Easy Ways To Talk About Poop!

In one of our 10 Things about Cancer in your 20s (and 30s) posts, we mentioned how you will get comfortable talking about your poop if you ever face cancer as a young adult.  Whether you’re ready or not, pooping is an important factor in how you’re dealing with cancer treatment and its side effects.

I grew up in a household where no topic was ever off limits and weird conversations were common place.  We frequently had discussions on how members of the house with a uterus seemed to be better at finding lost items.  I remember the first time I told my husband that he should just stop looking for his phone because my uterus could help.  Needless to say he gave me a very weird look!

When I was going through cancer treatments though, poop still felt like a taboo topic despite the fact that everyone at the hospital seemed to be interested in whether I was pooping, how often, and what it looked like.  One time in particular, I was on the phone with a nurse because I was having issues and couldn’t figure out what to do.  This calm, patient woman kept asking me to describe to her what my problem was.  Without going into too much detail, I needed to go, couldn’t, and it hurt.

But that’s the issue right?!  We never go into detail in normal life about poop so how can we be expected to just flip the switch and know how to talk freely about it just because we now have cancer?!

My husband and I developed a few easy tricks to at least get the conversation started…

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[list_item]having trouble going, but can’t? not enough pooping? (This is constipation) ….
code word: the Stops![/list_item]
[list_item]too much pooping?  (This is diarrhea) …
code word: the Gos![/list_item]
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It probably sounds silly, but this really helped during my chemo treatments.  I could make a funny face, say either ‘the Stops’ or ‘the Gos’ and my husband immediately knew what to go and grab for me to help fix the problem.

In both cases, the solution is to talk to your doctor or nurse!  Someone on your oncology team can help you.  Eventually you will develop a system that works for you to manage your particular side effects.  Having trouble talking about it yourself?  Develop a system of codes, like we did above, that describe some of the base problems and have your caregiver start the conversation for you.

And, in the words of Cecilia:

So tell your doctors, nurses, caregivers, friends, family, & realistically, whoever else you want about when you poop & when you’re struggling to poop. Tell them if it hurts, if it’s too soft, if it’s oddly colored, if it’s too often, just tell them about your poop.

Have you used code words to talk about uncomfortable issues that cancer causes?  Let us know!

Helpful Tips For Your CT Scan Day

CT scan tips

CT scans can be a little daunting if you haven’t had one before.  A few weeks ago I had my 11th CT scan, leaving just one more (*knock on wood*) before I’m DONE.  We’ve posted about CT scans before and went through what a typical CT scan process is like.  You can read that post here.

Today we’re going to get straight to the nitty gritty and let you in on some helpful CT scan tips to make the scan easier and more comfortable!

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[list_item]be on time.[/list_item]
This can definitely reduce some of the stress involved with heading to the hospital for a scan to look for cancer…an event that is kind of emotionally heavy regardless of the outcome.  Being on time helps you stay on schedule with the other appointments you probably have that day and it makes everything feel less hectic.

[list_item]have a bottle of water.[/list_item]
The contrast used in a CT scan needs to be flushed out of your system once the scan is complete.  The way to do this?  Water!  You’re probably already thirsty from not being able to drink water for a few hours prior to the scan, but nevertheless, carry around a bottle of water for the rest of the day and drink, drink, drink!  Rehydrating is key.

[list_item]dress appropriately.[/list_item]
Those awful hospital paper outfits are…well…they are awful!  For a CT scan, if you avoid wearing metal you can usually keep your own clothes on.  Wear pants without a metal zipper and button.  Wear a sports bra or skip the bra altogether!  Have a sweater handy that doesn’t have a metal closure.  You get the picture…no metal and you’re good to go.

[list_item]have a sweater or jacket.[/list_item]
Hospitals are cold and you’re body is running low on food and water before the scan making you even more susceptible to feeling chilly.  Have layers (without metal) ready to go.  Plus, sweaters or jackets can serve a second purpose as well.  When they start an IV, having some fabric bunched up under the tourniquet can make the process a bit more comfortable.  I roll up my sleeve on the arm they use for the IV and the tourniquet goes around all of that bunched up fabric.

