YOU CAN DO IT!
Hello, I'm Terri Eyre-Williamson and I'm living with cancer, just like you are. I've known this for over two years now but I never say I am suffering from cancer. Here is my story...
After feeling unwell for some months, I was admitted to hospital. A scan showed a blockage in the small intestine and I had an operation to remove this. I was then told that I had cancer and, worst of all, it had already spread to my liver. At first I thought 'how did I get this?'and'why me?'. But the truth is, cancer can happen to anyone, there is no rhyme or reason. Whilst it is not easy to accept, if you can be positive and think OK, I know what's wrong and I can get help to deal with it', you will feel stronger and respond better to treatment.
I suppose in my heart of hearts, I knew this must be serious, but I thought 'am I going to let this get to me or am I going to fight it?'. Cancer is an uninvited guest, I did not ask it to come and I did not want it hanging around longer than necessary.
I was not ready to die so I thought 'at the very least, I'm going to keep this at bay'. To do this, I knew I would need to trust the medical staff assigned to care for me. It is not easy relying on other people to tell you what is best but if you do not build that relationship of trust with the medical staff, you make it a lot harder for them to treat you and that makes it harder for you to feel better.
It was not easy telling the doctor about the embarrassing side-effects I was experiencing but I did it with honesty because I knew in my heart that it was the only way to fight this. So, when your doctor asks you how you are feeling, tell the honest truth, try to be really factual and, if it helps, write down what you want to tell them in advance. Remember, they have heard it all before, so don't be embarrassed.
Fighting cancer is not easy and I will never tell anyone it is. The type and position of the cancer will affect how you feel and the treatment you need. Nearly all chemotherapy will have some side-effects and some can be very unpleasant. Getting the right chemotherapy 'cocktail' that works for you is essential, so keep faith with your doctors while they use their experience and expertise to work this out.
One of the most frightening things is not knowing what might happen next. Make sure you ask all the questions you need to. If you know what side-effects are possible, they will be less frightening if they happen and you will know how to cope with them.
Personally, I found the first weeks after treatment always the worst for side-effects. Mine included constipation, tummy wind, diarrhoea, night sweats, mouth sores, nausea and tiredness. Hair loss in another thing you may encounter, depending on the kind of chemotherapy you are having. Try not to worry. If it happens the wigs they make today look really natural. I had one and no one apart from my husband knew it was a wig! When my hair grew back, I found it was thicker and stronger than before.
I try not to dwell on the fact I have cancer but think of it as having the 'flu. I say to myself, 'I don't feel well today, but tomorrow I'll feel better/ 50% of how you feel is in the mind so staying positive will help you a lot. Don't forget, you can always call the Oncology Unit if you are worried about a side-effect. Leave a message and they'll call you back with the right advice -they seem to have a remedy for just about anything imaginable!
It is important to listen to your body. If you're tired, rest. If you're hungry, eat something that will build your strength up. Make it something you really fancy so you enjoy it more. I find it helpful to eat a banana every day, they are full of potassium, very good for the blood and give you energy. When taking the chemotherapy tablets, I eat half an hour beforehand to line my stomach as this stops me feeling sick. I find it's best to eat regularly and have plenty to drink (not alcohol, although a small drink now and again won't hurt!).
I always try to have something to look forward to. I don't mean anything grand: a cup of tea with a friend, a.stroll round the shops or a nice cream cake if I fancy one. When you go shopping, remember a little of what you fancy does you good!
I have also found having people I can talk to very helpful as it means things aren't bottled up. Find someone you can be really open with and talk about how you are feeling. Everyone's journey with cancer is different and yours is unique to you. I hope you can find the strength to stay positive and fight off your unwelcome guest.
With all good wishes,