Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Last night I dreamt about The Tango Man, as I was scheduled to see him today for my three-monthly check-up. Also in my dream was L, my old school friend, who recently had a right breast masectomy after a recurrence of breast cancer 11 years after she had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation.
Anyway, don't remember much about the dream other than it wasn't a nightmare and people watched me interact with The Tango Man from raked seating, which might have been outdoors, an experience I wasn't that comfortable about not being private.
The raked seating might be because I like theatre but cannot remember watching a show in such a setting recently, apart from Maynardville outdoor theatre in Cape Town but which has loose seats rather than the scaffolding of my dream. And I think I dreamt about him because I was so anxious about the pending appointment but was not really articulating my feelings, apart from on this blog.
Anyway, I am all fine. I knew my mammogram and ultrasound were ok, and my muga, but did not know the results of the blood tests. So all very happy. Well I was so happy afterwards I told the nurses: I could cry. But I didn't.
I enjoyed my encounter with The Tango Man who has turned out to be far more amiable and less intimidating than expected. As The Yoga Man says, he cannot be too friendly if he thinks you gonna die. Put another way, he warms up when he knows you're ok.
Besides gushing about how grateful I am that I am ok, and saying I will do whatever he says, even swing from the chandelier - then adding that I didn't think I could actually do that, to which he added that he didn't think so either! - this is what he answered to my questions.
I explained that I was fine, but wanted him to know a few of my side-effects/symptoms, because I think it is important to document things (so he knows what % of patients experience what), plus I had a few questions.
1) SWOLLLEN GLANDS IN MY NECK: He said they were soft glands and clearly a viral infection. He was unconcerned. Relief, cos when I felt them upon waking up on Saturday, it intensified my anxiety about today's visit, so much so I did not even write about it.
2) NAILS: My nails are thin and keep breaking. Herceptin or tamoxifen? Last time he had said herceptin as the trial for oral herceptin reported soft nails as a side-effect. Today he said tamoxifen should make my nails stronger. I then dismissed it, saying it would clearly improve, and I could live with it.
3) EYESIGHT: Had noticed my eyesight was deteriorating, not least when I went for my driver's licence renewal. Was it the meds? He seemed non-committal about answering that but said I should have my eyes checked. No, well, fine. No problem.
4) TAMOXIFEN WHEN MENOPAUSAL: I told him L, my old school friend, had said she was told that tamoxifen was not for menopausal women (have not had my periods since the chemo). He smiled, as if to say that was not true. So I am ok, right? Cool.
5) METALLIC TASTE IN MOUTH: I had had that recently. Meds? No, he said.
6) HOT FLUSHES. Wanted to tell him I was still having hot flushes from the tamoxifen and they seemed to be getting worse, but no big deal. He wrote it down.
7) ASPIRIN FOR BOWEL CANCER: My sister had asked me to ask him re aspirin as a preventative for bowel cancer. He said it didn't work if you had a predisposition towards it. I do as it's in my family. But if I wanted to take it, not more than 3 to 5X a week but to be aware that it had its own problems, such as causing bleeding and... I won't take it then, I said, as he seemed not to think it was a great idea (that's when the swinging from the chandelier comment came up).
8) THE MUGA AND EXERCISE: I asked him not to shout at me like he did last time ("Who said that doing more exercise would be good for you?" he had screamed when I had asked if I could do more cardio as walking to the shops from work was more energetic than what I did on the treadmill). Well, surprise surprise, he said I could do more. "You're fine, all your tests are fine, your bloods, your muga, your....". My biokineticist had said I was doing about 65% of .. and this I am not sure.. but it relates to my heart rate, and he said I could up it to 75%. So I want to do what I usually do on Friday and measure it, and then up it 10% accordingly. Was ecstatic about this. Now still thrilled, just a little tired.
9) THAT HORRIBLE TEST AT THE GYNAE:As tamoxifen can cause endometrial cancer, I had to have that horrible test of the uterus. I explained that there had been a discrepancy which we had discussed before: he had said it only needed to be tested once a year; the gynae had said every six months. Then he said, fine, do what the gynae says, and I said great, cos going next week.
Then we discussed my having a colonoscopy. Well I said I hadn't booked one yet but he had said I needed to have it within six months, and I said I was anxious about it. They put you to sleep, he said. It's the result, I said. You are having it to be preventative, he said.
And that was that. A brilliant visit to The Tango Man, whom I trust implicitly and adore and respect. I think it's important to have a doctor you trust. I am lucky. And lucky to be well. On Friday, international cancer day, it will be exactly two years since I started chemo.

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