hormones gone wild

photo

You can never not have had Cancer.

So I mark my “burtaversary” (long story you can read about here) most years, in so far as it has been 3 years, and I’ve marked it every time. Sometimes it’s from the time I found the lump, sometimes it’s from the time I lost the lump. This year it’s actually from when I was told Burt (aka the lump) was cancerous.

I found out I had cancer via text and a phone call. People are sometimes shocked by this, they think it’s cruel and unusual of my Doctor but actually I think it’s more humane.  Everyone knows that good news can just be told then and there, so asking to see me in person was a bit of a give away. Plus the way the news was delivered, it was not the worst thing that happened that day, so ya know, pick your battles. If the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’ is distressing you then count yourself lucky, I’m guessing you’ve not had cancer, our frame of reference is somewhat wider.

Before my own diagnosis I thought I was pretty cancer savvy, up on the lingo, the treatments, etc I didn’t really know ANYTHING and I wasn’t going to learn much on that first day, other than mammograms are surprisingly pinchy. Nothing really sinks in after the phrase “you have cancer”, you are all teflon and shock after that.

So unsurprisingly it took sometime for the “you can never not have had cancer” factor to really start to make sense, and boy do I remember being pissed off about it.

The YCNNHHC factor is not something you have to deal with at first, first it’s all about the removal, the meds, ‘the getting through’ but then slowly it begins to dawn on you. For me, my age and type of cancer meant that I would be on treatment for a LONG time, preventative measures.

The reason I’m writing all this now (and probably again) is that 2 weeks ago I came off  Tamoxifen again (I had a brief stint without it last year, here), hormonally speaking things are messy at present. I had decided to come off them probably 6 months ago, after it became clear that the lower dose was not any easier to live with, but I stayed on it, I managed 2 years in the end, which is sort of the bare minimum.

My doctors wanted the extra year on the stuff because well, it’s effective and they didn’t want the cancer to come back. That’s how they talk, I don’t think they mean to, or maybe they do because they do not want the cancer to come back but it’s hard to hear about the cancer coming back.

My rebellious nature means 2 days ago I was sent to see my Oncologist to talk over options. Due to a mix up, we’d been waiting to speak to the Doctor for over an hour:

You have to wait in oncology, where you’ve heard most of the distressing news of your past cancer self. You have to wait surrounded by people who are sick, who are fighting the good fight. You smell the familiar smells, see some familiar faces. You have to get weighed and measured again, which is pretty much a weekly thing while on chemo, but you can’t for the life of you figure out it’s relevance now; unless it’s to remind you that no matter what you do you are still A STONE heavier than before cancer and that is somehow pretty humiliating.

In short you get sad and anxious in ways that are also familiar. I don’t mean to toot my own horn here but it takes a certain kind of badass to sit in that waiting room and still want to shed the protective layer that Tamoxifen affords you – badass-ness, recklessness or maybe hormone therapy is actually incredibly crappy.

Eventually you are speaking to your oncologist, who you’ve not seen in 2 years. He is kind and sort of giddy to see you, in a way that reminds you that you are his success, and that you are more than likely a highlight of his day. However, you are his success and you are wilfully going off treatment, so you feel you are a disappointment.

Like I said, he’s kind but he’s doing his job, he’s surrounded by cancer, he knows that secondaries are no joke, he’d want you on Tamoxifen for ten years. The term quality of life gets banded around quite a bit, other treatment options are mentioned, none are appealing, all involve keeping a level of unnatural medication in your system for years at a stretch, or having your ovaries removed and plunging yourself into actual menopause. None of which in your 30′s sound like what you want to be doing with yourself. It’s the opposite of sexy, I’m pretty sure if you were to look up this conversation, it would be in the dictorionary under ‘The opposite of sexy’. Though, perhaps it would read:
           The opposite of sexy : 1a : The above conversation. 1b : Donald J Trump.

Nothing is decided but the choice you thought you’d made, sensitively, painstakingly, rationally isn’t so shiny anymore. You can’t feel as proud as you had, for taking what you think is a brave decision to live your life; to purposefully hold higher, quality over quantatity because in Oncology, it seems cancer will inevitably come back and you are playing russian roulette.

You can never not have had cancer, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, if by gift you mean thing that makes me feel incredibly sad and pretty tired.

