Tell tale signs
It’s bad enough to have cancer. You’d think with a diagnosis like that you would be allowed to turn inward, to focus on yourself, and to fight on your own without anyone else watching. But, no. Leaving a mark on your soul isn’t enough for cancer, it has to leave visible marks on your body too. At first, I just had a few small scars. One on my chest where they took core samples of the tumor through my chest, between my ribs, and into my mediastinum. Then came the bone marrow biopsy, which was just a small hole on my lower back hip. After that came the lumbar puncture where they collected some of my cerebral spinal fluid to test it to make sure there were no cancer cells there. These marks didn’t bother me. The little holes healed. The red turned purple. The purple turned pink. And soon, they disappeared.
Then my hair fell out. Holding fistfuls of my thick red hair was something I had never imagined. I knew it was coming, everyone told me it was coming, but when it came it hit me like a ton of bricks. Now there was visible proof something was wrong. I never saw what my tumor looked like because it was inside of my body. But now, it somehow made it’s way out and showed it’s ugly self. A month or so later, my beloved eyebrows and eyelashes fell out too. I wanted desperately for them to stay, I felt less sick with them. But I woke up one morning and they were gone. It’s remarkable how unrecognizable I was to myself without hair. All I saw was a shiny round head with protruding eyebrow bones and red tinged eyes. That can’t be me.
Early on in my treatment I noticed that my nails started turning brown. I don’t think it was the nail itself, it looked like it was the skin of my nail bed. You could see striations in the coloring too. To me, it looked like with each chemo cycle, I got a new brown striation. These striations caused my nails to look just like a dried up water bed with all the varied colors and lines. Also, I had several birth marks that at one time just looked like light brown freckles. But they too started to darken. One birth mark, on my thumb turned so dark that it looked like a black Sharpie had bled on me. Everyone seemed to be intrigued by that one. One morning the resident said, can I see your thumb? You know, you really should have a dermatologist look at this and check it out to make sure its ok. I felt like chucking my rock hard bran muffin at her. Can I please just address one cancer and a time? Everyone who saw it agreed that it was the chemo that was making my nails brown and darkening my birth marks.
As I sat in bed one day, I decided to look at my hands, legs and feet. I hadn’t looked at them in a while. I discovered what looked like brown splashes of paint on the soles of my feet. One of my toes looked as though I dipped it in brown paint. Also, I had brown “paint” drippings on the palms of my hands. Bizarre. I showed Mom and she said it was the chemo. I have chemo leaching through my skin!
Now, two months after my last round of chemo, my birth marks lightened and the brown marks on my feet and hands have almost disappeared. My eyebrows and eyelashes have grown back and I have a few centimeters of hair on my head. The only remaining signs of chemo are my brown nails. Each week one striation disappears leaving a perfectly pink space in its place. Soon I will be just pink. Pink and healthy.