“I am thinking about buying this green top and matching shoes, what do you think?” asked Cornish Cous. “Very nice” I replied. “I don’t usually wear green ... do you think it will suit me?” she questioned. “Oh yes”, I assured her, “and green is very 'this season'. In fact I have never worn green before, but I have bought a few bits lately in various shades.” “Oh, perhaps I should go for them....” she trailed off. “Definitely”, I responded. “everybody needs a treat now and again ... and we have just been paid.” “You are right!” she exclaimed. “Will you be wearing green to our pub grub evening?” “I might”, I replied “but it is complicated .....”
Just before I went on long term sick leave, a colleague of mine enquired “You have so many clothes and shoes, do you have a walk in wardrobe ...?” And I confirmed ... slightly tongue-in-cheek ... that in fact I do. “I knew it!” she said. And I laughed. “I have a walk in wardrobe but sadly not like the one that Mr Big built Carrie. I wish. No, my walk in wardrobe is the tiny nursery room which Little Tinker moved out of a few years ago and where the laundry basket and ironing board live ... along with my piles of clothes waiting to be pressed!”
So what issues can I possibly have when deciding what to wear ... when, I must admit, have such a vast choice? Mmm ... there are three very good reasons actually ...
Well ... for starters I am still wearing my little caps and array of scarves. We have now moved from the thicker heavy cloths of the Autumn/Winter range ... to the lighter bright Spring/Summer numbers. My hair is growing ... but obviously not at the rate that I want it to ... a watched pot and all that. The good news is that it has returned dark ... in fact even darker than it was before. I was born a brunette and it is now bordering on black. It has a few sprinkles of grey ... but hey I had those before it fell out so I ain’t gonna grumble about those ... and, like them pit hairs, they will also magically disappear sometime soon.
So what do I look like? Well for those of a similar age to me then think Lisa Stansfield ... you remember ... All around the world Lisa ... And for my younger readers you need to think of recent pics of the model Agyness Deyn ... though I need to point out that although the party prom dress and Doc Martin boots would not be at all out of place in Funky Town ... I would really need to lose two decades and three stone to pull it off ...
Having said that, I guess I don’t look too bad ... I even got one of those infamous not-quite-compliments from My Little Friend a little earlier. Yes .. My Little Friend, who I haven’t seen for nearly two months (partly because she unintentionally ended up in Florida for almost half of that time), so it was lovely to go and see her and The Silverback for a spot of Sunday lunch today.
“Oh my”, she exclaimed as I walked in the door and removed my hat, “I always thought you looked a bit French ... you certainly do today. In fact, you look almost chic.” Mmm ... what’s that saying ... who needs enemies ... bless her ...
And so what else do I need to consider on getting dressed each morning? Well ... there is something I haven’t mentioned before ... I wasn’t really sure whether I should talk about it ... whether it was too much info ... But then I thought before I finally wrap up my blog in a few weeks time that I should ... after all ... my mission over the last nine months has been to talk about cancer ... raise awareness ... talk about the trials and tribulations of treatments ... and their side effects ...
“Can I ask you to read this and sign under my signature at the bottom?” We have returned to last August and I am meeting my Oncologist, Dr Oh-so-luv-ver-ly, for the very first time. He has suggested that we go for neoadjuvant chemotherapy ... chemo before surgery ... and I have to sign a consent form to confirm that I understand what this entails ... and what side effects I could encounter. Doing as I was asked, I signed on the line and put the pen down. “Oh no”, said Dr Oh. “Oh, I am sorry”, I said and glanced down at the form “have I signed in the wrong place?” “No, no. My fault I forgot to mention something”, he said apologetically. “I should have told you ...the chemo ... it might stop your periods. Permanently. Is that a problem?”
No, it wasn’t, and in fact I didn’t think much about it ... until the following month ... when I realised that he was right. Then ... in November ... out of the blue ... I experienced my first hot flush ... on the M6 ... in road works ... just outside Birmingham ... on the way back from Wales. Suddenly I had my head out of the window ... despite the noise ... and the dust ... like an over excited dog ...
