Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ramble On

Almost as soon as I spewed out that last post, my energy picked up and my outlook brightened. Perhaps I had turned a corner with my cold/flu thing, perhaps I experienced an out-gassing of hormones or perhaps the very act of writing was a sort of sloughing off the bad juju.

Anyway, I feel good. But that post remains for anyone to see and assume I’m in tatters. I guess if I want to honestly document this process I can’t delete it. Just more proof of how sideswiped we are by changes to our delicate physiology and that we need to feel a sense of purpose in life if we’re going to make it through.

Working on getting strong again for this next surgery. Going off the tamoxifen for a few weeks to prevent blood clots. My excorcism hysterectomy is November 12th and the doctors want to make sure I’m good to go.

You know what’s weird? When you stop getting your period. I suppose if you’ve been pregnant this does not seem weird but on some visceral level I keep waiting for it to come. There is a twinge I guess. Sort of like losing my 34Ds. They were kind of a nuisance, but they were my nuisance, you know? I wonder what I would have said a year ago if someone had said, hey, you can stop having a period, make your breasts smaller and firmer, lose weight, get free narcotics and all you have to do is look into the abyss.

Bet I would have said, hells yeah, sign me up!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cloudy With A Chance Of Shoes

Last week I was up in the middle of the night, tossing blankets, stripping off my shirt and distancing myself from the various heat sources in our bed, and I began to think how un-depressed I was, how the other shoe had not dropped. We were dealing with my medical issues, had absolutely no work, living in a house filled with dust and exhaust from basement construction, the weather had gone all cloudy and cold, and yet I didn’t have an overwhelming sense of dread. I realized that I had had more anxiety at 32 than I do at 42. As if, once you’ve made peace with the big anvil falling out of the sky, all the other stuff is totally maneuverable.

Then I woke up with chills and a sore throat and one of those sand papery coughs. A week on, I’m still exhausted, I go to bed early and can’t truly wake up until mid-morning. I feel so useless and I absolutely hate that it falls exactly in line with the medical predictions. I don’t want to be depressed. It’s not my bag really. But I do feel as if I’ve lost the plot of whatever story I was supposed to be living. My family makes it better. They’ve been very understanding even though I’m essentially a part of the furniture, like a threadbare ottoman with a missing leg. I had only an inkling before this of how important hormones were. They are a lot of what drives us to keep reaching for those youthful aspirations however feeble. And I don’t mean to say that after menopause (or manopause) that we’re all somehow directionless. But that a gradual process is more like a door opening than one slamming shut.

Talk of menopause makes people uncomfortable. Something we shouldn’t discuss, or if we do, we shouldn’t speculate and say something unfeminist. And that’s fine. Women don’t want to be devalued after they pass childbearing age. Men find it icky and mysterious. My friend Mary G. says the whole concept of labeling menopause is silly and a way to subjugate women. Like, it’s not that big of a deal and she’s probably right for many of those who transition naturally. But the brain fog I’m in right now is making it difficult to even blog correctly. (My apologizes for that.)

What is the positive? What can the reader pull from this murk? Well, other than being thankful for the relative normality you may be experiencing as you read this, I guess that it's possible to wade through the fire without ENORMOUS incident. And that even in this mess of a year there is so much to marvel at. Yes the pills and shots are putting me through my paces. But without medical science, I would have never met Cheryl. She would have already been dead seven years from thyroid cancer. There would be no Cameron and Madeline, no duplex to house our little family and our business, no relationship with Cheryl's family and soon there would be no me.

But still we persist.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Putting Out A Fire with Salt Water

Big Ass Needle and I had our second date on Thursday. We met in the “big comfy” chemo chair this time. There was a man in the adjoining room, receiving his chemo, watching a baseball game. I gazed out the window at the eclectically manicured Cancer Center gardens, imagining all those who had sat in this chair before and received something more toxic. It didn’t hurt as much this time, the nurse gave the lidocaine plenty of time to work. She explained that the Zoladex is a tiny tablet, that’s why the needle is the diameter of a swizzle stick and also why last month I could feel a little bump under the skin. Anyway, I didn’t bruise or start bawling and decided I would be all right this time. Maybe my ovaries had already gone to sleep and this month was going to be about leveling out.

So on Friday I decided I wasn’t sore or anything and went on a bike ride. I mean, it was going to turn cold and it might be one of the last good days, right?

I’m not sure if it’s the hormone loss or just the season winding down but my rides lack aggression. Really having to tell myself to get out of the saddle and sprint. There’s less joy at the apex of a climb and my heart feels non-committal in my chest. I keep trying to tell myself it’s all in my head, that I’m just being suggestible from all the stuff I’ve read. It was a GOOD ride all in all. I’m still very strong (always am by the end of the year) and I even took the dogs on their walk when I got back. After that I was hungry and clammy. So I wolfed down some dark chocolate and cranked on the hot water for a shower. (One of the results of my surgery is my implants don't hold heat like real breasts and I don't have a lot of fat up there for insulation.)

After I got dressed, I realized my ovaries weren’t done with me yet. See, Zoladex tells your pituitary gland to stop talking to the ovaries. And so by the second day, they start getting uppity. The ride and the shower was bound to exacerbate the symptoms. A throb in my belly came on, like this horizontal bar of heat and tenderness. My face turned red and in the middle of dinner, I just started crying into my soup. But I wasn't exactly sad and even began laughing in the middle of it.

It might seem depressing on the outside. It isn't. The hot flashes are easily dealt with by layering my clothes. I'm experiencing an amazing transition—one that induces reverence and awe for the human body. It really does feel like it’s all going up in a blaze of glory.

Of course, such hyperbole could be the out-rush of estrogen and testosterone as they leave the building.

Of all my lady parts left scattered about like so much roadkill, I would be sad to see my ovaries go. My Oncologist and my OB surgeon are at odds on this. The Onc wants them gone. The OB says I’ll need their residual effects. I can totally understand the two viewpoints. The Onc is only concerned about cancer returning. The surgeon comes from a place that sees surgery as the cure. He probably thinks I was cured the day they took my breasts. Why hurt my quality of life? And of course the Internet is all over the place.

I want to keep them. Just one last party favor from a time when I was powerfully driven by the force of Mother Nature. But am I playing with fire? Even after all that we have been through in this house, I often forget my diagnosis. And I don’t foresee ever having cancer again. Is that the human capacity to live or just willful ignorance?