The Problem with NOT Losing Your Hair When You Have Cancer

Any Human Heart, Cancer & Me

Cancer, chemotherapy, hair loss.  Standard.  These three things appear to be inextricably linked which is strange because it’s not actually true.

There are hundreds of types of chemotherapy, all with different side-effects and hair loss is not always one of them.  Some chemotherapy’s cause heat in the body, which causes the hair follicles to open and the hair to fall out.  Some chemotherapy’s cause cold in the body meaning that doesn’t happen.

So why do people always connect the two?  I think it is because people have the ‘heat causing’ chemotherapy when treating breast cancer.  As Breast Cancer is the most common in women and the poster-child of cancers, this has become the ‘normal’ image we all accept and expect.

These ‘cold’ chemotherapy’s come with their own additional side effects, mostly in the form of nerve damage.  Your nerve endings become so damaged and hypersensitive to cold, it meant that I couldn’t even walk down the chiller aisle in a supermarket because of the painful reaction in my nerves.  If it was cold outside, I would be in pain.  If something was cold to touch, I was in pain.  I could not drink cold or room temperature drinks as the pain the nerves in my throat was unbearable and made my throat feel like it was closing causing a gag reflex – warm drinks were fine thankfully.

Of course you still get all the added, expected side effects like nausea, sickness, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, etc…  We all have these joys in common.

The problem with not losing your hair when you have cancer is that people don’t realise you have cancer.  Even when they know you do have cancer, it’s like they forget.  It can be genuinely shocking.  How you feel and how you ‘should’ look are poles apart which somehow creates a disconnect to the reality.  If I had a pound for every time I heard “but you don’t look ill???”  It makes it even harder to acknowledge the truth of what is happening, for others and for yourself.  Sometimes I just wanted people to acknowledge how crap I felt without me having to explain

“I am far sicker than my long flowing locks allow you to believe.”

I remember someone saying “How come you haven’t lost your hair?  Obviously your chemo isn’t very strong.”  Cue internal crying and tending to the metaphorical kick in the stomach, whilst outwardly I tried to explain the differences.

I am thrilled that I didn’t have to deal with losing my hair.  Obviously I can’t imagine truly what ladies go through when they lose their.  I would most certainly be devastated, feeling like I had lost an irreplaceable piece of me.  But just because someone doesn’t ‘look’ a certain way, doesn’t mean they aren’t still fighting their fight.

That probably goes for everyone and everything actually!

Fighting-the-batle-of-life

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Know Your Chemo from your Radio

Cancer & Me

One of my lovely readers emailed asking if I could explain the difference between chemo and radiotherapy.  So here we are…

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is traditionally given via intravenous drip administered in hospital but you can now get chemotherapy tablets that can be taken at home.  Once in your blood stream, chemo can be taken the whole way round your body, treating cancerous cells, anywhere.

Cells divide themselves to reproduce, which is usually how we retain a healthy body but when we have cancerous cells dividing and reproducing, cancerous tumours form and spread.  Chemo stops your cells dividing and reproducing.  The only problem is, it stops your healthy cells as well, which is part of the reason people on chemo get so ill.  But the healthy cells will get better, the cancerous cells won’t – take that cancer!!

Personally I had both.  An intravenous session followed by two weeks of taking tablets everyday at home.

If you want more detailed information on chemotherapy, Macmillan have this wonderful leaflet…

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is literally a radiation ray or beam that targets the sight of your cancer.  It is given via a large x-ray type machine.  Radiotherapy is usually given daily over a period, in my case it was every day for six weeks.

Unlike chemo, it usually only affects the area it targets.  You will be given a scan to determine exactly where radiologists will be aiming the machine, then you are given tiny tattoos so that they get the exact place every time.  There will always be some healthy tissue damaged by radiotherapy but the precise nature of scans and tattoos is to ensures its minimal.

