Symptoms Vs Side Effects

My body is a wondrous young thing. In my 34 years I’ve survived meningitis, pulmonary pneumonia and now I’m fighting stage 3 ovarian cancer. Strangely enough I don’t consider myself to be a sickish person. I don’t get coughs or colds, I’ve never broken a bone and until recently I rarely took a day off sick. No, if I’m going to get something you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be lethal. I don’t tend to do things by halves.

I started experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer more than a year before my diagnoses.  I had stabbing pains in my pelvis and abdomen that grew gradually worse. Eventually I became so bloated that it hurt to do up my trousers and I was tired all the time. When I became too tired to follow my usual exercise regime, make it to choir in the evenings or go out with friends I began to suspect something a little more sinister was going on than an ovarian cyst or IBS as my GP had suggested.

These side effects were awful and they impacted my life in a big way but compared to chemo they’re a walk in the park. Chemo has made me infertile, I have lost my hair and the skin on my hands has become paper thin. After the last session I suffered such bad nausea that I couldn’t eat for a days. I can’t sleep because the steroids keep me awake and make my joints ache and my brain is so foggy that sometimes it’s hard to even concentrate on a rom-com. The first few days after these chemicals are put into my body I feel flat, depressed and isolated, like not even my nearest and dearest can understand me. I just want to put my head under the covers and hide away from the rest of the world.

The worst thing is that the symptoms are accumulative, each time the side effects are a little worse so I dread each upcoming treatment just a little bit more. Anyone else who’s been through it will understand what I mean but it’s best not to wallow, you just have to enjoy the days when you have enough energy to enjoy life and the people you share it with.

Yes, chemo’s a bitch but I’m thankful that it’s an option I’m thankful that I live in a country where it costs nothing for me to access this life saving treatment. It’s better to view it as the medicine that’s going to fix you rather than the enemy. I’ve chosen to have chemotherapy its not something that’s be forced upon me.

My oncologist and my partner often ask me “how are your cancer symptoms?” and I find this question so difficult to answer. I think my cancer symptoms are getting better. I haven’t had any unbearable pain in my tummy for a while but it’s so hard to know whether this means that the treatment’s working or that my cancer symptoms have just been overshadowed by the chemo side effects.

Cancer treatments bring with them a new set of challenges. The next phase of my treatment is surgery and I’ll be having full hysterectomy. As if losing your hair and having old lady hands wasn’t enough, now I’m going to lose my uterus and ovaries as well. Will I ever feel like a woman again? Just another side effect of my treatment. A treatment intended to cure my cancer symptoms that are now seemingly insignificant in comparison to it’s side effects..

I know it’s all for the greater good. I want to be able to live a long and happy life but sometimes that comes at a cost that’s difficult to fathom. When I was planning for the future I didn’t have this in mind. Now my boyfriend and I have to make new plans using a new perspective, we have a re-shuffle to try and figure out what the future looks like for us now. Something we can both look forward to.

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18 Responses

  1. This is a very eye opening description. It is hard for someone not going through it to know what chemo is like.

  2. Your an inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing this journey with us and to help us understand Chemo and it’s side effects.

  3. Thanks Jenny for such honesty. Your heartfelt story demonstrates how the power of positive thinking and strong friendships can help to cope with the huge challenges of cancer. You are a beautiful person inside and out so go well and be proud of how you are now helping others going through the same difficult time. With love. Alice

  4. Thank you for sharing this with everyone Jen. Your blog is so informative, frank and totally heartfelt. It gives someone not experiencing this a much better understanding of what it’s like to go through chemo. Your future is so bright and you and Shane still have so much to look forward to ❤️ Love you loads dude! x

  5. F@#*!! You are amazing! The beauty and strength in the way you live your life and in the way you fight this beast are truly inspiring. Lots of love to you and Shane and your family. Shine on beautiful girl!! You totally ROCK! xxx

  6. Love you Jen Bear – your mix of pragmatic realism and fantastic positivity and gratitude for the good things is a lesson to us all. You’re allll woman xoxox

  7. You really are trully amazing ! Your positivity throughout is inspiring. Wonderfully written and so heartfelt. Well done jenbear ! Love you lots xxx

  8. Hi Jenny
    Just heard your devastating news maybe it has been on the slow coach to the north!

    Thank you for sharing your frank, honest and brave journey. Hopefully your positivity and treatment will be a winner.
    You and Shane very much in our thoughts and prayers
    Love Pat and Anne

  9. Two things struck me as I read this piece, Jenny, I have a daughter your age, who I love dearly, there but for fortune. My brother is undergoing treatment for cancer at the moment. Your description of the effects of Chemo has given me a better insight into his state of mind and condition, thank you for that. I hope you start turning the corner soon.

  10. Hi Jenny, your honesty and willingness to share such personal details of your treatment will help others I am sure. I dearly hope that the treatment works it’s magic sooner rather than later and that you and your partner can move on to happier and less challenging times. Sending you love and positive thoughts. Xx

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