Monday, April 5, 2010
Janet’s Not Fond of Cancer: Update #6, and the light at the end of the tunnel (by Janet S.)
in CategoryThe Salon
When I last updated you on my treatment in September, I was coming to the end of chemo and radiation. A lot has gone on since then.
After the end of chemo and radiation, I rested and healed. Take it from me— if you ever go through this, do keep up with stretching exercises. I lost so much muscle tone from being on the couch staring at mindless television that I regret not keeping up with mine. [updated 2/1/12-also be mindful that the radiation will most likely cause vaginal scarring, so when they give you the vaginal dilator...USE it! Religiously!!!]
I had the surgery the beginning of November. I asked my surgeon in the very beginning if he could do the surgery via laparoscopy, and he said he’d try it. And successfully try it he did! The nurse said she has encouraged the surgeon to always do the surgery this way, because the recovery time is so much shorter and easier. The more traditional surgery leaves a four inch incision in the belly, and that’s pretty tough to recover from. The way he did it was to make three small incisions, less than one inch in length. I was out of the hospital in three days rather than the week they’d predicted. I didn’t really have any pain. The result of the surgery was a success. The surgery team got everything out that needed to be out. They also tested 18 lymph nodes and found no cancer in any of them! Best possible news!
The colostomy was really pretty easy to get used to. I use a two part system (here’s an explanation from Wikipedia). The wafer, as it’s called, attaches to your skin via a wax disc and an adhesive bandage with a hole for the stoma. It has a plastic ring on it that the small, hand-sized bag attaches to, which has a filter on it to get rid of any pesky gas. The stoma, which is part of your colon pulled to the top of your skin and stitched in place, is about the size of a quarter and protrudes, in my case, about a 1/2 inch from my skin. It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t smell and it doesn’t show through your clothing. They also make stoma caps, little round things made in the color of your flesh, to cover the stoma during times of intimacy, swimming, taking a bath, etc. You can choose to shower with a regular bag on; you just put a cover on the filter (comes in the box). There are even products specifically for intimate moments, little heart shaped or lacy covers (as can be seen here). Someone even suggested using crotchless undies to hide the stoma cover during sex. I haven’t experimented with those types of things yet . . . but I will.
The next recommendation for my treatment included a final round of chemo, and because I started it in January (it’s COLD here!), I had to hire a dog walker, which was quite expensive. I had a falling out with the one friend I most depended on and who lived close by; she felt like I didn’t appreciated the things she did. I did, of course, but sometimes there is no convincing someone. As my treatment continues on, folks kind of fall by the wayside, help wise, probably because I just really don’t like to ask for help.
So, the last phase treatment began in January . . . Eight cycles of two types of chemo, Five 5U and oxaliplatin . The side effects of the Oxy are more intense than anything I experienced before. I developed neuropathy of the extremities. It didn’t bother my feet so much, but my hands and eyes couldn’t stand the cold at all, and this was why I had to hire a dog walker. I also had to be careful taking anything cold out of the fridge or freezer; I had to wear an oven mitt! I had my 5th chemo treatment this Monday and the warm weather helps. The other side effect is nausea, which is combatted by steriods (small dose) and three other medications. During 4th chemo treatment, they lowered the dose of Oxaliplatin and got rid of the extra bolus of 5FU since the neuropathy and nausea were so bad and upped the doses of anti-nausea meds. That was really helpful.
For me, this whole thing, while life changing, hasn’t been too much of a negative experience. I truly believe that I was lucky to have caught the cancer when I did, and I whole-heartedly recommend you get a colonoscopy at the age of 50 as it can save your life!
If you have any questions at all about my experience, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janet is…a woman, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, twice a wife (third time’s the charm, right?), owned by a shibanu named Wolf; she’s a photographer; a lover of life, travel, food, books, movies, tattoos, the usual and unusual, and, last but not least, hopefully, a cancer survivor. Happiest with a camera in one hand and Wolf on a leash in the other, she loves exploring her surroundings and sharing what she sees. You can read more of her at her blog Fond of Snape.
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