Today is the two calendar month or 8.5 week anniversary of the end of my radiation treatments. And after that time the overwhelming feeling throughout has been one of ……well, abandonment, almost. For 6 weeks I was down at Margaret Stewart House undergoing daily treatments at the hospital, rushing home for the weekends and back to Wellington on the Mondays. The people I lived with there were either cancer patients themselves, going through what I was, or worse, in many cases, or their support people, generally their partners. Because we were all facing the same unpleasantness in one way or another, there was empathy with everyone you came across. The Radiology staff were sympathetic but not having undergone the treatment they were dishing out, it was more, business as usual mixed with a modicum of sympathy compared to those of us at the House.
And having left the House, all that support, was suddenly gone. I remember feeling, “Well, what now?” Am I cured? Nobody has taken tests; nobody has set me on the track for life as a cancer survivor, or life without cancer, It’s almost like bringing home a new baby, not quite feelings of helplessness, but certainly being overwhelmed. It was strange to have faced the cancer demon, kicked it’s butt, I hope, but look as if nothing out of the ordinary had gone on in my life for the past six months, and set about daily life again.
So the burns are all healed and that’s good. The fatigue that I was assured would be gone in three weeks has not quite departed. It’s a bit of a shock when ,as I did, this morning, having a 10.00am appointment and look at the clock on awakening and find that it’s 9.03am already. The up side is that I don’t need so many nana naps now. Unless I have been really busy I only crash every 6 or 7 days. I am so glad I have made the decision to cut my ties with the world of MaunderSurveying and am no longer responsible for writing up the resource consent applications for clients. I decided that it was one stress I just didn’t need any more. My Wellington desk has been cleared out and now I am free of those shackles I have a weight lifted from my shoulders.
All my free time was great as my family swung into birthday mode in the latter part of April/early May. I may not have posted everything off on time but at least everyone eventually received their personal handmade little finishing touch from Mum/Wife/Grandma.
Another reason I was grateful I never went back to work was the effects of the hormone therapy tablets on my system. I was forewarned that the drug, whichever genus I chose to go on would give me menopausal symptoms all over again. For anyone who has been there and done that, you certainly don’t want to go back and do it again. And you never want it to be ten times worse than it ever was originally either. When the oncologist was explaining the differences between Tamoxifen (normally given to pre-menopausal women) and an aromatase inhibitor drug (normally given to post-menopausal women) I actually chose to go 2 years on Tamoxifen and then 3 on the aromatase inhibitor, of which there are three on the New Zealand market. The Aromatase inhibitors have the additional side effect of increasing one’s propensity to develop osteoporosis, which is also a possible side effect of my coeliac disease. However, fearing that the worst might happen, while on the Tamoxifen I also took his email address and was I ever glad I had done that.
After a month on the Tamoxifen and having hot flushes that lasted a good 10-15 minutes each and made me so hot I was dripping with perspiration down my face, back and front – just as I had been while undergoing the radiation treatment. At night I would wake up several times so hot that I had had also done the job of an electric blanket at its highest setting on my bed. If I just got out of bed and cooled down a little, the bed was still so hot when I got back in that I couldn’t get back to sleep as the bed was too hot, and that was with the most minimal bedclothing ever. I had to stand in the open door and cool off in the evening breeze, if there was one for a good 10 minutes so that I didn’t get reheated all over again, well too soon, anyway. That happened 2 or 3 times some nights I thought that this was sure to calm down in a short time but it just kept on week after week. After 5 weeks I had had enough and emailed the oncologist, who emailed back that I should stop the Tamoxifen immediately and we would discuss the alternatives when he next saw me in Masterton on 8 May.
At that check up I reluctantly decided that I should try one of the aromatase inhibitors and to date there has only been one hot flush, one night sweat, and that has been it for the past week. Long may that situation continue, and I just hope my bones are strong enough already to withstand this onslaught for the next five years.
During the time I was off the Tamoxifen, when I was beginning to feel a bit better about myself, I finally decided to bare all to my husband again. I had had such a shock at his first reaction when he thought I had been mutilated, that I had never bared myself to him again since the surgery. But my mind was beginning to run along whether I should or should not undergo reconstruction surgery and I thought I should discuss that with him before making my final decision. He looked at me and said he didn’t think it was necessary as he would be the only man married to a woman with a smiley face on her boob.
So when I go to the surgeon for a check up with him tomorrow, that’s one subject I can cross off the list.
The picture above is my faithful companion Buffo hard at work in front of the fire during a recent cold snap and below are the lovely flowers I received from my daughter, Frith, for Mother’s Day