Released

Feels like I’ve been released… if only temporarily. My oncologist waved good bye last month and asked me to come back towards the end of July. Meanwhile, my breast surgeon who removed the stitches earlier today wished me a great summer and wants to see me in three months time. It’s a strange sense of freedom.

Now to release myself from some of the thoughts and anxieties that seem to keep me in prison some days. Someone asked me recently how my life would be different today if things hadn’t happened? The answer is that life isn’t that much different but the perceptions have changed. And my mind is pre-occupied with concerns that things might go wrong again. It’s a regular emotional roller coaster of ups and downs and I need to work at noticing the anxieties but not letting them overcome me whilst at the same time not pushing them away. It seems like an art that I haven’t yet mastered. I was speaking with my therapist about this ‘prison’ earlier. This prison I have created only serves certain types of foods and drinks, only allows a little bit of fun but not too much and the only one holding the keys to the prison door is me. I need to start being nicer to myself, more comforting and more compassionate. I think I also need to grieve properly in order to accept and let go. This is something I have found really hard to do.

It’s day 4 of Tamoxifen and so far so good. I guess with most medicines, these things are cumulative but I’m glad that I haven’t had any reactions to it so far. My hot flushes seem to have calmed down. I still wake up during the night feeling warm but it doesn’t feel like sweating anymore. I hope this improves even further in time.

I finally got round to requesting a blood test with my GP to see iron, Magnesium and other levels in my blood – something that probably should have been done a while ago and I’ll get the results next week. Whilst I’m still taking the Vitamin D3, curcumin and multi-vitamin tablets, I was curious to have a consultation with a nutritionist to help create the right mix of supplements/ diet. In my searches, I came across Jo Gamble who although not in London, does skype consultations and is a nutritional therapist, practising integrative and integrative medicine with a focus on cancer. I had my first consultation with her yesterday and a lot of what she was explaining about her approach made sense to me. More sense than some other approaches I had researched and tried in the past.

She explained that she doesn’t believe in blanket-supplements, e.g. there’s no point taking A/B/C supplement without knowing what is actually missing in the body. So to start with, she has recommended two types of urine tests. One will help us understand the estrogen regulation and 2/4/16 hydroxyestrone ratios (had to read up on this but essentially the different types of estrogen levels and methylation) – important to understand in relation to hormone receptors of cells. The second is a functional assessment of various vitamins, minerals, amino acids and information on cellular energy production, toxicity, etc which will also show how much of the vitamins and minerals my body actually absorbs. I think the latter is so important. It’s all very well eating tons of vegetables and good foods, but it’ll be key to find out how much of the stuff I’m actually absorbing. This, together with the results of the blood test should hopefully paint a good picture of where I’m at and what I need to be doing to stay well.

I went back to see Danira for some reiki yesterday and had the strangest experience. As usual, I was lying down with my eyes closed, relaxed. At some point, I saw the whole thing from above, like a third person observing, looking down and I knew it was her treating me and me lying down in front of her. The image stayed for a few seconds, then disappeared but it was very vivid and the angle was very real from the top right hand corner of the room. Never had that before… It was a great session and I left feeling deeply relaxed with a calm mind and light heart.

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Quote of the day

Started with Tamoxifen this morning after a few days of procrastination, lots of research on whether to take the pill in the morning or at night. Thought it’s best to be awake if there are any side effects and see what they are rather than have a disturbed night. Fingers crossed I won’t notice a thing!

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Sailing

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last blog post and 8 weeks post chemo. I have now completed the second surgery to replace the temporary implant for a permanent one. Big relief to have the temporary one out as it felt uncomfortable, tight, had twisted around inside and was sticking out in places causing me grief. And the port on the side is gone, finally! The surgery itself took an hour and was nothing compared to the first time round. After a couple of days and the effects of the anesthesia out of my body, I started feeling fine again.

My hair still seems to be falling out while growing back in places where it had fallen out a while ago. This means that I now have very thin hair at the top around the crown and need to wear my hair back, just like in the old days. This lets me cover up some of these patches. Meanwhile, the hot flushes got worse. They started with 2-3 a night but I now find myself waking up every hour almost, sweating from the chest upwards. It’s been tough going having interrupted sleep every single night. I’m still averaging 7 hours a night but don’t feel rested when I wake up in the morning. I have also noticed the hot flushes during the day, especially at times when I have worrying thoughts, feel anxious or irritated.

I mentioned the hot flushes to my Oncologist who I saw as a follow up from chemo on the 28th April. She confirmed that the chemo would have pushed me into an early menopause. This may be temporary or not – we will wait and see. She reiterated the importance of starting with hormone therapy¬† (Tamoxifen tablets) once I’d had my second surgery saying that it is as important if not more important than chemo as a preventative measure. Ironically, one of Tamoxifen’s side effects is hot flushes. I mentioned my worry since I was already having so many hot flushes at night. I guess we’ll see how things develop once I start taking the tablets this weekend. We also talked about regular check-ups which will be every three months – both to see how things are going with Tamoxifen as well as for regular blood tests.

In the meantime, I started seeing a herbalist to see if I can combine some of the many supplements into a tincture, rather than swallowing 10-20 pills per day. My friend Mati recommended Peter Jackson-Main who runs a practice at the Natural Medicine College in London. Peter asked a few questions, examined my tongue and my iris and confirmed what my acupuncturist had been saying about having to improve kidney jing. He prescribed me a mixture of herbs to take three times a day as tincture to help tonify my blood and help my liver & kidneys. I’m also continuing acupuncture, mainly to help with the hot sweats. I don’t think this has helped just yet but I will continue.

Since finishing chemo, I have also noticed a lack of motivation and shifts in moods that I wasn’t familiar with before. It’s almost like now that the main treatment is completed, my emotions have woken up. It might also be related to symptoms of the early temporary menopause, who knows. I went to a seminar themed ‘living well’ at the LOC to seek some support from other people who have gone through this and because I was curious about programs that would offer support post-treatment. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the whole session yesterday but it was good to meet others and listen to similar experiences.

It’s a peculiar place, this post-treatment place. During the session yesterday, the analogy of a ship wreck was used and this is probably the best way to describe it. Imagine you’ve been sailing this ship for years, you have all the maps you need to find various destinations and you’ve learnt how to sail around bad weather and stormy seas. But one day, a storm comes that is bigger than any other you’ve experienced. High waves, rain battering, etc. and you try your hardest to steer the ship towards safety. You manage to reach a shore and the weather calms down. On the shore you find loads of people cheering and delighted that you’ve made it to safety. But you feel battered.

The ship is wrecked and any journey with that ship will not quite feel the same again. So you start to sail again, cautiously – not being able to quite shake off the stormy episode and while you patch up the boat in places, it just doesn’t feel the same. I guess maybe it doesn’t need to feel the same and different is also good. Just need to find my new different to sail this ship smoothly again.

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