Taxing Times

So I’ve started the new chemotherapy drug – Taxotere, known in the breast cancer world as ‘Tax’ because we all love a snappy name for something shite.

On the plus side it doesn’t turn me into a puking zombie.

On the not so plus side it does make my bones ache, my skin peel off and apparently something green and furry has died and is rotting in my mouth. The really depressing thing is that this is all preferable to FEC!

Things that I also apparently have to look forward to on this drug is eyebrows and eyelashes (and of course more of my very very sparse head hair) falling out, and my nails removing themselves from their nailbeds and falling off. Oh goody – I’ll keep ypu updated.

I am so pissed off with this now – and I have another two months to go. Very stressed about my lack of hair and how horrendous I look. I begin every working day in the disabled toilets trying to cover the massive bald areas with wide headbands – it isn’t very successful or a particularly cheerful way to start the day. Fricking cold cap hurt like a bitch at my last chemotherapy session and to top it all off I had a lovely chat with the plastic surgeon yesterday about having bilateral mastectomy.

The ‘good’ news is he agreed it is a sensible idea – but I now have to go and prove I am of sound mind to make this decision to a psychologist. Another hoop to jump through in the quest of avoiding death. Assuming the psychologist doesn’t think I’m a lunatic I then get to decide which reconstruction option to go for.

I have two:

1. Chop boobs off, insert an expander implant, wake up from operation completely flat chested, spend three months having the expander things expanded by injecting saline into them (apparently this looks and feels like having cricket balls attached to your chest). Approx surgery time – 5 hours. Leave them for three months then have another operation to replace with permanent implants.

2. Chop boobs off, cleave two great big lumps of skin and muscle out of my back, attach these to my chest with a different type of expanding implant thing. Approx surgery time – 11 hours. Expand the implants for an as yet unkown amount of time. Have another operation to remove the expander port thingy. Spend a long, long time recovering.

They both sound fun don’t they.

With either option I end up with zero sensation in my chest and no nipples – although apparently I could have those reconstructed and tattoos done later. Either option also might fail. Both will require about three months off work so I’d better keep a tight reign on these sick days for chemotherapy – they won’t keep paying me forever.

With option 2 I would also end up with no sensation in my back and obviously moving your back muscles around doesn’t do much for your comfort, strength or mobility either.

Can you tell I’m not feeling very positive about all of this?

At the moment I am leaning towards option 1 but being told I will wake up flat and have to spend the next 6 months minimum essentially being ‘pumped up’ and operated on does actually make me want to vomit. Not just because I will look like an arsehole throughout and don’t think I will get away with hiding the fact I am mutilated, or it being painful, or that clearly this is never going to come close to a ‘normal’ body. It is the time. Once I’ve had chemotherapy, waited for a minimum of a month to recover from that and then had all the surgery – it is basically another year dominated by fucking cancer. Oh and I don’t get to start taking the tamoxifen hormone treatment until after surgery so that’s more time ticking away and a further nail in the coffin of trying for a family. Think I may as well give up on that idea now. They have made it clear the objective is to ‘extend my life’ rather than have a happy and fulfilling life. Message received.

On that subject I also have finally received an appointment to see a geneticist. Only took 6 months from my first asking. It is the day before next chemotherapy but I have no doubt that it will just be a consultation and they won’t actually take blood to be tested on that day. I’m sure it can be strung out another few months at least.

I’m not sure if I feel better for writing my negative feelings out in this blog post or not. I know I should be happy that I don’t need radiotherapy and can have a reconstruction at all… but it is becoming increasingly difficult to be happy about anything. I had to laugh at the end of the appointment with the surgeon. There is always a nurse in attendance (and I do actually really like the one who was there yesterday) and they tend to want to see how you are once the surgeon has gone. I got a bit upset having been told my options… and she now thinks I’m ‘depressed’. I don’t think I’m depressed. I think I am having a normal reaction to quite a challenging set of circumstances.

Possibly three days after chemotherapy when I’m not exactly feelng my best was not ideal timing for an indepth conversation about having bits of my anatomy hacked off. Maybe I’ll feel less negative about it next week… or maybe it is just all a big bag of shit.


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