It is hard to believe that I am nearing the end of my ‘active treatment’ for cancer. It’s been front and centre for almost a year now. It was 15th August 2012 that I went to the first clinic and had my core biopsy taken – I would have gone to the GP a week or so before that. I wish I could say it’s gone quickly – but I would be lying!!
I will probably write another post about how I’ve got on these past few months post surgery and how the whole ‘expanding’ of the foobs has been – all you really need to know though is that I have one more expansion to go, then a 3 month wait until my fifth (and hopefully last!) surgery to swap the expander implants for silicone. After that it is Tamoxifen hormone tablets for however long I end up taking them. There is of course the BRCA2 / Ovarian cancer risk issue to contend with – probably meaning the removal of my ovaries at some point – but that should not be for a few years so I’ve decided to ignore it for now. So I’m almost done with the whirlwind of the really intensive treatment. To be honest I’m not bothered at all about the next surgery either. After chemo and the mastectomy I think it would take quite a lot to phase me!
After a year of wishing for a bit of normality though, turns out ‘normality’ isn’t all that easy to get back to. I’ve been back at work a couple of weeks (4 day weeks as a phased return) and I am definitely feeling much better physically. Still tired all the time – but my breathlessness, weak limbs and water retention have finally gone so that’s awesome. Physically, I am better than I have been in a long time. The issue is more psychological I think.
While you’re having all the treatment – especially chemotherapy – it takes basically all of your energy to deal with it. Obviously it is emotional too – but you’re sort of stuck in a fog of going to the hospital, feeling like shit and being variously prodded and poked. It is only now that I think I’ve been fully hit by everything that has happened over the last year… which is ironic really as now is the time everyone thinks you should be joyful that the really crap treatment is done. I don’t think my psychological state is as bad as some people experience. It’s not like I’m feeling terribly miserable all the time – I know some people do actually become really depressed. I do have the ongoing BRCA2 shite to deal with and that obviously upsets me – but I think that would be considered understandable. It is more that I will be doing something ‘normal’ – like the food shopping – and I’ll suddenly look at the people around me a think “I’ve had cancer and chemo and my boobs chopped off… I had a tube sticking out of my arm for five months and before that I had IVF… and you have NO IDEA what I’ve been through” and it just doesn’t seem right.
It happens a lot at work… I’ll be in a meeting or whatever and be sat there wondering how much people know. Do they know I’ve got foobs? I have only told a very select group of people so the majority shouldn’t. I know they are smaller now but I’m not sure it’s that obvious. I know I looked like death warmed up for a long time so I’m sure they clocked that – but do they REALLY understand how difficult it was to work through chemo? Of course they don’t… why should they… but my brain can’t seem to cope with the fact I’ve dealt with it all and now I’m supposed to just carry on like it hasn’t happened. Not that I want to wallow and be ‘cancer girl’ – but it is difficult to just brush it off!
I’m not sure I’m explaining myself very well here… let’s just say I’m finding it challenging to just ‘move on’. The other thing that I don’t think people appreciate is that chemotherapy can take a year or more to get out of your system, you’re hair tends to grow back differently (and it takes fecking ages to grow back at all), I have whole new body parts to get used to (which are not currently comfortable at all), tamoxifen has its own side effects (hello menopausal crap), the fertility issue does not go away, nor does the possibility of secondary spread and death. When people say about ‘getting back to normal’ the honest response is that is never going to happen. I am never going to be the person I was before I had cancer. I need to find a different normal and that in itself is frustrating… and not as easy as you would expect.
One thing I have definitely struggled with is planning things. We have talked about going on holiday to Florida next year – which I would love to do – but then I worry that I won’t get travel insurance and the cancer will spread and I will be ill again etc etc. It’s like I’d be tempting fate to book anything. Everything has been so dominated but bastard cancer for so long now (what with my dad and sister too) that it seems foolish to think we could do something nice without it being ruined. Clearly you can’t live like that – just waiting for horrible things to happen – but that is how I feel. Which makes what we’ve just done seem utterly utterly ridiculous. We’ve put an offer in on a house.
We had just started looking for our first house when I was diagnosed last year so it’s not a new idea… but it all did happen rather suddenly. It is exciting and scary all at the same time. I keep telling myself I’m sure most first time buyers feel the same though! I am worried that I can’t get any life insurance and what would happen if become ill or die… but the alternative is to just do nothing for ever which is not an option. Especially if we are ever lucky enough to be able to try for a baby. It is a two bedroom end terrace with a conservatory and lovely garden. We’re still at the stage of getting a mortgage agreed and survey being done so obviously it’s early days – but I’m trying to think positive and not get stressed about what may or may not happen. The plan is that moving out will help with this moving on lark…