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Cancer and its treatment are changing me. I was moved to write about all the changes when I wrote recently about how my sense of taste has changed. My body seems to be changing all the time, and so does my mind to some extent. It’s quite fascinating to watch the process, as long as I can keep a little distance from it, which isn’t always easy.

Probably the most outwardly visible change is the amount of weight I lost. Before any of the cancer-related symptoms appeared last summer I weighed 13st 8lb (190lb, about 86kg). Now I weigh 11st 10lb (164lb, 75kg), up from a low of 8lb (3.5kg) less. I am a lot slimmer than I was last summer, and I like it that way. Unfortunately I am supposed to keep putting on weight, so I carry on eating any- and everything. It would be easier to put the weight on if I were drinking alcohol, but that is another thing that has gone by the wayside, to some extent a victim of the altered tastebuds, but the doctors also warned me off it as it would interfere with my antacid medication. Oh well, it’s quite interesting being permanently sober…

My bald head is quite eye-catching too. My hair fell victim to the epirubicin, one of the chemo drugs.

I’ve developed a laundry list of inward aches and invisible pains: my back aches; I have a lump in my left index finger; the skin of my finger tips splits every now and again; I get mouth sores; I am a lot weaker than I used to be, so I strain muscles very easily — this weekend I bought a 15-inch monitor and strained my abdominal muscles picking it up; and my sleep is disturbed. Some of you who know me well may say that disturbed sleep doesn’t count as a change. I say that it does because the disturbance has a different character now. I’m woken by my aching back, not my racing brain. Most of the other conditions are treatable, and I do my best to minimize their impact on my life.

The nausea has come and gone, but is absent now that we’ve hit upon the right treatment. I don’t think there’s any need to say more about it here, as I’ve mentioned it many times before.

I frequently feel very cold, and I feel the cold very badly. It’s more than just needing to wear a hat to cover my pate, although that does help. Gillian used to want the house warmer than I did, but the position is now very definitely reversed. An apparently related symptom is that I have a constantly dripping nose, which means I blow my nose a lot, which in turn means that I get fairly frequent nose bleeds. Both these symptoms are, in fact, caused by the 5-FU, as the dripping nose is well-known and common (I’ll say! Very common!–Ed.)

Were it not for the daily laxative I take, I would be constipated.

That’s about it for the list of concrete symptoms, but there are a couple of more abstract things. The first was brought home fairly sharply to me last Wednesday at the bag change in Worcester. While waiting for the consultant I noticed the daughter of one of the patients was not with her father, but was chatting away to another of the patients. Soon she came over and asked how I was, so I said I was fine, and asked how she was and her father. She looked puzzled, so I wondered whether the older man was an uncle or something rather than her father. I explained that we saw her with a relative who I had assumed was her father. She then said that she was the symptom control nurse. I realized I had completely mis-recognized her. I was appalled and embarrassed, and felt like a graceless oaf. There is a condition popularly known as chemo brain, a cognitive impairment caused by the chemotherapy. I felt as though this was the first time chemo brain had affected me, as I was totally convinced of the woman’s identity as a relative of a patient. It was a very nasty shock, especially for a person who has made a living with his brain, and prides himself on his cognitive strengths.

Having written out all the changes, I see that an enormous amount has changed. Amazingly I still feel very much like me. The essential Chris is still there. Even more astoundlingly, I am as happy now as I have ever been in my life. I don’t understand it, and I don’t really want to question it, because I like being this happy. I suppose being happy is the best change in my life, and is therefore the most graceful way to finish this article.