The glare of the pandemic has been on full beam for almost eighteen months now, whist the ever present spectre of cancer has been lit up like a minute cheap torch searching for a dropped pound coin on a wet pavement late at night.
Now, it’s changing. The warning voices reverberating in the cancer world at the moment can be heard from every distant hermitage to hideout in this crazy world, in these surreal times, amidst a clandestine web of madness and political rhetoric. We’re not heading into a cancer crisis, we are already in one!
When it comes to isolation, for Covid read novelty, for Cancer read normality. As patients, we know all about infections, risks and both emotional and physical distress. Today we all need to ‘wake up to reality’. There remains around 200 different forms of cancer, each one unique, yet each one presenting an even bigger dilemma than before.
The Heroes of The NHS combined with health professionals within the private sector, have been working their fingers to the bone under duress and severe pressure to save lives. Now, as Covid beds are slowly released back into circulation for other urgent medical matters (cancer being top of the list), these heroes are again about to be tested to the full with a backlog.
Cancer got under my skin in 2018, into my prostate and slightly beyond. I was luckier than some, it hadn’t metastasised (although serious flirting took place) and the course of treatment was planned within what seemed days.
As a fit 57 year old man, I focused on phase one of what is now a three parter, Chemotherapy. I read chapter and verse on the drugs, the side effects and the nutrition I would need to help me. As a result, Chemo Cookery was born, my little nutritional awareness project where I devise recipes, tips and ideas on how to focus the mind during what is debilitating treatment.
So, some three years later, I can reflect on what I’ve learned from everything. I’m living with incurable BUT manageable locally advanced prostate cancer, I now have three monthly injections to suppress my testosterone levels, it’s all part of me now, deep in the heart of me, I don’t fight cancer, that’s far too exhausting, I just work with it.
As I look back, if there was one aspect that knocked me for six (apart from from losing consciousness after my second chemo cycle-due to an anaphylactic shock caused by my bodies rejection of the docetaxel drug) it was radiotherapy. I just didn’t prepare properly. I’m still paying the price. It was all about my skin!
Radiotherapy, in my now experienced opinion, is such a misunderstood and underestimated form of cancer treatment. I had a months cycle to endure, (phase two) and if I’m honest, I thought because of my fitness, discipline and attention to detail for my chemo, I had cracked the most difficult phase of my treatment (hormone therapy-three monthly injection, being the third). Wrong with a BIG CAPS LOCK W!
How I wish I had looked after my skin more! Yes, I go on holiday and work through the factors as I work through the sun filled days, yes, I use moisturiser on my face (but not half as often as I should do), and yes I’m conscious that sun beds are bad for you. In that respect, I’m guilty as charged your honour, I’ve used them in the past, not often, but I’ve used them (past tense).
Next question...did I use correct lotions (or any) before, during and after my radiation zapping sessions? Answer: I failed miserably on two fronts, the first two! Now, as a result, any exposure to the sun results in my developing a ugly rash on my arms, chest and legs regardless of how much protection I use. Cancer patient’s self esteem tends to get diluted by myriad factors (no pun intended) from the insensitive things people say to us, to our physical appearance and to the inability to do the things we used to be able to.
Our emotions are all at sea, sometimes the rough crossings are far too much for us and on occasion the serene little sail into happy harbours are fraught with the fear of something bad lurking around the corner. That’s cancer for you.
Photo taken just before the end of chemotherapy treatment.
So, where am I now?
Having learned my lesson from the radical rays penetrating my skin, (I haven’t even mentioned some side effects from that, being sensitive (pun intended) has its plus side too, so I won’t put any one off-don’t eat spicy food though) I’m now more aware than ever that I need, we need to look after our skin, not just for appearances sake but just in case one day, something gets under it! This is my friendly warning voice.
With my 60th birthday just a week or so away, and with lovely gifts from Jennifer Young's Beauty Despite Cancer, I decided it was an opportune moment to get rid of the covid beard and try out two of the products.