So what now? Well, I want a year free of all medication, it used to be a lifetime, however long that was going to be but I was chastened by Oncology. Oncology would prefer this to be 3-6 months but I’m standing firm, I want to remember what it was like to feel entirely healthy, to give my system a full break not just a pause. I want to use the time to become strong and healthy in body and mind, away from the pills. And then I guess we will reassess.

pollygosh_eggs

How do you like your eggs in the morning?

I am swimming in hormones at the moment. That sort of statement normally sets my teeth on edge, I hate how flippantly the phrase “hormones” gets bandied about, normally to the detriment of womankind. However, at the moment, it is a fact – I’m injecting them all myself.

So, fertility treatment, another fun off-shoot of getting cancer ‘young’.

What to say, what to say?

Well, I lasted the first week, no side effects at all, that I was aware of. Day 8 found me in tears for no real reason (I’ve been on the verge of a sob-fest ever since), I coupled this with eating, scratch that, inhaling a box of chocolates, in a sitting. I did not share those bad-boys, no sir.

It is PMS on crack. Made worse because I have an awareness of what is causing it all. I can’t be all indignant when A. gently points out, that the problem is hormones and not the fact that the world secretly hates me. This takes the wind out of my ‘right to be emotional’ girl-power sails, because it so IS. I am not emotional, I am OVER emotional, the awareness factor really is no fun for me. It’s probably better for those around me, I am trying to curb my stroppiness, some what.

I’m also really, really tired. My month of freedom and busy social whirliness is having to be punctuated by naps, a lot of naps. I can sleep all afternoon and then sleep some more – I’ve become a Sloth or a Koala or something. Hence why I’m actually writing Little Blog more at the moment. If this blog serves as nothing else, it is at least record of how changeable this whole Cancer thing is – like we didn’t know already.

I am also relearning basic biology. I tried to bluff my way through the first 2 appointments and then needed to admit, I have very little memory on how my body works. It’s so shameful to admit you don’t know, yet relearning is so fascinating at the same time – plus none of the boys in my class are punctuting the lesson with gagging sounds.

I am presently growing 19 egg follicles, 19!  The average (after fertility treatment) is between 9-13. I was proud of over-achieving until it became obvious that, I am dangerously close to Hyper-stimulation. 1 more follicle and I’ll be needing blood tests. I feel, for some reason, like a octopus with lots of egg sacks. Sexy.

They’re not small either (well comparatively), is it a surprise to anyone else, that they will be ‘harvested’ (yuck) at 17mm? That’s nearly 2cm, and there are 19 of them! Where am I finding the room? No wonder I feel fat at the moment……

I need to salute those out there, who inject themselves daily, often for long periods of time. I was full of admiration before, but I know exactly what it takes now and I am a chicken. It doesn’t help that my belly looks like a pin cushion.

The needles I use are the finest, thinnest kind but I’m still finding it counterintuitive to push one into my skin. It’s that puncturing sensation that I don’t like. It doesn’t hurt, hurt – but it stings a bit, the level of discomfort changes day to day with little or no reason, that I can find,

A is in charge of prep, neither he nor Dad could really stomach (boom boom) the actual injecting. I’d also feel, irrationally, resentful of them sticking me with a needle twice a day. Better just get annoyed with myself.

A and I run through almost the same script every time, it resolves around me hovering with a syringe millimetres above my abdomen and A. attempting to bribe me to take the plunge.

A: Ok, you can do this, there’s a cotton ball in it for you….

PG: I don’t want a cotton ball.

A: There’s a cup of tea too.

PG: I don’t want a cup of tea.

A: A pony?

(A will bribe me with anything but not a puppy….. proving these are empty promises – I’d have a field of ponies by this point if they weren’t. I do always get the cotton ball and the tea though)

PG: I don’t want a Pony, I don’t even want children. Let’s stop all this.

A: I know it’s not easy, but you can do it, you’re getting so good!

PG: I am not. We’ve been sitting here for 3 minutes.

A: Come on now, it will be over quicker than you know. Do you want me to hold you?

PG: NO

A: I’ll dance for you.

PG: Please don’t make me laugh, I can’t use my stomach muscles.

A: Ok, I’m going to get the cotton ball (exits)

PG in the meantime injects herself….. Can’t remember how to hold the needle and push the syringe at the same time.

A. returns to find PG with a needle in her belly and an exasperated look.

A: Do you want me to push the syringe in?

PG: I can’t remember how to do this.

A: Slowly!

PG finally sorts herself out, administers the injection. A hands over the cotton ball.

There’s really not any blood or anything from the punctured skin, but we still do this every. single. time. It’s our new tradition, I prefer our cocktail traditions, or movie night traditions more…..

