Today feels really weird. I woke up feeling quite tense, sure that I had something important and undesirable to do today. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I was playing football with DS in the sunny garden after dropping DD at school. Then it hit me: today is the day I would have been having chemotherapy. It’s 21 days since my final one, and the penny has finally dropped: I DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT AGAIN!!!
Perhaps that’s why today feels particularly bright and shiny. The spring sunshine feels extra warm on my face. The birds are singing a sweeter tune than usual. I feel physically lighter and taller, like Atlas must have felt when he got to put the Earth down for a bit and wriggle his shoulders. You just don’t realise how heavy a burden you’ve been carrying until it’s no longer there. Instead of sitting on the chemo ward soaking up drugs that will make me feel like poo for days, looking out with envy at the sunshine, I am at home, pottering with my potty-training DS (a different sort of poo), enjoying a picnic lunch in the garden with my sis, nephew and niece, and looking forward to seeing my mummy and Pops this afternoon.
So yesterday my chemo treatment was officially over, and something quite strange happened to DH. Last year, on Thursday October 6, I went to my GP to tell him I’d found a lump in my breast. That day, DH was being treated to a dream round of golf at Sunningdale, courtesy of our extraordinarily generous friend J. He had a lovely time, but was obviously worried about me. Yesterday, on the final day of my last chemotherapy cycle, he was playing golf with J again at another luxe location, this time the very exclusive Swinley Forest. Also playing in the competition was a familiar face: my consultant.
A nice bit of circularity – DH was quite emotional about the significance of topping and tailing the first bit of my treatment with a memorable round of golf, bless him. I don’t believe in coincidences, and I did get what he meant. (He also played like a demon and came home laden with wine and golf balls after coming second out of twenty something, yay!).
Over lunch and, later, a glass of wine at the bar, DH and Doctor H switched to first name terms and had a good chat about me. Apparently I am one of his best patients (I think he meant in terms of how my tumour has responded to the treatment he recommended, not his favourite, given that I am constantly questioning things) and he’s very excited about my case. It sounds very much like he is expecting, like my surgeon, that the lab results after surgery will show that my blend of chemo and trial drugs has actually got rid of the pre-cancer too. It’s a darn shame I have to lose half a boob to confirm this medical miracle, but there’s no other way of confirming it for sure other than to remove all the dodgy stuff.
Funnily enough, DH has seen more of my consultant than I have this week, since I saw his registrar instead at my official sign-off from chemo at the oncology clinic on Wednesday. Probably gearing up for golf… Anyway, I had an interesting chat with the registrar, as I’d flagged up to my lovely research nurse Celia that I hadn’t started the tamoxifen as I was meant to, because I had a few concerns. I was bracing myself for a row because anything that reduces the possibility of breast cancer recurring by up to 70% is a no-brainer, right?
Thing is, it’s such a powerful drug (it basically switches off the overenthusiastic oestrogen receptors that are one of the causes of my sort of cancer) that it has quite a range of side effects. The hot flushes, disturbed sleep, depression, weight gain etc that most women seem to get don’t sound much fun, but I guess you just put up with that sort of ‘quality of life’ stuff in return for a bigger chance of, well, being alive. I am more worried about the warnings about blood clots and stroke, since I have a bit of a family history of such things, and the slightly increased chance of exchanging one cancer for another: tamoxifen is linked with cancer of the endometrium, or womb lining.
Anyway, I’m pleased to say my concerns were listened to and when I have my pre-op check up on Monday, I’ll have a load of extra blood tests to rule out any predisposition to blood clots and strokes. My consultant is also happy for me to hold off starting the drug until the results of the surgery are back. These will be combined with a load of other data such as my age, the grade of my tumour (three, if you’re interested), the amount of lymph node involvement, my response to the chemo, and the fact I will be having radiotherapy, to give me a personalised statistic of the likely benefit to me of taking tamoxifen. In other words, they will be able to give me a number which expresses my likelihood of breast cancer recurring with and without the tamoxifen. Which will probably persuade me to just take the damn pill once a day.
In the meantime, it’s extraordinary knowing that from now on, I will only continue to feel better, stronger and brighter rather than being plunged back into the slough of despond. I’ve never felt like this before. It’s really, really cool. I’ll say this for chemo: there’s nothing quite like it for making you appreciate feeling alive and well. Enjoy the sunshine, you gorgeous lot.