Everything hurts or doesn't work properly, including my brain.
And then it almost wears off, I start feeling human again and noticing the rest of the world (until I notice the US presidential elections, and wish I hadn't...), and then it's time for my next cycle, and down I crash again!
Getting the chemotherapy is actually the easy bit. Dealing with what happens as my body tries to cope with what's been thrown at it, is hard.
The most obvious side-effect is the hair loss. My hair hasn't quite all gone yet, but what's left is very thin, and prickly. When my hair was falling out, my scalp was really tender, and sore to touch, but that stage seems to have gone now, thank goodness! So, now I have pretty much no hair. It has really surprised me how cold my head gets - hair is obviously a very good insulator. I have to wear hats etc, because otherwise I get cold. It does work quite well in reverse though - when I get hot flushes (another side effect), I can take my hat off and cool down pretty quickly!
As a woman, having no hair is pretty confronting. It totally changes the way I look, and it totally changes the way people look at me. I've never been particularly worried about how I look - I almost never wear make-up, and clothes shopping is something I only do out of necessity. If something still fits and doesn't have holes in it, I don't see the point of throwing it out. I've never thought of myself as beautiful, or been particularly bothered about how I look, and I'm much more interested in a person's opinions, character and story, than the brand of sunglasses or shoes they're wearing, or the car they drive.
So I honestly didn't think that I would be particularly phased by losing my hair.
What to do, when you have no hair and don't want to go bald in public? For the first while I decided I didn't care what I looked like, and went for comfort. Cue the beanie! Great for comfort and warmth, but rather lacking in style. After several weeks of mostly beanie wearing, even I was starting to feel decidedly frumpy. Not good!
I've also got some scarves, which work really well as turban-style head-covering. However, I've discovered that wearing some things on my head gives me flash-backs to my brethren past - I wore silk scarves on my head when I was at church from the age of 3, and for the last few years I was in the brethren I was wearing a scarf the whole time unless I was home. At school, going shopping, at work, at church: unless I was in a brethren home, I had a scarf on my head.
I haven't worn a scarf on my head since then. I didn't think about it, until I was wearing a cap thingy, and was struck by how I kept pulling it down over my ears, and wondered why that feeling was so familiar, and why it was accompanied by a sense of dread... and then I realised.
Life in a cult: the gift that keeps on giving! I'm slowly getting over the flash-backs... but it's just another thing to deal with.
I've got two friends who have been through chemotherapy in the last
couple of years, who have loaned me their wigs. This has been
fantastic, because it's meant I've had a couple of different options
available right from the start. The wigs look amazingly natural, and I look very different with each of them. I've had several people I know reasonably well, walk straight past me in the street because they didn't recognise me. But... it's not my hair, I'm always worried whether they're sitting right or not, and they're a bit itchy and tight on my head.
It is nice, not having to bother with washing my hair, or brushing it, or trying to keep it out of my face, or getting haircuts... but I am REALLY looking forward to my hair starting to grow back in a few months time. Not just because it turns out that I quite like my hair, but because it'll be a sign to me that I'm through the worst of this cancer crap, and that life - and my hair - is starting to return to normal.
In the meantime, there is one silver lining. It's not only the hair on my head that isn't growing - I haven't had to shave my legs for a couple of months!