Radiotherapy can burn the skin quite badly, in my case it was very uncomfortable as it burnt my undercarriage but the physical effects are generally easier than with chemo.

If you want more information about radiotherapy or internal radiotherapy, have a look here at Macmillan’s website….

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The Stupid Things People Say When You Have Cancer!

Cancer & Me

When You Find Out You Have Cancer…

I would prepare yourself for when people say (what I think) are very stupid things. The most common comment being “I knew someone who had cancer and died”, seriously, who are you helping when you say that? There is also my personal favourite, “just think positively and you’ll be fine”. Don’t get me wrong, positivity is great and positively encouraged, but cancer is a little more complicated than that. Cancer is not purely a mental test with your survival the prize. Nevertheless, people will tell you to be positive, A LOT!

You may also find that you end up consoling the person you have just told rather than the other way around. Personally didn’t mind this, I actually started becoming quite offended if people didn’t need consoling – don’t they care? Just kidding, obviously they did, presumably they were holding it together so as not to upset me – right? But seriously, I can certainly see how upsetting it could be if you are struggling with your own emotions without taking on someone else’s crushed feelings.

Generally, people love to compare your cancer to someone else they know who had cancer. Sometimes I would be told the strangest things like “at least they caught it early”, no they didn’t? Why assume that? Some people make all sorts of assumptions based on a previous experience they’ve had with someone else. This used to drive me mad and annoyingly it’s not just with diagnosis, it will be with every stage of your cancer care.

What Can You Do?

Whatever someone’s reaction, remember that most people are trying their best, they are not trying to annoy you, they are probably just at a loss for what to say and feel that they need to say something, anything. If someone does say something that offends or upsets you, remember you are in an emotionally raw place. It would be normal to take things to heart that would usually not be such a big deal to you. This is entirely natural so do not feel bad about it. If someone is comparing your cancer to someone else, you could say, there are so many variations (even within the same cancer) they really aren’t comparable. Where possible try to distance yourself from those comments and if someone is upsetting you, maybe mention that you are trying your best to handle it your way, and get them off the phone!

My Loved One Has Cancer – What Should I Be Saying?

I didn’t want to send all the non-cancer people into a spin on what they should be saying so this would be my advice…

when-it-hurts-to-look-back-and-youre-scared-to-look-ahead-you-can-look-beside-you-and-ill-be-there

In my opinion, it’s best to follow the lead of the person who has cancer.  Be led by how they are feeling and their reactions.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, I’m sure they would rather tell you than have you assume.  Ask how they are feeling, how they are reacting to the news.  Feel free to agree that it is shite and you wish there was something you could say to make it better but you know there isn’t.  Ask if there is anything you can do to help and suggest things you could do – make dinner / take the kids to school / drop a text saying, I’m at the shops can I pick anything up for you.  Feel free to make suggestions about way’s of handling ideas but leave it as a suggestion not an instruction.  If they don’t seem keen, leave it, don’t push what your friend of a friend did down their throat.

I found an influx of offers of help and well-wishes at the beginning and then it tails off (understandably) so my biggest suggestion would be to just let them know that you are still there, thinking about and loving them and ready to respond should they need you.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to dealing with cancer.  Treating someone with love and kindness will go a long way.

Nx

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Easy Quick Healthy Tip 25

Health and Beauty Tips

An Apple a Day…

Easy Quick Healthy Tip 25 – Eat Apples

One of lifes natural cleansers, apples help balance acidic body wastes and clean out your system, great when you are detoxing.

Apples are also high in Flavonoids which can help prevent heart-disease and are high in anti-oxidents and we already know from older posts how truly amazing anti-oxidents are.

Apples are also a superfood when it comes to fighting cancer.  They are known to help with a number of cancers as well including Bowel Cancer and Breast Cancer (two of the most common ones).

They are quite high in sugar so don’t go crazy and only eat apples from here on in, but they have a serious amout of goodness in them too so eat away!!