“Illness Cleanses Us” ~ Tracey Derrick


Tracey Derrick: 1 in 9 - breast cancer photography (Advocates For Breast Cancer - South Africa)

Treatment options for breast cancer are dependent upon the type of cancer and the size of the tumour. I was diagnosed with a grade 2, invasive ductal carcinoma, tumour size 30mm. It was suspected and confirmed after surgery, that 3 out of 21 lymph nodes under my arm were infected. These were subsequently removed.

Aside from surgery, the main forms of Western medicine’s attack on cancer are chemotherapy and radiation. The two methods are based on a single principle: generally, cancer cells are extremely fast growing. They divide much more rapidly than any of the body’s normal cells. Therefore if you administer cell-poisoning drugs to the body that kill cells when they divide, then you will kill some normal, healthy cells but many cancer cells. This is what both chemotherapy and radiation do. Chemotherapy is administered intravenously and travels through the bloodstream to every part of the body. The normal cells in the body that grow more rapidly than others, such as hair, stomach lining, mouth tissue, nose, nails, will also be killed more rapidly, hence accounting for hair loss, stomach nausea etc. At the end of a successful course of chemotherapy, the tumour is dead and the patient only half dead.

I chose (how much choice did I have? – I wanted the cancer cut out, eradicated, gone), a mastectomy and six sessions of chemotherapy because the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and possibly to somewhere else in my body – cancer cells use the lymph nodes for travelling. After chemo I now follow a drug regime to reduce the possibility of the cancer returning.”


TAKEAWAY:

How to Manage Chemotherapy Symptoms Through Food

Barely there…

Tracey Derrick - breast cancer - self portraiture: hair - Advocates For Breast Cancer in South Africa

After chemo, Tracey wrote in her seminar paper about her hair:

“Then the hair dies. Initially, it feels as if one’s scalp is burning as the roots die, then the hair falls out. The first handful is an alarming relief; it is happening as you have been dreading that it would. The boundaries between public and private begin to melt, for all to see. My hair had been a physical, public security – it identified me and I felt naked without it. Then one experiences the head sweating constantly with no layer of hair to absorb it; the body chills quickly with no hair to warm it. As the hair on the rest of the body slowly falls too, all borders between inside and outside are laid bare.

Stacey describes it well, “the loss of pubic hair reveals what has remained hidden for years. Returned to pre-adolescence and yet prefiguring an aged body, time has nothing to tell. The nose runs without any tiny nostril hairs, sweat runs into eyes without eyebrows or eyelashes to catch it. Ears are tunnels for flies and insects to enter at their ease. The hairless body is uncannily silky smooth to touch, a familiar, yet strange state. A return to childhood and yet an inevitable ageing. A big bald baby but with adult organs”. (1997:84).

Physically and emotionally this “was me” but when I looked at myself in the mirror – was it me? I photographed myself repeatedly during this vulnerable time as an attempt to regain some power over my situation.”


 

TAKEAWAY: How & Why Hair Loss Happens Because of Chemotherapy