Moving on from the 3 month check

Sometimes it is hard to remember that it is only 3 months since all the heavy treatment finished.  Apparently a body subjected to cancer treatments usually needs at least as long to recover as the treatment took.  So that means I should allow around 8 months (at least) from the end of May to re-build slowly. 

However, I realise that despite my good intentions, I expect myself to be feeling “the same as before” and I find it hard not to push myself.  I often find it quite tricky to get a balance which allows me to recuperate and I am striving to function as I was before diagnosis.  I am reminded when I get very tired, or as happened today (written on Sunday), when I was out at the market and realised that I wanted to sit and rest (and have a big cold glass of water).  I had been wandering around for a couple of hours in the heat and humidity so it is not really surprising.  So I listened to my body’s reminder and stopped for a refreshment and a break.  I was delighted to find that I quickly bounced back and was ready for a new round of shopping in no time.

It made me think of a friend’s facebook post which asked fellow cancer survivors what changes they have made since diagnosis.  I posted a quick reply, sharing rather smugly that I am now doing a Pilates class twice weekly, swimming as often as I can, (and as often as the monsoon allows), being very attentive to my eating habits, taking time to do creative things I enjoy and being pretty disciplined about working sensible hours.  After keying it in, I realised that this actually represents quite a lot of changes.  I really have to focus on these changes and the role I have in my recovery when the worry worm tries to eat away at my mind in the night. And I really have to try to give myself time to heal.

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Carpe diem

It has been a strange few days since the checks on Thursday and port flush on Friday.  To say I have been up and down, lurching between ridiculously irrational to calm and rational (well, not so often for the latter) would perhaps begin to capture what it has been like.  Remember that I am in a strange, unexpected place.  This goes far to shed light on what it is like.

In the space of the past few days, I have been angry with the tumour marker – for being raised.  Pure and simple, if it had not been raised I would have had a really good check so I am cross with the marker.  I am pleased at how my body has been recovering, despite what it has had thrown at it (major surgery, minor surgery, chemo x 8, 5 weeks radiation, pneumonia and shingles in case I had forgotten).  I have been taking control and had a lovely one to one Pilates session (long overdue from a block booked during chemo and which I was subsequently too sick to take up) and a lovely long swim in our apartment pool.  I have been scooting round Bangkok doing errands, chores and hardly been inside a taxi for a change.  I can manage the stairs on the Skytrain without thinking twice – and to remember back to the awful taxotere days when I could hardly stand, and thought I was going to collapse when I did try and go up the Skytrain stairs.  I have had a scare that the horrible shingles had returned, when my skin erupted under the elastoplast following the port flush.  I was horrified when spots re-appeared in the exact same place and formation as one of the shingles set.  I was relieved when these dreaded spots died down quickly and think that my poor skin which had been battered by chemo sensitivity, radiation burn and then shingles reacted quickly and angrily when the port was flushed and an innocent plaster pasted over the needle area.  If you add the stress of the check up and the marker result then it is probably not surprising that my skin flared up.  I was delighted and then rapidly disappointed when the prosthesis I had ordered for swimming turned was not exactly right.  I really liked it, it was comfortable and far less visibly assymetrical than Prosthesis 1, 2  and 3.  I have ordered the better size and childishly cannot wait until it arrives from Europe. Until then it will be jacuzzi swimming and misaligned headlights  😉 .

Most of all though, I have been fighting the anxiety of the wretched raised tumour marker and have been overwhelmed by messages of support, suggestion and encouragement.  I have been trying hard to rationalise it and find that as much as I do, the irrational, anxious side of me cannot absorb sensible logic. I can get the marker angst under control easily in daylight hours, but at night when Tamoxifen (is it a conspiracy??) is keeping me awake, it is hard to shake off the worries.

Then a simple sentence cut through all of that angst and shrivelled the worry.  The magic trick was when I was reminded how quickly and thoroughly the medical team had acted since I was diagnosed. (Mastectomy 3 days after diagnosis, first chemo 18 days after surgery, radiation 2 weeks after last chemo)  All in all it is probably a world speed record!  So if the Doctors had been seriously concerned, then they would at least have ordered further tests and would not be sending me away for 3 months.  In fact I remember that Dr W was concerned that 10 days had passed since my discovery of the lump in September 2009, which in itself is an impressive timescale between GP consultation and specialist appointment (one week) and his readiness to operate the following morning after diagnosis  bears that out for sure.  So let’s be honest, if these guys are happy to see me in 3 months, and they really know their stuff, then this marker must indeed be a very minor concern.

So why waste a good day today, worrying about a possible bad day in the future (to steal a quote from my pal Chemobabe’s blog) for what is, in balance, not a good enough reason.  We will head back to Yangon tomorrow, and make the most of recovery and healing time. 

Thanks so much for keeping me moving forwards, onwards and upwards – and let’s focus on carpe diem!

More about this strange phase

A quick follow on from yesterday’s post………….

I am definitely not alone and have been pointed towards this article on this strange post treatment phase.  Cure Today has also picked up the discussion again so it is very well timed for me. 

Some of the language in the articles I have even felt myself using – so it is highly reassuring.  I hope it also helps near and dear to understand why I am in such a strange place when I should be celebrating all the heavy treatment being over.  Oh, if only life, and cancer were so simple!

Not alone!

So it’s not just me then!  This evening I have read Chemobabe’s latest blog entry and we may be in different continents, and on different sides of the planet in fact, but we are in almost the same place in the post treatment phase.  I was also pointed to an article from Cure Today which documents in some detail, the psychological process experienced by many once the heavy treatment phase has been completed.

It is in many ways reassuring to know that I am not alone in feeling strange during this time.  This is why I can’t revert magically back to the pre-cancer days.  However, it is one thing knowing that I am not alone and that this is a process I am going through, but it is another totally different thing bridging that rational understanding to the way I feel!

And it probably also explains why I have been so mega grumpy over these nasty shingles and unfairness of them catching me as I am trying to nagivate my own re-entry.