Thursday, 9 July 2015

PS to the last post - Zoladex

I know, another post - on the same day! Almost unheard of other than at peak times of crisis.

Having just re-read my post about starting Zoladex, I thought I would update you/the blog, as what I wrote was factually incorrect, which is irritating and also dangerous if someone reads it and follows the same advice I was given (mistakenly) by the GP that gave me the first implant.

Basically, last time I wrote about it I was somehow under the misguided illusion that I didn't have to take Tamoxifen any more.


I double checked with the 12 yr old GP that gave me the implant, and he was sure that I could stop taking the Tamoxifen pill every day. Rather unlike me, I hadn't done any independent research so blithely followed his instructions and cancelled my repeat prescription. 

Fortunately I saw Mr Pain for a check up the week after, and when he asked where we were at with treatment etc I mentioned the Zoladex and said that I was so glad I didn't have to take the Tamoxifen any more....... cue me looking like a complete idiot when he reminded me that even women who are post-menopause have to take Tamoxifen (or its equivalent) for 5-10yrs if their cancer was oestrogen positive.


So, I hot footed it back to the surgery and have added Tamoxifen back to my list of drugs. I've also ensured that the 12yr old GP has been educated regarding the reasons for this type of treatment.

I know, calling him a 12yr old is mean, and I know that GP's can't be specialists, but it turns out that had he read the instructions from my Oncologist, we wouldn't have gotten into this mess.

It has been a timely reminder to me that only one person is in control of my treatment, and that's me. Not a mistake I'll make again, with any luck. 

Other than that, v little drama regarding the side effect of the Zoladex. My cycle returned as normal, to my bitter disappointment, after the first implant, but I'm now 1/4 of the way between implant 3 and 4, and have not had another period, which is definitely a positive side effect.

The hot flushes aren't that fun, particularly in 36 degrees Celsius, but I'm trying to embrace each one as a sign that the drugs are working and are sticking two fingers up to cancer. The chewable calcium and vitamin D tablets are not delicious, but my nails seem to be a lot stronger, so I am getting over the taste pretty quickly.

The first two implants didn't hurt, but the 3rd was really painful - it has taken 10 days for the pain to diminish. I see my Gynae consultant on the 15th and shall ask then whether I can go to 12 weekly implants rather than 4 weekly - if it hurts like that every time from now on I shall be needing the Emla cream again!

All in all, lots of positives, other than the fact that more research into cancer and it's strength as a carcinogen mean that I am on the wagon, except for very special occasions. I believe that the NHS are going to change their guidelines as to what a "safe" level of alcohol is. 

If you want to read more about it, click here, herehere, and there's even a Wikepedia link, here.

Obsessing much? Me? Surely not.

I don't drink often anyway, but on the basis that I don't "need" alcohol to survive, I shall steer clear as much as possible. We've now found that Tesco sell bottles of bitter lemon at £1.50 for 4, so I shall drink that (the slimline/low sugar version of course) instead, just minus the Gin.

Happy Days!

So, the work life balance.....

Two posts in three months - I'm really spoiling you!

I thought I had better explain what has happened work wise - to go from a workaholic control freak managing a team of 8 people to a one day a week auctioneer/marketing consultant is a big step! Not necessarily a step down, but the gap is still huge.

From about this time last year (my daughter's first sports day, to be precise), I was in a bit of a mess - right through to Christmas, when I pretty much fell apart.

Having had a life changing event such as cancer, there is SO much pressure to get everything back to normal, be it work, home, children, lifestyle etc and the feeling that I had to get through everything and "beat the bastard cancer" possibly even fueled me to be more than I was before.

Not surprisingly, this took a bit of a toll on my mental health and well being, and during the latter end of 2014 I wasn't enjoying life very much - was stressed out at work and home - didn't really enjoy any facet of my life, which is exactly the opposite of what should happen to anyone, regardless of whether they have had cancer or not.

So, in December - and I can't really pinpoint what set it off, I cracked. Just slightly, but enough that my work appraisal ended up with me as a sobbing wreck. You're probably rolling your eyes at me, but with the state I was in, the question: "Where do you see yourself in 12 months time?", was one that could only be answered with: "I just want to be alive/not diagnosed with cancer again". 

