Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Catching Up, Catching My Breath

The Holidays raced past me in a flurry of activity. I'm still scratching my head, trying to remind myself that it's 2010 as I write the date on checks and notes.

How can it be that a decade has passed since the turn of the century?

Christmas was spent with my in-laws, who spoiled us as always. The kids were loaded down with gifts, the extended family ate a lot of food and everyone was in a great mood. I also happened to turn 36, now closer to 40 than 30. If I live to be 72, I believe that would make me "middle-aged".

Joy.

To counteract my ruminations on getting older, I give undue weight to the meaningless comments of service people....like the waiter at Applebee's who called me "Miss" instead of "Ma'am"......or the Lowe's paint employee who asked his coworker to help "that young lady" over there because he was already helping someone else. And no...these men weren't 70 years old in which case any woman under 50 is a "Miss" or "Young Lady".

I tell myself that I must be positively radiating youthfulness at my advanced age!

The very fact that I am having this internal conversation about my age and actually treasuring these comments with a certain amount of self-satisfaction is laughable and wholly due to the mental deterioration that happens as we age.

It's all downhill from here! ;-)

Work has progressed at my dad's house. The bathrooms are tiled and the kitchen and front entryway also. Providence was with me as I was loading my tiny Corolla down with heavy boxes of tile. A man approached me asking if I was looking for a tile setter. I said maybe and he gave the number of his neighbors who needed the work and were really good. They came in, did the work for a great price and did it well.

DH and I painted most of the exterior of the house, though the cold weather interfered with us completing it. Apparently you're not supposed to paint if the temperature is below 50 degrees. Curse you Arctic Air!

I stayed behind at my dad's house when DH headed up to his Mom's to pick up the kids. The Rationalist had a science project due the first day back from Christmas vacation. His "group project" wound up being a solo project. He managed to take on the responsibility of doing all the work himself with minimal complaint. He's had his first lesson in learning that friends who are the most "fun" are not always the ones you want to do, or should do, projects with.

I had one of my tri-annual, follow-up appointments with my oncologist which put me in a foul mood, though nothing major happened. He's a bit of a cold fish, and while he's not terrible, I never felt very connected to him, or very validated during my office visits with him. I had contemplated looking for someone else before I went through treatment, but felt like I didn't have the time. I told myself that I was only having a short course of chemo, 3 months, and then I would be mostly done with him....I wasn't thinking about follow-up visits for the next 5 years.

Now, I regret not looking for someone else. He comes into the office, asking about how I'm doing, whether I'm experiencing side effects from the anti-hormonal medication I have to take each day. I tell him that, yes, actually I've been really struggling with several side effects, the worst being a period of severe depression at the end of September that really scared me.....simply because it seemed so out of character for me and wholly different from any other feeling of depression I had ever had. At the same time I was dealing with some other side effects that were actually causing me pain. I decided in October to go off the meds for 2 months to see if my symptoms improved.

They did....very dramatically.

I restarted my medication at the beginning of December in an effort to give it another try. I am supposed to take it for 5 years...a prospect which seems daunting considering that I haven't tolerated it well.

My oncologist stared at me blankly and said, "Well, at least I got you to do chemo." I'm not sure why, but this pissed me off immensely. The understated disapproval and general feeling of dismissiveness of my struggle with the medication as being somewhat "whiny" made me roll my eyes and simply wish for the office visit to end quickly.

I left wishing I had found someone a little more supportive and interested in my overall well-being way back in the beginning of this. It was discouraging, mainly because I have been feeling quite fabulous lately and as if I have put the whole "cancer" thing behind me. Visiting him simply dragged me back down to "patient" mode.....in which I have to obsess about my cancer stats, my risk of recurrence, and the unsettling knowledge that the only reason I go to the oncologist is so they can "watch" me....looking for anything that might be wrong with me....checking for tumor markers.

I'm so over it.

3 comments:

Retriever said...

Get another doctor, then call thus current one up and tell him exactly why you left him. His specialty is too serious for him to continue without getting a verbal smack upside his head. He may know his oncology, but there is no need to be offensive. Makes my blood boil, thinking of it. On another note, if he is this much of a jerk, would you want to be in treatment with him if anything recurred? Not that it will, but I recently resolved that I would only ever stay with GPs who I liked enough that their attitude would help motivate me to fight any illness I developed. Since I am 15 years older than you, and it's only a matter of time before something goes wrong, this is of immediate concern. But I mean it, why stay with someone who is a jerk?

SOrry to give unsolicited advice, I do when I care about people....

I am glad you had a happy vacation, and am awed by your energy and all you have done for your dad, as well as all you do for your family. You are such a blessing to them!

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I never thought of you as anything but young. But then, I'm old, so maybe it doesn't count.

It's tough to be female. One more group of nagging expectations lying around in the background waiting to pounce.

wv: hotesm. That sounds encouraging somehow.

terri said...

Retriever,

I should get another doctor. It's just hard to balance my annoyance with him with the time and effort it takes to find a new oncologist, especially considering that, other than my daily medication, I am out of active treatment.

If I recurred....I would most likely be out the door.

Part of the disconnect with him I think lies in the fact that he didn't know what to do with me. I was a young patient who already knew most of what he was going to tell me during our first visit. I knew about treatments, side effects, the latest studies and tests. I don't think he was ready for someone who already had formed ideas about how to proceed with treatment without relying on him first.

It started us off on the wrong foot.....plus he tends towards the "aggressive as possible treatment", even if it may be over-treatment. I was always looking for a balance between treating the cancer and preserving as much quality of life as possible.

This caused a few uncomfortable moments. He wanted me to do radiation, even though the radiation oncologist said I didn't need it. He wanted me to do chemo, even though my pathology scores put me in a range that is considered questionable as to whether chemo actually has any real benefit. He wanted me to have more invasive surgery, even though the chances of them finding anything more was about 5%.

I went along with the chemo and the more invasive surgery only because I didn't want to have regrets if I did recur. I didn't want to be left with the thought that I didn't do everything that I could have.

I think he is probably as tired of me as I am of him.

re: my dad's house.....He actually passed away over a year ago and we've been trying to rehab his termite-infested house.....so I am not as kind and wonderful as I might seem! ;-)


AVI....I recognize the ridiculousness of me even thinking about my age as if I'm old. I really think it's largely due to the past few years. I feel as if I am much older simply because of all the stuff that's been going on in our lives. Death, disease, mortality, planning on how to approach the decline in health in my mother and DH's father. I feel older than 36.