Head & Neck Cancer treatment I now know is traumatic. Hell, even my surgeon said it can be brutal. The trouble is you don’t know just how brutal until you have been through it, and each and everyone one of us is different. True to my stoic self, I tried to play mine down a bit. Not necessarily to others, but to myself. Self talk like “come on Yvonne – you can do this, stop being so emotional, over dramatic, it’s just a mug of soup!” Little did I realise that others were far worst off than me. I had coping mechanisms inbuilt, taught to me by parents, family and my own research and lifestyle. I was made of stronger stuff than even I realised. I was also to learn that triggers, a reminder of past trauma and how to minimise its effect was also to become a fairly predominant part of my life. HNC treatment triggers & how to minimise their effect. If it wasn’t enough to be diagnosed and treated. There is the aftermath of head and neck cancer treatment triggers.
Here is what triggers me.
- Wooden sticks for throat checking ( ask them to wet it before use I find helps)
- MRI Machines ( I cry like a baby )
- Smell of commercial formula
- Anniversary dates
- Certain yoga poses (asanas) that focus on hips
- Cannular insertion and blood taking ( I literally have to have someone with me)
- Having a bad eating day (week)
- COVID tests / Hospital appointments
- Dental work
- People who don’t understand, particularly if I am tired
It can produce the following reactions & emotions : Muscle tension, panic, anxiety, feelings of being powerless. Feelings of vulnerability, scared, hopeless, hurt. Sometimes an overwhelming doom. I have to remember to breathe, go and do something else.
I studied through the majority of my healing. I wrote and published a book (Easy Follow Easy Swallow) I kept my mind busy, I planned and did not use Dr Google and avoided too much advice from social media groups. In saying that, I did find one group that I knew were a good support structure. You need to find your tribe and you need to find people who know their stuff and have been through the same procedure. No one else fully understands. I have made some amazing new friends globally.
How do you kiss again?
Doubt creeps in, what if? How do you kiss again after this? I still have numbness in my chin, I can’t move my cheeks and tongue like I use to and I still don’t fully understand the ramifications of that. I can’t whistle any longer and I can’t rapid fire jokes like I use to. That makes me very sad. What I have learnt is to slow everything down. Listen more and respond less. It is a journey of discovery.
How do I cope? How did I cope?
I made plans. Big plans and goals. I focused on them and strategized my way to another new normal. I had to rebuild my confidence, my finances, my life. I used yoga, exercise, meditation & nutritious food. I wrote and realised that life is a gift, one not to be taken for granted. That sounds cliche, but in many ways HNC has provided a better life, a real life and one where I am mindful every day. If you manage the process with guidance, trust your instincts and have goals, you might just find a better life waiting for you too.