Melodramatic - maybe, but I was in a place where on almost a daily basis, I was planning what my funeral might be like. Not. Good. 

Fortunately I had an appointment with my GP the next day (which I sobbed through), and she basically told me, in a stiff German accent, that I was clearly putting too much pressure on myself (moi, surely not!) and had got to the stage where I was making myself depressed. So, I walked out with a prescription for anti-depressants.

Now, you know how much I like taking pills (not), so over the Christmas break I re-evaluated my life, and though I hate the cliche, I "took stock". 

When was the last time I truly enjoyed spending time with my children? Not for some considerable time. Ditto, really, my husband. Work was work - frustrating and rewarding all at once, but I didn't feel that I was in a place where I could do myself and it any justice. 

My in-laws are spending a lot of time out of the country, (Brother in-law issues, don't ask!!) so we were short staffed on the farm, and my husband just couldn't do the level of childcare that he had been doing so I was having to try and cram everything in as well as school runs, which of course meant I wasn't at work as much as I should have been, which is not ideal when you are managing a team of people. 

So, when I went back to work in January I had a plan. As much as I love(d) my job, I was not in a position to be everything that it needed me to be, therefore I had to either leave, or scale back dramatically. I am very lucky that my employers are very supportive and still see me as an integral part of the long term structure of the firm, but for now it is pressure that I do not need, so I have been able to step back to part time. I'm still doing the auctioneering and the marketing for the auctions, but I'm not managing the staff and the auction rooms, which is a load off my mind. They are a wonderful team, but I have two children and a husband at home to keep organised - I can't look after everyone.

It's quite a big thing to admit, that you can't do everything. I'm not very good at "failure". But, having had a long think about it, I haven't really failed - I've passed the baton at work onto someone else who has got the time to put into the business, and I now have the opportunity to "not fail" at being a wife and mother. Let's face it - these are far more important roles in the grand scheme of things.

It has been a huge adjustment - everything happened in March, and in honesty I don't think I have fully adjusted yet. I do miss the buzz of work, and the people, but I would almost certainly have had a nervous breakdown by now. 

I haven't taken any of the anti-depressants, and I'm a lot less likely to burst into tears than I was, which is a massive improvement although shares in Kleenex have gone down in value.

I am finally getting to spend more time with my husband and children, and we are all still talking to each other, which is good! Caring for two small people is still very stressful and hard work, but not having to work until midnight to make up for "lost time" is a huge bonus. I am also getting to ride my lovely young horse on a more regular basis, which I am loving, and we have even been out to our first dressage competition! 

I still don't have time to do everything I want to do, but hey - who does?! At least I'm a lot less stressed about it.

So, that's what has happened to my career, in a sort of a nutshell. Yes, I regret the feeling that I might have thrown it all away, but I had to choose having a life over the career.

Apparently, this sort of "episode" is totally normal after having cancer. It feels the exact opposite of normal - perhaps we should start saying that it is not "uncommon" to experience stress and to feel concerned about how to get back to a "more normal" routine" following what feels like endless treatments and follow up visits. 

One does tend to feel "abandoned" or "let loose" which is disconcerting, once you're out of the regular 3 weekly trips to hospital. What comes next? Annual check ups. What can you do in the meantime? Be vigilant - check your body for changes, or any warning sign that might save your life. 

It's kind of like being on Defcon 4 rather than Defcon 5. It would be wonderful to be able to go back to the days of being Defcon 1 on a bad day, but it is impossible. 

Three years ago, nearly, I started down this road. Probably, I had made the appointment to see my GP (which I nearly cancelled), and was feeling stressed about the fact I would be 45 mins late to work afterwards. What a wally. Ignorance was such bliss.

On a good day, I can nearly forget that I have had cancer, and that is definitely progress. 

It is still hard though, not to let having had it be something that guides my decisions over how to live my life. Sometimes, don't get me wrong, it can be a good thing - accepting an invitation that you wouldn't have accepted before for example, but at other times the responsibility to not waste the time, the life, that I have been given is so huge it nearly crushes me. 

After all, I don't know how long I have left, do I? It could be that I never hear the "C" word again. Let's bloody hope so anyway.