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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