Listening, as we all know, is one of the deepest forms of respect. Listening to each other and genuinely being engaged within that conversation should be a consistent behaviour. However, we’re all guilty of not ‘being there’ listening and absorbing both what is being said and what is not being said; that takes 100% attention and for most of the population today 100% attention is a forgotten skill.
In #cancerland it’s allowed because the majority of us are on drugs that affect brain cognition and processing. Not in a spacey, zoned out way I don’t mean, just that the sharpness of thought softens and the response rate to critical questions lessens. (If however, you’re reading this and I work with or for you, please don’t think that I’m not worth bothering with! #alljobsconsidered). This side effect really troubles and frustrates me because I like to think and respond clearly and the sense of stupidity you feel as you literally file through your brain for an answer cripples me. I know I’m not alone in this.
As I sat with my Surgeon a few weeks ago, going through how things are right now (some good, some not so good) he asked Steve ‘How are things going on the Tamoxifen?’ and grinned. Steve, bless him, gave a guarded and careful account of the status quo of me on this drug. Both men smiled, not in a blokey ‘I get you’ way, just a coming together of minds. I didn’t feel excluded from the conversation at all, in fact it’s reassuring for Clinicians to incorporate close family members in discussions like this since everyone ends up in the firing line and everyone experiences some type of effect from these types of hormone therapies.
As I predicted in my last post, Mr Coombs suggested that we ‘Pop round to the breast clinic to have a mammogram’ said with all the innocence of popping out for a cappuccino as only someone who has never had one could manage. I talked to him about the advantages of additionally having an ultrasound as my tumour was detected this way and not through a mammogram. We chatted about the pros and cons and he made a call and it was sorted.
I’m going to skim past the mammogram experience because frankly if you don’t have to think about it, then don’t. The ultrasound straight after was simple enough in itself, but the associated narrative from the Radiologist was interesting and revealing. ‘People think that radiotherapy is just a zap and that’s it’ he said, ‘But in fact it keeps changing your body for 5-10 years after’. 5-10 years?! That was news to me and I’m not sure it was exclusively the good type. Not that it’s anything sinister at all, but as you carry on through each stage of active treatment and beyond new information comes your way for you to think about and mull over. And this of course is where the listening is so important and so hard. Faced with vital information, I now ask for it to be written down, photographed, emailed and photocopied and so on, not trusting my brain to retain it all. Goodness knows how many times my extremely patient Pharmacist has explained the electronic prescription service to me, with the inevitable question ‘So do I need to try and make a Doctor’s appointment?’ ringing in his ears. I think the answer is no, but there again……….
As Steve and I headed back to Mr Coombs’ office following the squeezing and the imaging we chatted about what he was going to say and how impressed we were with ourselves that we didn’t get lost. The results reached the office quicker than we had and a smile from Mr Coombs as we went in and sat down was interpreted as being good news for this scan session; and it was. Currently no evidence of disease. A few calcium deposits were visible and that’s ok. So the Tamoxifen is doing what it’s meant to, albeit in a way that can make you question your quality of life and that is the way that Clinicians talk to you about it, but life it is.
Life as you know is absolutely to be cherished. Don’t waste it doing things you hate, with people who would rather be somewhere else. We received some very sad news of a friends early death at the weekend and as ever in this circumstance we are all reminded that life is short, you don’t know when your last day or last conversation will be, so make it a #TeamPositive one. Our love and thoughts go out to his family and friends and in his honour we shall be living life preciously with our full attention.