I looked in the mirror recently and there, looking back at me, was a 60 year old bloke with adolescent girl boobs and a bikini line to be proud of. I had been noticing the gradual changes happening to my body but they now all seem to have come together in a crescendo after creeping up gradually since I started taking Bicalutamide 10 months ago.
I suppose gradual change is easier to get your head round than sudden and maybe everything’s come to the fore now because of the adverts all over the place about getting fit after Christmas. Whatever the reason, all the changes are playing on my mind more now than they were.
The fuller boobs and the loss of most of my body hair are change enough, but there are also the rounder hips, sore nipples, a wider midriff bulge, feeling tired and taking ten times longer to write this than it should take because I can’t concentrate as well as a year ago.
If I’d been asked before the cancer happened what would be a really bad side effect, a shortening of my “manhood” would have been near the top of the list. Now that the shortening has happened, due to the surgery not Bicalutamide, I’m amazed to find that I’m more pee’ed off with losing most of my body hair than any of the other things.
In fairness I had been warned about the changes that could happen to me but nothing I’d been told explained how the changes might actually make me feel. Everything is very matter of fact – you might lose your libido, you might gain weight, you might lose body hair, you might be moody, you might grow boobs – nothing that really explained how self conscious I might feel in intimate situations or that I’d feel like a plonker at the swimming pool or on the beach.
There are cancer information booklets on “body image” but the vast majority of information doesn’t strike me as being geared up for men, as though we wouldn’t be bothered about such things. Maybe the implication is that we shouldn’t be bothered, or am I being paranoid? Is paranoia another side effect of hormone treatment?
If having something about body image to refer to is helpful to women with cancer doesn’t it follow it might also be helpful to men? Having it there in front of me in black and white would be a validation and acknowledgement of what I’m feeling. Maybe a few pointers on how to handle the psychological side of changes to my body written from a male perspective with a male audience in mind would be supportive.
If nothing else I think all men affected by cancer are worth more than a couple of paragraphs as an afterthought, which is what it feels like we’ve got at the moment.