I don't consider myself particularly vain, but my fingertips and hands have reached a level so dreadfully distracting that I feel like I can't be seen in public. I have Band-Aids on four of my fingers because they are cracked so deeply. The skin is just peeling off – leaving red circles all around my cuticles. I have to take make-up and blot out the red marks, otherwise they would need Band-Aids too. I even try to hide my hands under the table so no one will see them. I wish it were the 1950s because then I could walk around with cute white gloves like June Cleaver and no one would notice.
When I shower, my fingertips hurt so much that they feel like they are on fire as I am rinsing the shampoo from my hair. So I came up with a trick I thought I would share. It helps when I wear rubber gloves in the shower. It's a pretty goofy feeling – but what can I do?
Now I feel like a complainer, which I really am not. Cancer just sucks.
It's little tricks like the rubber gloves that help make the world of living with cancer a little more bearable. And while I consider myself pretty knowledgeable, I learn new tricks every day. For instance, during a lunch the other day with another cancer warrior, I found out that I may be entitled to a handicapped parking sticker. I have never thought of having a handicap sticker to be a good thing, but you know what, those $11 parking fees at the medical center really add up. A handicap sticker will entitle me to discounted rates and free parking at meters. I guess cheap parking is another way to ease the pain of cancer.
I also learned that if you ask your insurance to cover a wig for you to wear when your hair falls out from chemo, you have a good chance of being denied coverage. However, if you refer to a wig as a cranial prosthesis – bingo, you’re covered. Is that not crazy? Of course the insurance company would never tell you that.
Having cancer is hard enough by itself, so why do patients have to dig,dig,dig for information? And speaking of information (bad information that is), I recently met a woman who had a significant history of breast cancer in her family. She told her doctor that she thought she should be tested for the BCRA genes (the breast cancer genes), and the doctor told her that if she had the test, her insurance company could drop her because she was at high risk. That is not true. It is illegal to drop any one from insurance if they opt to have this test.
If it's not a lack of information it's misinformation! Isn't cancer hard enough? I guess that's why we have to all chip in and share our experiences – because like I’ve said before, having cancer is a full-time job.
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Click here to read more of Noreen Fraser's Staring Down Cancer column.
Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is co-founder of STAND UP TO CANCER and co-produced the TV show, which raised 100 million dollars for cancer research. Noreen went on to create the Noreen Fraser Foundation to raise money and awareness for women's cancer research. The 'Men for Women Now' program enlists men to ask the women they love to make appointments for their mammogram and pap smear. Noreen can be reached at email@example.com