Sketch diary: Cancer, the ladyparts version
Today I started a 3-week course of brachytherapy. Unlike the 6-week course of external beam radiation therapy that ended on Friday, which definitely made me feel pretty horrible, brachytherapy is not supposed to cause any adverse side effects. We shall see.
I know that many of you want me to get back the regular programming of recipes, food fun and Japanese things, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to describe the treatments I've been getting, and how they've affected me. I see a lot of information about what breast cancer treatment involves, but very little about Other Lady Parts cancer, which is what I have. So, if you are squeamish or not interested, you may want to skip the rest of this page.
I have what is called endometrial cancer, or cancer of the uterus. It's at stage IIIB - my cancer had spread a bit past my uterus down to my cervix and vagina. I do want to emphasize that this type of cancer is supposed to be very treatable, and most patients that are diagnosed early enough as I was survive and lead healthy lives afterwards.
My treatment has been in three stages. The first stage was a full hysterectomy - the surgeons took out my uterus and cervix. A long incision was made in my lower abdomen to perform this surgery, and months later I still have a small opening there (about 5 cm / 2.5 inches long) that is leaking strange body fluids, itches, and prevents me from putting any strain on my belly. The side effect of this is that my back hurts pretty much constantly, especially when I'm standing. (Walking is a bit better.)
The second stage was a six week course (5 days a week) of external beam radiation therapy, where a beam of strong radiation was aimed at what remains of my lower lady parts. This stage made me pretty sick, as I described previously.
And now I'm in the final stage, brachytherapy. Once a week for 3 weeks, I'll go to the radiology center where the oncologist puts a stick that's about the size and length of a corn dog into me, leaves the room, and lets the stick thing zap me from the inside with radioactive waves for eight minutes. It doesn't hurt, it's just a bit uncomfortable and you know, slightly embarassing in the way a gynecological exam is.
I'm still feeling some of the after effects of the radiation therapy like diarrhea and fatigue, but I do think it's getting slowly better. I no longer feel nauseous. I'm still very moody though. I tend to go from one extreme:
Cranky as hell
to the other:
I try to distract myself as much as possible with things like music, podcasts, audiobooks and marathon sessions of past and present seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race. It's a bit hard to do much reading, because my eyes are really tired much of the time, and for some reason I don't have enough patience to make it through a full 2-hour movie - I either get a headache or fall asleep. Oh yes, and I make little doodles like the ones you see here.
Some other annoying side effects: small itchy welts appearing all over my body (though they disappear quickly), a couple of larger and painful blisters, and developing hemorrhoids because of the constant diarrhea.
And, there's no other way to say it but -
My recent tests have been good though, so everyone is optimistic about me making a full recovery (or as full as one can get - I'll have to watch out for a relapse in some years). If you take anything away from this though: ladies, please get regular tests, especially if cancer runs in your family. I had neglected to do so, until it was almost too late. (As I've said on these pages before, my mother got cervical cancer when she was the same age that I was last year.) Cancer really sucks, no way around it. Bah, cancer. Bah.