[list_item]bring a buddy.[/list_item]
Typically you’re not sedated for a CT scan so you can bring yourself.  Being alone though can make the whole experience that much harder.  Bring a friend, have them bring something to entertain themselves while you’re being scanned, and you can look forward to seeing their bright, shining smile back in the waiting room once you’re done! (Or you can look forward to seeing their bright yawn if your scan is early in the morning)  😉

2015-09-16 06.49.49-1

[list_item]know that this is a big deal.[/list_item]
While sometimes others in your life (and maybe even yourself) may start to consider your medical appointments and scans to be routine…they are not!  There is very little routine about a young adult having cancer and every step along the way is allowed to require emotional consideration and space.  Try not to feel too weighed down by the reason for the scan, but allow yourself some extra TLC if you need it.

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Do you have any other CT scan tips that I have missed or forgotten?  I’d love to add them to the list!

Have You Heard Of Chemo Dates?

chemo dates

Having young adult cancer can definitely put a crimp in your dating life.  If you thought dating as a young adult was hard, add in loss of hair, other body changes, fatigue, and everything else cancer brings into the mix and you’ve got an emotionally complicated situation.  Everyone deals with this in a different way.  I’ve talked with survivors who seemed totally unphased by the whole ordeal, survivors who shut themselves away until they felt more like themselves and more ready to handle the world, and many options in between.

Have you heard of chemo dates?  Diana Mendoza, a breast cancer survivor, explains that it’s “when two people who have cancer, book their chemo sessions on the same day and then go out to dinner or do something fun afterwards.”  Diana used these chemo dates between herself and another young cancer survivor as a coping mechanism during chemo.  She says, “these dates allowed me to believe I was still beautiful despite my physical and emotional scars. Cancer had already taken so much from me. I wasn’t going to allow cancer to silence that coquettish personality I have.”

Cancer takes so much, forcefully defines so much, and hinders so much.  Whatever you need to take back control over a piece of your being, do it!

Would you try chemo dates?  Did you use another tactic to regain control over your life?

If you’d like to read more of Diana’s writing, check out her blog.

After A Mastectomy You Get New Boobs! Yay! Wait, Not Really…

When I tell people about my mastectomy and breast reconstruction, I receive lots of support, many questions and even some rude comments. The most frequent thing I hear from both women and men is “at least you will get perky boobs” (insert awkward laugh here)

For those of you who, thankfully, have not had a mastectomy or been close to someone who is going through one, you might think that this is going to make us feel better. It doesn’t! I understand that it is meant to be a supportive comment, but, I promise you, this is not a normal boob job. Yes, I did get implants to replace my real breasts, but that is where the similarities end.

2 days post opp 4 drains

A breast augmentation consists of an implant being inserted behind the existing breast tissue. Typically this is for aesthetic reasons and is meant to enhance a woman’s natural breasts.  A mastectomy “(from Greek μαστός “breast” and ἐκτομή ektomia “cutting out”) is the medical term for the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely.” (Wikipedia)

I was sent home the day after my mastectomy feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Unable to stand straight, I walked and sat hunched over. The tissue expanders that were placed under my pectoral muscles made me feel like I was wearing a metal corset while an elephant sat on my chest. On top of all that, I was extremely nauseous from the anesthesia and, on the car ride home, it felt like every bump was going to send me over the edge.

drains

As awful as all of that sounds, the worst part, for me, were the drains. I wish I had been prepared emotionally for them because, although it is doable, it is by no means easy to handle them!

The JP drains (Jackson Pratt) are used after a mastectomy to remove any fluid buildup that can accumulate after surgery and cause infection. I woke up from surgery with 4 of them dangling by my side, under the bandages, and they stayed with me for 10 long days.

With every move, the drains would pull at the incision site and, on more than one occasion, I sat on one. Going to the washroom was an ordeal in itself. Where to place the drains? I never really found a great solution for that, but the trial and error was quite entertaining. After battling with the drains for a few days, I finally found a solution that worked the best for me. It didn’t make the drains any more comfortable but I was able to get around a lot easier.

I placed the drains in the pockets of a hooded sweatshirt that I turned inside out. Not attractive, but effective. To prevent the drains from pulling every time I moved, my daughter (who was 2 at the time) suggested “band aids for my boo-boo”, so that’s what I did.

