My Journey Through Cancer - Behind the Mask 3

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100 different cancers + different stages + different individuals = different experiences

This marks week 4 of radiation. My ex-coworker and friend Gerald A. brought up the different experiences everyone goes through in their fight with cancer. I mentioned this in my first blog but it's essential to know that your experience will have some differences. The numerous YouTube videos and blogs give you information on what you may or may not experience. They helped me prepare questions for my surgeon and radiation oncologist.  Also, they showed me what I could possibly go through. It prepared me but it didn't. Understand?  Some will experience less pain and some extreme pain. The location of the cancer and your treatment plan brings about its own set of issues. For example, I was diagnosed with throat cancer. My options were radiation and chemo or surgery and radiation with possible chemo. I opted for the surgery.  Luckily the pathology results on the removed mass came back good. In layman's terms, no signs of leakage, spores, or growth which would concern them of  possible spread of the cancer. Those results allowed me to escape chemo therapy. They may or may not be another's situation.  Your treatment plan will be based on your own unique situation.  Those treatment plans come with their own issues. For instance, my sense of taste has left the building.

Missing my sense of taste

The saying, "You never miss your well until it runs dry," rings through the air. When I lived in California I missed parking lots with normal sized parking spaces. California lacked the parking lots I'm accustomed to. When lucky I'd  find one and nervously squeeze my Honda Accord into a parking space that looked to be sized for a smart car. Currently, my sense of taste has said bye-bye.  I desperately miss the savory taste of food. My palate misses the vanilla, butter, nutmeg, and sugary taste of bread pudding. Today, on Labor Day, I missed the taste of my dad's delicious, I don't need barbeque sauce, barbeque chicken and the flavor of Bush's original style beans. These and many more deliciously prepared foods will be missed. Sadly, I watch enviously as others enjoy the savory flavors on their plates. And this lil piggie cries wee-wee all the way home. My missing palate kills my desire to eat. Thus, I have to schedule meals and make myself eat. If not, I'll loss too much weight resulting in a feeding tube. No ma'am, No sir! It is difficult but my support group is constantly reminding me to feed my face drink water or else. I'm glad this is temporary, I pray.  Until then, I'll take advantage of it and supply my body with juiced vegetables, and all the food that's good for you that  taste absolutely disgusting. In addition to the absence of my beautifully designed taste buds, unlike some, my scars are visible.

The Scarring

Many cancer survivors and/or patients can hide the scars resulting from cancer treatment.  I cannot. My scars are visible for the world to see unless I throw on a turtle neck. And right now it's too hot for that. My neck gets a daily dose of aloe vera from my Aloe Vera plant, Palmer's Cocoa Butter Stick, and CVS Vitamin E Cream. Eventually, my scars' visibility will reduce or disappear. If not I'll just embrace it and make up interesting stories about how I got it.  Once I see the shocking looks I'll tell them my truth. I'll keep you posted. Although, I'm unable to hide my scars there are people with scars worse than mine. Some cancer patient's scarring from surgery may require them to have skin grafting and reconstructive surgery.  100 different cancers + different stages + different individuals = different experiences.  But our fight remains the same.

The Arsenal

If you've been diagnosed or know someone who has, you need to arm yourself heavily to keep your spirits high.

1. Keep your God and your faith in front of you.

2. Keep someone or a group of positive supports by your side (e.g., family, friends, your oncology team, etc.).

3. Keep your inspirational scripture or quote near. If you don't have one get one.

4. Get rid of any stress.

5. Laugh often.

6. Get what I call your fight song! I have a few but the most powerful one for me is "WAR" by Charles Jenkins If you don't have one get one. 

In the words of my Radiation Oncologist,  throw everything against the wall and let's see what sticks!  Love my radiation oncology team at UT Southwestern!

*End of week 3/Beginning of week 4 side effects update: Sense of taste is completely gone,  a few small blisters appearing and disappearing in mouth, salvia has thicken (1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 baking soda rinse 3 to 4 times daily), darkening of skin (area receiving radiation, neck), tightening of skin on neck (for relief I'm constantly stretching my neck & applying a warm towel), and speech has improved but still impaired (daily tongue and vocal exercises). 

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