Tag Archives: me

Cancer Update #3 (post op)

So I’m sitting at home now, mostly able to type, much clearer headed, and healing.  There is a wide range of movement I can’t do, and I’m still figuring out bits of that.

I’ve been sleeping in our recliner couch for the past 2 nights as I have been worried that sleeping in my own bed would be too uncomfortable, mostly due to an inability to roll from side to side, and getting up being a real pain the side.  I might graduate to sleeping in my bed tonight, I don’t know yet.  My neck would certainly appreciate me sleeping in my own bed, but we’ll see.

I have two rather large incisions on me.  One under my arm where the sentinel lymph node was taken, and one where the tumour was removed. If I cared about such things, I’m fortunate that both of the scars (when they eventually heal) will be in non-visible locations.  I’m actually a little disappointed about that, I think that scars are cool.

The incision under my arm is the one that hurts the most.  This isn’t surprising as that is the location that sees a lot more movement (twisting, lifting, rubbing, etc).

Yesterday was a day of minimal food as I was still feeling nauseous thanks to the operation, pain and the drugs I was taking.  Today I feel way more human and I aim to try the delicious looking cake my sister has made for me. I also want to go for a walk around the block to get my body a bit more mobile and drop the neck pain I have.

I could go through the ins and outs of Wednesday (surgery), but I won’t (unless you want me to) other than to say it was a really long day, the staff at the Royal Women’s Hospital are fantastic, and that it was slightly worse than I expected it to be.

I won’t get the results of the biopsies of the tumour and sentinel lymph node until Monday week, so in the interim I heal, continue to be spoilt by my loved ones, and gradually each day become more and more independent.

Today I could undress myself, tomorrow I might even be able to shower on my own.  The wonders of a body which can heal itself from invasive surgery.

Related Posts:

Cancer update #1

So yes, I’ll be blogging about cancer from time to time, as a way to keep everyone updated, and to save me having the same conversation over and over.  Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but I enjoy efficiency.

Today I had my appointment at the Royal Women’s Hospital to meet the breast surgeon, breast cancer nurse and find out more about the next steps.  I might have surgery as early as next week – which is much sooner than I anticipated.  The breast surgeon also wanted a biopsy of something that was noted in the first radiology report on my right breast just to be on the safe side, so I got one of those too.  It is most likely a regular, bog-standard lymph node, but the surgeon wants to be extra, extra sure because you shouldn’t mess around with cancer.

I was also told that the reason my tumour is so goddamn painful, is that it’s sitting on the chest wall – so that’s kinda helpful and still annoying.

I also need to get a blood test, but as I was insufficiently hydrated today, I’ll get that tomorrow after lunch.  Must go and get a glass of water.

This biopsy was far less painful.  I told the doctor performing it that I cried for an hour after the last one as it was so incredibly painful, so she made sure there was extra local anaesthetic and waited for it to take effect.  We also laughed a lot, which was nice, but weird when people are jabbing needles into you.  I don’t think they appreciated my joke that ultrasound gel is like semen in that it gets everywhere – and I probably should have self-censored that, but I have cancer, and some jokes get made.

So next steps are surgery (very soon), 6 – 8 weeks of healing (and hopefully no follow up surgery), 4 – 6 weeks of radiotherapy Monday through Friday, and then medication for 5 years.  This all assumes that my tumour tests negative to HER2, which I have an 80% of it doing so.

Just quietly, Breast Cancer information in Australia (at least) is incredibly cissexist.  Hugely cissexist, and it makes me uncomfortable.

How am I doing?  I’m pretty good right now.  Every now and again I feel overwhelmed with what’s happening and anxious – but that’s to be expected.  I like having plans, and knowing what’s going to happen next, even though some of that is a little nebulous and fluid because it depends on things we don’t yet know 100%.  I’m not particularly fussed about having scars on my breasts (something I used to think about as a kid anyway, because I liked the look of ritual scarification).  I am somewhat concerned about radiotherapy, because that sounds intense and annoying (but is also far enough away in the future for it not to be an immediate concern).  I am mostly ok with the idea of medication, I think I’ll be able to manage the common side-effects in a way that works for everyone concerned.

