Seven Months On

I had my latest consultation today, including the nasal endoscope. Results from the latest blood test shows that my thyroid function is fine, and that the Oncologist is happy with what he can see down my nasal passage and back of throat – this is a good thing 🙂

Normally, with the camera in place, I’m asked to call out an elongated ‘eeee’: this time we added a couple of ‘heee heee’s’. I was then asked to inhale through my mouth whilst he pinched my nose hard and told to blow through my nose as hard as I could. I imagined how ridiculous this charade will have looked (it felt it): it certainly made the nurse smile. I’ll know it was all a prank when I see a clip of it on YouTube.

So, seven months post-treatment, this is the state of play:

  • My taste buds have re-awakened: I can discern most obvious flavours but not subtle ones. It’s all still a bit brash and temperamental, with some days better than others. Since pre-treatment days I’d had just two mild curries (think Korma) until last week, then a stunning home-made vegetarian feast. I struggled with a Dhal and two of the ‘dry’ dishes, but in the main, I enjoyed it all. This is another good thing.
  • I still cannot digest starchy foods without taking on lots of liquid. Gravy works well, especially with spuds, but water tends to bugger up the taste of certain things, like bread/toast, nuts, etc. Flaky fish works, dense meat (e.g. pork) doesn’t. Frustrating but it’s now the norm. Fresh pineapple and yoghurt is still a favourite though.
  • My throat remains sore at night, but I no longer need to get up every two hours to dispense with vast quantities of liquid; just the one trip. I’m down to sipping 2 litres of filtered water a day, excluding coffee (which was never a problem). It still has a metallic tang (bottled water less so), and I’m not sure if it’s as bad as it has been over the past months, or whether I’ve just got used to the ‘new’ taste. Not really a successful brand strapline (new improved water, less metallic taste). The next trick is to try a Peptac liquid in case acid reflux could be an issue. Hey, I’m happy to try anything…
  • My teeth feel ‘loose’ in the morning: it’s a bizarre effect, like having my gums melt overnight. They feel better after I’ve eaten something, but never quite ‘right’. The dentist is casting his evil eye over my wisdom teeth. I’m anxious about this (no, not the dentist’s evil eye). Worse, the Oncologist mentioned osteoradionecrosis (ORN), but added that this is not normally an issue for another ten years or so. Having just read up on the subject, it’s yet another thing to look forward to…
  • The Lymphoedema is manageable – some days are better than others. I’m constantly massaging my neck, and if I keep the Kinesio tape on for a couple of days, it helps to stop the ‘neck pouch’ developing for a longer period. When I forget the tape, the bulge becomes very noticeable.
  • The tiredness comes and goes, with some days better than others. The days of feeling ‘wiped out’ are less frequent.
  • I can now ‘do’ good red wine in small quantities (no cheap rubbish) – this is a joy (the third good thing), as I was missing my favourite tipple. Spirits are still a no-no, but I no longer yearn for a G&T. White wine and the occasional beer are good. Apart from when we are on holiday though, my intake is a fraction of what it was pre-diagnosis. However, after months of properly flushing out my system, I definitely feel it when I’ve had a drink.

I’m just over half a year into my remission period, but there do seem to be new issues occurring. Reading up on the potential after effects 12/24/60 months post-therapy, you realise how much you’re not aware of when your Oncologist outlines the treatment schedule. You are warned about most likely scenarios immediately surrounding the treatment, but there was scant discussion regarding long term conditions. I hadn’t imagined it would take as long as it has, but I’m told that it can be a year – or longer – to return to ‘normal’ and the continuing after-effects of radio/chemo treatment differs for each individual. I’m not bitter about this because, at the time, what are the alternatives to what’s on offer? At least, alternatives you would seriously contemplate.

Having whinged on a bit, it’s only when you speak to others that you realise how much you’ve actually improved over the past seven months. All things considered, I’m bloody grateful for where I am today…

Apart from that, I spent some time with friends in the southernmost tip of Devon, at Prawle Point. Lots of great walks, fairly decent weather, great company and wonderful food; a perfect break.

I raise a singular glass of red wine to you all!

 

PS Rock sofas in Devon – it’ll never catch on.

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Don’t you forget about me?

Let’s talk about work.

There is no doubt that, post-treatment, I’ve lacked the vim and drive I had before my diagnosis, and I suffer from fatigue after the most basic of tasks; catnaps are no longer a luxury, they are essential. I’ve got better as the months have gone by, and I’m pretty keen to get back to something resembling a ‘normal’ lifestyle, especially when it comes to taxing my brain in a working/creative environment.

During my search for work over the past few months, I’ve decided to be completely honest about my condition – and current remission – to both potential employees and agencies. After this, responses have been few and far between. I cannot prove that it is because of my situation (I would hope not), but I’m acutely aware that it’s likely to play at least some part and, being brutally honest, it would be a huge challenge to throw myself into the kind of environment I was in previously due to the demands involved. This won’t stop me trying though…

To this effect, I’ve decided that one avenue involves setting myself up in business, working in a field I still love and enjoy, namely design and project management. Its early days, and I won’t go into details of potential opportunities; however, it is wonderful to put my design head on and feel involved again. I’m really enjoying the process (this is called the honeymoon stage), but there are many things still to be resolved (the reality phase, e.g. will I ever get paid?), and there is no guarantee that this will get off the ground in the manner I would like. However, it has taken my thoughts away from what was a fairly stressful time in my life, and allows me to think more positively about stuff I can do in the future, hopefully with worthwhile results. Dealing with cancer can make you feel quite isolated and lonely, and interacting with people on a daily basis is making a huge difference.

One issue to confront is whether or not I mention my situation in a work environment. Depending on how its approached, colleagues could have many different reactions: those who know what I’ve been going through may react to the diagnosis and absences for future appointments with understanding and offers to help, but others may feel uncomfortable around me. Some people may be reminded of a loved one’s time with cancer (I’ve come across this a lot recently). Many people find cancer an unpleasant reminder of their own mortality and could react awkwardly out of some vague fear or uneasiness.

I would certainly be interested in feedback from those in similar situations: your experiences going back to work with a either a previous or new employer, or chasing self employment opportunities.

PS. Okay, so the title is another song reference. I just can’t help myself (whoops, another one).

PPS. 101 uses for a radiotherapy mask No.3 – let it attend work meetings on your behalf.

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