Monday, 19 December 2011

Neither do I

Nearly a month ago, I took off all the bandages from my lumpectomy and was staring at Mr Tit-man's handiwork in the bathroom mirror.  Needless to say, my breast was bruised and battered.  LH was in the bedroom so I called out:  'Come and take a look at my Frankenstein boob!' He then answered with a very adamant 'No way'.  This quite upset me so I asked him why he refused to come and look and he answered back:  'I don't want to look at any Frankenstein poop!'  Well, neither do I, sweetie, neither do I...

Friday, 16 December 2011

What a week!

Monday, December 12

Coffee morning at the chemo ward organised by the lovely nurses R and A-M. A whole myriad of women, which really just goes to show that cancer does not choose its victims. Some of the women were done and dusted with the entire process, and it was lovely to speak and learn from them; and also to feel inspired by how well they were all doing. Some women were just starting, and it was nice to be able to help them by telling them that it's not all that bad.

Discovered a new talent: I am now able to tell a wig from ten paces. And sadly, there were a lot of bad wigs there. I had to fight the urge to shout (as I do when watching delusional people on X-Factor or American Idol) 'Do they not have real friends who tell them the truth???' King Arthur certainly had it right when he said in Camelot: The uglier the truth, the truer the friend.

Tuesday, December 13

Flat tyre on the way back home from picking up the children from school. Bummer.

Wednesday, December 14

Had tyres done and rushed to the shops to get the rest of Christmas shopping done, as children break up on Friday. That evening, picked up my prescription for Tamoxifen, which I will need to start taking daily for the next five years. Dropped the children off at Scouts, then left to pick up the medication at a supermarket pharmacy. Came home with my first batch of 52 tablets, and was about to take one when I realised that the box said Tenoxicam. Hmm... Thought it may be a brand or generic name of my drug, but being pretty anal about these things, I decided to look it up on the Internet. And thank goodness I did: Tenoxicam is a prescription only anti-inflammatory drug, used to relieve the pain from ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis. What the heck. I immediately called the pharmacy and started screaming at them - they were extremely apologetic and admitted they had been at fault. I rushed back to the pharmacy (crying, as I was feeling terribly sorry for myself) and picked up the right medicine, whilst telling them how horrid they were, etc. Needless to say, I am writing to their head office - it's ridiculous that this should happen and they really should have more stringent controls in place. I was very lucky I decided to look it up; I can imagine how other people could've been more trusting and would've just taken the wrong medication - for 52 days. I, on the other hand,would not have been able to take it for more than one day as I am highly allergic to anti-inflammatory drugs - ibuprofen alone would send me into anaphylactic shock.

Thursday, December 15

Whilst wrapping presents I suddenly felt a very sharp stabbing pain in my chest area - where I had had my lumpectomy. It was made much worse with every intake of breath. I called Nurse M, chemo nurses R and A-M, oncologist Dr M and Mr Tit-Man's secretaries. I was advised to immediately see my GP, which I did. He told me it was nothing to worry about - it was just bruising caused by my surgery. Phew. So I went straight back home, feeling a lot calmer. A call from Nurse R though and I was suddenly in a panic again. I told her what the doctor had said but she wasn't convinced - she thought it would be best if I go into A & E and request a chest x-ray. She was nervous that it could be a pulmonary embolism - having had chemotherapy and surgery, I was more susceptible to it.

So all calm was gone and I started sobbing my head off again (sigh). I rushed off to hospital, and LH, who was on his way to the Kasabian concert (where I was meant to join him) left to go to hospital instead. (My hero!) Stayed in the emergency ward for a good three hours whilst I was poked and bled like some medieval heroine. Being a wuss, I cried of course with every needle put in me. And it didn't help either that I had no confidence in the doctor attending to me - I knew he was speaking some form of English, but I just couldn't figure it out. As a consequence, he not only felt sorry for me for having gone through cancer, but for being deaf as well.  I'm just convinced he had some sort of speech impediment...