So what did I do when I finally got home? Switched on the PC ... and googled “Symptoms of menopause” ... obviously ... you really should know me by now. And this is what I found ....
1. Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
2. Irregular heart beat
4. Mood swings, sudden tears
5. Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
6. Irregular periods; shorter, lighter periods; heavier periods, flooding; phantom periods, shorter cycles, longer cycles
7. Loss of libido
8. Dry vagina
9. Crashing fatigue
10. Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
11. Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
12. Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
13. Disturbing memory lapses
14. Incontinence, especially upon sneezing, laughing; urge incontinence
15. Itchy, crawly skin
16. Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
17. Increased tension in muscles
18. Breast tenderness
19. Headache change: increase or decrease
20. Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
21. Sudden bouts of bloat
23. Exacerbation of existing conditions
24. Increase in allergies
25. Weight gain
26. Hair loss or thinning, head, pubic, or whole body; increase in facial hair
27. Dizziness, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
28. Changes in body odour
29. Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
30. Tingling in the extremities
31. Gum problems, increased bleeding
32. Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odour
33. Osteoporosis (after several years)
34. Changes in fingernails: softer, crack or break easier
35. Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, 'whooshing,' buzzing etc.
Wow ... a list that made the cancer and chemo look like a breeze. I won’t go through them one by one and tell you which ones I have or have not experienced ... that really would be too much information ... but I can thankfully say that to date it isn’t many, and that other than saving at least 50 quid on monthly essentials ... the most obvious one is the hot flushes. Oh ... and the cold ones. I am not sure if mine are particularly nasty as my menopause is chemo induced ... and is not part of the natural aging process that most women experience... but it does mean that when I am considering what to wear that layers are good.
And thirdly ... the final impact on my wardrobe choice ... well, there is currently radiotherapy to consider too. Every day I have to go to the hospital at 1pm for my daily zap ... which, if I am truthful, I still don’t like. The actual treatment is literally two minutes ... but I usually have to wait for 20 minutes or so ... and then it takes I guess about ten minutes to carefully align me so the radiation is hitting the necessary area ... and not sensitive areas ... such as my lung.
My lovely new booby is currently standing up to the powerful treatment ... but is a little red and warm ... a bit like sunburn ... so I have been told to keep the aqueous cream in the fridge and slap it on at any opportunity ...
Rather than get changed on arrival for rads I usually wait until I am called to the treatment area and then quickly whip off my upper garments and slip on that fetching flowery gown, so I need to ensure I wear something that can be easily removed and put back on. And, as I did on Friday, if I wear a dress I need to remember to take skirt with me so that I am not lying on the couch half naked. Once treatment is done I grab my bag and items of clothing and then pop back to the changing cubicle to put on my usual attire.
One of the positive aspects of radiotherapy is that you attend the same time each day ... which means other patients do too ... and you get to know others who are going through a similar care pathway as you. Bea, who comes along with her husband Jay, started her five week course of radiotherapy the same day as me. She is much older than me ... in fact her children are older than me ... but she too is very upbeat, open and frank about her illness, which is very different to mine. It has been interesting to learn about someone else’s treatment ... and lovely to be greeted by a pair of jovial faces each day.
On Friday, I walked into the waiting room, a little late as always and a little puffy from running down the corridor. “Hello Bea ... Jay ... how are you?” “Fine, fine” they grinned. “Ooh ... Bea ... you have had your haircut ... it looks very nice.” “Thank you”, she responded, and smiled broadly “it is lovely isn’t it?” “It is indeed” I replied. “I liked yours so much” she went on to say “that I asked my hairdresser to cut it the same”. I paused ... I was going to explain that I hadn’t actually had mine styled ... and that it wasn’t a cut that I had by choice ... but stopped ... and smiled back ... “great choice, suits you too.”
Here’s hoping for a long warm sunny summer ... 'cos us gals in the know are aware what is hot ... and what is not ... and will be looking and feeling pretty cool ...
I am sure Agyness would agree that short is pretty damn sweet ...