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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Oncologist 4

I wake after a particularly bad night's sleep that was exacerbated by a bad head cold. I got maybe two hour's sleep if that. It really was a lousy night. I couldn't breathe at all and there was a moment there when I was wishing someone would give me a lethal injection and put me out of my misery. Then I thought about Marilyn Monroe. Then I imagined her bonking JFK. And then it was morning.

After Al has brought me a cup of tea, I drag myself out of bed. I have no time to dilly dally as I have an appointment with Dr Choo this morning.

Harry drives me in and along the way, I notice the dry skin on my arms. I feel old and leathery. I blow my nose. I sneeze. I blow my nose.

I also know that the radiated area on my chest is now almost black! I look like a bit of me has been borrowed from Kamahl. It's actually quite funny because my name, "Bronwyn" means "White Breast" and I wonder if there'a name that means "Half a Black Breast".

Lately, all I can seem to think of is breasts. That's all I appear to notice. Like yesterday, while I had coffee with Louisa all I could look at was her breasts (big ones) resting on the table as she sipped her coffee. At the tennis club I was looking at photos on the notice board, all I looked at was the tits: Lyndal's push-up bra, Mel's pancakes. All I see are cleavages and bra straps and nipples poking out of tee-shirts. I seem to have discovered an inner 'dirty old man'. I tell you, this has become a DISEASE! In fact, it's so chronic I've decided I'm going to set up my own area of study. I'm going to call it "Titology".

You think I jest but in truth, it's quite annoying to me right now just how much time I'm wasting thinking about boobs. I mean, really, it's not even going to help me win at trivia as I can reliably report questions about mammary glands are few and far between.

And so, with boobs still swirling around in my mind, Harry and I arrive at Greenslopes Hospital. On the way up to Dr Choo's I make a beeline for the pharmacy and buy myself a family-sized box of tissues. I am wary about spreading my germs and use my pinky to press the button on the lifts.

Upstairs in the waiting room, it's not too long before I am in my oncologist's office yet again.

Today we are going to discuss the results of my various scans and blood test. Basically the news is all good. Dr Lambley has already telephoned to inform me that the CT Scan was all clear. Except for a couple of fibroids down in Antarctica, it seems there are no signs of metastasis. I've already announced it on Facebook and people have been congratulating me. It's as exciting as having a baby it seems! Such exceptional news is like a new arrival. God bless my friends!

The blood test, Dr Choo explains, also shows that my oestrogen levels are nice and low meaning I am well in the range of post-menopause. Just so you really appreciate the importance of this... prior to cancer, I was expected to achieve menopause at the age of 55 (based on my mum's experience). I'm 48 years old now which means that a process that would have taken 7 years minimum, has been achieved in 6 months. No wonder I'm fucking cranky!

Also, my Vitamin D levels are excellent so everyone who has been emailing me information about how Vitamin D prevents breast cancer you can take a chill pill - this was never an issue.

Also my white cells are looking good which surprises me. I seem to have spent the last two months feeling crook so I'm thinking those little fuckers really need to stop lazing around. You'd think they'd be doing a better job!

Now I ask Dr Choo if the low oestrogen might mean I still have to take Arimidex for five years (you can't blame me for asking). Alas, the answer is yes.

I tell her I have started taking the tablets and the side effects don't seem too bad, just the bad moods and I suppose, the joint pain. I wonder if they will get any worse as my treatment continues.

She says that probably the joint and muscle aches will worsen. What to say but shit, fuck and bugger. I'll just have to deal with the fact that I feel like I'm a hundred years old these days.

With my scans clear, I ask Dr Choo what the chances are that the cancer will recur. She has to think a bit then says: "Mmm, about 10%." Look, anyone worth their statistics will know that that's not super-great. 1 in 10? Put it like this, I have the same chance as getting the flu! (And less chance than getting hemorrhoids (25:1), being audited by the ATO (175:1) or fatally slipping in the bath or shower (2232:1).

It's obvious I have a cold and Dr Choo laughs when she says I was fine through chemotherapy and now seem to constantly be sick. She tells me I am depleted after my radiation and I need to rest.

I admit to my insomnia, how the bad nights outnumber the good.

When I explain I have just completed a long involvement with a political campaign, she raises her eyebrows. "That probably hasn't helped," she says, and smiles.

Dr Choo recommends I take a sleeping pill for 4-5 nights so I get back into a natural rhythm of sleep.

Then we discuss my radiation burn. I have some broken skin there now and I'm worried about infection but she says, I should just keep rubbing in the sorbolene cream I've been given. Eventually, apparently, the skin will return to normal.

Unfortunately, this area won't be completely healed for at least another two weeks. I ask her if I can do any exercise with my arms.

"Yes, but take it easy. Don't over do it." So no tug-o-war for me.

As I leave Dr Choo's office, I think what a bore this business of beating cancer has become. The five weeks of radiation are now seven weeks and I'm looking at least another two weeks of recuperation.

I'm to see Dr Choo every three months from now on and, according to Dr Lambley, I won't need any more scans unless there are concerns.

So, after paying my 90 bucks for the consultation, I meet Harry in the foyer where he has procured a coffee for me. I drop him off at the man pad and then head off back home.

I stop off at Target to buy some moisturiser - and while I'm there I also shout myself a new pair of shorts and a shirt.

Afterwards, I go to meet a lady I met on Facebook called Kim. Kim's son, Carl, passed away after an accident while walking home one dark night on Anzac Day, three years ago. We got to talking after meeting on a political blog, she ranting, me raving. I took a shine to her.

Kim's story is one of the deepest loss, the loss of a child. Carl went to Ormiston College where my boys go. He was 21 I think when he died.

I meet Kim in a coffee shop in Cleveland. She's gracious, warm and outgoing.

I am surprised at how easily we fall into conversation. She's a good listener and to me, she seems to have found that place of appropriate grieving. I can't explain it: that place where you can talk easily about what you have been through without being, I don't know, sorry for yourself? Self pitying?

It's inevitable of course that, when she speaks about her child, at some stage she will cry and I'm prepared for that. But she recovers and soon I find that an hour has passed quickly as we talk about Carl, about politics, about grief, loss, the afterlife.

On my way home, I think about the courage it takes for Kim to get on with her life after the loss of her beloved boy. I cannot even imagine the depth of her aching. What could be harder than dealing with that?

It makes dealing with cancer seem like a breeze. At least I can hope that I will come out of it, that I'll be among the nine. I won't be the one who has to go through this shit again.

For my money, Kim is much, much braver than I am and I salute her, this woman dealing with her loss, carrying on.

When I get home I am in two minds about exercising as there's a conference of dark grey clouds looming in the sky. But stuff it - I have the all clear. As if it's going to rain on me!

So I change into my walking gear and leash up Spunky. I tell Ben to cook dinner and leave out the recipe and ingredients.

I walk 6.3 km at a brisk pace because the light is fading quickly. Along the way, I can feel my prophylactic chafing my skin. I don't care. I can't breathe very well. I don't care.

I'm boob free - as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows... you know the song.

It's dark by the time I get home.

And I must say, Ben's fish soup is delicious.

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