2016

I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!


Friday, February 05, 2010

It ain't over till it's over

So you have the surgery; and the radiotherapy (and if you're lucky, like me, you avoid the chemotherapy). And then you start the five years' hormone therapy. Apart from the obvious trauma and shock to the system of instant onset of menopause (that lace fan I bought in Venice in September is getting a good work-out this summer), and an abiding suspicion that you don't think or concentrate as well as you used to, you're going ok. But then, after a visit to doctor and gynaecologist, you remember that long list of possible side-effects of tamoxifen.

I'm sitting up in bed at home, recovering from a general anaesthetic, yesterday, for a hysteroscopy to remove uterine polyps that grow under the influence of tamoxifen. So far, everything looks benign: just one more pathology report to go. At once stage Deborah, my lovely gynaecologist, was talking about endometrial cancer and a hysterectomy and chemotherapy and the whole works, but it seems I have got off lightly. Though with two more years of tamoxifen to go; and the way it seems to stay in the system, chances seem high I may have to go through this process again over the next few years.

It seems a little harder to blog about this than having breast cancer, and I wasn't sure I would. But I'm too groggy to do any work today, and am not really feeling strong enough to get out of bed. It involves rather more intimate body parts, too, I suppose: my "lady bits", as I think Ampersand Duck or Pavlov's Cat refer to them. I can remember being a bit appalled when still at school by a girlfriend who referred coyly to her mother's hospitalisation for "women's troubles." Though that's exactly what it is.

And also, my goodness, are heads of programs supposed to be blogging about their intimate bodies? Will having this administrative responsibility change the way I blog?

Yet again, I found myself fascinated by my surgeon and the entirely female team who attended me yesterday, with the exception of the orderly who wheeled me into surgery. Where Suzanne, the breast surgeon, is goddess-like in her attentiveness and authority, Deborah is equally direct and focussed, but a bit closer to the other side of the austerity—warmth spectrum. I was very sorry when she came round to visit me when I was back in the ward, to tell me that everything was looking fine, because I couldn't hold an intelligent conversation with her. For two or so hours, I would start to weep and feel I was about to black out, every time I opened my eyes. I can remember, similarly, waking up from breast surgery and sobbing. It's an acute form of the depressive affect of the general anaesthetic, but it's an object lesson in forms of chemical or hormonal depression that last longer: you know precisely what's causing it; and yet you can't stop feeling terrible.

I'm feeling much better today, though my lungs seem very heavy, and my legs and arms feel weak, so I still haven't got out of bed. I'll get up later, for the joyous resumption of our Friday night ritual with our mirror family (two academic parents; one girlchild Joel's age), back home after their sabbatical in Oxford.

I'm supposed to start Italian class again tomorrow morning: I'm going to load up one of the CDs and do some revision while I doze...

13 comments:

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

GAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Surely you can take it easy till the chemicals stop rampaging around in your bloodstream. Pizza and lollies with The Others will be restorative ... but surely you could miss one Italian class?

Stephanie Trigg said...

Well, I don't like to, as it's the first with a new teacher - livello cinque - don't you know? But I'll see. If my lungs still weigh a ton in the morning I won't go. And have already decided not to ride....

Alena said...
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Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Sending god vibes your way from a very snowy DC, and grateful that you do continue to blog, and don't draw a a new boundary because you possess administrative responsibilities.

Elisabeth said...

What a courageous soul you are, Stephanie, both to write about this but more so to endure it and with such warmth and compassion for yourself and presumably for others in this position.

I agree with Kerryn - maybe the Italian can wait, unless of course it helps, as sometimes such mind stretching distractions can do.

genevieve said...

Stephanie, thank you for telling it as it is:what a shame it is not working out easier though.
Please do try and take it easy over the next week - KG is right, most things can wait XO

persiflage said...

Good luck with it all. I think tamoxifen is a horrible drug. It mucked up my liver enzymes, which fortunately returned to normal once I stopped the drug. The actual and possible side effects need to be watched out for.

meli said...

oh that sounds horrible. i hope you are feeling better. i might have got off easy with my g.a. - the only side effect seemed to be i had absolutely no perception of time for several hours - i was awake and chatting to my mum, but the hours spinning past on the clock seemed to take only about five minutes each...

Stephanie Trigg said...

Thanks, everyone.

Jeffrey; it's so hard to imagine being snowed into the house...

Persiflage, thanks for dropping by. I've always thought of tamoxifen as a particularly clever drug, but I have certainly heard of women who've had terrible reactions to it: sorry you had a bad run.

Meli, dear, I was thinking about you a lot this last week...

I *did* make it to Italian, but was feeling a bit asthmatic when I'd climbed up two flights of stairs, and came home and spent the afternoon in bed. Think I'll be ok for work tomorrow, though.

David Thornby said...

Best wishes, Stephanie. As long as you are treating yourself (blogging/not blogging, attending Italian/not attending, returning to work/staying home, riding, stair-climbing, etc/not) the same way you'd hope someone else would treat themselves over something like this, I'm sure it will work out fine.

I remember from my most recent surgery waking up fawningly uncommunicative with the surgeon, and being embarrassed about it afterwards. Brains...they are odd, even in the absence of unusual chemicals.

台灣 said...
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Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I'm sorry to hear of this, but glad you're spared the full treatment. We've got a lot of snow in the midwest, too, and honestly I'd take hot flashes in summer over all this frozen stuff. Wish I could send you some!

Meredith Jones said...

Coming to this late Stephanie, but so glad all went well. What more can we ask for... xxxxx