It’s now been over two years since that fateful day when the consultant said those life-changing words. There are many days to mark when it comes to remembering that time. The day I found the lump. The day I saw the GP. The day I went to the breast clinic. The day I got the results (which is the official annual marker, because you do have to pick just one). The day I had the cancer removed. The day I got the results of the surgery. The day I was told I was too old to conceive naturally. The day I cried about death. I remember them all.
Two years was harder than one. The first anniversary marker of diagnosis went like this…
It was the only way to mark it in the end, after much indecision about how I was going to feel. I just ended up feeling glad to be alive and having a night out with one of the best people I know (and I consider myself lucky enough to know a few real gems).
The second was somewhat like this…
I probably got about the same amount of sleep but less conversation. Even though I was clearly marking the second anniversary with a massive two fingers to the whole cancer thing, it was definitely harder than the first. And I don’t think that was just because I couldn’t get trashed.
Two years is a crucial time in cancer land. A lot of recurrences happen in this time, so it’s a significant marker. Then five years, and then ten years. That’s when you’re officially over it according to the medical profession, although most people assume it’s all over and done with once the treatment ends. Those ‘survivor’ figures you see in the media – the percentage who now survive cancer – are taken at the ten year mark. After that you’re just a statistic.
The arrival of the baby I was unlikely to conceive naturally and shouldn’t be having anyway definitely helped instil some positivity around the two year anniversary. But the pregnancy, with it’s incapacitation, illness and injury, as well as the deluge of medical appointments with oncologists, radiographers and surgeons in the few weeks after the birth, served to remind me of my own mortality.
Then there’s the medical menopause.
So far, it’s not that bad. It’s manageable in the same way you learn to deal with things you don’t want to deal with but have to. The zoladex injection is unpleasant but bearable. I made the mistake of Googling it the night before and looked at images – big mistake. Gave myself a right case of needle phobia. I would show you but I have another one due this week and I don’t want to look again. That and the daily tamoxifen tablets are beginning to accumulate some choice side effects that are uncomfortable and annoying, but tolerable. So far. I am either freezing cold or boiling hot. My heels, ankles and knees stiffen up and ache in the evenings, and I wake up at night with numb hands and sore wrists. I am an emotional wreck. Everything stresses me out. Something as simple as dropping a nondescript item on the floor can trigger a cycle of intense stress and depression when I was fine five minutes beforehand. I’m probably going to have to succumb to some tablets for this, not only because stress is a risk factor in breast cancer, but also because they are meant to help with the physical side effects of the tamoxifen. I may treat myself to one of those pill boxes with the days of the week on because even having a daily reminder go off on my phone is confusing. I leave the reminder open til I’ve taken the tablet, then close it. If I forget to close it I have no idea whether I’ve taken the tablet – even if I only took it a couple of minutes ago. That stresses me out too. I worry about so many things at the moment it’s bordering on comical. Nate has pointed out several reasons why I don’t need to be so wound up but I am still stressed. I’m stressed just thinking about it.
That might not be the medication though, I did just have a baby. But I have a lot of help with this one, there are two other grown ups and two middling halflings to help out. Plus she’s a pretty good baby and doesn’t demand much apart from food and warmth. Nate does alternate nights with me (the one benefit of not being able to breast feed) so I’m getting some rest. If I need to do something there is always someone who can hold her or keep an eye on her. My sons have entered into the second stage of childhood where they are self sufficient and even well behaved sometimes. I have no reason to be a screaming crying mess other than the raging hormone battle within and lack of money to buy larger size jeans to compensate for the pregnancy weight gain. I am lucky to be alive, have healthy children, a husband with various capabilities, and I am lucky to have just had a baby two years after I was facing a very different future. Maybe I just need to let go of that past…