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Monday, April 30, 2012

CT Scan

It's the end of April already and I wake late to a stunning day. It's a shame really because I feel tired and groggy after a terrible night's sleep. I took a sleeping pill but even that didn't seem to work. This business of menopause has one side effect I have failed to mention so far and that's frequent insomnia. If I don't exercise the previous afternoon, or have a coffee too late in the day, or find myself working too late into the evening at my computer, I'm screwed.

As a result, I'm almost afraid to look at my reflection in the mirror these days. I don't have bags but suitcases under my eyes and with only the vestige of eyebrows left and the tiniest clutch of eyelashes, I am a long way from my ambition to wake up in that universe where I really am Miranda Kerr!

When I finally drag myself out of bed, Al has left to work on the building in town, Ben has gone to school and Harry isn't home anyway as he stayed in town last night. (He had a gig at Uni, this budding deejay).

In the last couple of days I've really been aware of how sore my chest is. It's uncomfortable to wear a bra and I can't lie on my left side without wincing. The area where I have been radiated has turned a very dark colour. It is also covered in new freckles. Check it out:

Gross isn't it? It's such a shame I can't walk around with my bare chest because this would make my face look pretty good all things considered.

Apart from the chest, the feet continue to be rather sore, especially in the mornings when I walk like a Geisha with something stuck up her arse.

As she does most Mondays, like clockwork, Ethel comes over to do the office work she's been doing for Al's business for well, donkey's years. Pretty good for a 75-year-old I reckon! Ethel is a book keeper and has the lousy task of keeping track of Al's finances. It's a good thing she's his mum because I reckon she would have clonked him on the head with one of her hard-backed ledgers by now.

Most weeks when she's here, I can almost hear her gnashing her teeth as she rummages through the dismal pile of papers on Al's desk, seeking lost receipts, missing bank statements and loose figures for columns that don't add up. Here is a picture of how it looks tonight, in case you don't believe me:

If a messy desk is a sign of a genius then Al leaves Einstein for dead. From amongst this pile, my man creates graphic art masterpieces, manages fantastic properties, designs beautiful building and plans amazing ways of changing the world. So it may be a tip to me but to him, apparently it's inspirational!

My desk is a lot tidier and that's where I spend most of the morning despite feeling a little wrecked. The last 10 days have been huge.

Al, I and Ben travelled with Ethel to Sydney last weekend, then the three of us went on to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island. It was the Christmas and Easter break I didn't have - a chance to spend some time with Ben who has been sadly neglected over the past few months and I do think he seemed to enjoy having my attention.

We had a really lovely trip, full of fresh air, wildlife, good food and wine (or lemonade in Ben's case) and returned last Thursday.

On Friday, I did some errands, I visited Nim and had a quick drink at Elysium with Karen and Craig to toast the future whatever that might be. That's because Saturday was E-Day: the local government election I've been so diligently working toward for all of 21 months.

It was the rainiest day we've had in ages - in fact it poured non-stop and started with me picking up some supplies for Karen's celebration/commiseration party and driving a little old lady (Dororthy) to the polling booth. (She had lived in the UK, Wales, Africa and Belgium and greatly approved of my name, 'Bronwyn'.) Then I spent 2 hours at the school fete where I did bugger all at the 'African Food' stand. I basically spent the whole time chatting to some mums, including two ladies who are going through breast cancer like me. They too have both just finished chemotherapy. After that, I went home to pick up Harry and Al so we could go hand out how-to-vote cards in the drenching rain. Here is a very poor picture of Al, me and Harry at Redland Bay polling booth:

Guess what? Karen won. In fact, she didn't just win, she slew the opposition and I have to say it was a massive relief that culminated in my dancing my pattooties off at a Victory Party.

Yesterday, Al and I spent most of the day at a lunch at Nic and Tony's house and although I was whacked, after I went to bed I just couldn't sleep.

This morning I work on a thank-you ad for Karen that we are running in the local paper tomorrow.

The cupboard is bare so I do a huge shop at Woolies before hurrying home to approve the proof for the ad. It's pretty ordinary but it has to do.

Later, I have an appointment that I have been secretly dreading. It's the first of what I gather will be regular scans and check-ups.

