I’ve made a decision. The other day I got a phone call from a place I’d never heard of before that had received a referral for me to continue my balance and strength rehab with them. This new place is very local, and does indeed have the equipment for balance exercises. So I cancelled an appointment with my GP to fill out forms for the Strength for Life and instead went for the initial interview for the new place. It was a ‘good’ interview but as I left there was something in the back of my mind that was troubling me. It’s taken a few days to come to the surface and it’s done so in typical Gaelyne fashion. I’ve found myself ranting about stuff with people I know understand me. Not ranting verbally, but in writing, which makes sense because that’s how I tend to work through things that bug me.
I’ve just rescheduled the appointment with the GP to fill out the permission forms for the Strength for Life program at Noarlunga. I’ve decided to keep my options open and only make any further decisions about any program after being able to compare the choices available in person. The current choices are continue driving to the Repat Rehab gym twice a week, The local place (ECH) which is local to me, Strength for Life at Noarlunga Leisure Centre, or a membership with a gym such as Anytime Fitness.
So what is it that was bothering me about my interview the other day? Well. ECH is for people who are basically about 15yrs older than me. The girl doing the interview kept trying to play detective to “figure out” why I have issues that most people don’t deal with until they’re over 65. At the time I was too polite, and too surprised by the questions to put words to it, but since then it’s been mulling in my brain and found voice in my private rants with friends. The answer to the question boils down to having had breast cancer when I was 40. My cancer thrived on estrogen, so I had to take Tamoxifen for 5yrs to keep estrogen at bay from my system so any residual cancer cells wouldnt be able to take hold. This in turn caused early menopause and my bones and joints responded to the lack of estrogen by pushing me into early osteoporosis and worsening osteoarthritis. So there we have it – premature ageing.
For a very long time I’ve been feeling frustrated and angry about this whole premature ageing thing but I realised today that it’s a bonus. Yes that’s right, a bonus. If I hadn’t had the tamoxifen and had plenty of that youth elixir estrogen in my system, I’d probably be dead. Given that alternative, coping with all the stuff I do seems like a worthwhile trade off. Better yet, I can still do something about the ravages of age by continuing on this path of rehabilitating myself, strengthening my bones and muscles, learning better balance techniques and improving my well being.
Next week I have a one to one session with the girl at ECH to learn how to use the equipment and so she can evaluate what my exercises will be. I’ll keep the appointment and probably attend at least one session so I can meet the person who will actually be running the sessions and of course the other people going through their paces. The girl I see initially isn’t someone I’ll be dealing with regularly so I will withhold judgement on whether their programs are acceptable or not until I see what a session is really like. I’ll do the same with the Strength for Life program, and see if I can get a tour for the Anytime Fitness gym before making a final decision.
Eleven years ago today I had a mastectomy. Up until that time the only reason I ever needed to see a doctor was for the occasional infection after a cold. These days, I have to book a double appointment because I have multiple issues. Having breast cancer changed my life significantly in many ways. The hardest being the changes in my body as a result of the treatments, and coping with the loss of dear friends to the same cancer, facing the reality of my own mortality.
Many good things have happened because I had breast cancer though. I’ve made amazing friends I would probably have never met otherwise. I have developed more tolerance towards the little annoyances in life. I appreciate each and every year I have on this earth, and have a different perspective than I did eleven years ago. I still struggle with the things my body does and doesn’t do since that diagnosis. Some days I struggle more than others, and sometimes probably I could deal with better than I actually do.
A few years after the mastectomy, and had reconstruction. I no longer needed to wear a prosthetic breast, and no longer had to worry about the fake one falling out of my clothes – and yes that actually happened. The worst part was at the end of the day, changing for bed. Some days I’d totally forget about cancer and that I no longer had a right breast. It was a particularly rude reminder when the prosthetic would fall out onto my feet. Since reconstruction that doesn’t happen, and as time passed the new breast no longer seems new – it’s just another part of me. Even the scars have faded. I wish that the rest of my body could have had a similar event that just makes all the annoying issues I’ve had to cope with go away or fade into the background.
So today I raise a glass and ponder that after 11 years I’m still here. Not in the best of condition, but damn, I’ve made it to a milestone in some ways I never thought I’d see.
I wrote the above this morning while I had my cup of coffee and hadn’t yet started my day. As is often the case, I sometimes fall back to sleep and today was no different, aside from one exception. I had an extraordinary dream that started with a music video showing an ordinary road which slowly changed over time and by the end of the song it was as if the viewer was in a different world or country. Buildings and landmarks were all very differently shaped and coloured. My dream switched to me walking the road back from the unusual to where I’d started, looking for where the dividing line might be such as a road sign about entering a new place or a flag or something. In my dream, it was a flag. There were flags along the entire route every mile or so, up on the utility poles. Where the change took place the flag was different. Again my dream changed and I was at ‘home’ where I grew up in Shields, Mi. I was talking to my step father Bill about the place I’d just been in the dream and telling him how interesting my day had been. In reality, Bill died years ago and I doubt I’d ever had such an interesting coversation with him, but the feeling of having an interesting day and seeing so many strange and unusual things stayed with me when I woke up. I’ve always hated the word ‘journey’ in association with breast cancer, but it’s a bit hard after writing the above and the dream I had no to realise that it has been and will probably continue to be a long strange trip. In the dream, the music was something by Queensryche but the visuals were right out of a Yes album cover. I love my mind at times. It can put the most interesting mashes of things together.
Again, a toast to 11 years. May the next 11 have less health issues and more fascinating roads that lead to truly interesting places.
As a Breast cancer survivor of 9yrs, I find I have different reactions to Breast cancer awareness month even on a day to day basis.
Sometimes I resent the reminder that 9yrs ago this month I was recovering from a mastectomy & fretting over starting chemotherapy. That our first wedding anniversary & my 40th birthday was over-shadowed by my recovery.
Other times I’m grateful & humble I’ve made it 9yrs past some of the worst days of my life.
Mostly I wish for every awareness campaign there were equal amounts of energy put towards finding a cure.