So, I'm on this clinical trial, right? When I started my treatment, I was seeing the oncologist every three months; and every six months would fill out an odd questionnaire that investigates things like one's experience of hot flushes, depression, joint pain, mood swings, vaginal dryness, insomnia. All the expected joys of chemically-induced menopause, then, plus the less common side-effects of tamoxifen and triptorelin, the trial drug: various forms of osteoarthrities, DVT, coronary failure, etc.
Gradually, as I continue to thrive, and show no sign of any recurrence of a tumour, I've been seeing Mitchell less and less, until yesterday, when, after a discussion mostly about New York, Daniel Barenboim, and the difficulties of the Australian university system, he suggested I don't need to see him for another twelve months. "We're going to let you off the leash," he said to me six months ago. We also had the discussion we have most times about whether I should have my ovaries removed; and I'm glad to say there now seems no real reason to do this.
The symptoms of the drugs have settled down somewhat, I'm glad to say, and while I still have another two and half years of daily Tamoxifen, plus monthly injections of Triptorelin, and while I still have to line up for an annual mammogram, ultrasound and review with Suzanne, my surgeon, for the next few Octobers, it seems I am on the homeward journey from Sontag's country of the sick, on my way to rejoining the women of my age with just the usual and ordinary struggles of menopause and the usual risk of breast cancer.
If you'd asked me, two years ago, how I'd feel about seeing Mitchell only once a year, I would have had a bit of a panic: I quite liked being under his regular care. Now I feel quite secure about it. And perhaps that's what he sensed; and perhaps that's what's encouraged him to cancel my visa to the country of the sick, and send me home.