End of an era

21 Apr

It has been a crazy, stressful past few weeks. I was planning on 1) celebrating, and 2) relaxing, given I had my last chemo exactly two weeks ago, but that didn’t exactly happen. The company I work(ed) for went into liquidation on 31st March and we all lost our jobs. We started finding out the state of affairs around a week before this, and it felt like we were all kind of in limbo, waiting for an official announcement to be made so we could all move on. I then had to decide what to do with my life/career. The problem was I had too many options! I was approached by another company who wanted me to work for them, either in a permanent or contracting role, but there was also the opportunity to independently contract to a new company started by three of my old colleagues.

I had to choose between a secure job, with a very decent salary, or something not so secure, but potentially very exciting, and the opportunity to be my own boss. I took a leap of faith and went for the latter. I am now owner/director/consultant/administrator/lackey/coffee lady at my new company The New Black Online Solutions Ltd. Please don’t judge my website, I haven’t had any time to do it property, but it is on the (very long) list of things to do! It’s an exciting time, but also a sad time as we had a great team of people there, and I’m going to really miss working with everyone.

A decent nights sleep has been hard to come by. With all of the above going on, I’ve also been having to cope with hot flushes waking me up several times throughout the night. A side effect from the chemo. This condition even has a gloriously colloquial name – chemopause. It’s been going on for about a month now, and it’s really starting to piss me off. It happens frequently throughout the day, but also at night, when I wake up in a hot sweat and have to throw all the covers off. Then, if I can get back to sleep (which I often can’t because I’ve had so much on my mind), I end up waking up again because I’m freezing with no blankets on.

Oh, and not to mention every time I get a hot flush it just reminds me that maybe this chemo has destroyed my ovaries. My onco said that yes, it is potentially a sign that my ovaries are shutting down, however, often in young people, they will go away with time and fertility may go back to normal. I don’t know if he was trying to make me feel better or not, but if he was, it didn’t work. This consult was the last one before my final chemo, well what I thought was my final chemo. Just casually in conversation, the very young looking registrar said something about me having 16 weeks of Paclitaxel. 16 weeks?! It was only meant to be 12! She went and got my onco who said yes, 16 weeks is the norm. I got slightly upset, and more than a little pissed off. I started to go red, and not because of a hot flush. I told him I DID NOT want to do 4 more treatments. And anyways, I couldn’t because it would clash with my rail trail trip over Easter.

Turns out he told me the wrong thing when I started the treatment. They were in the process of changing from a 4 x 3 weekly regimen (i.e. 12 weeks all up), to a weekly regimen. This was sprung on me right before I was due to start, under the impression that I was only having it every 3 weeks (like the AC treatment), and I was annoyed that I was going to have to go in every week, but got over it, and I distinctly remember asking him if it would be for the same length of time overall still, even though it was weekly, and his answer was yes.

Fortunately, he agreed that I didn’t really need to do the last 4 treatments as, in his words, I’ve had a heck of a lot of chemo already. Coupled with the fact that I’d just started getting the hot flushes, he thought it was a fine time to stop. This pissed me off too (seems to be happening a lot lately). I felt like the excitement about finishing my last chemo was tainted because I wasn’t actually doing the full 16 week course. I was quitting early. I might complain a heck of a lot along the way, but I never quit. I felt really crap coming out of that appointment (which I’d gone to alone). I tried calling a couple of friends when I got home but couldn’t get hold of them, and my husband was away on a work incentive trip at the time. I sank into the couch, turned the TV on, and the first thing that came on was a bloody Huggies ad with heaps of cute babies. I just about cried. I was having my first real IT’S NOT FAIR moment. Why did this have to happen to me? I’d come this far without thinking like that. Every thing else I can deal with – I can get through surgery, I can take a needle, I can cope with my hair falling out, I can keep working even though I’m constantly exhausted, but the thought of it permanently damaging my fertility, something that you tend to take for granted in your twenties, is just the shittiest shit ever.

The last treatment was actually one of the easiest I’ve had. The needle went in first go, and I barely felt it. I must be getting hard. I baked lemon curd cupcakes for the nurses, which disappeared real quick. My number one chemo sista was in the chair next to me too. It sucks so much that someone as fabulous as her has to go through this crap too, but it does make it easier knowing someone else who is young and going through the same thing, who really understands what its like. We sit there idly comparing side affects (hot flushes for everyone!), rating the nurses (we both have the same favourite), sharing how wonderful our husbands are. I feel really honoured to know her. I miss our Wednesday chemo sessions already. That’s her on the right of the pic below. In the middle is my mum’s cousin, and then me on the left.