Also, outing yourself as non-monogamous at the hospital straight up is easy, particularly in Australia in the public health system in metropolitan hospitals (other areas may vary).  I brought both partners with me to the appointment, and made it very clear that they were my partners.  It was written in my file, along with my medical history, and everyone was cool with it. In fact one doctor said that I was lucky to have the extra support.

Related Posts:

So I’ve got cancer

I found a small lump in my breast, it was tender so I went and saw my doctor.  He sent me off for imaging, and then I saw a specialist who sent me off for a biopsy (that REALLY hurt).  Then I was told I had a very small (8mm) cancerous tumour in my breast.  I’m now an official member of the, “You’ve got cancer” club.  I’m not impressed.

I’ve found the cancer so early that I probably only need surgery, radiotherapy and Tamoxifen to treat.  This all depends on what the surgery and subsequent biopsies show really.  It’s a fun environment of, “Do A, then possibly do B or C depending on results of A”.  Being a big fan of plans, I plan to work out what is going to happen, how I will manage it, and what support I need.

This is a blog post (which may be updated as more info comes through, or new posts added, I’m not sure), which will outline what I want and don’t want over the next 6 months (as a starter).

Things I want

  • To keep working as much as possible
  • Snuggles
  • Chocolate
  • Plans
  • Shoulders to lean/cry on
  • Having meals cooked for me for those days I don’t cope
  • Understanding
  • Conversations with people who have survived cancer

Things I don’t want

  • Advice regarding natural therapies for cancer treatment
  • Being treated as if I’m going to fall apart any second
  • Being told to take time off work

Kvetching circles completely apply here.  This is my condition, my body, my issue.  Do not make it about you, do not make it about how you can feel better that the roll of the dice went badly at my end.  I have enough to deal with, without you making this about you. (This is not currently directed at anyone I’ve told, this is just case it needs saying).

I will continue to work, I will blog, I will study, I will cook, I will yoga, I will … because I enjoy these things, because they’re good for me, and because life goes on.

Related Posts:

My feels, and why I don’t really talk about them

I’m pretty sure I have feelings, after all I get happy, sad, angry, forlorn, depressed, stressed, etc, but I don’t often talk about them – to anyone, with the occasional exception of my husband (and only one of said husbands, the other gets the high level stuff that everyone else who asks how I’m feeling tends to get).

There are “good” reasons for this, as in my childhood and adolescence primed me to be someone who struggles to communicate and understand how I feel about things at any given moment.  Childhood and adolescence are also known as our formative years, for very good reasons.  We learn how to deal with the world around us, what things are appropriate to do or to avoid, how we should communicate, what we should communicate about, how to react to things, etc.  Clearly major events during our childhood and adolescence impact on our formation as people, both positively and negatively, and those impacts last throughout our adult lives.

Now that I’ve given some background, let’s go back to me.  When I was three and a bit, my mother had a stroke and I assumed adult responsibilities in my family – which mostly involved being responsible for my sisters and providing emotional support to my dad.  Three year olds don’t actually have a very good grasp on what it means to be an adult.  I wasn’t sure how to emotionally respond to this, so I didn’t.  To an extent, this was my normal.  I didn’t know anything else, it was just something I lived, and I’m not alone in this, children who end up translating for their parents when they family migrates or flees to another country, or children who have caring responsibilities for their parents or siblings have similar issues I imagine.  Their experiences are likely to involve more trauma than mine, but my experiences have impacted me as an adult.

Combined with that is the general Australian reticence to talk about emotional things, a situation captured in “she’ll be right mate”, and my fractured relationship with my mother in the last few years before I moved out of home.  My parents, the adults I spent the most time with as a child, were themselves damaged by their own childhood. My mother’s biggest lesson from her childhood was that children lie (which is epically fucked up), and dad’s (though he hasn’t said this to me) was to be very careful in what he shared lest it be used against him.

This did impact my ability to share with my parents, my father often seemed awkward (and he still is) when feelings were discussed – apart from the high level stuff such as “I got angry when …”.  My mother didn’t believe me, and certainly didn’t believe me when I told her about serious things like being sexually assaulted or harassed at school.  She never said this until much later in my life when she apologised to me for the impact this had on me, I felt that I couldn’t tell her things, so I didn’t.  I envied my friends who had different relationships with their parents, where they could talk to them about things.

