The Oncologist Part Two

Kidderminster TC


This is where I saw the Oncologist yesterday. It’s where I spent hours (around 70 in total) rigged up to a pump receiving chemicals that come with large biohazard symbols all over them.  Getting close-up and personal with something covered in that particular symbol is great for building risk tolerance, almost akin to lighting matches at the petrol pump or playing Russian roulette.  Cancer is very much like Russian roulette – a potentially lethal game of chance – and although I know the those hazardous chemicals are designed to change the odds, seeing something marked biohazard enter a vein can never be anything other than disconcerting.

I dutifully completed my Persephone trial questionnaire reporting overall improvements in general health, no change in joint pain, continued loss of earnings compared to the pre-cancer days and relatively normal cognitive functioning, so long as I’m not tired.  My height was checked: this always makes me laugh because at my age there is no chance of further vertical growth and only a slight chance of noticeable shrinkage.  My weight was checked: this never makes me laugh because in spite of very regular exercise, healthy eating, plenty of water and a near zero alcohol diet there is still plenty of potential for horizontal growth and only a remote chance of microscopic shrinkage.  Stick thin are words that are unlikely to enter my vocabulary any time soon.

The Oncologist came out of his office to find me, which was unusual because he’s normally too busy to move. After the usual questions we proceeded to the examination which includes tapping over the liver, various prodding of the neck and chest and visual inspection.  All seems well so we proceeded to a conversation about ongoing joint issues – both knees, both ankles and right-hand fingers.  For a long time I have suspected these are all treatment related irrecoverable side-effects. Yesterday the Oncologist confirmed my diagnosis and acknowledged my underlying suspicion that any further improvement is unlikely to occur.  I had prepared for this eventuality; the joint situation is annoying, frustrating and often painful but at least it isn’t cancer. Having its permanence officially confirmed was too good an opportunity to miss so I asked the Oncologist in my most serious tone how I could possibly be expected to climb Kilimanjaro and then run a naked marathon next Spring.  This had the desired effect of making him laugh and put Sally the trials nurse into an uncontrollable fit of the giggles.

Once we all returned to cancer clinic stoicism I asked about the outstanding preventive surgery, described my family history as prolific, aka develop one get five free, and as we all die before age 50 it’s positively infuriating because none of us get to see the paltry pensions we worked like slaves not to have. It may be gallows humour but for my unfortunate predecessors  it’s also true. This made the Oncologist laugh, Sally hadn’t fully recovered from the naked marathon and two laughs in one appointment is quite an achievement. After confirming I’d given it plenty of consideration, know exactly what more surgery entails and have no fear (psychological or physical) about it, the Oncologist and Sally agreed they are both of the mind that it’s a very good idea and unlikely to fall into the over-treatment category in my case. A consultation with the oncoplastic surgeon will be arranged shortly…

All in all the visit was successful. No sign of anything untoward – check. Confirmation that treatment, not age, is responsible for various joint mayhem – check. Validation of my position on the outstanding surgery – check. Making the Oncologist laugh – check, twice 🙂 .

13 thoughts on “The Oncologist Part Two

  1. I just noticed that’s two major milestones in a row. I suppose I’m dwelling mainly on the joints. Join me in bring stubborn and thinking that it’s not for forever but, instead, just longer than you’d hoped. Perhaps with gentle exercise you will see some improvement. Modified yoga or tai chi might be of some benefit.


  2. Tracy, it’s good to hear that most things are well and you made the best of your long medical visit. I met a woman recently who is going through treatment for HER 2 positive breast cancer at the famous Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center at the University of Wa. She is in a clinical trial there where she receives acupuncture for the joint issues. I normally don’t suggest these things but Fred Hutch is considered one of the best cancer treatment and researce facilities in the world.


  3. Hey – sounds like great news – except for the joint pain. I guess the great news is there really wasn’t any new news and that is always a relief! The new surgery is nothing compared to what you’ve been through.


    • It was great news Mae. The longer the remission the better the long term odds. I think you’re right, compared to chemo surgery is much less debilitating…


  4. I am so relieved and happy to hear all checked out fine. However, having to live with the amount of joint pain you suffer with SUCKS. hopefully, you have some medication that helps keep you fairly comfortable. two guffaws??!! very impressive – it’s very nice that you were able to give your doctor and the nurse a dose of that good medicine!

    much love,

    Karen xoxo


    • It’s always a little daunting going for the check-up although I find the mammogram more worrying because it never found my original tumour. At least I now know the joints are treatment related rather than anything else. Thank you for your support Karen, as always it is much appreciated. Sending love xoxox


  5. I didn’t know you were still having any treatments. What’s going into your veins? And what surgery are you considering, if you don’t mind my being nosy:)


    • Ah, no, I’m not have more treatment (hopefully that will never happen). I want to go back for the remaining breast surgery. My surgeon recommended to only deal with the cancerous side initially to reduce the risk of surgery related infection and speed up the route to chemo. She said chemo was the most important thing given the HER2 status and high grade. I’m not overly fond of my odds of a new breast cancer in the remaining side so hoping they’ll remove it and offer reconstruction, assuming the health authority will fund it. Technically I’ll be androgynous once that’s done as there’ll be no real female bits left!


        • I had a lot of symptoms during chemo, hot flushes, low mood,disturbed sleep but didn’t wait to see if everything would start working again and had the oophorectomy last summer. The worst of the low hormone symptoms dissipated last autumn (a year after chemo first shut everything down). Now the only symptom is my skin – prone to breakouts that can be difficult to manage. I don’t have low mood, flushes etc so am guessing my body has adapted to its low hormone state? I actually feel better overall now than I did before the chemical/surgery induced menopause.


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