When I returned to the surgeon ten days post surgery to have the drains removed, I was so relieved. I felt some pulling and pinching, but the unpleasantness didn’t last long. Whenever you speak with someone, who has had drains removed after a mastectomy, they will tell you it is a sense of freedom!

These new boobs of mine came at a price, but, for me, it was a price worth paying.

Until next time ☺

Much love

Karen

What was your experience with breast reconstruction following a mastectomy?  Did you have any trouble dealing with your drains?

Free Online Games To Take Your Young Adult Cancer Blues Away

free online games

Sometimes being a young adult cancer survivor means that you have some extra time on your hands.  Lacuna Loft has had several posts on different ways to spend your time but today we’re talking about the world of free online games.

When I was in treatment, I just couldn’t concentrate very well during chemo sessions…my personal space was limited and there were so many people wandering around and in and out of the room.  Then I discovered a monopoly app on my phone…goodness did I spend hours playing monopoly 🙂  Have you tried online mahjong or easy online games?  What about something more complicated (though still free to play) like League of Legends?  This site even offers online cards among other games!  (if you couldn’t tell, I LOVE card games!)  🙂  Another one of my personal favorites?  Online risk 🙂  Looking for something a little different?  A friend of mine suggested this online capture the flag game!

Since smart phones seem to dominate so much of our lives…why not put them to work?  With all of the great poker, spades, solitaire, trivia, photo, puzzle, whatever else you can imagine apps out there, you’re bound to find something to keep your attention!

Playing online games isn’t just for the survivors…find yourself at treatments as a caregiver or at home with a few minutes to spare?  Need a few moments of relaxation and something to occupy your mind?  Free online games might be just what you need too!  Are you the friend of a young adult cancer survivor or chronic illness sufferer?  Try bringing over a game to play…or playing a free online game together!

What free online games do you like to play to keep busy when young adult cancer or chronic illness strikes?

P.S. free online puzzles & free printable coloring pages

10 Recipes For Cooking With Fresh Ginger

ginger recipes for chemo patients

One of the first things you learn as a young adult cancer fighter is that an upset stomach can often be helped with some good, old fashioned ginger.  Ginger ale, ginger candies, ginger ice cream…the ginger possibilities are endless!  While it is not well known why ginger helps ease nausea caused by chemotherapy, we’re here to lend you some fun recipes we found to add ginger to your every meal 🙂  Here at Lacuna Loft, we’ve talked about ginger jam and ginger strawberry ice cream but here are even more fun ginger recipes!

Psst!  Know a chemo patient?  Think about making one (or another!) of these great ginger recipes and dropping the yummies on their doorstep!

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[list_item]stir fried noodles with garlic ginger sauce – Pinch of Yum[/list_item]

[list_item]ginger peach serbet – I Sugar Coat It[/list_item]

[list_item]peach ginger crumblegather & dine[/list_item]

[list_item]carrot ginger soupSimply Recipes[/list_item]

[list_item]candied gingerFood Network (specifically, Alton Brown…love him!)[/list_item]

[list_item]ginger teavegetarian times[/list_item]

[list_item]ginger hot chocolateMinimalist Baker[/list_item]

[list_item]ginger, citrus and black sesame carrots with edamame saladThe First Mess[/list_item]

[list_item]chewy ginger cookies – bon appetit[/list_item]

[list_item]baked gingerbread mini donutsPinch of Yum[/list_item]
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Have you tried any of these ginger recipes before?  Do you have any others that have been helpful for you?  We’d love to hear about it!

image via from Pinch of Yum

Being Darn Tough

The summer is almost gone!  Summer goals are wrapping up (we will revisit those) and school is starting.  Much of the blogosphere is getting ready to enter into the fall groove.  Entering into any groove when you are dealing with young adult cancer or a long term illness is hard though!  Your peer group goes one way…and you can feel oh-so-stuck going a different way.  Jealousy, isolation, sadness, anxiety…these are all feelings that are hard to contend with and difficult to trudge through but they are reasonable and rational feelings to experience when confronted by life-changing circumstances.