Whilst in the emergency ward, LH and I were entertained by the man in the cubicle next to me: he was making the most incredible noises, from heavy breathing, wheezing, farting and moaning. It seemed I was next to Darth Vader having a bad bout of constipation. Next to Darth Vader was an elderly lady I should've felt sorry for, but sadly I could barely suppress a giggle. She was moaning in quite an impressive manner; it sounded almost sexual.

Finally left the emergency ward and was admitted into hospital at nearly midnight (I had arrived at 7pm) and had to wait for another doctor to talk to me about the results of my blood tests and x-rays. In the meantime, we settled into the cubicle next to a lady who was making a very good impression of Gollum. My precious...

Eventually the doctor came and apparently all the tests for blood clots were negative: the x-rays and blood tests were all clear which meant that I was finally allowed to go home. As it turns out, it was really just the bruising after all. And although we did not arrive back home till 1am, I am still glad I had it checked. Peace of mind after all, is a very important thing.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Oh dear

The other night I went to bed and started to read 'Anticancer', a book by a man called David Servan-Schreiber, who was diagnosed with brain cancer and managed to ward it off via chemotherapy and good nutrition and exercise. I mentioned the book earlier in this blog, when I made a made a list of necessary chemo kit. I love the book because I feel slightly in control of my health; I feel that I have a say in how this cancer affects me. Thus, I flit in and out of it, reading it whenever I feel that I have forgotten its basic tenets, or just because...

In the midst of my reading the other night however, I wondered what Dr Servan-Schreiber was up to, so I googled his name. Mistake. As it turns out, the brain cancer which had attacked him initially at the very young age of 31, finally did its job on its third recurrence just July this year, when he was 50. I felt bereft; the cancer finally won in the end.

I started to compute: if I live another 20 years, eldest son C will be 33 and the twins will be 31. I know this sounds terribly morose, but the funny thing is, the thought of death doesn't scare me now. It's the thought of leaving too soon that bothers me. I continued to compute: 10 years from now? Nope, they'll still be too young and they'll still need me. And on and on. And as a consequence, I slept very badly that night, thinking and thinking of the consequences of me going at every possible age.

I'm scared because I don't want to die just yet. I know that it isn't necessarily going to be cancer that will claim me in the end - I could get run over by a bus for all I know! But I just feel so much more vulnerable now. I suppose I was almost smug before, with my healthy no smoking, no drinking, organic, manic exercise lifestyle.

I know there's no point in worrying about it; after all, there's nothing much I can do. However I cannot help it - surely this is normal? In the meantime, I suppose I should just follow Dr S-S' lifestyle suggestions and hope that I get at least another 20 years by following his lead.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Little thrills

Today, wore mascara and had my eyebrows threaded for the first time in six months. Ha!

It really doesn't take much to make me happy!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The highs and lows

When I saw Dr M last Wednesday I asked him when I could finally have my portacath (ie Gross Protrusion in my upper arm where all the drugs have made their entry into my body) taken out and he told me to speak to the chemo nurses, which I duly did. Surprisingly, I received a phone call from the hospital later that same afternoon, telling me that the procedure could be done on Friday.

Sadly, LH could not make it to hospital on the day; I could have postponed until the next week so he would be there, but as I'd had the GP in my arm for seven months, I really just wanted it out. As I was going to be heavily sedated for the operation I would be unable to drive myself home after the procedure, so the sweetest S drove me there, only informing me along the way that she had passed out the last time she had a close encounter with surgery. Luckily, this time she made it to hospital without fainting.

The procedure itself went very well - I actually had the option of just having local anaesthetic injected near the site but I obviously opted for being knocked out. I have a very low pain threshold and worse, the thought of being cut and butchered whilst awake was too much to even contemplate.