Before I moved out of home, my mother had taken to “talking with me” which was more her talking at me while I did my best to remain calm and not get upset.  Our relationship immediately before I moved out of home was incredibly toxic (it has since been repaired), and I felt that even showing the slightest bit of emotion (usually crying because the words she was using I felt were to wound), was to let her “win” whatever battle we were currently fighting.

All of this combined with bullying at school when we moved to Bendigo, because I was different to everyone else, means that the safest route is to not show much emotion, to not talk about it, and to sort stuff out myself.  Sorting stuff out myself is slow, slightly faster if my husband is available, but as he’s suffers from depression himself, that’s not always an option.  I know I avoid talking about me by talking about all the interesting things I’ve learnt, read, or seen.  It’s easier to be interesting than it is to talk about how I feel about things.

There isn’t much of a way forward in this that I can see.  The defensive mechanisms I developed as a child are incredibly hard to undo as an adult.  I know it is possible to relearn behaviours, but there needs to be motivation to do so and right now I don’t see a need.  I’m doing mostly ok right now, apart from my work being incredibly overwhelming, and feeling that I’m juggling too many things (which given the number of things I’m juggling is not surprising).  Right now, I’m doing as well as pretty much anyone else in my situation would be.

Related Posts:

Being angry (resurrected)

Kindly supplied by “e” who had this post in their feed-reader.  I don’t know who e is, but I owe them a drink.  🙂

 

As promised, a post on anger.  This is completely out of my head without any supporting psychology theory exactly, though I suppose I could go and find some somewhere.  Anyway… anger and my experience of it.

I can confidently say that my role models for dealing with anger as a child were not very good.  I don’t know any people who had good conflict, frustration, or anger role models as children.  My parents, like many people had troubled childhoods (which is a nice way of saying that for the most part both their childhoods were incredibly traumatic), and a lack of good role models in their life to deal with conflict, frustration, or anger.

I think that this lack of experience in seeing anger as another emotion, much like being sad, happy, concerned, worried, silly, etc, meant that my ability to be angry did not mature as my other emotions did.  I no longer am sad as I was as a child, or a teenager, I am not longer happy as I was as a child… but my anger is… well… immature.  My first response is to just go quiet and cold.  To be angry, but not even to be able to express it.  Anger was avoided in my family, both my parents would be angry behind closed doors, failing to hear each other (I thought), and eventually one of them, usually my father, storming out of the house and going for a walk.

When I moved out of home I unconsciously resolved to communicate differently with my partner than my parents did with each other.  It certainly helped that I ended up in relationships with people who generally communicated with a similar language set and meanings (my parents do not seem to have the same dictionary when talking to each other – or perhaps it is an implicit/explicit communication conflict).  Anyway… although I feel I communicate with my partners better than my parents communicate with each other, and I manage to avoid conflict through miscommunication along the way, my initial way of dealing with conflict and anger was to avoid them as much as possible.

So when angry, I’d walk away.  I mirrored my father’s behaviour and his reaction to being angry.  I didn’t lash out physically or verbally, I’d retreat and go away.  Eventually (sometimes quickly, sometimes not) I’d come back and be in tears because I didn’t have a better response.  I felt guilty about being angry about some things, and justified but unable to explain exactly what I was feeling in others.  Part of that guilt I know is that women are supposed to be nice, good, quiet, biddable, etc creatures (not really human after all), who don’t get angry, because if we’re angry we’re bitches, shrews, shrill, uppity, etc. Part of the guilt had to do with being angry with people I loved and over things that were difficult for us to deal with at the time (my husband being clinically depressed for the first 9 years of our marriage for example).

When I was unable to communicate that I was angry, I would get upset.  Much like feeling stupid is something that upsets me, being unable to articulate (and therefore feeling that I can’t communicate, therefore am stupid), upsets me.  Feeling, as I did at the time, that I had to explain my anger/disappointment/whatever gently and carefully in order to not distress my husband added to the burden of dealing with anger and conflict, and made me even more likely to avoid it.

