This one was never going to be easy to write. I nearly didn’t write it actually, and then I thought that there might just be another person going through the same things – the same worries and fears and that fact, after all, is the very reason to share it.
As I have said before, the diagnosis and the surgery and the treatment is not the end. Not by a long chalk. You also have to live with the after effects of cancer, and that is no easy thing to do. Some months ago I decided, after much procrastination that I would ask for my implant (on the mastectomy side) to be changed. This could have all been done last year of course, but I was not in the right place to have it done at that stage. After a year of living with the side effects of the drugs, the lack of energy from the chemo and the hormonal ‘ups and downs’ I decided to bite the bullet and ask my specialist what she thought? She agreed. Shit.
And so I found myself back again. Back in the same ward, in the same hospital, waiting to hear again where I was on the list of those going in to surgery. I sat with my husband on the same couch, watching the same fish swim up and down, watching me right back (I have a history with fish watching me at all important points of my life, just ask my best friend about my first labour and my irrational hatred of my pet fish lining up to stare at me – mid contraction). Anyway I digress, these kind of thoughts tend to happen while wondering what is to become of you – just before you go into surgery. My husband commented that it felt odd to be back, and I agreed. Ever thankful that he was sitting there at all.
This time there were a few things the same – and a few things different.
This time I was not crippled by the fear of the unexpected, and I was able to notice more of the things around me. The young girl sitting with her mum worried sick for her, the hospital tag said she was born in 1995. The older lady with the trendy hair and pretty tattoo running down the back of her neck. The young couple sitting cuddled together with fear in their eyes. The cheery nurses at the start of no doubt a very long shift.
I was called in first again, which was lucky for me. The anaesthetist made me smile by not believing that I looked my age – I can tell you that I very much feel it after two children and all of this, but I took the compliment and shall brag about it for the next few years wherever I can. Although the nerves kicked in, I chose to remember the words of another mum who once told me, that anaesthetic is just like a lovely long sleep (any sleep deprived mum will take this as a huge positive no doubt).
Soon enough I woke up after surgery and after sometime I realised that I had not even said ‘hello’ to the lady in the bed next to mine. Usually I would avoid such things as I prefer to keep myself to myself, but I thought it was only polite. I was glad that I had been friendly because we went on to have a nice little chat about our consultant, and how lucky we both felt we were to have her. This is the lady who has watched over me from the beginning. She is fiercely efficient and professional, but more than that she is kind. She always looks you straight in the eye, always cheery and smiling, always warming her hands when she examines you. You can tell that she cares, in all the small things that she does, and it means a great deal. We both agreed as her patients that she just ‘gets it’ and that is a priceless quality in my eyes.
We also went on to speak about the books that we both liked to read which was nice, and we even swapped some of our favourites. We both found out we were being kept in overnight at the same time, and so she reminded her husband to bring in her Kindle and I sat with my big old fashioned clunky book.
The children also came in to visit me which was lovely. They looked nervous and upset, and so I pointed out the electric bed at which they delighted in moving me up and down on – until I had to declare that I was too motion sick to take anymore. I had saved them each a chocolate biscuit, and let them climb up onto the bed for a cuddle on my good side. The boy lay next to me and asked detailed questions about my cannula. The girl took her turn, and stated firmly that she did not want me to stay in overnight. I tried my very best to distract them with talk of the weekend and suggestions that we play ‘doctors and nurses’ when I returned home, but it was to no avail.
There was one other thing that the children’s visit helped me with (it answered a very important question that I had been mulling around in my head for a while). You see, I had to come off Tamoxifen (a hormone blocking drug) two weeks before the operation, and I worried silently if I would ever want to go back on it again? To face the reality of its side effects for many more years. That was until I realised something very important. This drug is giving me more time.
Time to be with my children.
My son’s angst as he snuggled into me and told me of his day was almost palpable. My daughter was weeping (tired tears) as she left the ward without me to put her to bed that night. In fact, her tears in the playground as she tells me she misses me each day, are starting to truly tell me their side of this story now. When wondering whether to continue to take Tamoxifen again, the answer to the dilemma is simple. I am a mum, their mum, and as long as I am fortunate enough to be given a drug to keep me here then I will bloody take it, every single day. If it means that I get to be here when they need me to be & for as long as it is possible, then so be it.
The truth is that the guilt of asking for the operation has weighed heavy on my shoulders, but I made the decision based on my own reasons – albeit quite selfish ones. The decision to keep taking my medication is a very personal one too.
This time around a few things are the same, and a few things are different. I am very different.
This time around I will be going home to play doctors and nurses with my little people, and I can’t bloody wait.
Memory: 3rd February 2017 6am – When asked what they wanted to be when they grow up Noah exclaimed that he wanted to be a footballer, Isla a doctor.
This will change many times over the years I am sure, but just so you know my lovelies. It doesn’t matter what you choose to become, as long as you are happy. That is all that really matters.
[Most of this post was written under the influence of some fairly strong painkillers]