Finishing chemo

After five months and six sessions, I’m done with chemo.
I had my last round three weeks ago and as my body is slowly getting over it, I’m starting to feel more like me.

The steroids are out of my system and that bloated puffiness is gone.
I can walk up a hill without having to stop halfway to catch my breath.
I got through this week without having to nap once.

These things may not sound like much, but to me they are huge achievements. Still working on growing back the hair, brows and lashes but hoping Santa comes good and delivers them by Christmas.

Although my breast surgeon had warned me I might have to do chemo, I was adamant that the surgery was enough and I wouldn’t need to. Turns out that positive thinking doesn’t always do the trick. So of course I cried when the oncologist prescribed what she called the Rolls Royce of chemo. Over the next few weeks I kept saying the word, chemo, to myself and others to get used to the idea.

Just before my first session, the doctor on duty came over and asked me to sign the consent form.
“So if I don’t sign it I don’t have to have it?” I asked, not really joking. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” he said, deadly serious.
I looked at The Boy as I tried to get up.
He put his hand on mine and said “We’re doing this.”
I wanted to scream at him that “we’re” not doing anything. I’m doing it. Not him. Which is unfair because I know that if he could have, he would have taken my pain away in an instant. Instead he came to every chemo session with me, fetching coffees, chocolate brownies and magazines so he could be useful, so he felt that at least he was doing something.

And so I cried again when that first IV went into my veins and I realised it was really happening. I was getting the hard drugs because my cancer was aggressive, I was young and my body could handle it.

And for the most part, it did.

When people asked me how chemo was, my standard answer was “surprisingly bearable.”

Because for the most part it was. My frame of reference was movies and TV shows that showed emaciated patients vomiting into the toilet all day so I was pleasantly surprised that that wasn’t my reality.

But it was far from easy and now that it’s over, I look back on my simplistic answer and think that it was my way of coping. If I told people that I could handle it, I could make myself believe it.

But I’m not spreading positivity platitudes. I hate platitudes. When someone you know is going through something shit, don’t spout some bullshit about how getting through it will make them stronger, just tell them you’re sorry they have to go through it and supply them with chocolates/wine/coffee/magazines/flowers or whatever it is that will make them smile.
Some people want to be left alone, but I liked having visitors. It’s so goddamn boring being sick and I looked forward to lunch and coffee dates as an excuse to get dressed and go out.

On days where it was all too hard and I felt like the pain was never going to stop I resorted to the hard drugs because positive thinking wasn’t going to do shit.
Pain and positivity are not friends.
Much easier to be positive on a good day.

On a good day, after taking my dog for a walk, I was proud of myself. I got out of the house, got dressed and exercised. My body was strong. My body was awesome. My body was handling chemo like a champ. Then I remembered that the reason I had to go through chemo in the first place was that my body betrayed me. And then I would get angry at my body.

Its not as if something happened to me, I wasn’t hit by a car and break a leg,  I didn’t catch an infectious disease that had to be treated. My body turned on itself, causing perfectly good cells to transform into festering, cancerous cells that had to be cut out and then crop dusted with toxic drugs that attack the good cells as well as the bad.

The worst thing about chemo though, is that it’s not a cure.

At my last oncologist appointment I asked if that was it, if I was done.
Yes I was done, but they can’t guarantee that they’ve gotten it all, that there’s no rogue cell floating around my body waiting to pop up again. But it’s the best treatment they’ve got and for now that has to be enough.

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How to fake eyelashes during chemo

You don’t realise how much definition eyelashes give your face until you’re lash-less.

Mine were never very long, but they were thick and dark enough that I could go without mascara when I was feeling lazy. Now I have just a few strands desperately hanging in there and when I look in the mirror I feel like my face has been rubbed out.

I had always put false lashes in the too-hard basket, but there’s nothing like not recognising your face to motivate you to experiment with make-up.

I was happy to discover it’s not so hard. It’s a little fiddly and I don’t do it everyday, but on the days when I want to head out with wig, heels, a fab frock and pretend I don’t have cancer this is a great confidence boost.

And because there are no real eyelashes getting in the way, falsies were a lot easier to apply than I first thought.

My current lash situation
My current lash situation

Go for a reusable half-strip for the most natural look, you don’t need a full-on glamour set. The key to getting it right is lining the lid first, otherwise there’s too much contrast between the bare lashline and the falsies.

A half strip of lashes
A half strip of lashes without liner looks too fake as the line abruptly stops

I prefer liquid liner, but you can use gel or smudge a pencil along the lash line.

Liner along the upper lash line
Liner along the upper lash line

Go quite thick with the line, this gives you room to play with when applying the lashes. There are special tools you can use, but because there are hardly any real lashes to get in the way it’s easy enough to pick up the strip, shape it over the curve of your lid and stick it down.

Eyeliner + false lashes
Eyeliner + false lashes

The final touch is colouring in the upper inner lash line with a pencil. If you look closely at the above pic, you can see that there’s a two-tone effect, a strip of flesh between the eyeball and lash. This would normally be hidden by real lashes.

Eyeliner + lashes + upper inner waterline
Eyeliner + lashes + upper inner waterline

When you colour in the waterline, the liner, false lashes and waterline all blend together, giving you a more natural result