Even though it’s been a few years since my treatments ended, I still see the physical and yes, emotional scars. At times, both seem to fade and then I am reminded of what will always be there. No, I am still cancer free so I don’t want to alert anyone with a scare. It’s just the nerves that were cut in my face during the surgery seem to talk to me, remind me that they were damaged and that there was something growing inside.
My cancer was a strange form of skin cancer, so naturally any type of pimple will raise those hairs on my neck. I’m careful to not worry my wife, so I keep all the false alarms to myself. And at night when I am relaxing in bed with the covers pulled tight, I might have the tight throat and slight difficulty breathing as my airway is constricted by mucus (yuck). That just sounds horrible to write, but once you are treated with radiation in the head/neck, the area is sensitive. And certain foods might introduce a slight mucus layer that creates a bubble blocking your airway. Now talk about freaking out when you are sleeping, and can’t breathe! But that’s the deck that I continue to shuffle and play. We all have issues with cancer, and better to share than to hide them since we are all experiencing similar effects.
The same throat problems persist when training for endurance events with careful planning required to watch what I eat and make sure I can swallow the food. I’ve learned to take extra fluids to allow for more nutrition from the liquids and less reliance on the solids.
I guess I could look at things as half hairy (instead of half full). That is a reference to my face that can only grow hair on the part that was not radiated – the upper part. If it was 1955, that might be cool. But as I plan for everything, I keep two electric razors charged and shave every morning. I even took an electric razor along the John Muir Trail so I wouldn’t emerge 222 miles later looking like some freak of nature with pork chop sideburns, mustache and a smooth throat area.
My writing here is only to share with those who experience cancer, that cancer is always with you physically and mentally – and that’s ok. Trying to block the experience only gives it more energy. Redirect that energy to living with the disease and never letting it win no matter what. As proof, I’ll keep running and living my life instead of sitting around waiting for cancer to live my life for me.