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...