It was supposed to be done by now.
That’s the myth I was operating under, at any rate – you have the surgery, you undergo chemotherapy, and radiation treatment; you’re tagged and released back in to the wild. Your hair grows back, your scars fade slowly, there are a few changes but nothing much to write home about, you continue to get checkups, and as long as they remain NED, the whole thing fades slowly into the background – a very bad year, and it’s over.
Would it were so.
In some ways I’m lucky – I don’t have the overwhelming fear that many do during the inevitable check-ups; I found the cancer the first time, not the doctor, not mammograms, and that tilts my emotional understanding of the process. And so far – knock on wood – it’s been NED all the way. May it continue that way.
My hair’s grown back – sparser by far and all in gray and white, but much warmer than none. And there’s always Manic Panic.
The scar has faded considerably, though the shadow of radiation (mostly the ‘boost’ treatment) still lingers faintly, and the breast itself dimples around the missing flesh – still utterly presentable and utterly livable.
My left arm remains weaker and stiffer, I’ve lost some range of motion and occasionally tweak the nerve there in a way that can bring me to my knees; there’s a trace of lymphedema yet, though it’s gotten better and I’m careful – but again: all very livable.
The other stuff though, the stuff no one warned me about – that’s been the killer. It’s possible I would have gone through it all anyway, in another five years, more or less; I tend to doubt it would have been this severe, but it might have been – it’s impossible to know. I didn’t get the chance to find out.
ERT doesn’t change it back to what it was – I still experience the permanent long term effects from chemotherapy and chemopause. They affect almost every aspect of my life – the latest little lovely is chilblains red and rising on my fingers and toes, despite all the warm socks and mittens in the world. They don’t look that bad, but they are exquisitely painful – and the greasy ointment to remedy them is awkward and, well, *greasy*. Vaseline* is all very well on the lens; less so when it’s coating the fingers and you’re trying to type. Or clean your glasses, or address cards, or read books, or pretty much *anything*.
It’s basically aging, on the express plan. Changes I would have probably had to deal with in five to fifteen years, spread gradually over that five to fifteen year time period – all delivered to me in one fell swoop. Here’s your dry eyes, your dry mouth, your chilblains, your dry skin, and the thinning hair, your sudden sentimental tears, and what’s *this*, in the bottom? O, yes, that’s yours, too – have it all. Had I known, you know I would have refused delivery.
ERT doesn’t make any of that go away. It just makes it livable – it cuts the worst of the physical effects to a manageable level, it gives me enough of my *self* back so that I can function. I don’t like it, I don’t like any part of it – the plastic patches on my skin, my reliance on medication, the schedule, the lingering effects even with the patches, the upcoming surgery because of the patches- but it’s what makes my life possible at this point.
I never thought I’d be here. I never thought I’d be looking at this sort of decision. To counteract the effects of one treatment regime, start another; to counteract the effects of that medication, have major surgery, and pray like hell there aren’t any effects from *that* that you can’t live with. It sounds beyond ridiculous; how far down that particular rabbit hole do you want to go?
But. Here I am. It’s been made abundantly clear to me that I can’t live without ERT, not any sort of life that constitutes life as I recognize it. It’s been made abundantly clear to me that I don’t tolerate progesterone. This isn’t a decision that I like, there’s nothing here that I like – but this is the best decision I can make, from the place where I am now.
So, the 27th. Barring any unpleasant prep procedures, “Adieu Utero” gathering the night before, 6ish to midnight – you’re invited! Poor thing, it’s done well by me, but either I or it must go, and you know I’m choosing *me*.
Onwards! And this *best* be the last of it.
*No, not actually Vaseline, but the feel is disturbingly similar.