My husband was treated for his depression, we found the big wide world of polyamory, and having to deal with conflict and anger became something I could no longer avoid.  Polyamory challenges assumptions about relationships, forces you to look at the relationships you are currently in and assess the health of habits and behaviours that you and your partner have been wandering around in (well it did for us).  The relationships that we became involved in challenged both of us, and the way we acted towards each other, the things that we just put up with, the idiosyncrasies, and our avoidance of conflict.

It would be true to state that my first polyamorous relationship (outside my marriage) was with a high drama and high maintenance man and resulted in conflict with him and some of his other partners during the life of that relationship.  I didn’t handle the conflict, anger, or frustration well (I still don’t think I do), but I learnt a lot.  My counsellor was instrumental in helping me accept that anger is a valid emotion, one that is completely ok to have, and it is not the end of the world (or relationships) to be angry.  I learnt that if I can’t immediately articulate what I’m angry about, that it is ok (though this I still struggle with because I take a while to process strong emotions and often the whole thing is done before I have a handle on why I’m angry/upset).  I have learnt that I can talk about it, I can experience it, and it is another emotional response to stimuli as the others are.

As I have accepted that anger is ok, and a valid response, it has changed and grown into a different emotion than it was 6 years ago.  I am no longer guilty for being angry, though still struggle with whether anger is necessarily the best emotional response (not quite the same as guilt).  I also have a hard time processing some comments (particularly those I hear versus those I read) quickly, so am meaning deaf to comments that might otherwise make me angry until I process them at a later stage.

What is the moral of this story (apart from not write blog posts late at night because then you tend to ramble)?  It’s ok to be angry, and it’s ok for your anger to be the anger of a younger you.  The more I accepted my anger, the more it matured.

Related Posts:

Feeling stupid

There is this thing that I… hate… detest… suffer from… something… the feeling of being stupid.  I’m not sure why exactly I have a thing about this, because I know I don’t know everything, nor do I understand everything, and I’m also quite smart… but feeling stupid is something that sometimes really upsets me.

A case in point happened last week, while I was in a work training course.  We were doing a role-play of a real life scenario, and consequently didn’t have ALL the data.  We were provided with a three page summary of what was happening, and my team were the guinea pigs for this case.  This meant that our team was under the greatest pressure in the case study, we had the least preparation time for the two scenarios (they were back to back), and we’d only just been trained in the theory that we were practising.

Halfway through the first case study, I realised I had no idea of what was going on.  The team I was a part of seemed to have read a completely different case study to the one I had read, well that’s how it felt, and I suddenly felt cast adrift.  In feeling like I’d missed a major point or issue in the case study, I suddenly felt like I was stupid, which really upset me.  Upset me to the point of tears, in a training room with many of my colleagues, and members of my senior leadership team.  So yes, I was feeling stupid, upset and humiliated all at once.

It’s not necessarily about being wrong, because as I said, I don’t know everything, and I will be wrong sometimes.  I think it’s a lot to do with how I feel (I was exhausted at the time of that role play), the amount of stress I’m under, and how important my competence/image is at that moment.  Given how I’m still not feeling 100% sure in my current role, feeling stupid is a really big deal.  The added stress of nearly bursting into tears during the role play was extra stressful and extra humiliating.

I suppose that this really ties into some of the important (and mostly fucked up) messages I got as a child.  Image is important, very important.  Being smart was as important as looking smart (I’m not sure how that works really).  I suppose that me becoming an adult at 3 years of age has kinda warped some of my ideas about what it is to be an adult, and what is and is not important.

Next post – being angry.

Related Posts:

Imposter syndrome

Imposter Syndrome:

The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. It is not an officially recognized psychological disorder, but has been the subject of numerous books and articles by psychologists and educators. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.

Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. (Wikipedia)

A long time ago, when I was at primary school, I was selected to be part of an extension project run by the Northern Territory Government (I was living in Alice Springs at the time).  The program was developed for gifted students and was to help accelerate their education, or something.  I never really understood the program, especially as it only ran during primary school and didn’t continue into high school.  I certainly enjoyed it though, because we learnt problem solving, puzzle solving, team work, an early introduction to algebra (still one of my favourite maths subjects), and had options to undertake external school activities like languages (I learnt some French), screen printing, photography and others.

Continue reading Imposter syndrome

Related Posts: