Posted in Life

The next phase

I woke this morning to Tim getting ready for a bike ride. Did I want to go? No, not today thanks. After he left, my mind and body had a bit of a tussle: get up and go for a walk! No, I don’t have enough energy.

As I’m now listening to my body I got up and went for a walk. And it felt good. It was a lovely 22C, ahead of an expected top of 39C, the sky was blue, and the sun was warm on my shoulders. My feet led me up the hill of our street and then up the slightly steeper hill of Glenferrie Rd, which isn’t the way I would’ve gone if I’d given it any thought but my body was obviously ready for a little extra challenge.

It’s been almost three weeks since my surgery and my body is healing well. The swelling has gone down, with only one isolated spot still swollen but even that is reducing each day. The numb patch under my arm is still numb but that’s not likely to change apparently, and the itching has finally (thankfully)  stopped. I’m back at the gym for my twice-weekly personal training sessions and this coming week I’ll re-introduce upper body work to my workouts. So no problems with my physical recovery.

And I was feeling good about that. Well, really, why wouldn’t I feel good? My body is recovering strength and soon I’ll be back into training for the runs I’m keen to do this year. I am, after all, a runner. So I’m feeling good physically.

Not so much emotionally it has to be said. My oncology appointments on Friday discombobulated me. They reminded me that surgery wasn’t the end of this particular life episode. I haven’t wanted this to be a big deal – I had a lump that needed to be removed, much like an appendix or gall bladder. It’s been removed and I’m recovered, as someone who’s had their appendix or gall bladder removed recovers and then goes back to their regular life.

At the moment though, it does feel like a big deal. Hopefully the bigness of the deal will decrease over time, but I’m trying to be honest here and sort through what I’m feeling and that’s like this is a big deal. Or at least a bigger deal than I wanted it to be.

Meeting my radio oncologist and my medical oncologist makes it clear that I can’t go back to my regular life – at least not just yet. If I’d had my appendix or gall bladder removed I wouldn’t have to worry about my appendix or gall bladder ever again; appendicitis isn’t ever going to pop up in another part of my body, or even in the same part. Mind you, I’ve not had my appendix out, so what would I know? 

What I do know is that the analogy I’ve been using to help keep me grounded – that this is just like having my appendix out – isn’t working for me at the moment. And so the deal is somehow bigger.

Karen, my radio oncologist, is lovely. She has extensive notes about me but asks me to tell my story in my own words. I resist the urge to start with being born in Sydney, in March 19**, the second daughter of Noel and Sheila Pittaway ….

Karen is compassionate and patient, working through the information in a structured and rational way. She explains why I need treatment, what the treatment entails, how it’s delivered and possible side effects. There are possible side effects for the short term, the medium term and the long term. She draws diagrams to help explain the ‘how’ and answers our questions. We talk dates and it’s likely my four weeks of radio therapy will start on February 18 meaning I’ll be done by mid-March. I might get red, irritated and blistered skin, my breast might swell and change colour, and I might get tired. I might get all, some or none of these side effects. If I do get any of them it’ll most likely be in the final week or two of treatment and then continue for a week or two after treatment.

I sign the consent form and Karen says she’ll see me on February 11 for the planning consultation.

Lara, my medical oncologist, is just as lovely. She’s quiet and kind and works through the information in a rational and structured way. She explains why I need endocrine (hormone) therapy, what it entails (a pill every day for five years), possible side effects, and when I should start treatment (after radio therapy). The side effects are minimal: hot flashes, hair thinning, crankiness, and joint stiffness (which exercise can help alleviate). Lara gives me a prescription and says she’ll see me six weeks after I start the medication.

I know I’m in good hands but I’m still discombobulated. My analogy is ripping apart and the bigness of this particular deal is reasserting itself into my consciousness. I try not to let it, but all I want to do when we get home is to crawl into bed and pull the blankets over my head. I resist this urge, telling myself that it isn’t such a big deal: it’s four weeks of radio therapy then five years of taking a pill every day and that’s all. That’s it.

It isn’t a big deal.

I don’t/can’t/won’t believe it. It is a big deal.

I lie on the couch in my favourite PJs and Tim lays a blanket over me. It takes over two hours for my body to warm up. I eventually emerge from my cave but my ambivalence remains.

Is it a big deal? Should it be?

At the moment it is to me.

And in this situation there are no ‘shoulds’.

Photographing flowers is good therapy




I like to travel and take photographs. I like to blog about both.

10 thoughts on “The next phase

  1. You’re are entitled to the low days… We can’t be strong every day. For my radiation burn I used a product by Antipodes called Saviour Skin Balm. It was incredible… My skin healed so quickly. My Oncologist could not believe how good things looked so quickly. Good luck with your treatments.. Deb.. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a big deal and you are right to listen to your body. Have faith in all those lovely kind people who are helping you navigate your way through this and know that we are all with you, sending positive thoughts and cheering you on. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. For the red skin of the radio, I recommend that you treat your skin every day after the session. Watch on instagram #savethemama and similar #revitalvr, #hydroskin_oncology ….. Look for girls in your area and ask them what has gone well. Speaking the same language helps a lot. For chemo it is psychological preparation. I am already with the 5-year-old pill after 16 very aggressive chemotherapies. The pill is killing me to the pain of bones and joints just like the rest. The pain is spent with sport: walking, running. To be able to be normal way 10,000 daily steps about 9 km … finally patience. Look for natural therapy to help your body with side effects = always ask your oncologist first but there are many things that mitigate the side effects.One day the storm passes. Even if it seems like hell now, in the end “normal” life returns. With routine controls and a fear you did not know but you are again. Neither better nor worse. A different you. Work patience. Animos

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ah carnations. Great photo. My favourite flower. Do they have perfume anymore. Is your radio oncologist English and have a surname starting with T. If so I know her and she is lovely. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.


  5. Ah carnations. Great photo. My favourite flower. Do they have perfume anymore. Is your radio oncologist English and have a surname starting with T. If so I know her and she is lovely. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh Sharon, whilst I would never like to be in your shoes I wish I could take some of the angst from you. I’m not a hugger but at this moment I would love to be able to give you a hug and tell you it’s going to be ok.
    Keep listening to your body. keep seeing it as one of your races- there is a finish line but along the way there are different challenges and different obstacles to deal with by different methods. Pace yourself; slow down when you need to but don’t stop (as you yourself advised in an early blog post). Know people are cheering you on and your support crew are there for you every step of the way.

    Hugs from afar

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Angela. Lovely to hear from you and know you’re still reading my blog! I feel very fortunate to have such a wide-spread support crew. It helps get me through those times when things are a bit difficult. 🙂


  7. If you feel it is a big deal, then it is a big deal. Everyone deals with lifes curveballs so differently no way is the right or wrong way. As long as it doesn’t hurt yourself or others. Art in any form is great therapy!!

    Liked by 2 people

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