Keep Your Head Up
For this post, I will give a quick update on how I am doing, but I want to talk about another aspect of this journey, which is mental awareness. I want to discuss this topic because we all have struggles that we go through and everyone has different ways of dealing and coping with these challenges. I am no expert when it comes to mental health, but I think talking about what's going on is better than keeping it locked in. In talking about these challenges, you will quickly realize that you aren’t the only one and support is around you.
As of September 30th, we are officially 2 weeks out from my final treatment. The day is getting closer, however, it seems so far away. I am very excited to arrive at this date, but nervous as well. It's a weird feeling because I have been going to these appointments every day Monday through Friday for 6 weeks. It has become a part of my daily routine.
My side effects seem to change daily as to what hurts and what doesn't hurt. The one constant has been my mouth sores. I was hoping that these would be minimal, but this side effect has been the most painful of them all. People are surprised by this, but getting radiation to your mouth is a lot different than other parts of your body. The mouth area is one of the more sensitive parts of your body. At this point in the process, it's a constant pain all day long. Anytime I eat, brush my teeth, drink (even water), my mouth will burn. They did prescribe me a numbing mouth rinse, which helps take away the pain a bit. The pain from these sores is pretty intense which makes it especially difficult to eat and drink and even talk.
The dry mouth I was having has gone away, which is weird. My mouth is still producing saliva, which I thought this function would go away. The doctor said there have been cases where people still produce, but it's not common. SEE I AM SPECIAL!!!!! I hope that this function keeps up after the radiation. Dry mouth is not a fun side effect, so I would be happy to maintain this.
My neck has been getting more red. RED RED RED RED RED RED REDNECK.... The radiation is basically giving me a sunburn around my neck and jaw area. I just don't get the nice tan that will come after the radiation. The burn isn't bothering me too much because I put cream on it every day to keep it hydrated.
So there is the update on the physical stuff but now on to the main topic I wanted to talk about this week and that is mental health. I am not an expert in this area at all, but I feel that I can give my perspective and how I deal with my own. People in all walks of life have certain issues that they deal with on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. Not all issues are equal and everyone has their different ways of dealing with their certain issues.
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I would never talk about any issues I had going on in my life. I would deal with it on my own or would allow them to build up to the point where it would start affecting me negatively. I am the type of person that would much rather help someone else before dealing with my own issues. In a nutshell, I hated talking about myself or opening up about feelings and shortcomings because I didn't want to appear weak, whiner, etc..
After being diagnosed with cancer, I have found that talking about your feelings, any issues, or your challenges is amazing. Letting these thoughts out and talking about them will take so much weight off your shoulders. The biggest piece is finding that person you trust whether that's a significant other, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, or a family member to have these conversations with. Being able to talk with someone is crucial to help you get out anything that you need to, but have that ear listening to you. No matter what we have going on, we make sure to talk it out.
Issues can be small or big, but both need to be discussed. Even if an issue is small, if you continue packing in these small issues at some point they will overtake you and become a bigger issue. How do you think that affects your mentality, emotions, drive, being able to connect with the world around you? If you don't currently talk to someone I challenge you to do so, you will be amazed at how much better you will feel getting this off your shoulders.
Cancer wasn't the only thing going on with me, but it definitely played a bigger role than most. I wasn't going to talk about this at all. If I didn't have someone to talk to, then this would've driven me crazy because of the emotional roller coaster that it causes you to be on. When you are dealing with Oral Cancer your life really changes. Understand that I am not saying that all cancers don't change your life but what I am saying is that with oral cancer everything is visible, since your dealing with head and neck. Not only that, but if you have any removal of your tongue, jaw, or teeth then that affects so many everyday normal life functions. I read in a medical journal that in all cancers, head and neck are number 2 in suicides. That makes me cringe and my heart goes out to them because I have experienced what many of these people are going through, and it is very difficult.
During this journey, there are many times where I get frustrated and down. In my mind, I am telling myself, nobody else is going to understand what I am going through because they aren't going through the same things I am. Then I find myself going through all of the old standards, Why is this happening to me and only me? What have I done to deserve this? How will I get through this? At the start of this, my mindset wasn't in the best place. It's scary when you allow your mind to go to that dark place because if you are not mentally tough or have the right people around you, some people never are able to return from it.
I am speaking about what I have gone through on this cancer journey so far, but all of this doesn't just reside with cancer. There are so many different issues for mental health that you may not know it but someone around you is probably going through something. This is why I believe in having someone to talk to on a regular basis. Also, take time out to the day to focus on yourself. Find that extracurricular activity that can be a mental release for you. When you take that time to put in yourself, your mental state will start to change, you will reduce stress, have more confidence, be happier, be healthier, etc...
Listen, I don't have good days all the time. There are many roads that I could've gone down, but I chose to keep my head up and fight. I try to keep my mind clear of the negative thoughts or feelings, which isn't always easy but I do my best. I hope that everyone keeps their heads up and fight whatever their battle is with confidence and support. The more you can maintain a positive attitude the more you will exert that positivity in what you do.
Even if you aren't the one going through something at the moment make sure to look at the people around you. Sometimes you can see signs or they will come to you so they can talk. Please make sure you listen! You don't always have to give advice, but just listen and be there for that person. That can make a huge difference in someone's life that is going through something difficult.
In society, it seems that many issues that plague individuals aren't always widely discussed. It seems like certain issues aren't widely discussed because of how people will think that other people will look at them or think. This is where the problems reside because people are too scared to come out and speak about the challenges they are facing, but in reality, there could be a few that it could help. I am not telling you to talk about what's going on if you aren't comfortable talking about it, but I would suggest you speak with someone you trust. Going through everything I have so far, I have realized that I don't care what people think of me as long as I am good with my family and self. If some people aren't ok with me, then it's their loss, not mine. Don't be afraid because YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU EVEN KNOW! Make sure to take care of yourself first because without taking care of yourself first you won't be able to take care of anyone one.
Keep pushing forward!