Symptoms vs Side Effects

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My body is a wondrous young thing. In my 34 years I’ve survived meningitis, pulmonary pneumonia and now I’m fighting stage 3 ovarian cancer. Strangely enough I don’t consider myself to be a sickish person. I don’t get coughs or colds, I’ve never broken a bone and until recently I rarely took a day off sick. No, if I’m going to get something you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be lethal. I don’t tend to do things by halves.

I started experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer more than a year before my diagnoses.  I had stabbing pains in my pelvis and abdomen that grew gradually worse. Eventually I became so bloated that it hurt to do up my trousers and I was tired all the time. When I became too tired to follow my usual exercise regime, make it to choir in the evenings or go out with friends I began to suspect something a little more sinister was going on than an ovarian cyst or IBS as my GP had suggested.

These side effects were awful and they impacted my life in a big way but compared to chemo they’re a walk in the park. Chemo has made me infertile, I have lost my hair and the skin on my hands has become paper thin. After the last session I suffered such bad nausea that I couldn’t eat for days. I can’t sleep because the steroids keep me awake and make my joints ache and my brain is so foggy that sometimes it’s hard to even concentrate on a rom-com. The first few days after these chemicals are put into my body I feel flat, depressed and isolated, that not even my nearest and dearest can understand me. I just want to put my head under the covers and hide away from the rest of the world.

The worst thing is that the symptoms are cumulative, each time the side effects are a little worse so I dread each upcoming treatment just a little bit more. Anyone else who’s been through it will understand what I mean but it’s best not to wallow, you just have to enjoy the days when you have enough energy to enjoy life and the people you share it with.

Yes, chemo’s a bitch but I’m thankful that it’s an option. I’m thankful that I live in a country where it costs nothing for me to access this life saving treatment. It’s better to view it as the medicine that’s going to fix you rather than the enemy. I’ve chosen to have chemotherapy its not something that’s being forced upon me.

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My oncologist and my partner often ask me is “how are your cancer symptoms?” and I find this question so difficult to answer. I think my cancer symptoms are getting better. I haven’t had any unbearable pain in my tummy for a while but it’s so hard to know whether this means that the treatment’s working or that my cancer symptoms have just been overshadowed by the chemo side effects.

Cancer treatments bring with them a new set of challenges. The next phase of my treatment is surgery and I’ll be having a full hysterectomy. As if losing your hair and having old lady hands wasn’t enough, now I’m going to lose my uterus and ovaries as well. Will I ever feel like a woman again? Just another side effect of my treatment. A treatment intended to cure my cancer symptoms that are now seemingly insignificant in comparison to it’s side effects.

I know it’s all for the greater good. I want to be able to live a long and happy life but sometimes that comes at a cost that’s difficult to fathom. When I was planning for the future I didn’t have this in mind. Now my boyfriend and I have to make new plans using a new perspective, we have had a re-shuffle to try and figure out what the future looks like for us now. Something we can both look forward to.