I find motivational quotes to be really helpful in staying true and tough…which is probably apparent from the multitude of motivational quotes that have found their way into Lacuna Loft pieces….like here, here, here, here, and here 🙂

Motivational quotes are fine and dandy but taking small steps, even itsy-bitsy steps, to find happiness, love, and the mindset of being darn tough to face your challenges head on is really important.  Don’t be too hard on yourself when the energy to get up and make a change just doesn’t feel available…but little by little we can all make our lives live-able and even great by altering our perception and attitude.  Take a walk, call a friend, make something, write a letter to yourself or someone else…these are all ways that could help you take charge and stay tough when life is hard.

Having a motto (probably goes along with my love of motivational quotes) helps me find that extra boost when I just don’t want to take action…even when I know that I will feel better if I do.  All year, my motto has been Darn Tough.  I even have a lovely pair of cozy socks sporting the same phrase.

What actions help you to feel better when life is weighing you down?  Do you have a motto or a phrase or a motivational quote that helps?

Here’s to being Darn Tough!

Favorite products, gluten-free edition

Going gluten-free means cutting a lot of foods out of my diet (goodbye, croissants!), but there are some things I’d rather not give up unless I have to.  So while wheat bread is definitely out of the question, not all bread is off the list.

Twenty years ago, gluten-free breads, cookies, and crackers were hard to find, but now there are decent options in most grocery stores.  Sometimes, though, you don’t want a decent option, you want a great one.  Here are some of the winners I’ve found in my year of living gluten-free.

  • GlutenWize cookies and granola (pictured).  My mom knows the owners of GlutenWize, which is lucky, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have heard of them.  I’ve had a lot of gluten-free cookies in the last year, and theirs are, hands-down, the best.  Their soft and chewy granola is dangerously addictive, too.  My top picks are the oatmeal raisin cookies and the maple granola.
  • Gorilla Munch cereal from Nature’s Path.  Crispy, corny, sweet goodness.  It’s on the expensive side, though, so my go-to cereals are Chex and GF Rice Krispies.
  • Schar gluten-free breads.  Bread products are some of the hardest to get right, and I’d had some really bad attempts, but Schar has good pre-made breads and also a nice boxed mix.
  • Bob’s Red Mill‘s gluten-free All Purpose Flour.  For when you just have to bake something.  I substitute this one-for-one for wheat flour in my recipes, and it always turns out well.
  • King Arthur Flour‘s gluten-free Pancake Mix.  This makes light, fluffy, classic pancakes; they’re easy to cook and very tasty.  They can be made into waffles, also, but I’ve never tried that.

I am still on a quest to find some amazing gluten-free pasta, pizza, and bagels, and I’m open to suggestions!  What are your favorite gluten-free products?

Looking For Some New Blogs To Read?

I know that I enjoy reading a number of blogs almost everyday.  Are you looking for some new blogs to read?  While a lot of my day-to-day is here in “think about how to improve resources for cancer survivors land” I also appreciate reading things not at all cancer related.  Just for fun, here are my top 10 favorite blogs to read.  Reading is one of my favorite activities and home improvement/DIY/design/fashion are all things that I love so I tailor my blog reading to those things.  Some I’ve been reading for over a year now and some are fairly new to me 🙂

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[list_item]enJOY it by Elise Blaha Cripe.[/list_item]
This blog brought me into the world of blogging.  I have no idea how I found it but this blog has completely changed my entire life.  Elise writes this fabulous mixture of personal, craft, and business related posts.  With her blog as inspiration, I started my own blog by having my husband convert our wedding website into a place where I could write almost daily.  I maintained that blog for over a year, with posts going live 4 days/week. (Feel free to check it out…a lot of the photo links are currently not working because of something technical my husband did haha…I’m working on fixing them slowly)  When Lacuna Loft was born, my personal blog took a back seat but the lessons I learned there were invaluable.  Elise’s blog also made me realize that I could try and make something “real” and awesome through the medium of blogging…and here we are.

