Gotta Keep Those Tears At Bay…
Due to staff holidays I couldn’t have my End of Treatment appointment until September and that felt like the longest time ever. So, I sat trying to think about moving forward somehow.
August also threw something else in the mix (I wasn’t enjoying August AT ALL!), the effects of the Tamoxifen getting into my body.
Well! This stuff is apparently THE best ‘no-brainer’ meds (subtly put that way by my GP, bless him) to help prevent the cancer returning. It would initially be a 5-year course of tablets, possibly 10 years, depending on how my body reacts to them. Tamoxifen was given to me because my Cancer was ER+ (Oestrogen Receptive cancer), but that was towards the end of radiotherapy and I knew my body would take a while to get used to them (not realising exactly how long!).
I could only describe it as constant PMT – the emotional mood swings side of it.
And the hot flushes. Oh my God. I’d get up in the morning, go downstairs, stand in the kitchen and I could feel the heat almost rising from my feet through my body and I’d sweat.
Literally forehead sweating, arms damp – woe betide anyone who tries to hug me!
‘DON’T come near me!’. My poor family.
And that would come and go throughout the day. Sometimes in the middle of shops, or conversations, and I’d find myself fanning myself and apologising all the time. I was hot at night, the sweats kept me awake.
One cause of the sleep issue I was having.
One pretty major problem I had – I couldn’t stop crying – anything would set me off, and then I couldn’t stop. If anyone said anything to me in the wrong tone – I cried.
The children were bickering – I’d get upset.
But I was also finding I would start crying…for literally no reason at all! I’d actually WARN people, just be aware, unstable woman alert!
And this was keeping me awake at night too.
Tamoxifen was giving me bone pain. Hang on a minute…. I had that during Chemotherapy…. oh yes APPARENTLY it mimics Chemo and a side effect of the Tam is bone pain. JOY!!! So restless legs at night, combined with the complications after my two operations to remove the tumour, I couldn’t sleep on that side (the favourite side of course!) so I tossed and turned every night and it would keep me awake. And my Husband NEVER had a solid night’s sleep next to me either.
And finally! The mind. One of the biggest causes of THE SLEEP ISSUE I WAS HAVING!! Sorry to shout… but I get into bed, the mind decides to think about all those unresolved issues, things I need to ask my husband/son/daughter/doctor/closed Facebook group of friends, or – and quite regularly – having a conversation with myself. If that doesn’t happen when I’m trying to drift off, it will happen about 3am!
Then the birds wake up….
Then the husband elbows me in the ribs…. then…then…. arrrrghhh!! lol.
Now I’m quite aware that anyone suffering from any illness, or anxiety, or are grieving, also suffers from or experiences some of the above. But it really does feel everything is against you and you really could do with a break from everything linking back to Cancer.
So, what did they say??
In September I had my End of Treatment meeting with the Oncologist, Breast Care Nurse and the Nurse Practitioner and I was in there an hour. I took a survey for them about how I was feeling and I knew the Nurses would pick up on these. I was feeling low, anxious, and emotional. The brain was foggy, it was affecting a lot of things, and the pain in my side had not subsided. Everything put together and not having solid night’s sleep was taking its toll. I hated my appearance, I didn’t want to socialise, I was a stone and half heavier than I was at diagnosis, and I just hated everything about myself.
Everyone there was brilliant. As they’ve been throughout the process.
They sat me down and we discussed all the above.
There was one major side effect of Tamoxifen – if I wasn’t going through the Menopause, Tamoxifen will medically induce it and I will be pushed through it kicking and screaming.
The staff at the hospital gave me advice on the mental health aspect of all the above, in the form of leaflets and website recommendations, and about support services around the area which could benefit me. I was offered an appointment to see the Counsellor at the hospital.
But I didn’t really want to know at that point. About any of that.
I felt so downbeat, I wasn’t willing to give these places a go. I did agree however to book onto the Breast Cancer Care Moving Forward course, a national course run by the charity in conjunction with the NHS, to help women in my position. It was 4 half days and places were at a premium. And in my area they only happened twice a year. Fortunately, it was going to start in October so that gave me another month to start doing some work and I was sure I was going to be fine!
But as the weeks went on I had all these fears building up inside me.
Thoughts, questions and feelings.
Has the treatment worked?
What’s the chance of recurrence?
Every lump and bump in the breasts…were they there before?
Are they normal? I don’t remember that!
When will the stamina return in my legs?
Will my eyebrows ever start to grow again?
My hair isn’t growing fast enough!
So what DID I do?
At the end of September, 6 weeks after Radiotherapy finished, I did start going back into the office. They were brilliant, asking me if I was sure about returning. Financially I needed to return and thought, as you do, ‘I’ll be fine’. And I was for the next couple of months.
I would come and go to work, push myself to stay there for as long as I could, but by lunchtime I was so tired, I’d leave and go home to sleep for a couple of hours. Blaming the medication I was on, looking back it was more of a combination of that and the effects of the Radiotherapy.
I attended the Breast Cancer Care’s Moving Forward course over the next month and it was so helpful (see Support Groups). I was also given leaflets on two charities offering services in my area.
One was Shine Cancer Support, a group for all types of Cancer survivors in their 40’s and under, who get together for events and social evenings. The other was Wessex Cancer Trust, a charity around 6 South Coast locations, providing a ‘sanctuary’ if you like for anyone dealing with any stage of Cancer.
I decided to make contact with Shine and also decided on my day off during the week I would pluck up the courage to head over to Wessex Cancer Trust in Bournemouth.
That turned out to be the best decision I made after treatment.
Next: New Year New Start?