I hate my cancer body!

shadowOkay, I got used to the surgical scars across my chest and under my arm. I got used to the radiation burn down the middle of my chest. I got used to the weakness in my left arm after surgery. I got used to my lopsided silhouette and to none of my clothes fitting properly, even with that stupid breast prosthesis that never looks right. I’m used to all that by now.

What I hate is what is happening on the inside of my body–and I’m not even talking about the tumors per se, or the pain. It’s the invisible erosion of my physical self. The white blood cells that have been destroyed–apparently forever–by chemotherapy. The exhaustion after minor exertion. The lack of appetite. The inability to sustain even mild exercise for more than ten minutes, if that.

What brought this on? Changing my bed linen. I pulled the bed out from the wall and felt a pang of guilt because I can’t wash the floor under my bed as often as the rest of the floor is swept and washed. (I don’t do it myself any more, and there is a limit to what I can ask my underpaid household helper to do.) I felt so bad that I took a picture and texted it to a friend for a reality check. The answer came back “In this picture it actually looks clean.” I accept that, but I still know that it is not as clean as my formerly houseproud self would have had it.

So on to changing the bed linen. Pull the bed out for easy access, lift the bottom of the mattress on to the footboard. Take off the old sheets, sit down for a moment to catch my breath. Put on the clean bottom sheet, slide the mattress back down. Sit down again to breathe and then get up to spread the top sheet. Sit down to put clean pillow cases on two pillows, then get up to arrange the pillows on the bed. Decide not to sit down yet, push the bed back into the corner.

I sat down again, feeling dizzy and out of breath. Took my pulse: 114 beats per minute. That is actually within the bottom range of aerobic exercise for me. From changing my bed! I really, really hate this. I was never a triathlete or anything of the sort, but I was reasonably fit. I enjoyed urban hiking and riding my exercise bike “long distance”. I feel diminished, humiliated.

It is hard to separate the ravages of cancer from the effects of normal aging, but I am only fifty-eight years old, not seventy. My eyes have gotten so bad that I can no longer do the fine lacemaking that I have loved for so long. My hands have become weak and unsteady, so it is even difficult for me to knit, so that when I use the computer for writing or for doing the translations that are my livelihood  I often have to use dictation software because I can no longer type as quickly or accurately as I used to.

There is much in my life for which I am sincerely grateful, not least the fact that I am still alive. I am still committed to finding a modus vivendi with my cancer, rather than putting my energy into battling it. That doesn’t mean that I can’t hate cancer and everything it has done to me. And that’s where I’m at today.

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24 Responses

  1. I hear you. Boy, do I. I’m so tired of being told some of this stuff can’t be separated from the normal aging process. I know better. For someone like yourself who’s living daily with mets, this kind of feeling must be compounded many times over. I’m sorry. I know it hurts. Hugs.

  2. jschoger says:

    We can get used to the scars. But I’m not sure that I will ever get used to the knowledge of illness within. I appreciate your post so much – thank you,

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting.

      Like everyone else in the breast cancer on-line world, I was so sorry to hear your latest news. I can’t tell you how sorry I am that you have joined the “30% Club”. Thank you for your shining presence.

  3. Sigh. I understand how you feel, except about washing a floor hidden by a bed. 😉

    Today I’m taking my first train trip since my spine crumbled. Alone. I’m using my walker, refusing the offer of a wheelchair. I’m going to help babysit my nieces while their mother gets chemo. Will I wear myself out? Almost certainly. I just don’t know how long it will take to recover from the trip.

    I tell myself that I come from a long line of stubborn women. That helps me keep putting one foot in front of the other, stopping here and there for a rest, a cry or a Dilaudid.

    All the best to you as you struggle with the dreaded “new normal.”

  4. the inside is a pain. i wish i had mental ability to push that stuff aside but i don’t. so i move it to a spot where it can go do whatever it wants to. i just don’t play along. i suppose we all have regrets about this inside stuff as we grow older let alone face what you face Knots.

    the development of an “oh well” as my Wife luvs to say, gets me thru most things. but when the oh well is this large a thing, maybe the oh well turns to a sigh of deep proportions and one moves on. or tries too.

    and believe me Dear Knots, you are trying…………..luv ya from Texas

  5. I’m told many times over that I’m aging, that it’s not all cancer or side effects. Personally I wish people would quit comparing my pain and fatigue to normal aging and healthy women. I’m not normal or healthy, it disturbs me greatly but perhaps I shouldn’t let it.

    Other fifty somethings I know don’t walk like they are eighty, my eighty year old Mom does… I compare myself to her more often than not. They don’t have streams of hair falling out in their brushes, but my Mom does. Most don’t have to catch their breath half way up a flight of stairs, like my Mom does. So, like my Mom… I feel more 80s’ than 50s’… sans big hair.

    Thank you for sharing your struggles, it helps us all greatly. xo

  6. Scorchy says:

    This is a powerful article, Knots, and I wish I could get on a plane for the sole purposes of giving you a tight hug and I’d help you clean under your bed. Or, at the very least, I would glue googly eyes onto the dust bunnies and we could name them.

  7. I’ve said it before and say again, it cracks me up when I make a comment about my body changes and I get an answer of “oh you’re just aging, I feel that every day”, and the person saying it to me is 70. And I’m 41.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Sorry, but that made me laugh remembering a bone density test I had years ago. The youngster performing the test measured my height and put it at 147cm. “No that’s wrong,” I protested. “I’m a meter and a half. You must have measured wrong.”

      The young thing signed and muttered, “All the old ladies say that.”

  8. Maxine D says:

    Oh T.K. how I feel for you – and DH who struggles in a similar fashion! I cannot come and give hugs or clean your house, but I will do what I can and pray.
    Blessings and peace

  9. Kayleigh says:

    I just had to comment…I am going to be 50 this summer. I look healthy, like I am capable. It’s been three years since my last infusion, but my strength, fortitude and energy have never returned. I might be able to do some of the things that you struggle with, but then I’m wiped out for the rest of the day. I don’t even bother. I try and save whatever energy I can muster for my young children.

    This sucks. Docs keep telling me it’s aging…or the weight I gained thanx to chemical menopause+Arimidex. I could care less anymore WHY…I just want my old body back (sans cancer)

    Gee, I wanted to offer YOU empathy and compassion, yet it seems I’ve just vented all over this, lol. Sorry 🙁 You are not alone, if that helps in the least. I don’t know you but wish I could pop over and help you clean under the bed…then I’d need to nap in it, lol, but we’d work it out.

    I’m sorry you are struggling.

  10. Marie says:

    Fatigue and not trusting that my body would be able to do what I ask of it has been something I have been dealing with too for different reasons but my frustration has been high with the circumstances. I think of you and pray for you often. Thank you for your blog. I have learned a lot from your wonderful, honest posts.

  11. I hear all of you and well understand the frustrations of one’s body not following commands or holding up to necessary tasks. And I certainly do not want my further comments to sound goody-two-shoes to you, my dear friends. And I do know that I have been granted more years than many of you are likely to have. And I am filled with gratitude for this totally undeserved blessing.

    But I read somewhere recently that we should treasure our bodies for all they have given us – children in lucky cases, experiences, memories, the chance to live in this world for a while. Since then, I’ve tried to love my body and cherish the sags, multiple scars, weakness, aches, and all. I hug myself as I go to sleep and tell my body, “Thanks for all the years you’ve worked for me and breathed for me and taken me where I wanted and/or needed to go. Sleep well, my love.”

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