There are two things I have been getting up to without telling you. Both relate to my recovery. Both are about progress. I hope. Both exhaust me. But so does getting out of bed so that is not news.
First up, is Breast Cancer Care’s Moving Forward Course. As I approached the end of my chemo I had a sort of mental tick list of Things to be Done. And this was on it. I did not stop to consider whether or not it would be beneficial. I just signed up assuming it would be. I am now half way through the four weeks. For the past two Monday mornings I have been found in the building where most of my midwifery theory was delivered. It is more than a little strange being back there, especially under such differing circumstances. So far, I am not sure I have learned anything new. For me, the benefit has been to be in room with nearly twenty others who have been treated for primary breast cancer. We are all at differing stages of recovery. I think I am the most recently out of chemo, most seem to be about a year on from active treatment. The best moments are when one person voices a concern or expresses an opinion and a ripple of recognition or agreement trickles round the room. We have much in common.
Secondly, I have been tackling my hot flushes. Or rather, my hot flushes are being tackled for me. Remember the lovely Complementary Therapy team that I had been referred to? From them I received reflexology treatment during each chemo cycle and it was wonderful. Having completed that, they then signed me up for Auricular Acupuncture to treat my hot flushes which are still a sight to behold. At times, my glasses steam up, such is their force. Auricular Acupuncture has a good reputation for treating hot flushes so when I trotted along for my first session on Wednesday, I had high hopes. There were four of us being treated and we were arranged in chemo style recliners before having both ears stabbed with five needles. The initial discomfort soon wore off and the next thirty minutes floated by in a dim lit haze to waft-y pan pipe-y music. Keeping my eyes open at the end of the session was harder than usual and I foresee sleeping overcoming at some point during the next seven sessions. Already though, I have noticed a difference. I have still had some ferocious flushes but overall they have been far less.
My only other news is that I am tireder than a tired thing popping tired pills at the Tired Olympics.
Today I went without the slap, without a head covering and without much care. It was Just Too Hot. My appointment was for 9 o’clock so I had rush hour traffic to contend with. Rush hour traffic, 26 degree heat and a car with quirky air conditioning – it does not work in stationary traffic. This is where always being early stands me in good stead. Under normal conditions I would have been early. In these circumstances I was on time. You cannot know how much this pleases me.
That I am rapidly learning the clinic never runs on time is something I am untroubled by. The Doc is a man of grace and sensitivity. He gives time to his patients. I have been, and will no doubt be so again, the recipient of this kindness. Once aware of this, it is easy to plan for. I went armed with a large book. Last visit my book ran out. This was a crisis of epic proportions as I was forced to watch the video. Played on a loop is a compilation DVD of 1980s Top of the Pops. Initially this is quite entertaining. After a short while it is excruciating.
Today’s visit involved more blood letting. No compliments were forthcoming but this was fair enough. I had not made the effort. However, my veins played ball. Which was a huge relief. This cycle they have been getting more and more sore. This is not unexpected. Chemo burns veins. Nice. I have been doing all I can to keep them working. I have been rubbing them several times a day with a potion concocted for me by the aromatherapists of Complementary Therapy. I am using a stress ball to exercise with hand squeezes. I say stress ball, I actually mean a ball of socks. It seems to work. I continue to drink the equivalent of a small lake each day and increase this to a medium sized lake the day before chemo. And I am wrapping a hot water bottle and damp tea towels around my forearm each day which in this heat is, indeed, dedication to the cause. The Doc is prescribing me some stuff to rub on too. I am pretty sure Stuff was its actual name.
Seeing him was, as always, a joy. Not the reason for being there, I just always feel better having seen him. He was very pleased with the effect from my new drugs. Possibly not nearly as pleased as I was. We spent most of my appointment discussing my family history as some new information has come to light. As a result, I am being referred to the Genetic Screening Department to see whether this would be a good plan for me. This could take some time. But that is not a problem. There is no rush.
This could be me in a few days. Seriously. I have signed up for a Cancer & Yoga class. I do not think we take our cancer out and contort it into implausible positions but it is a thought. No. Rather it is billed more as a Gentle Stretching for The Incapable Among Us. Or something like that. I am quite looking forward to it. I have long been told I need to do yoga or pilates or some such thing as I have no balance and little core stability. For example, I cannot stand one leg. Or rather, I can only stand one leg while leaning against something. The days of giving my impersonation of standard lamp have lapsed. I did revive this performance only yesterday for a one woman audience but it was a sad shadow of its former self.
The Cancer & Yoga class is happening at my local Cancer Support Centre. Who knew such a place existed? I have only recently discovered it. For a small fee I enrol and am entitled to all manner of classes and whatnot. I also get access to even more complementary therapies than I am already currently in receipt of. I suspect the yoga class is the only thing I will do regularly as everything does involve a further fee. My hope is that the stretching will help with the very taut muscles left in my back following my surgery. Periodically they become quite uncomfortable and I really need to do something about them. The class meets on a Wednesday which is theoretically my best day of the week. I am hoping to be back from seeing The Doc in time for me to start this week.
Meanwhile, I have been a tad busy. Hence the silence. My Mum came down for a few days which was lovely. She has been itching to get her hands on me since I started chemo and finally all things came together. As always she was a whirling dervish of maternal care and energy. I have also been relishing my ‘good week’. I visited a friend in Shrewsbury yesterday (bliss!) and the Captain & I celebrated our wedding anniversary a week early. I shall be somewhat in disposed come the actual day so we had a fabulous lunch together on Friday while I was still able – carpe diem and all. What has struck me this time around is how much tireder I am getting. After a day of activity I have been too tired to do anything. Even write. And that is so not like me!
While I was still under the care of the local Breast Unit, I was deemed bonkers enough to require further support. And trust me, it was necessary to appear more than a little off the wall. I am ok with this. If ever being slightly mad was a sane response to a situation, then surely receiving a diagnosis of cancer is the perfect time.
The further support came in the guise of Complementary Therapy. The conversation I had with the Captain about it went as follows:
I’ve been referred for Complementary Therapy
Really? How exciting!
slightly surprised: I was expecting scepticism …
Why ever would I be sceptical? I think it’s marvellous that people are going to be nice to you.
confused: Nice to me?
Yes. You know, like: You look fantastic; I think you’re lovely; You have an incredible mind; I love the colour of your shoes; (And then, because the Captain is the Captain) Your tits are amazing!
Complementary Therapy that is complimentary. And all on the NHS. Marvellous.
I had a planning session today. Lots of things were on offer but we have settled on six sessions of reflexology. I have been promised more interventions should the hot flushes get unbearable once I begin hormone treatment. Which has not yet actually been settled upon but is looking more than likely. That settled I came away with a relaxation cd and two sniffer sticks. Which are exactly like Vicks inhalers. Only without the Vicks. These are filled with an individual blend of aromatherapy oils. I have one to snort as I drop off to sleep and another to help with anxiety. It was all pretty amazing.