[list_item]A CUP OF JO.[/list_item]
A CUP OF JO is run by Joanna Goddard.  Her writing includes musings on motherhood, NY City, fashion and beauty, among other topics and is one of my favorite blogs to read.  Her voice is so personable and approachable…you just want to be her friend 🙂

[list_item]A Beautiful Mess.[/list_item]
A Beautiful Mess is another for-profit blog that brings to light some of their business-y behind the scenes from time to time.  They also have a great mix of design, household + personal DIY projects, recipes, and fun fashion posts.  The writing style is very down to earth and conversational.  The two women who run the blog have put together quite a team of writers/editors/cool people and have produced a good place to add to your list of blogs to read 🙂

[list_item]The Beauty Department.[/list_item]
The Beauty Department is a blog with articles posted several times a week about everything beauty.  They do makeup, nail, and hair tutorials along with so much more.  From skincare to makeup bags to the hidden intricacies of the cat eye, the ladies behind this blog create easy to follow posts and tutorials while offering insights on the latest, greatest, and cheapest products out there to get the look you want.

[list_item]Shut Up and Run.[/list_item]
The tone of this blog is hilarious.  The author details her running and triathlon escapes with self-deprecating humor.  She also offers boundless enthusiasm and motivation towards getting oneself off the couch and onto the sidewalk with her simple motto…shut up and run!

[list_item]Apartment Therapy.[/list_item]
This blog is HUGE.  It fills my feedly feed (hmm that is redundant haha) daily and I sift through the ones that look interesting.  It is a great go-to for home improvement type of projects/ideas/how-tos.

[list_item]The Glamorous Housewife.[/list_item]
Vintage fashion isn’t always my favorite and I don’t intend on becoming much of a vintage clothes wearing housewife (maybe a jumpsuit wearing housewife?).  Nevertheless, this blog is well done and entertaining to read.  The outfits are fun and the hair tutorials are relevant even for those who don’t seek a vintage look in all they do.

[list_item]Humans of New York.[/list_item]
This website is one of my favorite places on the internet.  It is filled with little snippets of people’s personal stories and has phenomenal pictures.  You could really get lost for hours here.

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Do you have any favorites that aren’t on the list?  Would you consider adding any of these to your daily list of blogs to read?  Let us know!

10 Things About Cancer in Your 20s

Let me start this off by saying that I read a LOT of Buzzfeed, which means I often think of things in lists. So when brainstorming my next blog post, I figured, I may as well post a list!

There is so much that changes in your life when you get cancer, regardless of age; but when you are diagnosed with cancer in your 20s, there is a whole set of other issues, scenarios, and such that you will encounter. Keep in mind, this list is based solely off of my own experiences & experiences I have heard of from fellow young cancer fighters. Also, I believe laughter is an incredibly healthy release, so while some of these will be serious, many will have a sense of humor behind them. I would LOVE to develop this list as well, so feel free to comment with your own experiences & your own items that you think should be on the list!

1) Your reproductive status will be thrust into nearly every conversation. For me, this was extremely uncomfortable. Your oncologist will talk to you about meeting with a reproductive counselor, (and maybe your  surgeon, plastic surgeon, cardiologist, random medical resident, other cancer survivors, family, friends, etc). This was not something I was ready for at 24, preparing to start grad school. I was also not prepared to have that conversation with the random heart surgeon medical resident who sat in on my EKG. For some people, this forces them to consider if they would like children & how to go about increasing their chances of having them after chemo (& whatever surgical procedures they must endure). This forces them to consider adoption, IVF, & surrogacy. For me, this was something I pushed aside. I was not ready to even begin thinking about children, which I was never sure I wanted in the first place. Plus, I’ve also thought I would adopt before having my own children. It definitely shocked some people that I didn’t seem worried, but own it. It’s your life, your body, your cancer experience, your future.

2) You will, through no negative intentions, become the sad story of any cancer support group you go to. (This may be different, depending on your cancer, but I’m basing this off of my breast cancer). Women in their 20s don’t get breast cancer. You don’t even need to start your routine mammogram for another 20 years. So when you go to a support group (whether that be online or in person) & introduce yourself as a 24 year old with breast cancer, everyone is shocked. The reactions range from pitying you, to being impressed by your strength (do we really have any other option), to being shocked, to immediately asking you questions because they want to make sure their daughters & granddaughters are safe; but almost always, they want the WHOLE story. Sometimes, the extra support, & what I call being “mommed” by the other women is comforting. They want to take care of you because they see their children & grandchildren in you. Other times, feeling like you’re the sob story of the cancer support group is too much to take. Regardless, do what is best for you. Talk about it in detail or ask for your space.

