I was diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic. I’ll be turning 90 this year, but the diagnosis was still a tough pill to swallow. I’ve been healthy my entire life, and this terrible news seemed to come out of nowhere.
In fact, when I began having symptoms – extreme tiredness and weakness – my doctor said it was normal to feel this way at my age. Finally, however, I insisted on a blood test, which showed that my hemoglobin count was extremely low. I was given a blood transfusion. A week later, I began to have pains in my abdomen. After multiple X-rays and scans, along with a couple false diagnoses, doctors found a large mass on my endometrium that had spread to the liver. It was stage 4 endometrial cancer.
My daughter Sandy asked all the questions needed. Was there a cure? No, we were told – not at my age. Can you perform surgery? No, we were told again – not at my age. What’s the prognosis? It’s unknown, they told us – because of my age.
I became upset with the continued reference to my age and that nothing could be done. I had lived almost 90 years and could accept death, but not until I could be at my granddaughter’s wedding in May 2022. And so we requested to see a different gynecologic oncologist, who was fantastic. When I explained what my goal was, he suggested that we look at having three to six chemo sessions to see what results could be achieved to extend my life. So in December 2021, I started my treatment.
The chemo caused joint and muscle pain, which was made worse by my arthritis. It was relatively easy to handle, though. One thing really depressed me, however: the hair loss. I desperately wanted to look and feel normal – not ill with cancer. Losing my hair was traumatic, and I also experienced scalp pain and dryness.
Fortunately, Sandy heard about Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) while we were waiting for one of my chemo sessions. She suggested that it might make me feel better to attend and to see how others cope with hair loss and dry skin. I agreed and she signed me up for a workshop.
When I logged on to the video call, I saw that I was the oldest person there. There were many young women present, and what they were going through both physically and mentally was far worse than my situation. I was bolstered by their positive attitudes and desire to feel better by looking good.
The workshop provided helpful advice to help with my scalp pain – exfoliate the head, continue to wash and condition, moisturize, and lightly massage. I’ve accepted that the hair loss will be with me for quite some time, but I’m comfortable wearing hats and I just bought my first wig, which I’m pleased with.
I’m grateful for my experience with LGFB. This is such an important resource for women facing cancer. When you have cancer, you have to deal with so many physical and mental challenges. Improving one’s appearance brings about a feeling of confidence and strength. And I think it’s important to take back a sense of control. Facing cancer, some days it feels like you’ve lost control of everything in your life. You feel dependent on nurses, doctors, medications, and your results from a multitude of tests. Taking care of your appearance is one thing you can control. And for me, it makes a big difference.