Thursday 7 October 2021

Cancer: have you heard of it?

October brings us the double-whammy: Breast Cancer Awareness and Menopause Awareness Month. I have mixed feelings.

With my ‘PR girl’ hat on, I know these “awareness” months are important and useful in cutting through the general background noise and focussing a concentrated burst of publicity on a particular issue. However, there are so many of them now … every day/week/month dedicated to a particular cause, disease or foodstuff, (British Pie Week?), that I do think they have somewhat lost their impact.

That aside, I am very focussed on cancer and the menopause this month for my own personal reasons.

Menopausal moans

Can I just say to anyone reading this that will not go through menopause or has not yet experienced it – the menopause can be pretty shit.

That said, considering I’m not able to avail myself of any hormone therapy, some of my symptoms aren’t too bad. My hot flushes are manageable now that I don’t drink that much caffeine and I keep an electric fan in most rooms, as well as a hand-held-fan in my handbag for when I’m out and about.

However, as I’ve highlighted on this blog before, oestrogen does more than play a role in menstruation. It’s vital for bone health and maintaining normal insulin and cholesterol levels, as well as cognitive function. It’s the reason why so many women start to get forgetful and confused as they get older.

And this is scary. I often can’t remember things I’ve done from day-to-day and find I now start most stories I tell with “sorry, if I’ve told you this before …”

The other key role of oestrogen is to act as nature’s WD-40; the lubricant that keeps joints supple and mobile and moisture where you need and want it. (You all know what I’m getting at …) This elasticity in organ tissue also includes the bladder, which without oestrogen can lead to weakness and/or interstitial cystitis.

So the menopause can shake up your life, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Your sense of self changes and you realise that things that you used to take for granted may no longer be possible for you. You have to accept and adapt to a new way of being … but that can be very hard.

Cancer counselling

I’ve certainly struggled with the changes I’ve experienced over the last (almost) 10 years; because let’s be honest, there’s been a lot! Of course, I accept where I am and what has happened but there’s no denying it’s been crap.

Fortunately, I have finally (after a four-month waiting list) been allocated a counsellor via The Royal Marsden. I’m not sure what I hope to get out of it, really, but just to have someone to talk to/at about what I’ve been through and how it’s made me truly feel, is a very good thing.

I’m also back under NHS care, at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, for my uterine oncology. I went to see my surgeon this week for what will be regular (3-4 month) check-ups. Everything looked fine at the surgical site – no more granulation, thank God – and so I just need to get used to the general low level of discomfort that I feel in the pelvic area (as I have done in my mastectomy site).

I’m not due to see my breast cancer oncology team until early November when we will discuss what medication, if any, I should be on. The more time that has elapsed, the more fixed I have become that I do not want to go on any new drugs (Letrozole) but I am open-minded to hear what they have to say.

So that’s where I’m at.

In other news: I’m still not working … and bloody loving it. However, my productivity levels have slipped to an all time low. Now that the Autumn TV schedules have started, my TIVO box has never seen so much action and keeping up with MAFS UK, MAFS Australia and all ‘The Real Housewives’ really is proving a full-time job!