Sunday, 23 October 2011

Another year

This blog is now a year old - plus a few days! I don't update it as regularly as I might and my journal still receives more attention, but the blog continues to chart my wanderings through the Land of New Normal.

It is also a year since I switched from tamoxifen to Aromasin and this anniversary has been marked by the drug going generic in the U.K. So I have just started on the generic exemestane and seem to have gone back to a few of the early, but happily temporary, side effects I had - notably headaches, some dizziness and some gastric upset. Hopefully these will settle down as quickly they did last year. With regard to the more major side effects, the joint pain and stiffness is much worse than it was on tamoxifen and there are some other unpleasant effects. On the up side, the hot flushes and fatigue are a bit better. Overall I feel that the switch has been a good move for me.

This time last year I was in the thick of Appointments Season with annual, quarterly and four monthly appointments all seeming to run together. This year things are a bit different and so far the only seasonal appointment has been last week's regular "medication review" with my GP - probably not the greatest use of time for either of us really! Now that I'm down to two appointments a year, I haven't seen my oncologist this month, and with the genetics issue "done" and the UKFOCSS study over the pressure on my overcrowded diary has eased considerably.

The anniversary day (as opposed to date) of the fateful mammogram was the day of Cat's memorial, while 29th October and 5th November are significant dates too - so I'm now into Anniversary Season. This will run onto this year's shortened Appointments Season with mammogram and seeing my surgeon from the end of November through to mid December. I hope to emerge still clutching the hand of our good friend NED.

Fortunately there are also a lot of pleasant things dotted around this time; seeing friends, autumn walks (lovely one yesterday!), curling and Christmas card making. With all the busyness of summer over I will also return to working on the Storm Rider Quilt project.

Looking back to this time three years ago, I was on holiday and blissfully unaware of the recall letter that was sitting on my doormat at home. Sometimes it seems as if it was only yesterday, while at others it feels a lifetime away. I suspect that feeling is all part of living here in the Land of New Normal.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Most Tacky ...

As we know all too well, October is filled with a whole range of pink products; many in somewhat questionable taste while others are just plain tacky.

Some cause such a furore that they don't even manage to get off the starting blocks - no mean feat when you consider just what alarming stuff does make it to the market place! That was the fate of the tee-shirt that offended so many people that the charity it was due to 'support' withdrew from the deal. One can only admire the charity concerned for having the courage to admit to their original lack of judgment and then revising their decision.

I think I have just seen my entry for this year's Most Tacky Pink Product. It is a wine glass costing £17.25 with £1 going to a breast cancer charity. It is painted with pink bows and the words 'Mother', 'Daughter', 'Sister', 'Friend', 'Promise'. The product information says "Reason to buy: Fun and Unusual Gift".

I am not of the opinion that all publicity is good publicity - think Gerald Ratner! Neither do I believe that it is necessary to  sink to low levels to raise awareness or cash, or indeed to have fun while doing so - think HIV/AIDS. Indeed much of the pink trivia actually detracts from awareness by giving the impression that breast cancer is no longer a serious disease but a bit of a girly joke and something easily cured.  It also tends to sideline the men diagnosed with breast cancer and does little to raise awareness among men that they could develop the disease.

The truth, as we know, is that while many new treatments can have excellent results and achieve long periods of remission, this is not always the case (see my previous blog post) and the cancer can return at any time. This is not one of the cancers where you can feel safe once you reach the magic five years of disease free survival. Yes, 20 year plus remissions are great when you think of the alternative, but for someone diagnosed at age 40 that would only take them to age 60. Of course there are people who will never relapse or who will die with the disease rather than from it, but there is no way to know whether or not we are one of them until we find out that we're not. So we have to find a way to deal with that uncertainty, incorporate it into our lives and work around it.

So this October my way of dealing with the frightful triviality is to see if I can find the year's most tacky pink product. Tacky is not necessarily downright offensive, it is just, well, tacky. And, while the month isn't finished yet, I think this glass is my entry.

Any other candidates out there?