATIENT' emblazoned on the front (and 'CANCER BITCH' on the back, just for good measure). But anyway, what's a bit of ass-kissing between friends? These people are potentially saving my life – the least I can do is bake a few cupcakes and give them a blast of Reach Out (I'll Be There).

On a less-rewarding revelation front, my radiated skin has been giving me a bit of jip lately (read: waking me up in the night thanks to being so. bloody. sore.) and I've been seeing the radiotherapy nurse about it a couple of times a week. And, love her, she's throwing everything at it – two types of cream, sleeping pills, wet flannels – in the hope of taking some of the pain and heat out of the area. Frankly, you could fry eggs on my tit at the moment. And probably grill a couple of sausages under my armpit. So I've been given some cool gel pads to stick onto my skin whenever it feels too hot. It's basically tantamount to taking the orangey bit out of the middle of a Jaffa Cake and pressing it against your boob (which, in altogether different circumstances, might be a bit of a laugh, actually). My temporary implant has taken quite a hit thanks to the radiotherapy, too. For one, it's really shrunk. Not quite to post-mastectomy levels, but it's definitely smaller. (I keep thinking about the nurse who changed my dressings the day after my mastectomy, and the reassuring comment that all modest-busted women should hear: 'Listen to me, darlin'. You be glad your titties weren't all that big to begin with. My husband says any more than a mouthful is a waste.') As well as the shrinking, it's hardened and flipped over so the valve is now sitting at the bottom and digging into my ribcage (here's where the cushioning of the extra pounds comes in handy). And thanks to all of that, it feels pretty gross, too. Kind of like touching a boob through one of those solid, gravity-defying padded bras, but less lacy and more, well, Jaffa Cakey. Even the cat won't lean on it, and she's always snuggling up on my chest. (In fact here she is right now – say hello, Sgt Pepper. Christ, I've turned into one of those people who speaks for their pet, haven't I? Next thing you know I'll be signing cards 'love L&P & Sgt Pepper' and creating her a blog of her own. Screw the hair loss. This is what cancer does to you.)

The biggest surprise of all this week, however, was learning from the nurse that the symptoms of radiotherapy – soreness, redness, exhaustion and all – don't peak until seven to ten days after treatment has finished. 'Oh no, my love,' she told me. 'You'll get much worse before you get better.' So that's something to look forward to, then. I'd just assumed I'd be well on my way to feeling more normal by the time I see Smiley Surgeon at the beginning of next month to set the date for my operation (it's got to be done quickly, but can't be done before my skin has fully healed). But it turns out he'll be seeing my skin at its worst, and I'm keen to get this op over with. In shameless truth, I'm pissed off about more than just the potential delaying of the surgery date. I'm pissed off that the low-cut dress I've bought to wear at my mate Jonze's wedding in a couple of weeks might now be unsuitable, dammit. What is it with all this impatience, eh? You'd think that after all this time I'd be able to wait a mere couple of months before getting out my cleavage again. Still, with the fuzzy head, leg hair, hanging-on-for-dear-life nails, dodgy pubes and shrinking, puce-coloured left tit, I suspect it'll be a while before I can start getting too hung up on vanity.

14 comments:

mackixwindoze said...

Yep, I've had the straight pubes too. I had my last chemo in August and let's just say they appear to be back to normal. Except there's LOADS of them. Same goes for the leg hair. whilst I'm obviously not that bothered by it, being a bloke and all, my right leg particularly (where my primary tumour was) is as hirsute as can be. I shaved my knee this morning so the Radiotherapy gals would be able to stick the thingy on that protects my scar during treatment without it falling off mid-way. So I now have a hairy thigh, a hairy calf and a bald bit in the middle. Ho hum. All the best for Monday. Well done. Incidentally you're the subject of my blog post today. Hope you don't mind.
http://mackixwindoze.wordpress.com/

gemmak said...

I would think after all this time you have every right to be bloody impatient to get your cleavage out again! ;o)....and Sgt. Pepper...he could do with being a bit less picky abou where he snuggles up, cats! Gotta love em...and give em their own blog! ;o)

Ohhhh...as an aside my word verification is 'bluoodi'! How amusing!

Woodland Fay said...

Brave girl, it's a wonderful blog, you have a true gift of the gab!
By the way my mum told me I'ld get blood poisoning if I drew on my hand, I've been using my hand as a diary and general organiser in defiance ever since. Keep going upwards and onwards, Fx

Little Lj said...

Well I never, straight pubes?! Who knew of such a phenomenon! I'm so happy to read you have just one more radiotherapy to go... wow! Well done! I think you should sing Sugar Pie Honey Bunch... for no other reason than that is the best Four Tops song... obviously!

Tessa said...

You could braid them, add a few beads. Y'know? God, you're brave. And funny. And you write better than anyone I've ever met in all my born days. Bravo. If love is a healing aid...take mine. I mean it. And thank you for making me not take myself too seriously.

Leslie said...

Sweetie, It may get worse before it gets better but it is still almost at the end. Honestly, I did not get the straight pubes thing, I got the thinning, practically not there pubes thing and (ten years later) they haven't grown back, straight, curly or otherwise.

My radiation was cervix orientated so more directed at that location - could be the difference but don't necessarily expect dark, curly and lots of it to come back. For the record, I'm a 10-year stage 4 survivor, so give it h*ll with the treatment. There are studies that show the "more spirited" (i.e. Cancer-bitch) patients have better survival rates. MY money is on you.......

Ian Green said...

Came to you via St Stephen on his Twitter account. "The Bullshit" as you call it caught my auntie when she was in he 70s. You've still got a long way to go girl. Go Girl.

bjtp said...

Chin up! Imagine all the time and effort you will save from having naturally straight pubes! :D

Maybe a little cardie/shawl with the dress means it won't be totally unsuitable?

Oh and 'Hi Sgt. Pepper!' :D

Tokyo Girl said...

I have just discovered your blog. It is wonderful that something so good (the writing, the humour, the description, the honesty) can come out of something so bad.

Me, Myself & I said...

Boobs and Jaffa Cakes - could it get anybetter!?!?
Loving it ;)

Nonamoose said...

Another follower via Stephen Fry :0) Enjoying the blog very much although sorry you're suffering so much.

Just wanted to wish you all the very best with your last treatment tomorrow. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Take good care!

65-roses said...

Now is a perfect time to break out the Louboutins! Congrats on your last treatment Xx

Sam said...

You rock girl! I have got the same old bullshit as you, kicking the crap out of it as I speak. 4 chemos down, 4 to go. So glad you are done with the zapping , bring on the rest of your life I say. hugs xxx

Amerella said...

There's nothing wrong with signing cards from you and the cat is there?!
....*sob*

PS. I have mostly straight pubes and I've never had chemo. And if that's not a worthwhile first comment on your blog, I don't know what is.