On the form for Queensland X-Rays, Dr Choo has ticked CT Scan and written "Chest/Abdomen/Pelvis - L Mastectomy for Breast Ca - Exclude Metastatic Disease." In other words, the results are really important. Eek!

I have to say I am completely oblivious to what lies in store for me as I blithely present myself for the procedure.

I am asked to undress down to my knickers and sit briefly in the holding room as I sign a form. Apparently I'm to be injected with some dye and I could have some nasty allergic reaction. There is a very slight chance of fatality. One in 200,000. I think about the poor bastard who will be the 'one'.

The nurse, Trish, then leads me into a room where there is a machine that comprises a large circular loop attached to a bed. It looks like the MRI machine. I am informed that this procedure involves the insertion of a cannula and as soon as I hear that word, I feel my heart rate rise immediately. You may as well say "Constantinople".

There's another pretty blonde nurse holding my hand as Trish taps my veins and tut-tuts. She says she might go for the one in my hand but I remember how much that hurt so hopefully point to one under my forearm.

Trish seems to think that will do and before I know it, she's sticking a needle into me and I have to say it FUCKING HURTS. I am gritting my teeth and I feel like crying and the other nurse is stroking my other hand, trying to calm me.

But it's useless. "It really hurts," I whinge, knowing I'm pathetic but really, could someone have warned me about this before I came?

At this point Trish immediately suggests an ultrasound to help locate a vein. My arm is throbbing. God, I'd forgotten how much it all hurts!

They lead me into another room where a thin man with glasses puts an ultrasound device on my arm, he tells me he'll give me a local anaesthetic. At this point I am nibbling my thumbnail. It's strangely calming. I face the wall as I receive another needle and then, hallelujah, the bloody cannula is in. Trish tapes it up and then leads me back to the room with the CT machine.

When I lie down on the bed, she asks me to cross my wrists above my head. She says she will do two or three passes under the machine and I'll be told when to hold my breath.

She leaves the room and the machine whirrs to life. I'm startled when a robotic voice tells me when to hold my breath and when to release it. "Now-hold-your-breath"....The bed moves slowly through the loop, back and forth. "Breathe-Normally." Once, twice, three times.

Then Trish comes back in. It's time for the dye, she says, and moves behind me where I can't see her.

I don't feel it when the dye is injected. Trish asks me if I feel alright and I say yes. At least I think I'm alright.

I've been warned that I'll get a metallic taste in my mouth and feel a rush of warmth so I'm prepared. It's true. My throat fills up with heat, the kind you feel when you accidentally swallow a hot chilli, and it feels as if my windpipe is closing.

Trish has left the room but somewhere in a corner of my brain, I'm aware of a mild panic.

My heart is racing and I can hear my breath in my ears. And I'm praying, 'Dear God, please don't let me be the 'one'.

Then the machine starts up again moving my body upwards. It's all over in minutes if not seconds.

As I leave Trish tells me that next time, I should immediately request the ultrasound to locate the vein. She says thet if I come back here, there'll be a note on my file.

What a shame phlebotomists do not have access to these ultrasounds. It would have saved me so much anguish!

After I get into the car, I realise my arm is slightly swollen after the anaesthetic.

When I get home, Ben is back from school. I set him up with a recipe and ingredients to cook dinner as Ethel is coming over. We have Chicken and Chicpeas - a Moroccan concoction.'

I change quickly into my running gear and take Spunky for the walk we haven't seemed to have in ages. There's a cold win blowing and it's invigorating as I walk a brisk 7.5 kms.

When I return home, the house is suffused with delicious aromas.

Ethel arrives and Al and Harry return home. After dinner, we look at photos of our Kangaroo Island trip.

It's almost 11 o'clock now. Al is fast asleep and the house is so quiet all I can hear is the hum of my computer.

Tomorrow I have a blood test. On Wednesday, I have a bone-density test.

I have started taking the Arimidex that I am supposed to take every day for the next five years.

I already notice that one effect of these tablets is that it has made me that tiny bit more cranky. Oh well. As I explained to Ben as I snapped his head off for some minor infraction, it's either me in a bad mood or me in a box.

On Thursday, I have another appointment with Dr Choo. Hopefully she will have some good news for me and that box with my name on it can be ignored for another good few years.

For now, please forgive my impatience. And if you think I'm too easily annoyed, I hope you'll understand.

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