I had my latest monthly check up yesterday. The good news is that progress is fine; I’m learning to tolerate nasal exploration; my sore throat will eventually feel better, and I now have some artificial saliva products to aid digestion/mastication A.S. Saliva Orthana being one). The ‘not great’ news is that I learned a new word, and it is Lymphoedema:
“A swelling that develops because of a build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues. This happens when the lymphatic system, which normally drains fluid away, isn’t working properly.”
A side effect of the radiotherapy, Lymphoedema is a chronic swelling. That means it is a condition that never goes away because the causes can’t be reversed. In my case it manifests itself as a swelling under the chin/around the neck – let’s call it the ‘bullfrog’ effect. I originally thought it was the loose skin from my many previous chins, but as the swelling started to get harder, I thought it was probably something else – and indeed it is. However, there are a number of daily treatments which reduces the look of someone storing vast quantities of food in the neck, one of which is to slap it vigorously (in a chopping motion) for a few minutes a day. Now I’m sure I’ll get many volunteers to give me a daily slapping but don’t worry, I’ve got this one…
Apart from this, I’ve been doing some press work with Macmillan, and have also joined Macmillan Voices: these volunteers aim to use their experience to improve cancer services and raise awareness of the realities of living with cancer. I’m not in any way unique: there are 300,000+ individuals a year who will be diagnosed with Cancer. Key to my recovery process was finding a method of communicating with others in the same situation. That’s where talking with friends, family and Macmillan’s comes into play. I cannot stress enough the need to keep in contact with the outside world; never hide away, and never be ashamed.
I’m consciously moving away from that mindset of ‘dealing with the cancer’ to one of ‘getting on with my life’ – with a spring in my step. Concentrating on the cancer is like believing that there’s only a past – attempting to let go and moving on is knowing that there’s a future full of potential ahead.
PS. 101 Uses for a Radiotherapy Mask, No.2 – sunglasses, headphones and shirt rack (or ‘pretend it’s a beach bum’):