Breast cancer, cancer treatment, follow up visit, Health, lifestyle, menstruation after cancer treatment, menstruation after chemotherapy, menstruation on Tamoxifen, oncologist, oncologist appointment
In My Head: Wow, really? Really, after over a year? Okay, well, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, but – ewwwwww, a little warning might have been nice! Still, just in time for Hallowe’en… good one, Mother Nature!
In the Cup: Yuban dark roast with almond milk
Currently Playing: Lumineers
Daily Run: What, you mean trips to the bathroom? Because if I went for an actual run today, I would look like an extra in the remake of Carrie, for reasons I shall elaborate on below.
On the Nightstand: The Sister Knot; The Evolution of Human Rights; Animal’s People
Papers Graded: 1. This number will be much higher by the end of the day…
BPAL of the Day: Dragon’s Blood (Are you sensing a theme, here?)
We’re on the 1.5 year cancerversary. Time for my semi-regular checkup. Dutifully, I woke up at the crack of dawn and prepared to drive the 2.25 hours to my oncologist’s office.
Nothing out of the normal – get dressed, brush teeth, go to the bathroom, get my period.
WHOA, wait a minute. Back up. Huh? What? Really? I mean, are you sure? It took me a few minutes to be sure, but – yep, there she was, after 18 months of being AWOL — good ol’ Aunt Flo.
So, Aunt Flo, how was the Caribbean? Did you have a lot of Mai Tai’s? What, no postcards? No advance warning of your imminent return? I mean, to be honest, when you take off like that with no advance warning and I don’t hear from you in over a year, I pretty much write you off, you know? But, there we were. All the bloating and feeling blah over the past few days was apparently not, as I had imagined, a response to my 20th high school reunion(which was surprisingly painless and even quite enjoyable, and if you remind me I’ll post about it in the future)… Well, needless to say, I was a bit
flustered hormonal, for the first time in over a year.
But, you know what? When you have spent over a year firmly believing that thanks to cancer you are officially past your fertile, hot momma years and firmly on your way to cobwebby old hag, let me tell you – it’s inconvenient, but BOY, are you kind of thrilled with yourself: Yeah, Baby! I got my period again! WOOOOOOOOOOT! What’s a little mess in comparison to knowing you’ve regained your mojo?
But here’s the thing: only other cancer patients who have undergone this particular phenomenon could ever possibly understand what a HUGE deal this is. All your other, normal friends your age have spent the past year being insanely jealous of you because you haven’t had to deal with periods. You’ve resigned yourself to feeling less-than-desirable because you are past your childbearing years in a culture that values the nubile. Everyone thinks you should be well over it, and you definitely, and I mean but definitely, should not be talking about it; certainly not in a public space. So you cannot trumpet it to all and sundry, even though it is the best news you’ve had all year. Alas that this is not something you can just blithely post on your Facebook page: “Good morning, Facebook! I got my period! WOOT!” Because this time, nobody will understand why you would ever post that, except your fellow cancer sisters, who will “like” it and post “Awesome!” “Way to go!” “Welcome back, Aunt Flo!” “When’s the welcome home party?” all over your Wall while all your other friends cringe delicately in disgust and refrain from asking if you have, perhaps, forgotten that Facebook is a public space.
Which, obviously, is why I am blogging this under the title: TMI. Read At Your Own Risk. Because I am nothing if not discreetly, warning-label joyous when my period shows back up after being AWOL for over a year. And also, because I want to make sure that other women who experience this a.) know they are not alone and b.) know that YES, it is normal.
Good thing I have my appointment today, I can just make sure this is normal, I thought, getting in the new car just gifted to me by my sister yesterday and making sure I had the title and my driver’s license “in case you get pulled over. Because I went to the DMV to get temporary tags put on it, but they said don’t bother because you’re going to register it in another state, so just drive it home and then get the registration taken care of, but if you get pulled over, you have thirty days to get tags on the car, and just tell them that’s what the DMV told us.”
