Essay Non-Fiction posted June 17, 2012

This work has reached the exceptional level
Answering some of your questions.


by barbara.wilkey

Many reviewers have asked how I'm doing. It's been a year since I've finished with chemotherapy and radiation treatment. I'm going to attempt to answer the question the best I can. I went to the National Cancer Institute site to see how I'm really doing.

The following is a quote, then I'll take each symptom and discuss it as it affects me.

"You may find that you are still coping with the effects of treatment on your body. It can take time to get over these effects. You may wonder how your body should feel during this time and what are signs that cancer is coming back. This section describes some of the problems that can occur when treatment is over. Some of the most common problems that people report are:"

Fatigue: I still suffer from the lack of energy, but I have more energy than I did during chemo. During the school year, I couldn't wait for Fridays so I'd have a few days off. By Monday mornings, I was raring to go.

Memory & concentration changes: I laughed at this one because I've always had a poor memory. I do think it's a little worse.

Pain: A few weeks ago, I would have said not a problem, but lately I've had a sharp pain by my right rib cage. I see my radiologist on June 21st. I was told I could have some problems because of radiation therapy.

Nervous system changes (neuropathy): YES!!!! The tips of my fingers and toes are numb and when I'm really tired they tingle. I've been told it's due to nerve damage from chemo and will remain the rest of my life.

Lymphedema or swelling: I lost 16 lymph nodes due to breast cancer. I'll have these problems for the rest of my life. My school district is sending me to a training in Keystone, CO the end of June and first of July. There are certain precautions I need to follow in order to fly. I'll have to wear a compression sleeve and glove on my right arm and hand. Since I live at sea level in TX and Keystone is 9000 feet up in the mountains, I'll struggle with the change in elevation. I'm determined not to have problems and enjoy my trip.

Mouth or teeth problems: Other than a dry mouth at night, no problems. A glass of cold water sets on the table by my bed.

Changes in weight and eating habits: What female wants to discuss weight issues? I'll go straight to eating habits. During chemo, I couldn't eat pizza, spaghetti, plus a few other foods. Well, I still can't eat them or anything with marinara sauce. I can eat fresh tomatoes. Every so often, something I eat the previous week upsets my stomach the followin week. I keep my anti-barf pills with me at all times. When I asked how long this would last, I was told the rest of my life.

Trouble swallowing: I feel left out. So far it's not a problem.

Bladder or bowel control problems: Let's just say I'm on a first name basis with every restroom in any area in which we have traveled.

Menopause symptoms: I could write volumes, but I won't. I have solved the hot flash problem by having my husband install an air conditioner in the bedroom window. We have central air and keep the house around 72 degrees; still not cool enough for me to sleep. My oncologist prescribes some pills to help with this. The side-effect is they may cause suicidal thoughts, but he assures me with my personality he doubts that'll be an issue. I've given my family and close friends the warning if I start acting strange to let me know. LOL

Now for a few personal notes:

1) My husband, Brian, and I spent a few days at Corpus Christi, TX. He thought it would be nice for me to get away and relax. I agreed I could use some time-off. Within minutes after we arrived, I realized Corpus Christi was not the right place for me. I take anywhere from seventeen to eighteen pills a day, depending on the day. Every pill states to stay out of the sun and the heat. My radiologist has told me to keep my right side out of the sun. I spent about twenty minutes at a time wading in the Gulf, then we would do something inside, like a museum. I still enjoyed the gulf, just a little at a time.

2) I'll explain the reason for taking so many pills. Some of them are to help insure the cancer doesn't return. Many others are to help with the side-effects of those pills and to help with the remaining side-effects of chemo. The rest are because chemo caused my allergies to be much worse than they were originally.

3) Many of you already know that chemo causes a person to go bald, which I did. My hair did grow back the same color, but my otherwise wavy hair has become extremely curly. I got my first trim a few weeks ago. I thought my curls would disappear with the trim. NOPE. They're still here. I received a call a few days ago from Shirley Temple. She wanted to know how I got all those curls, just teasing. I often get stopped by strangers asking if the curls are natural.

4) Chemo made my finger and toe nails thick and ugly. My fingernails have finally grown to where they look almost normal. All but one toenail looks fairly normal. I do miss my beautiful long natural fingernails, but I'm headed in that direction again.

5) Itching is another problem. I've seen a dermatologist, who said the itching is due to nerve damage from the chemo. When I get hot, I feel needle pricks over my entire body. I take medication that helps with this, but doesn't solve the problem. After all, I do live in Texas.

6) Research has shown worrying about cancer returning is normal. I don't dwell on it, but when I read about some one's cancer returning, I get depressed for a few days. It's a good thing I have a short attention span and stay busy. Something else soon takes over my thoughts. Our first day in Corpus Christi, I learned about Robin Roberts' new health issue. She had been in remission for five years. I felt pretty down. Later that day, my son sent me the photo of my kittens sleeping in Diva's basket. Those two's antics made me laugh, again. Diva was not laughing.

7) I teach first grade so being flexible is a must. I need to be flexible in everything I do now. I can still do the things I want but sometimes I need to find a different way to do it. For instance the trip to Corpus Christi and getting in the gulf. My family still eats pizza on Friday evenings. I eat something I enjoy so I don't feel left out.

8) All in all, life is very good. I've had to change some eating habits and get more rest. At my age who sunbathes, anyway? My first graders are always busy and keep me on my toes. Usually, when I'm down, one of my boys seems to know it and calls, just to check in. I always can click on FS and what my friends have posted, I laugh, I smile, and sometimes I cry, but I always enjoy reading. It helps me stay focused. Your friendships, well wishes and prayers immensely helped me. I lean on you often. I rely on God to get me through the rough days.

God Bless all of you. You're in my prayers.


The artwork is the photo of the kittens in Diva's basket Steven sent me while I was in Corpus Christi. Do you still think they're innocent??
I have written this informally, so it's really not in any official form.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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