Surprisingly, I was compos mentis and not even remotely groggy after the surgery; I was brought back into my room after the operating theatre and ate lunch. The loveliest A arrived a few minutes later to bring me back home and was surprised to find that I did not need the beautiful quilted blanket she had brought; she was expecting me to sleep all the way back home but we ended up chatting instead.

Back home and I was in such a high - after all, the portacath removal is another signal that my chemotherapy is over. Spent the evening of my operation dancing the night away to the Bee Stung Lips (fab) and was up early the next day baking as I had joined the Village Christmas Fayre. I was also looking forward to the evening as we were off to the local Quiz Night with friends. Before that however, I had to pick up the children from their various activities; and along the way, I met a lovely woman who I will call X2. She's beautiful and is sadly currently undergoing chemotherapy. I almost feel an alliance with people who have cancer; I suppose we're members of a club and I feel that they can truly understand what I am experiencing. I asked if we could meet up for a coffee and she was reticent; as it turns out, this is her second bout with cancer and she was nervous that she would frighten me. X2 had breast cancer nearly ten years ago and did everything that she had been told - but now it has come back in her lymph nodes and liver.

I was not upset when I left X2 - I suppose the children were with me and they are very good distractions. However, I lay down for a bit when I arrived home - the operation, the dancing, the baking and the Christmas Fayre had finally taken their toll on me. And once alone, I suddenly felt frightened: after all, I'd only done "almost" everything the doctor had asked me to do - I did not have my lymph nodes taken out, after all. What if the cancer comes back and comes back with a vengeance? I called LH and he comforted me, telling me that at the end, both doctors (and the Sloan Kettering) had decided that a full lymph node dissection was not necessary. However I was still scared - a recurrence would be an absolute nightmare.

We did end up still going to the Quiz Night, although I was slightly distracted by horrible and morose thoughts. And I also slept quite badly last night, waking up twice in the night in a sweat, thinking awful, awful things.

I am feeling a lot better today - I have comforted myself with the thought that X2's treatment was quite different from mine and that things have progressed a lot in the past ten years. I will have to accept that sadly, one of the things this cancer has given me is a slight fear. I will just have to make sure that I take it in stride as much as possible and not let it rule my life. After all, there's no point in worrying about something over which I have no control.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Team Jacob

I was invited for lunch yesterday at the very lovely A's, and just as I was about to leave to go to it, I noticed that my eyebrows had actually become quite unruly and needed a bit of tidying up. This was quite momentous as I have not groomed by eyebrows since they fell off around four months ago. The problem is that I don't do my own eyebrows: I normally have some woman thread it: ie, she puts a bit of string in her mouth and through some form of very clever manipulation I end up with nicely shaped brows.

But yesterday I had no choice so I decided to give it a go myself. However, my eyebrows, although growing back (pretty slowly) - are growing back in very odd places. They've also become extremely pale and very very bushy. Without the magic of makeup, I was looking like I had stuck two albino caterpillars on my eyelids (yes, eyelids) and eyebrow areas.

So I waxed the unruly brows off, but through lack of practice, I have taken off more than I wanted. Huh. But as I was staring at my lopsided brows and lamenting their weird shape, I noticed that I had also started to grow a pretty impressive moustache. Now, with my bald head, this is NOT a good look. (Especially as Movember has also passed.) I am getting a good few compliments about my shaven head, which I doubt I would get if I also had Tom Selleck's moustache.

So I decided that it would also have to go. Now one thing that I had been given for my chemotherapy sessions was a numbing cream called Emla - this is so I wouldn't feel the needles going in me. And they were an absolute godsend. I have a couple of tubes left, so I decided to slather a bit on my upper lip before ripping off my moustache with wax. And they worked. Considering the amount of moustache hair I ripped off my lip, I didn't feel a thing. Sadly, I continued to not feel a thing for around another half hour...

All this faffing about over hair is such a pain. Hair loss (except for my head hair and eyelashes) was certainly one major advantage of chemotherapy. Sigh... Along with the Sick Face, this is one I'll definitely miss.