all the ways my body is different after cancer
a non-exhaustive list
I catch viruses that spread through contact with others more easily. I am apparently not immunocompromised anymore, but it feels like I am. Something in the very fibers of my immune system feels different—despite my constant attempts to bolster, attend to, improve it. I may perpetually wear a mask. I’m not sure I can afford to feel your breath on me.
Scars form and last. Turning into everlasting hyperpigmentation. Your serum will not “fix” that. (And I am not sure that I want it to).
Scars are now hypertrophic. Not expanding beyond their boundary, but making their presence forever known.
There is scar tissue everywhere. I am a map of where the needles entered me, where the knives cut.
When I am tired, I am exhausted.
When I am exhausted, I can do nothing but lay prostrate, horizontal until the exhaustion passes. There is no such thing as powering through.
Less stamina. More breaks. This applies to almost all things.
My bones ache when I have done too much—stood too much, walked too much, danced too much, lived too much.
Eight, but really nine to ten hours of sleep is best.
Chemo-brain. Three years later.
I fear I might require mood stabilizers for the rest of my life. The herbal kind though. Big pharma has made enough off this body. (I can feel the differences in my brain chemistry when I have taken my gummy and tincture and powder and when I haven’t).
I cannot seem to lose weight even though I do what the doctors tell me to. Medication keeps me frozen at a sometimes increased, but always within a 10-pound range on the scale.
If I do lose weight, it was on the back of exhaustion and aching.
If I do not take my supplements (especially for more than say three days) I cannot function.
My left side is perpetually out of balance with my right. The right side of my body is stronger. It overcompensates for the left’s betrayal.
I am rarely able to regulate my body temperature for long stretches of time. Heat, flashes. Cold, rushes.
I see cancer everywhere. In every decision, every lump, every bruise, every bout of fatigue—mine and yours.
I am not sure if there is a light at the end of the tunnel of “recovery.” If recovery is something to strive for in a traditional sense. Not sure if I will ever be “recovered enough” and regain what I lost. Not sure if my body will ever feel like home again. Not sure if it is productive to try and try and try to feel better, or more useful to surrender to where I am now. Not sure if I have the energy, gumption, or wherewithal to attempt recovery completely.
I may not have cancer anymore, but it is always with me. In some way, shape, or form, always will be. There is no escape. There may be no getting any type of stamina back. My bones may forever hate me.
I am forever changed.
This, brings me peace.
My limitations are the guideposts of my humanity. They remind me that caretaking and taking care are all I have, all that matters. They keep me grounded even as the ground forever shifts and moves beneath me. They ensure I look for the third way, keep me from surrendering to capitalism’s death march. They require me to reach up and out, advocate for myself, build accommodations, be accommodating, create a world that suits my needs as best I can. They ensure I never get too big for my britches—that I remember where my strength comes from.
3 years in. Lifetime to go. Celebrate with me?
more to the list soon,
These could also be because I am nearing 30, but I have a sinking suspicion they have more to do (90%) with the experience and alterations of illness and less to do (10%) with getting older. Maybe it is both. I may never know.
How has your body been permanently altered? Remind me I am not alone.
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