Chemo babes

Once it was all done I got to have lunch with one of my best friends, and her two gorgeous children, who just happened to be transiting through Christchurch on the same day. I did nothing for the rest of the day. And did nothing for the next two days as well seeing as I was unemployed. What timing! My husband and I then went on our planned weekend up to Marlborough to cycle around the vineyards. It was fantastic. We stayed at Argrove Lodge, home of Wine Tours by Bike. Yes I’m giving them a shameless shoutout, because they were absolutely fantastic. It was like staying with your favourite aunty and uncle. We managed to come back with 11 bottles of wine on our bikes and did 40km all up. Great training for the rail trail (minus the wine tasting though perhaps).

Todd and I at Highfield Estate - excuse the helmet hair

Now I have another great thing to look forward to – radiation therapy. I went in for the ‘preparation clinic’ appointment last week. In short, they lie you in a big machine, on an uncomfortable board with your arms above your head – topless of course. You didn’t think I had any dignity left by now did you? They give you a CT scan, draw all over your chest, take a digital photo (I certainly hope that is stored somewhere very secure), and then give you three tattoos. It would be super hard core but they’re pretty small, no bigger than a freckle. One in the middle of my chest, and one under each armpit. They use these to line you up in the machine every day. The first session is Monday 2nd May. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m extremely excited about embarking on the rail trail this week. I decided I wanted to do it (bike 150km through Central Otago, over 4 days) despite not having been on a bike in probably 10 years. Hubby and I have been training a bit over these past few months and I think I’m ready (too late if I’m not!). Almost my entire family is coming too – Mum, my sister & her husband, my mother and father in law, my two brothers in law and my sister in law and her husband. My other sister is coming to stay with us one night on Easter Sunday. Hopefully I’ll shed a bit of this weight I’ve put on during the last 6 months of chemo. One of the side affects of one of the premeds they give you (it’s a steroid) is increased appetite. I’ve pretty much been eating everything in sight, and have put on 5 kilos. I only have one pair of jeans that fits me now, and I can’t get into most of my work pants. I found a pair that I hadn’t had on for about 9 months yesterday and couldn’t even get them done up. More motivation to bike faster I guess.


2 Responses to “End of an era”

  1. Hatiheri (Tish) April 21, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    Ah don’t you just love it when they move the goalposts. This happened to me a couple of times too. The first was when I was told I needed to go back for a second surgery, and another was when I was told I’d be on tamoxifen for 5 years, not 2 … and now it might be 10.

    My theory is that they hit us ‘young’ ones the hardest with the most chemo we can possibly tolerate, which as you said is a shitload. They bombard our bodies with is because we are young, fit, strong until we feel old, weak, and incapacitated. Bastards.

    Re the hot flushes… welcome. They suck. The *will* quieten down a little bit but not totally. I can’t decide if I dislike them more in summer (hot, then really hot), or winter (cold, then hot, but at least you can cool down a bit). My docs put me on effexor which can help with hot flushes but to be honest the difference was, although noticeable, negligible. They are part of my life now. I find I get them randomly, but also if I get a little bit anxious or embarrassed. And night sweats… oh boy I had those through chemo too. Awful. I’m off the effexor now (that was something different – coming off that!), which I am pleased about although I do feel much more sensitive to things… including babies.

    My brother and his gf had a (‘surprise’) baby 5 months ago and I have the most bizarre emotions of being happy, loving, nurturing, jealous (of them AND the baby itself), caring, envious, sad, regretful, mournful, joyful, resentful, and proud. It is a rollercoaster for sure. I think that part of it was that I was the centre of attention for a while there and now the baby has taken my spotlight, which I’m not ready for.

    Plus (IMHO) the parents are so wrapped up in their own world that they don’t consider how difficult it is for me/us. They expect everyone to be jubilant and their baby is the most beautiful, etc …but frankly, I need them to be a bit more compassionate to people around them. Maybe it’s a ‘new parent’ thing. I won’t be joining that exclusive club any time soon (if at all), which pisses me off. OK enough of a rant from me. I gotta go have a cry now!!

  2. Derri April 21, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    You’re right, it’s NOT fair.

    You deserve all the goodness life can throw at you now. Good luck with New Black Online… hugs.

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