It’s a couple of months since my last blog post, and life is feeling more normal. Which in a weird way brings in to sharper focus what an unbelievable year it has been. As I get physically stronger day by day, week by week (although not as quickly as I’d like), I think my brain realises “hey, now’s the time to process all the crap this year has thrown at you!”. Also, it’ll be a year ago next week that I went to see my GP about my boob feeling weird, in blissful ignorance of the tumour inside me.
There are moments when I will get lost in something, and completely forget that I have had cancer. Then I remember, and it all feels surreal all over again. I need to pinch myself. Did this really all happen? I imagine it must be what bereavement feels like, and it’s all part of the process of change and acceptance.
Then there’s dealing with the fear of recurrence. 70% of breast cancers never return. But, in the dark moments, my brain takes me to a place where I’m in the 30%. That’s something I have to learn to live with. I don’t feel fearful, but I know I think about the future in a very different way to how I did before cancer. And I do not want fear to orchestrate my life and my decisions.
My view of my future has changed, and this is challenging to deal with. For instance, during chemotherapy, a letter arrived from my building society offering me new mortgage deals as my current deal was due to end. There is another 18 years on my mortgage, which until I was diagnosed with cancer I naively assumed I’d be around for. Opening that letter was a punch in the chest. I can no longer assume I’ll be around to pay off that mortgage. Now, I know none of us knows how long our lives will be, but a cancer diagnosis puts your mortality right in front of you and you can’t ignore it. Some days it’s right in your face and you can’t see around it. Other days it recedes and glimmers of hope and future plans come in to view.
I really want to get my MRI and mammogram in January done and dusted. That’s the next big milestone. Once they’re done, and hopefully everything is all clear, then I can start to think about 2018.
The wonderful Macmillan team at the Whittington have referred me to their clinical psychologist for counselling, something I know will be really helpful.
Blimey, think I’d better lighten this up a bit….
Add Aspirin trial
Having had a successful 8 week test of taking aspirin, I am now in the trial proper. I saw my oncologist a couple of weeks ago, and all was ok to go ahead. I’ve been given a card to carry with the trial details, so if I need medical care for something like a heart attack (oh, how I’d laugh!), the medics can find out if I’m on aspirin or the placebo.
A blood test was needed. So, off I go to get my deli counter ticket. The phlebotomist called me in, and I explained that my veins are quite hard to find because of chemo damage. She gave me one of those patronising “You don’t know what you’re talking about” looks. So, she puts a tourniquet around your arm, slaps my veins, looks at them and says “oh dear”.
She ended up taking the blood from a vein over my knuckle. That was comfortable.
My hot flushes have lessened with a combination of acupuncture, and me learning how to manage them. But they’re still pretty unpleasant and tiring, especially the accompanying nausea.
I’ve bought a rechargeable fan which I use at home. Only a tenner, and worth every penny.
Hair, back with a vengeance
My eyelashes are long enough (just) for mascara. Hallelujah!
My head hair is coming back thick, curly and rather deranged. But I’m not bald anymore, so that’s ok.
After washing my hair, I’ve always piled it on my head and wrapped it in a towel whilst it dries. For years, I’ve flicked my head back when I take the towel off, to flick back my long hair. Out of habit, I still flick my head back. Nothing happens now, my hair is too short to flick. And sometimes that gives me a flashback to the trauma of my hair loss. I never know when these painful reminders will come.
All my other body hair is growing at the rate of knots. I now realise just how much time us women spend plucking, shaving and waxing, having not done it for 8 months. At least it’s black opaque tight season….
I have a permanently half bald armpit. The radiotherapy killed off the hair follicles. Hopefully it did the same for any lingering cancer cells.
It really feels like I am getting back in to the groove now. I’m hugely frustrated by my fatigue, but chemo brain is diminishing. Last week I presented to 150 people, so can’t be bad.
I’ve bumped in to a number of work acquaintances who I haven’t seen since I’ve been off work, and it’s genuinely touching that they are so pleased to see me and to know I’m ok. At least once a day I find my eyes pricking with tears (in a good way).
However, this young lady is not happy that I am back at work, and not at home for constant cuddles….