It never just rains in Cancerland. It pours.
And this week it has done just that for me. Poured, that is. Again.
Chemo and radiation finally had great big ticks next to their names. After nine months, they were finally done.
And then last Wednesday I spent most of the day hooked up to an IV having my wonder drugs, Herceptin and Perjeta infused into me. As I stepped out of the Epworth Day Ward as the late afternoon sun dipped behind the rooftops, I thought to myself ‘Freedom at last. Three weeks of no hospital! Let’s get back to life!’
On Friday I treated myself to a Gunnas’ Writing Masterclass with the feisty and passionate Catherine Deveny. It was my little present to myself; a pat on the back for getting through the gruelling events of the last nine months.
She didn’t disappoint. She was hilarious, inspiring, brutally honest and full of great tips I will definitely take on board as I push myself further away from Cancer Cans and attempt writing beyond the borders of Cancerland. I left ready to ‘Fail while daring greatly’, and take up her challenge to write for an hour a day, four days a week, for four weeks – the Gunnas’ Challenge.
‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’ – Theodore Roosevelt
As I arrived at my sister’s place that afternoon, buoyed by a day of indulgent food and lots of writing, I noticed my boob was hurting a bit. Nothing crazy, just a weird kind of ache. Now, let me tell you that neither of my boobs, with their hard round tissue expanders in situ, ever feel all that comfortable. They’re always getting in the way, and can sometimes feel a bit sore if I sleep on them strangely or perhaps lift something too heavy. So the fact that one of them was a little achy didn’t flash immediate warning signs to me.
But, as the hours dragged on, my boob got more and more sore. It got to the point where I had to lie down on our couch and couldn’t move without wincing. Something was wrong. The weirdest thing about it all was that the sore boob was actually my ‘good boob’, not the boob currently slathered in burn gel and wrapped in glad wrap. Not the ‘cancerous can’ that tried to kill me, but its innocent twin that got lopped off prophylactically in December so that I could still look somewhat symmetrical. What was going on?
Jay rang my surgeon who suggested it was some torn scar tissue. He advised pain relief until I felt better.
That night, while my brain went foggy under a haze of Endone, my boob continued to worsen. The pain was excruciating – far worse than even childbirth. I couldn’t stand without feeling faint, I developed a fever and began vomiting.
The next morning we rang an ambulance. My surgeon wanted me to get to hospital but I couldn’t walk myself to our bathroom without falling over.
Once at hospital, and the pain and nausea medication had started working, we discovered via a needle aspiration that I had a staph infection, most likely due to the bad boob’s broken skin post-radiotherapy letting in unwanted germs. Apparently these bugs like hiding behind foreign objects, and so they’d taken up residence behind the tissue expander and were having a good old party, making me sick.
It meant surgery that day…They would need to open me up, flush out my chest, sterilise my tissue expander and give me IV antibiotics for a week. I never expected that!
So here I am again. Back in hospital for the week, hooked up to IV, with drains of gross-looking fluid dripping out of me. I woke up this morning to find myself completely nude, from the waist up, sporting what looked like a giant geriatric nappy. I wasn’t happy. No one really should ever see themselves clothed in a nappy at the age of 38, surgery or no surgery. After calling for the nurse for some answers, she giggled and told me it actually wasn’t a nappy (although it sure as hell looked like one), but a special heat sheet to keep me warm.
I’m currently sharing a room with two other cancer patients, both in their eighties, who are farting, belching and talking loudly because their hearing aids aren’t in. They’re already comparing cancers, prognoses, and are completely suspicious of all the doctors and nurses.
It’s going to be a loooong week.