3) Your friends will fall into one of two categories. Seriously though. Some friends will be absolutely amazing, sending you cards & boxes filled with goodies. They will come stay with you to help you out through surgery & chemo. They will take on extra tasks to make your life easier. Others will back away, even tell you they don’t want to talk about your cancer. They won’t know how to react & will inevitably say the wrong things. Don’t sweat it. I know it’s tough to lose friends, but focus on the ones that are nothing short of a miracle through this (& there will be some). Focus on the ones that ask how you’re doing & make sure that you’re okay when you’re together, but also talk to you like you’re still your pre-cancer self & realize that there is still so much more to who you are than a cancer fighter.

4) You will become self-conscious. This isn’t exclusive to those with cancer in your 20s, but I feel, overall, it’s a bigger deal when you’re younger. Many, MANY things will change about your appearance, depending on your cancer & your treatment (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy). Some possible changes are hair loss (everywhere, head, legs, eyebrows, eyelashes, arm pits), acne, weight gain, weight loss, blemishes, skin burning, scars, loss of body parts (for me, my breast), new body parts (again, a new breast), bloating, bags under your eyes, rashes, nail changes, darkening of the hands & feet, & I’m sure there are others. You’re supposed to look your best in your 20s. Instead, I look my worst. Losing your hair was one of the hardest parts of this whole cancer experience for me, but then I got acne like I was a 14 year old boy. I think this may be more frustrating. I’m now used to being bald – granted there are still hard days, but I think I can rock it. & I look forward to all the exciting short hairstyles I get to try as it grows in. For the days I can’t handle a beanie or head scarf, there’s my wig (check out American Cancer Society for a free wig!). But you will have days where you feel incredibly self-conscious & you don’t even feel like you look like yourself. When you physically feel like shit more days than not & you’re emotionally drained from this all, feeling as though you are unhappy with how you look is definitely enough to push you over the edge. Take advantage of the Look Good Feel Good classes (again, American Cancer Society). Treat yourself to a cute new outfit, a cute new head accessory for your bald head, some new makeup, or whatever will give you that extra confidence boost. & remember, this is only temporary. You’re body is doing A LOT right now, including keeping you alive & fighting, so appreciate it.

5) You will feel isolated. This again, is not unique to people with cancer in your 20s, but there’s another level of isolation that comes with it. When you get cancer in your 50s, 60s, 70s, you inevitably know someone who has gone through cancer, who has died of cancer, who is actively pursuing treatment, etc. When you are in your 20s, odds are you don’t have a friend or family member near your age who can relate. You may not have even ever known anyone who has had cancer. My dad had cancer in his 30s & died of brain cancer at 37, so young cancer was something I vaguely had a sense of. I still felt unbearably isolated at times. I would go to support groups & be the youngest one there by easily 20 years. I would go into cancer centers & have all the magazines be geared towards the retired population (AARP, Golf, Redbook, which was actually quite funny). I would constantly have medical professionals tell me how young I am (yes, I’m aware). I wouldn’t know who to talk to because the feelings & experiences I’m having are very different. Here is where I discovered the incredibly helpful world of online support & social media. Lacuna Loft is a great source of inspiration for all young cancer survivors, fighters, & supporters (but if you’re reading this, odds are you already know that). Young Survival Coalition is a great online support (complete with group postings & conversations) for breast cancer fighters & survivors under 40. Instagram has been a surprising, yet incredibly effective way for me to find support from other young cancer fighters. As Instagram is a social media source based in the younger generation, many many people who are diagnosed at a young age are sharing their stories through moving pictures on Instagram. Search a hashtag (I used #ChemoProblems, #CancerFighter #Chemo #BreastCancer #Survivor #BaldIsBeautiful & many others).