So, I was driving along to my appointment, feeling really spiffy despite the pouring-down rain and the bloating and cramping, because my womanly bits were in proper working order again and so I was feeling womanly. I might have been the happiest damned woman on a period that ever has been. And as I pulled into town on time – five minutes early, even – to my appointment, without speeding, I was feeling a warm flush that was NOT a hot flash, but rather a self-congratulatory moment of triumph, when:
Yep. Flashing blue lights.
But, you know, I was prepared. I had my license and the title all pulled out and ready to go when Officer Mann walked up to the car. “Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?”
“I imagine it’s because my license plates are expired. Because you see, I just bought this car yesterday, and I am off to my oncologist’s appointment, after which I am off to the DMV to register the car.” I produced my documentation, totally confident that I could still make it to my appointment on time once this little matter was taken care of.
“Yes ma’am. You can’t drive this car with expired tags on it.”
“But I just bought the car yesterday, and yesterday was Sunday, and the DMV isn’t open on Sunday, and it’s not even 9 a.m. yet today, so how do you expect me to have current tags on it?” I pointed out reasonably.
“You can’t drive the car with expired tags.”
“But I just bought it, they aren’t my tags.” This wasn’t going well. “My sister told me she went to the DMV and they told her not to put temporary tags on it because I was just going to register the car in another state anyway so it would be wasting time and money. The DMV told her this would be okay.”
“Well, ma’am, I don’t know about the DMV and what they say, but you can’t drive on expired tags.”
“But I’m taking care of it right after my oncologist’s appointment! Is this how you treat cancer patients?”
“”No, ma’am, this is how we treat people with expired tags. I’ll be back.”
Oh, you have got to be shitting me. I teared up (hormones, remember?) and did what any rational, 38-year old woman having her first period in over a year would do in this situation: I called my Mommy: “You are not going to believe this but I just got pulled over for the expired tags on the car and I explained to him that I just got the car yesterday and I was on my way to my oncologist’s appointment and then I was going to register the car and that my sister asked the DMV and they told her not to bother with the tags because I was registering it in another state and he is still writing me a ticket!” I wailed. “And now I’m going to be late to my oncologist’s appointment and I got my periodddddddddddddddddd!”
Oh, shoot, and I’ve been driving for two hours now. I discreetly checked. No, so far so good. Phew.
The officer came back and of course he wrote the ticket, he was writing that ticket in his head before he ever pulled me over. What, don’t traffic cops have important things to do in torrential downpour weather, like deal with stranded vehicles? I’m sure there had to be some fender benders in the county by that point. Vehicular fires? Vehicular manslaughter? Noooooo, he was writing me a ticket for expired tags on Monday morning before 9 a.m., when I had just gotten the car on Sunday when the DMV is closed. This is why so many people hate cops, by the way. Just saying. I mean, if I had actually been driving the car for any appreciable amount of time on the expired tags, I would totally have deserved that ticket, but I had explained to him that it had been less than 24 hours and I was on my way to my oncologist’s appointment and then on my way to the DMV to handle the tags, and I had a signed and dated title that proved I wasn’t lying about when I’d gotten the car, so seriously, I was mad. But not as mad as my mother, who snapped: “You let me talk to him.”
Well, I don’t know what she said to him, but I’ve been on the other end of a tongue lashing from my mother, and let me tell you, Officer Mann turned pretty red and looked pretty uncomfortable and I think when she was done talking to him he was really, really sorry he wrote that ticket, because once he got off the phone with her, he circled the number at the bottom of the ticket and told me to fax the registration to the clerk’s office at that number and they would probably just throw it out so I wouldn’t even have to appear in court. So, yeah – they always tell you they don’t have a quota to fill when it comes to writing tickets, but clearly, this proves that’s a load of bull, because he could have easily let me off with a warning; he himself was telling me this was a completely unnecessary ticket. I’m definitely not voting for Officer Mann as policeman of the year. (I can think of other categories I’d gladly cast my vote for him in, though.)
