Thursday, January 26, 2006

Long time passing

Ok - I am still here - still kicking, still ornerary and contrary as all get out and it would appear cancer-free and one breast lighter.

I survived surgery - mentally as well as physically, I survived hospital food (by having my folks bring real food from home) and I have virtually all the movement in my arm back - although that took a hell of a lot of work and lots of chivy-ing from Karen the physio (bless her - she never gave up on me although some days I thought I would never do it).
I can not begin to say how well I have been looked after by all the folks at the Royal Free Hospital in London - they have (virtually) been so lovely to me and put up with me as I shouted, screamed, whined, whinged, cried, mourned, swore and generally thought more about myself than anyone else. Which some might say was a change since I am always mothering other people. It's been a real blessing to be cared for rather than doing the caring.
It took me a long time to absorb that the cancer was gone - having been scared to death by one of the surgical team when I went for the histology report post-surgery. The first thing he said said was 'we want to repeat the bone scan'.
Cue panic and hysterics from me.
Having seen he'd obviously ballsed up he went and fetched Tina - one of the breast-care nurses who came and basically took over. First thing she said was 'The cancer is gone' - thank you - nice to know my breast wasn't removed in vain. It's amazing how some people can be totally dense and others can be totally in tune. Although you wouldn't think it would require a genius to guess that saying to someone who has (had) cancer that you need to repeat tests wouldn't strike the fear of god into them.....
I have had cancer - I still have to keep saying that to myself - past tense - it's gone - although I daren't say that any louder.
I did it - I did it all. I did six months worth of chemotherapy -
  • I threw up no matter how much/many anti-sickness drugs they gave me
  • I had hideous heartburn and indigestion
  • my white blood cell count fell so low (0.09 I think) that I got an infection and fever and had to spend 5 days in isolation in the hospital with IV antibiotics and consequently had to have GCSF injections for a week after every chemo treatment
  • every damn medication they gave me had constipation listed as a side effect - and I got every damn side effect from every damn treatment so was permanently constipated for six months
  • my hair fell out - I had it virtually shaved off
  • my body ached so bad I felt like I'd been beaten black and blue with a baseball bat
  • all the skin on my hands peeled off
  • my nails went vile and disgusting and got a fungal infection
  • my fingers and toes (well, whole feet) tingled and felt fuzzy - and they still do
  • my eyelashes and eyebrows came out
  • my mouth tasted disgusting for the entire six months
  • my periods vanished and I had eight hideous months of hot sweats - right through the June/July heatwave in London.
Then, when we finished that I had a mastectomy - a polite way of saying that my right breast and a bunch of lymph nodes were removed and dissected to inspect the tumour. My arm seized up after the surgery and I had to work bloody hard doing exercises every waking hour to get it moving again. Having the stitches removed was hideous - let's never speak of it. Looking at the scar for the first time when they removed the dressing was scary but in the end it didn't look as bad as I was expecting.
But then, I was expecting my world to crashing to an end so possibly this is not surprising.....Having the drains removed was hideous but slightly quicker than having the stitches removed - but let's not speak of that either.....
So, then (no, not finished yet dear readers - this story goes on and on), then, radiotherapy. To be fair - a lot fewer side effects than with chemo and a darn sight less invasive than surgery. I went exceedingly pink and the skin in the crease under my arm went all peely and raw in the last week but it healed up again in a couple of weeks so that wasn't so bad.
And that's it - aside from five years of Tamoxifen and a year and a half of Zoladex.

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