Three years ago, Jen had said she thought she should write a book…and call it “Cancer Is No Fairly Tale.” Her explanation was that whenever you watched a movie with someone who was battling cancer, rarely did the movie show all the battles you would face along the way. There would be tears, someone falling in love, sometimes someone died, but a sun that comes back out the next day and the story ends without all the the gruesome details of what battling cancer really is about. So while I only know the side of cancer from the point of view as her mom….I hope it gives you a window into the world Jen has faced for now over three years.
I start with her feet.
When the chemotherapy starts, we learned it’s job is to kill off the fast growing cells of cancer. Along with it, it takes other fast growing cells, like her hair, nails, the thin lining inside her mouth, and her skin. The feet is a place I will notice the skin fall off pretty easily. It flakes in big chunks. I notice the chunks of skin inside her socks, at the foot of her bed, on the floor next to where her slippers lay. And if she is sitting in a chair…the skin will be on the footrest. While the first several weeks, this may be minimal, by about week 6-8, it will become so apparent….it looks like someone took off a shoe after walking through a sandy beach.
This makes her feet, really soft…..like a babies. But also very delicate…not like the feet of most adults that have grown callus over time. It also makes her skin very thin.
Add to that her toe nails, they grow weaker, thinner and sharp, before growing so thin, they break off. Over weeks, especially after a second round of chemo, I notice a black line across each of her toe nails. It is where the nails stopped and started growing again.
And finally, her feet will most likely swell in those first weeks. This comes from all the fluids they push into her as they not only try to wash out the poison from the chemo but also as they give her body antibiotics as it fights numerous infections. After weeks in the hospital, when I put on her shoes for the first time….they won’t fit. No matter how much I loosen the laces, the feet are not going to fit into her shoes. Sometimes even the socks she had worn, no longer fit. And the ugly yellow socks the hospital provides…often need to be cut down to just above the heal…because if they aren’t, I can’t get the sock over her swollen foot and ankles.
It takes months before her feet look normal again. Before the swelling is gone, the flaky skin peals and new skin grows, and even longer before her toe nails no longer are thin with a black line growing out from the toe.
I hope all of this hasn’t scared you all from reading when I write more of “Cancer Is No Fairy Tale.” If I have, future post with that title you may wish to skip.