Reija was diagnosed with womb cancer in March 2019 at age 42. Her doctor said she was very young to get womb cancer. The truth is, however, that unfortunately one is never too young. But in her case there was an underlying cause -- in October she received the news that she had Lynch Syndrome. This is an inherited, faulty gene that makes her more at risk of certain cancers, including womb cancer. Knowledge is power, although getting regular colonoscopies was never a part of her plans. Originally from Finland, she has lived in London for nearly 25 years. She said she's lucky to live there as health care is free, and she was treated in one of the best cancer hospitals in the world: the Royal Marsden.
Humour and laughter are probably some of the least likely words you would associate with cancer. When I was asked to write something for the Humor Beats Cancer blog, I wasn’t sure if I could think of anything suitable. But sure enough, the more I thought about my journey since the diagnosis, the more funny events popped in my mind, too.
And I have decided to give you two humours stories for the price of one.
My first one is about one of the chemo side effects. As part of my treatment plan, I had to have six rounds of Carboplatin and Paclitaxel. My oncologist explained to me that the only certain side effect was that I would lose my hair. So when it started to fall out in clumps, I was ready. I ordered my partner to shave it all off and prepared to rock the bald look with pride.
But there was another side effect I wasn’t ready for, and nobody had warned me about. Spots. Dozens of them. Within a few days of shaving my hair off, they covered my scalp. White heads, black heads, yellow heads. I made my partner take a picture of my scalp so I could see, and it was disgusting! Don’t worry, I’m not planning to share that picture with you. Thankfully, the spots cleared eventually, and I was able to venture outside with a bald
head without scaring children and adults alike.
The second story is about one of the side effects of radiotherapy. Once I had finished with chemo and had a few weeks’ rest, I had 25 internal and two external sessions of radiotherapy. Thinking back, I was so naïve regarding the treatment of cancer. Before my own diagnosis, I hadn’t even known that radiotherapy was used to treat cancer, let alone about the various potential side effects.
Because my radiotherapy was directed at the womb area, there was a chance it would affect my bowel movements. On the whole it didn’t. But (there always seems to be one) there were a few times when it did. Most times I escaped incident free. Except once.
I woke up in the night feeling that I needed to let off some gas. I wasn’t sure I should because I had a feeling I might actually need to go to the toilet. However, since I was tired and warm and cosy in bed, I decided to let one out carefully. It was a success.
Emboldened by this, I went for another one. A big mistake. Suddenly, there was an unmistakable warm feeling. I crept out of bed and sure enough; I had had a little accident.
At the time it didn’t feel very humorous but now I can see the funny side. My partner definitely did when I told him. I also think I was lucky to escape with just that incident since it could have been a lot worse if I had been out and about.
Finally, though getting a cancer diagnosis and going through surgery, chemo and radiotherapy has certainly not been a barrel of laughs, it has helped me to pay more attention to the positive and humorous side of life. It has also helped me to appreciate what is good in my life wholeheartedly.