Hopefully though, by Friday, my little octopus eggs (imagine if they actually were, there’s a shock 2-3 years down the line!) will be chillin’ in a freezer somewhere and I can go back to normal, well, normal-ish.

pollygosh_hate-pink

I hate Pink.

We may have hit a new low, I am railing against colours now…

I hate Pink. Hate may be overstating it. I am just not a huge fan – unless it’s neon, anything works when neon. Fact.

This sometimes surprises people, I don’t know if there is something innately ‘pink’ about my personality, if that is the case, I am not sure what I feel about it. Pink always feels so fluffy.

I am aware I am shooting myself in the foot here, disparaging a hue for being ‘weak’, I might be seen to be stoking the flames of sexism via the medium of colour. To which I can really only say “I didn’t start it” in a rather petulant tone.

Pink as the chosen colour for Breast Cancer though, well its just so blooming predictable isn’t it?

It’s like they didn’t even try. Is it just me or does anybody else think the meeting to decide on this was probably incredibly short?

Can you imagine the one person who bowled in there and said “call me crazy but I think a tasteful Dove Grey is what this charity needs, a Sunny Yellow or how about a really Poppy Orange. Who’s with me? Wait, what’s all this Pink around for…..Oh”.

If you look it up on Wikipedia (I’m recuperating, I have the time), you can discover which colour goes with which charity. It turns out you’re nobody unless you have a colour. Which somehow makes this whole Pink business even worse.

Of course all the other colours have been taken, Charities are now having to share colours. Oh yes, for every hue you can think of, there are a remarkable number of charities living under it. I’m not begrudging all these wonderful causes, I applaud their good sense.

My favourite discovery is that Brain Cancer and Boarder-line Multiple Personality Disorder use Grey, which is really cool if you think about it. I salute the marketing behind these pairings.

Do you know how many other charities have chosen Pink? Just Breast Cancer and possibly “Acute Acquired Cephalgia Minor Awareness” which is basically migraines. That Pink sure gives me a headache too.

The only other use of Pink on the whole chart is a Baby Blue / Baby Pink twist that has a number of charities attached including Pro-Life (which I shall swiftly pass over, given my mood) and Male Breast Cancer. Which are an odd set of bed fellows.

I love how Male Breast Cancer is trying to butch it up a bit, not sure if Baby Blue is really working for you but hey…. But why does Male Breast Cancer need to have a different ribbon – what’s wrong with Pink for all? And here we are, off to the sexist colour-coding races again….

It seems that charities are making up colours rather than using Pink. Black has more charities using it.

Which then got me thinking, perhaps the Breast Cancer awareness Brigade have some sort of mafioso-like hold on Pink. Maybe many charities wanted it, but broken legs and bricks through windows ensued, until everyone else fell in line…. Makes me wonder what the “Acute Acquired Cephalgia Minor” gang have had to do. The mind boggles at the back room antics that have probably gone on. I fear for those Migraine sufferers, I really do.

Or what is more likely is, everyone looked at Pink, looked at Breast Cancer Awareness and thought “how obvious, we can’t top that”

To which I want to cry out “WHY, WHY is it obvious? Why is it not a kick-ass Orange or a ballsy Purple.”

Thus, we have be burdened with Pink. I could probably take it on the chin, if it wasn’t such an insipid, kitten-licking, flooffy, powder Pink. This Pink has no gumption. I don’t look at it and think “Yes, under the banner of this colour, I shall march with my head held high. This Colour inspires me to fight a great battle.”

No one I know would wear this shade on days they need to feel brave. I doubt if it even inspires anyone to self-examine, except in an odd Pavlovian response, after years of Pink abuse….

It is not the Pink of a self-respecting, grown woman. It is the colour of Barbie, and now through no fault of my own I am linked to it*.

So I’m trying to come up with a plan, a plan I have no heart for really, for who really wants to try and save such a preposterous sub-colour?

Yet, even after a lot of brain-storming and late night meetings, I’ve only been able to come up with a two word plan : Miss Piggy. Miss Piggy is possibly the only one who can save this Pink, Save Breast Cancer Awareness – Hell, save the world!

Unfortunately, I can’t even get her agent to return my call, so I fear our cause is lost.

 

 

 

* point, most definitely, to cancer.

 

pollygosh_am-angry

I am Angry – this one carries a strong health warning

Once again I apologise in advance I am pretty much guaranteed to cause offence.
 Someone once gave me a magnet with the catchy phrase “Remember you will never be given more than you can bear” or words to that affect. I used to throw it across the room at quite regular intervals. I’d have cut it up and fed it merrily to the sharks this week – had I not thrown it away years ago.