Ten minutes late for my oncologist’s appointment, I got there to find they had switched office management and office managing systems, so I had to fill out a ton of paperwork, which set me back even further and frankly, irritated the crap out of me, although I was so happy to feel so irritated that I actually wasn’t irritated — and again, only someone who has not had her period in over a year and suddenly has gotten it back unexpectedly can understand how you can be thrilled to be hormonal like that. And then, FINALLY, I got in to see my oncologist and share the joyous news. You would have thought I was announcing the birth of the Christ Child, y’all. I can’t believe I didn’t blurt it the second I saw the guy – but no, I maintained my composure, wriggling like a delighted puppy as he listened to my breathing and palpated my lymph nodes.
“So, everything still good? No pain? Nothing unusual?”
“I got my period!” I announced with the pride of a thirteen year old getting one for the very first time.
“Oh, good. Good, that’s fine, that’s normal, don’t be worried abut it. It might be a little heavy the first couple times, so be prepared. If it goes too long, more than two weeks, you should get that checked, and if there’s unusual pain or a lot of clotting, okay?”
More than two weeks….? I was starting to wonder just how thrilled I was about this. How heavy? Like, miscarriage-heavy? Severed-limb heavy? Just in time for Hallowe’en, I thought and grinned at that one.
“Don’t get pregnant; remember, you promised me three years,” he reminded me, mistaking the grin for a look of intent.
“Oh, no, no, I’m not getting pregnant. I have no interest right now in getting pregnant. I’m getting my PhD, I don’t have time for a baby. I don’t have time for a kitten right now. I’m just excited to have it back at all,” I assured him.
“Okay, well, we can stop it again, we can give you a monthly shot of Lupron,” he answered.
“I think I’ll just deal with it for a little while. You know. Because I can,” I replied earnestly, to which he simply nodded and made a note in his chart. My oncologist gets me. “But listen – I missed three doses of Tamoxifen because my prescription ran out. You don’t think this is just because of that, do you?”
“No, it’s probably your period. You’re still young. three missed doses wouldn’t bring on your period. Just be careful. Don’t get pregnant. You sure you don’t want the Lupron?”
“No, I can handle it. Let’s not put anything else into my body we don’t have to put in it. I won’t get pregnant. It’s just nice to know I could, sometime, if we wanted to. But I don’t think we really want to anymore,” I assured him.
“Well, if you decide NOT to have kids again, then I want the ovaries out. Four, five years.”
Of course. My oncologist wants everyone’s ovaries out.
“And take vitamin D and calcium. And stay on the iron. You need another Tamoxifen prescription?”
“And you need to get the bloodwork done. On your new insurance, will that be cheaper to do at your school?”
“Okay, I’ll write you a prescription for that, too. So, now we need to find you an oncologist where you are living now, because this is a long drive for just routine check ups.” Yeah, no kidding. And also, I hate the traffic cops in your town now, so it’s best I don’t drive here anymore anyhow.
And that was it – nothing eventful, nothing exciting, nothing traumatic, which is exactly how an oncologist follow up visit should be.
I’m now on day two of the unexpected return of Aunt Flo, and I just want to say that for those of you reading this because you, also,are experiencing or have experienced an unexpected return of your period later in your treatments for cancer, do NOT wear clothes you are particularly fond of during this first round, and I’d pull out those old rubber sheets you were using during the hot flash portion of your chemo-induced menopause if you are fond of your mattresses at all. Also, don’t plan on going anywhere where you can’t get to a bathroom every twenty-thirty minutes or so, because the first day is normal, but this second day – well, just have stock in hand for dealing with it – super absorbent everything, and I’d splurge on a bottle or two of Shout! or Clorox 2, also. Double coupons are your friends.
And you know what? Even for all the mess, the bloating, the discomfort, the hormone surges and the acute sense of embarrassment I felt when I hit the laundry room with today’s Grim Reaper inspired offerings for the washer — I’m STILL walking around with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. Because, for however temporary a time – I got my mojo back, y’all. I’ll take this over menopause (for now) every day.