Side effects of cancer treatment: Feeling like "the fly" over here...

The side effects of breast cancer treatment

Remember the movie "The Fly" with Jeff Goldblum? Came out in 1986 or so. There was a scene after he and the fly had merged, and he was going through his metamorphosis... where his nails were coming off. It was so gross... they just plucked off like they were never really attached to his fingers.

I'm feeling that way because last night, I nearly pulled off two fingernails in my sheets, while I was tossing and turning trying to sleep. My insomnia is back... and the hot flashes are still here... so my nights are really long. All of which combine to make Nic a bit of an emotional wreck these days.

Today was the planning visit for my radiation therapy. Basically, today they lined me up in the machine, marked and tattooed my body for the areas that they will radiate over the next two months. It wasn't painful -- well, except for having to hold my left arm over my head at an awkward angle. My range of motion is seriously limited since the surgery so, that was unpleasant but generally it wasn't so bad.

So... tell me why I cried through the whole process? The therapist thought I was in pain because my eyes were leaking... when it was just a build up of frustration I think. I didn't sleep much last night -- maybe an hour or so total (and that was stretched over the whole night, 20 mins here and there).

I am so tired of being sick. Of going to the doctor. Of being shoved into machines. Of wearing those tired gowns with the back open. I'm tired of showing all my goodies to the world -- so much so that I don't even blink anymore when a room full of people look at my bare chest. (shrug) I just don't care anymore. I am tired of prescription bottles and sweating all night. I'm tired of staring in mirrors so hard -- looking, wishing, hoping that I'm really seeing some hair growth. I'm tired of being so physically tired. Having no energy, barely able to walk down a hallway without getting winded. I'm tired of looking at my own walls all day every day. Hell... I'm even tired of cold weather. :)

I know that this is something I have to go through and I'm grateful that my illness wasn't worse. I'm not looking forward to going through surgery again for my breast reconstruction. But I really don't think I could go through the rest of my life with one breast. It really doesn't bother me too much right now to have one breast -- because things are still bandaged and stitched together... I'm still healing. But once these stitches dissolve/fall away... once my range of motion comes back (with exercise I learned today...) looking at that scar (the way it is today) would probably keep me in an emotional place that I don't think I will want to stay in. For that, I'm hopeful that the reconstruction will assist me in moving forward with my life.

I will always think of cancer, think of these days and months a certain way. But I won't always look like I look today. And I'm hoping that not looking a certain way will go a long way toward helping me feel whole -- and not like some science fiction creature that was created from two things. Like the fly was... half man, half insect. I'm feeling half woman, half illness.

I'm still not ready for a support group. Not quite yet. But I will probably be more ready once I've begun to push cancer farther into my background than it is today.

How am I feeling? Weird, to tell the truth. Mostly I can't really "feel" that I don't have a left breast anymore. Until I try to lay on my left side at night and the soreness reminds me that things are different. Emotionally, I'm still a mess sometimes. As the feeling comes back to the surgery area, its bringing a lot of emotions with it. At first, I didn't cry at all after the surgery. It was a very blank feeling afterwards. But a couple of days ago... the tears started to fall again. Just as little twinges of pain reminded me that I'm healing on the inside; a few tears reminded me that the emotional part of me is transforming too.

I miss parts of my life that I hope I can get back when I'm back up to speed. I miss coming and going as I please. I miss hanging out, going to nice restaurants, taking trips and so forth. I realized just how much of my life I took for granted -- ALL OF IT (including my fingernails) -- and I'm praying that I don't ever forget what any of this feels like. I mean, your fingernail are important. But who thinks of that when they are saying their prayers?

All in all... I guess I'm doing alright considering. Everyday is a new challenge and I'm just learning to go with the flow.

[Originally written February 6, 2009. Updated January 15, 2014]

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