– BY CRUZ SANTANA –
‘My oncologist told me not to expect any future visits from Aunt Flo once I completed his prescribed six-session chemo routine.’ In other words: how cancer treatment effects your cycle. A personal story by Cruz Santana (photo).
My period has changed quite a bit in the last 18 years I’ve had it. Giving birth to seven children caused it to eventually level out. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma. My oncologist told me not to expect any future visits from Aunt Flo once I completed his prescribed six-session chemo routine.
It didn’t stop and continued on my regular schedule for the next three months. That is until I became pregnant with an unplanned baby. I took a break from chemo to tend to my pregnancy. Once I delivered, my period returned to normal within a few weeks.
The return to chemotherapy
Five months after delivering my son, my seventh child, I became ill. While in the hospital, my oncologist decided to resume treatment. Again, he issued the same warning. This time, with a smile and smirk, he said I’d be free of my menses soon.
Right after my first treatment back on the chemo wagon, I would find myself doubled over with menstrual cramps. Debilitating pain would shoot from the joining of my legs to my back and down my legs. I cannot adequately describe the muscle spasms I’d feel. My doctor sent me to my gynaecologist for help.
Slowly, it slowed
Chemotherapy was causing a hormone imbalance. It was so bad that eventually, I experienced symptoms similar to what women go through during menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats and acne plagued my ailing body. My period was no help.
In the first month, it didn’t stop for 30 days straight. My cycle was heavy, and I filled 15 to 20 pads per day. Both my oncologist and gynaecologist became concerned. Tests revealed I was physically fine. A hormonal imbalance was responsible for my ailments.
My second month back on chemo was easier. I had a six-day break between the end of the blood-ravaged month and the beginning of my new cycle. It was a welcomed, but short-lived break. Soon, my rag was back with a vengeance. Lighter this time, but not by much, it lasted for an entire week. And it came twice. I think I cried every day the second time.
I didn’t see it again for a few months. Somewhere in there, it lightened and trickled down to the occasional series of inconvenient, stain-causing spots. An infrequent drip was a welcomed change from the Niagara Falls I’d experienced.
Gone, but not forgotten
It never fails that my oncologist will ask about my period during my regular visits. He claims he’s curious about the effects of chemotherapy drugs on our reproductive systems. I don’t blame him. Now that it’s been gone for two entire months, I don’t know if it’ll return. Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased to live my life in white clothing. Not much is worse than not being able to predict when your favourite aunt will show up.
Although I’m enjoying this fine vacation away from diapers, pads, and tampons, I’m also apprehensive about the future. Will my menses return to normal? My doctor says there is a serious chance it will not. Trust me, I’m great with that notion! I’m 31 years old and at the near end of my reproductive years. My ovaries may not have enough time to recuperate from the damages of chemotherapy, so this may be it.
Cancer came into my life and changed it completely. Along with my hair, I lost a part of me that makes me a woman. As I continue with treatment, I don’t miss either. I look to the future and focus on the challenges my body must overcome to get to the end game, possible remission. My doctor has said that chances aren’t great for me. But I’m a strong-willed fighter.
If you or someone you know will soon be going through this, and you’re curious, don’t worry. Chemotherapy could cause a hormonal imbalance similar to mine. It’ll improve with time. You might even get lucky and end up free of maxi pads and plugs. Think of how grand that’ll be!
About the author
This guest blog is written by Cruz Santana, a passionate freelance professional writer and editor from San Antonio, Texas, with a background in science and medicine. She is also the founder of The Freelance Dance; a platform for freelance writers and bloggers. See https://dancefreelance.wordpress.com/
The not so divine secrets of the Bullwinkle Sisterhood, by Mary Novaria
A very public menstrual leak, by Sarah Sahagian
My & My Cycle, by Mariette Reineke
Period changes and chemotherapy, by Cruz Santana
A time for celebration, by Robyn Jones
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