This week I had a sinking feeling I was due to have my three-month appointment with my oncologist, Dr Oliveira. I opened my ‘cancer draw’ (yes, I have a cancer draw) and pulled out my purple oncology appointment booklet. My intuition was on target – the appointment was today.
I was happy to know my appointment with Dr. O was today because she is competing in her first Ironman event this weekend. I would be able to wish her luck in person. Oh and I guess I should talk to her about cancer stuff, too.
It’s been – without stating the obvious – three months since I’ve been at the hospital. I proceeded through the usual entrance, the entrance I walked many times through treatment, and I pressed the button for the lift. The doors opened and I stepped into said lift. Hmm, what floor? I couldn’t remember what floor the oncology ward is on. Was it 5, or 6? Hmm. This excited me. I was happy that I had forgotten. I had a feeling it was level 5 and with a lift full of people I didn’t have another choice but to wing it. I stepped precariously from the lift as the doors opened and asked a staff member waiting near by. I felt like an amateur, yet the near full appointment card in my hand tells a different story. The staff member confirmed I was on the right floor. As I walked the hallways to the ward my nostrils filled with ‘the smell’. The smell that makes my stomach turn, the smell that reminds me of chemo. It’s the smell of the hand sanitizer dispensers. I feel nauseous at the slightest whiff. I feel nauseous even thinking about the smell.
I was greeted at the reception desk by all the usual staff – the staff that once was part of my family, or I part of the furniture. “Oh your hair is so long!” They asked what was happening with surgery, work, life etc. It was then time to wait. For the first time ever, I took a seat in the corridor away from the main waiting area. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the main waiting room, with the other patients waiting to be called to their chair; waiting to be injected with drugs. Here I was, the woman who had just run 16 km the day before, with hair, flicking through her diary making plans for the weeks to come. Chemo feels like a lifetime ago and by separating myself from the waiting room I felt that I was able to keep it as a distant memory – strange, I know.
Without much of a wait it was time to see Dr O. Again, the conversation centered on surgery, about having it done privately, why there was such a wait. I told her the pros and cons of the wait – the half marathon (which she was suitably excited about)! And we talked about Ironman and other events she has done in the past few months. Then we talked about treatment, and how I was feeling on Tamoxifen.
Tamoxifen, we always seem to be talking about this drug! She mentioned that the 10-year treatment with Tamoxifen is still the recommendation blah blah, yes yes. And the conversations continues a little like this…
“But in 10 years the recommendation might be 20 years.” She said.
Well, you could imagine the look on my face.
She continued, “It might end up being 20 years if you stop the drug to have children.”
“Wait, why would it be 20 years?”
“Because it’s ten years of treatment, not treatment for ten years.”
There is a difference, apparently. You might remember a while back I joked that I could just have children for the next ten years to get out of taking the drug. Well, it doesn’t work like that. If I have children for the next ten years, once I stop having children I would have to then take the drug for ten years. Damn. I thought I was going to be able to cheat the system. I guess there is no benefit to having a whole soccer team if it doesn’t get me out of taking the drug *jokes*.
And that was that. Next follow-up is in August – on my sister’s birthday. People always ask what sort of tests they do now. How do I know if it worked? Am I cancer free? It may seem strange but there are no tests in my case. This is it. They have done everything possible (once surgery is ticked off the list), everything has been for preventative purposes so it’s a ‘wait and see’. Or as I like to say… time to get on with life.