57. The Exorcist

A week ago I was planning my lessons at my desk and strangely I find myself doing the same again.  Ten days ago I was preparing for the D2B ball and today I’m preparing for Year 11 fieldwork to Bristol followed by Exeter.  What a difference a week makes.

The feedback from the Ball has been terrific.  In school some of our facilities staff have pushed money into my hand for the Primrose Foundation, some of the students have said we think we saw you on the telly but mostly it has been business as usual with the odd smattering of cover for ongoing hospital appointments.

One such was on Monday where I had another oncology appointment.  I left school in a rush at 1.10pm for a 2pm appointment, not least as I had failed to request cover for the correct period – I’d confidently said that I didn’t need to have my year 7 lesson covered as my appointment was at 2pm.  What I’d forgotten was that I would need time to get from school to the hospital.  What a plank.  So I had to flurry about find a colleague to cover the lesson (so she missed a duty!) set the lesson up with top set year 7 who are great and then rush out the front to be pick up by Nick in the new electric car.

This electric car is very zippy and very quiet – you can easily be doing 40mph in a 30mph zone without realising it because the engine isn’t making any noise! However, there is a voice which warns you that there are speed cameras in the vicinity.  We made it to the impossible car park, I couldn’t find the easier access, found a parking spot, walked down six flights of stairs, past the gang of smokers, around the corner, through the Mustard Tree, down more stairs and into Oncology.  I scanned my letter – yes, they were expecting me and then noticed a large sign saying the clinic was running 45 minutes late.  So I told the chap on the reception desk that Nick and I would retreat to the Mustard Tree for a cup of tea (MacMillan centre) and would he phone up when it was our turn.  Off we went… it is very calm in the Mustard Tree, I signed in, asked about acupuncture – no they didn’t do it as an alternative therapy and then we were offered a cup of tea.  The volunteers there are very kind and they asked Nick “what brings you here”… I think they still think he is the patient!  The answer was me! No sooner did we get a decent cup of tea than we were called down to Oncology and were allowed to take the mugs with us. All very civilised.

A very jolly healthcare assistant called me through and invited me to stand on the scales… shoes, watch, lanyard, jacket all came off… lots of laughter and my weight was still ok.   Through to the examination room where Mr Y met us.  I hadn’t anticipated an oncology appointment and the letter had thrown me earlier in the week.  However, I assumed it was routine and fully expected to be signed off… come back in 5 years.  We had a chat about how I was managing with Exemestane – it was better than Letrozole.. fatigue wasn’t as extreme but joints are rubbish and hot flushes volcanic.  Sadly not much can be done for the arthralgia and myalgia (joint and muscle pain) other than taking ‘brufin at bedtime.  I was offered Tamoxifen (no thanks… side effects of that are grim) so I decided to stick it out with Exemestane only Mr Y recommend I take Venlaxifine to help manage the hot flushes.  It was then time for the examination… I hadn’t anticipated that either.

Nick helped unzip my dress and I had to lie on the examination couch with my smart black school dress folded down to my tummy – bra off and pillow case draped over me.  Mr Y asked about my reconstruction plans and I pointed out the cannonball (with just a hint of concrete) and told him about the date for the Diep.  The pillow slip was artfully arranged over my good boob and Mr Y proceeded to prod under my arm, around the cannonball and then the other side.  Then I had to sit up with the holding onto the pillow slip (I suppose I should have taken my pink feathery fans – note to self for next time) so he could examine my lymph nodes starting under my ears, down my neck, to my collar bone, all down my tummy and then my back.  Bugger… he found a lump in my neck.. it wasn’t brass, it wasn’t a bolt but it doesn’t feel quite right.  So whilst he is very confident that it is fine it does warrent an investigation and so an ultrasound appointment has been booked – big step back onto the conveyor belt and instead of being signed off from Oncology I have to return on a more frequent basis.  I too am very confident that it is nothing to worry about… until 3am when I lie awake and think OMG what if, what if, what if.. I know it is no good worrying about what you don’t know… but I am only human.

We left Oncology and I went to the pharmacy to pick up the new drugs… so what if I had a new head growing out of my neck… at least I wouldn’t be having volcanic hot flushes with the new meds.  Nick cooked supper and as prescribed I took one of the new tablets.  I returned to my desk and within about 15 minutes felt a bit dizzy so I lay down, then I felt very, very, very unwell and then I re enacted the vomiting scene from the Exorcist (which I’ve never even been able to watch as it is so scary).  The day had not ended well.

Tip:  read the side effects well for any new medication – the next morning I read that Venlaxifine is an anti-depressant with side effects which include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, increased sweating, dry mouth… I won’t be taking any more thanks Mr Y!


Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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