 

I don’t know what has happened.

 

I don’t know if writing shook loose some emotions I wasn’t expecting.

 

Or if the meeting with My Oncologist (MO) reminded me that my lumpectomy was but the first step on a rather arduous climb.

 

Or if it’s just that the healing process has reached a particularly sore and itchy point in proceedings.

 

Or undergoing treatment for cancer is just not all it’s cracked up to be.

 

I think it may be all of the above, it is a hundred different things or nothing at all.

 

Maybe everyone just has to go through this phase and try not to lose all their dignity and humour (I’ve failed spectacularly at the grace I have hoped to maintain).

 

I was Angry this week, I am angry.

 

Angry isn’t descriptive enough, angry doesn’t even come close. It is more like a cocktail of grieving, sulking, impatience, and confusion with a healthy pinch of moroseness stuck in for good measure.

 

I have not been good-hearted, I have been no fun at all, I would have nothing to do with the me this week, to those of you who’ve tried, the tiny sliver of human that is still in me, thanks you, for you are kind and wonderful people.

 

This Molotov of emotions has simmered away at a fevered pitch and even now threatens to boil up at a moments notice;

 

When people seem too concerned, when they don’t seem concerned enough. The people who you thought might be in touch and haven’t been.

 

The worst seems to be when I know someone knows but they are simply ignoring the entire situation.

 

These people always seem to be the same ones who now, intently stare at my chest while they are talking to me. I know this is an age old problem for women but I have always been gloriously flat chested (more so now I can wear nothing but sports tops) and have never had to deal with this before.

 

I want to say “Even if you had X-ray vision, which you don’t – you can’t see the lump because it is gone. If you’d like to see the scars, the swelling, the stitches, the bruises and the hole left behind, Ask. It’s really not all that thrilling either but anything would be better than you not meeting my eyes.”

 

When people ask me how I feel and then put their own words in my mouth, or try to explain to me how I feel. When people try to use magnet quotes in a bid to comfort me, when I am not asking for comfort.

 

I want to say “I shall be whatever emotion bubbles up in me today. I will handle this however I choose. This may be different from minute to minute because at the moment I am just that contrary. Don’t ask me to choose between positivity and negativity. Unless you’ve been here and done this, at my age, I’d shut up if I were you. Just let me feel.”

 

When people have said they are praying for me -

 

I want to say “That’s great for you but please, please take a look at my last five years, when you are done with that, take a look at the world – then bake me a cake instead or learn to cure cancer. I don’t know what I believe, I honestly don’t. I know I don’t believe in the integrity of organised religion. I want to point out that, if I were to believe in God or a higher power, I sure as hell wouldn’t be speaking to them at the moment.”

 

When people have told me to be strong or hang tough, I have wanted to say “Shit, let me write that down, I thought weak wasn’t working out for me so well.”

 

When people write on Facebook that life is hard because they’ve mislaid something or they have to work and the sun is out, or complained how unfair the world is for some pitiful and trivial reason. Oh, the things I have felt like writing.

 

When older men, and it does seem to be older men at the moment, have the right to prescribe what happens next to my younger and female body.

 

I want to say “you have no idea what your decisions feel like to me, the choices you are giving me are not choices at all. How dare you sit and decided this for my body and then move on to lunch.”

 

I have silently railed against individuals. I have silently railed against groups. All ages, races, friends and foes have felt my inaudible wrath this week.

 

I think the kindest thing I can say about myself, is at least I have been an equal opportunity Anger Ball and at least I have bitten my tongue.

 

I was on the brink of writing a post called “ All my previous Posts have been Bullshit – it isn’t fair and I am not grateful for anything”

 

These are cruel, snide and hurtful things to think.

 

They have been Black and White things to think.

 

In short I’ve been an ungrateful cow, which then makes me more angry.

 

Still, these emotions have felt very true but they have not felt just. Emotions against my will.

 

The anger comes because I am lucky and loved and privileged and yet still I am angry.

 

Around and around it goes.

 

I don’t have anything tangible to be angry at. There isn’t a useful syphon for these emotions. I am a wounded animal. A baby. A mute. I cannot find the words for what I need, they do not yet exist.

 

It is made all the worse because of the sea of people trying to help, being so wonderfully kind but I am still lonely because really I am alone in all this and that makes me scared.

 

And so I am still angry.