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Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Bright Side

Nine days after the end of my demon days, and I must say, I'm feeling rather good. I feel most guilty that I appear to have bounced back quite nicely and wonder if this will be the norm.

So far, I have been schooled in the fact that successive cycles will lead to increasing depletion, worsening side effects, and some grim times ahead.

For now I am, I have to say, kind of perky.

In fact, in the week that's passed, you'd be forgiven in believing I'm in the rudest of health, bald head and missing breast notwithstanding.

Life has seemed to be fairly normal through my immunity period.

I've worked out that people don't have to be perennially contagious and have ventured out of home.

I go shopping, I go next door to work on a jigsaw puzzle with Lyndal. On Monday, Al and I even go away (for one night, at our beach house at the now empty and defunct resort, Couran Cove).

Despite fairly persistent rain, I go walking a few times. Once I go with Nicky and she sees my bald head for the first time.

"You look like a Belsen survivor," she jokes.

"Yeh, don't give me striped pyjamas for Christmas," I say.

At home, I manage to behave like someone perfectly well. I get halfway through a new painting; I bake my first ever Christmas cake (I must say, it looks a treat); I put up the Christmas Tree and even buy AND wrap all of my Christmas presents.

On one night, I cook dinner - my first liver curry because my platelets are so low I am in need of iron. It gets the thumbs up from the family. No, it isn't that offal after all.

We go to trivia - and win! (I just KNEW Bette Midler had never won an Academy Award :)

Who says a battle with cancer has to be a sorry tale?

There are other bright spots in the week: I notice that I no longer have hair under my armpits, in my nose or on my legs. As previously alluded to, Antarctica too is barren (alas, in more ways than one). Like most women I detest body hair. This is definitely a plus!

Yesterday, Friday, I have my six week check-up with Dr Lambley. In case you're wondering, here's a picture I took of him a few weeks ago. I won't be seeing him again for another three months.

Dr Lambley checks my progress and advises that I am right as rain and ready to return to normal activity. I can even consider going back to golf. Yay! Another bright spot!

He tells me that he prefers me to be as active as possible so everyone who's telling me to take it easy, pay heed. I'm allowed to walk 10 kms if I want to. (Okay, admittedly, I then need to sleep for 400 hours, but who cares!)

But I suppose, there's always that undertow - of grimmer tidings.

I discuss some of my concerns about the extent of my treatment. I find myself bargaining - if I have chemo and radiation, do I have to have the drugs?

I've been told that the drug, Tamoxifen is likely to be prescribed. Did you know it's been around for 30 years? Unfortunately, in my research I've discovered that, of the known side effects, one is uterine cancer. Fantastic!

Dr Lambley confirms that there's a 1:700 chance of uterine cancer in Tamoxifen users. I observe that that seems somewhat high. He agrees and says that's why doctors like to keep a close eye on these patients.

Next, our discussion focuses on what will happen down the track as far as my breast reconstruction goes.

I will explain the details when the time comes but for now, let me just say that reconstruction MAY require a surgical procedure involving the use of my stomach fat. If I'm to have a decent 'C' cup or even a 'B', I need to work on a more Danny De Vitoesque physique.

Now, many of my wonderful friends, my sister included, have kindly offered to donate their stores of belly lard to the cause. But sadly, I am unable to accept their selfless gestures.

I must, it seems, farm adequate fat OF MY OWN for this procedure.

This will take some effort. All the usual fatty things I love like chocolate and donuts taste positively vile. I am managing ice cream and there are exceptions, like Nim's baklava, that taste pretty damn good.

But overall, I am being careful with what I eat - not because I care about weight gain, but because things do taste different.

To Dr Lambley, I mourn the fact that, apart from pregnancy and its after effects, I have been pretty much the same size all my adult life. I have dresses I still wear that are 20 years old!

Now I must face the fact that, for at least 12 months, I must aim for Fatty Boombah-hood and frankly, I'm not impressed. I think about all the Fatists I know - it riles me, but it's a reality. I'm already feeling unattractive. Who needs belly rolls as well? And besides, who's going to wear all my lovely dresses, damn it!

Dr Lambley says that this is not a good time to consider calorie counting.

It seems I should unleash the hogs.

"Can you tell me how much more fat I'll need for a B cup?" I ask.

He kindly comes round his desk and squeezes the roll on my stomach. No go. I do have a little fat but hardly enough for an 'A' cup.

When I leave Dr Lambley, I have a referral to a plastic surgeon. I'll meet with him or her early in the New Year to determine the best strategy forward.

Hey! If I'm to be fatter, I want to know exactly what the donut:lettuce ratio is to be. I don't want to end up as big as a five storey condominium if I'm only required to be as big as a sizeable duplex. Do you understand?

In the afternoon, my sister Fiona, drops by. It's really nice to see her as she lives way over the north side.

We have a lovely chat on the back deck, and repeatedly, Fiona comments on my healthy appearance.

Later in the afternoon, I bump into my friend Helen. Once again, she comments on my healthy appearance.

If there's a stereotype of a 'cancer victim', I'm thinking I'm not it.

That evening, I find myself at Elysium with my wig on. I wonder if my hair is screaming WIG! But no one laughs and points so I guess all is well.

Most of the usual gang are there and I find I am having a good time, as though all is normal and all is right with the world.

But all the while, my eyes seek out the various bosoms spread around the room. Is that a 'B'? Is that an 'A'? Short of groping these strangers, I find myself assessing cleavages, sizing up the potential. (I must say, most Aussie women are flat as pancakes! It's no wonder Nicky and Paris were such starlets in their day!)

I am planning ahead. I am imagining my fatty boom bah body with some pathetic size A's clinging like half-formed meat patties to my chest.

This afternoon, my friend Mary and her parter Jo visit. Guess what? They comment on how well I look too!

Mary battled advanced cancer four years ago. After a mammogram found a lump of 1.5cm, the doctors told her not to worry about it. 13 months elapsed before she realised the lump had grown to 8 cm, it was right through her lymph glands and had invaded her breast tissue.

Interestingly, as it was already too late, she had the option of avoiding the mastectomy and was put on the same regime as I'm on, TAC.

Here is something I learn today. Not everyone has the same amount of lymph nodes under their arms! Some have a few, others have, well, an armful. I bet you didn't know that!

I also learn that I am handling this a lot better than Mary did. (She was really, really sick). It's the first real case I've found for why early detection is optimal: it just means that your body is a little healthier and up a little more to the challenge.

At least that's what I'm hoping if my general perkiness right now is anything to go by.

All in all, if this is a roller coaster ride, at the moment my cart is cresting a small hill.

There's no doubt there'll be plenty of spewing and screaming round the last wild corner, but for now, hey! I'm looking on the bright side.


  1. YOU GO GIRL!!
    I'm extreeeeeeeemly happy for you to be doing so well.
    C xoxoxox

  2. You make the world a better place with your positive attitude.If we are to have hero's or role models We could not find a better person than you. .