6) You will get comfortable talking about your poop. If you’re not already, you will share your pooping habits with strangers. After surgery, I was on so many painkillers, everyone was asking me about my poop. Get used to it. It’s natural (& also a little silly yes). But pooping is incredibly important to your recovery & if you’re not willing to talk about any issues you’re having, it can only make things worse. So tell your doctors, nurses, caregivers, friends, family, & realistically, whoever else you want about when you poop & when you’re struggling to poop. Tell them if it hurts, if it’s too soft, if it’s oddly colored, if it’s too often, just tell them about your poop. Every chemo treatment, my nurses ask me if I had any issues with constipation or diarrhea, & then they ask for details. I’ve told them about my slight constipation issues coupled with slight diarrhea (yes, I had both simultaneously). During my first chemo treatment, my nurse was telling me about side effects and actually said, “You can have diarrhea and/or constipation. It’s really a crap shoot”. I giggled, my boyfriend burst out laughing. It’s okay. Just make sure you TALK about it. I had to call my on-call nursing service at 3am one morning during surgery recovery because I was so constipated but had to poop & it was the worse pain I had every experienced. I thought my insides were on fire. Well, actually my mom had to call because I had to call in backup. Turns out, I’m extremely sensitive to laxatives (which I had to take, as I had not pooped in 4 days). I was then advised to stay away from laxatives & combat my constipation much earlier on. (See, told you, I now have NO problem sharing my embarrassing pooping stories with strangers). I also text my boyfriend & best friend daily updates about my poop, but that’s just me.

7) Your parents will want to take care of you. Let them. This was a tough one for me. I have prided myself on being staunchly independent. I went away (across the country) to college at 17 & have lived on my own since then. My parents have always been incredibly supportive & there when I needed anything at all, but I was determined to be independent. Then I got cancer. My mom wanted to be there for EVERYTHING (keep in mind I was in Upstate NY & she was in Southern California). She came out to live with me & my boyfriend for 2 weeks after my surgery. Then I moved back into my parents’ house for chemo. LET THEM TAKE CARE OF YOU. You have enough to handle as it is. You don’t need to do everything on your own. So I let my mom make me food & drive me everywhere (even though I can often drive myself). I let my mom sit in during my appointments. She comes in & makes my bed daily, just because that’s her. Your parents are terrified & will do anything to make sure their child is okay. I know you’re an adult, but let them take care of you. You need it just as much as they do. & you’re lucky to have that support still, as many cancer fighters are older & may not have parents alive anymore. (You may not either, but I hope that you haven’t had to experience that yet, it is horrible, I know). It is normal to move back in with your parents if you have cancer; do not look at it as a failure or a step back. Look at it as taking care of yourself so that once your treatment is through, you can move forward easier.

8) You will be the assumed spokesperson for young adult cancer for all pop culture references. The Fault In Our Stars. Chasing Life. A Walk to Remember. My Sister’s Keeper. All of a sudden, people will want your opinion on these things. They want to know if that’s what it’s really like (yes & no). They want to know your opinion on the stories. You may want to give them, you may not. But you will be asked. Or you will be strongly suggested to stay away from these stories because people think you can’t handle it. You may not be able to read a story about a young cancer patient yet. Or you may want to read all of the stories about cancer patients, nonfiction & fiction. Just know, it’s up to you. I for one, love The Fault in Our Stars & think it handles the thoughts of cancer fighters quite well, that odd mix of humor, depression, cynicism, hope, love, support, & struggle. The verdict is still out on Chasing Life, but as of right now, I do not like it at all. But that’s just me. Another young cancer fighter might completely disagree. People should remember that young cancer fighters, like all people, have a varying degree of opinions on things & you can’t ask one person to speak for all.

9) You may have problems with doctors not believing you have cancer. I personally haven’t experienced this, but have had heard so many stories that I felt it was important to include. Many concerns may get postponed & may be brushed off as nothing. I almost didn’t have my lump tested because I’m only 24 so it had to be a cyst, right? Luckily, I asked to have the biopsy. Facing some resistance from medical professionals is normal (unfortunately) but listen to your body. If you feel like something is wrong, speak up, & don’t stop speaking up until you feel comfortable with your response. Push to have tests done, see different doctors, ask for second & third opinions, BUG THEM. You know your body. You know when something’s not right.

10) You will face your own mortality way too early. It’s true. Most people spend their 20s thinking their invincible & living it up. Instead, you are suddenly faced with a life-threatening illness & everything changes. You don’t have the same priorities as your friends, you don’t have the same day to day as your friends, you are just focused on surviving. This is something I’m still struggling with everyday. I won’t write too much on this, because it’s unique to each individual, & to be honest, I’m not sure I have it all figured out myself, but just know you’re not alone.

Have you experienced similar truths to having cancer in your 20s?  Let us know in the comments!