A question first asked. How did you know to go to the Doctors? What did you feel to make that move?
Fact is, I didn’t know! No one would ever guess they have cancer from being too tired, feeling rundown, a little crankier than usual and not being able to string two words together . This is how I felt for over 9 months but I never thought when I continued life undiagnosed that I was living with cancer.
March 2018: The First Indicator
When I think back, I would say the first indication that something was wrong was in March 2018 (I was diagnosed December 2018). I took up a part time/casual role to assist a client in setting up his administration. This is something I did as a Personal Assistant for over 20 years. I built a business on this consulting to others so of course, I could do this job with my eyes closed. This client was dynamite and to my surprise, I could not keep up with him. I was forgetful. I was tired. I was weary, apprehensive and started to lose my confidence. He pulled me aside one day and ask if I was Ok as he was recognising the forgetfulness. I blamed it on managing family, another client and quite honestly, he was a frantic gun and maybe I was ageing, because I just couldn’t keep up with him. We both decided to part ways because I was in fact holding him back. Whilst we mutually agreed, I was devastated. Was I really starting to get old – at 52?
May 2018: Tired & Weight Gain
I continued to work on another project I had a few days a week. In hindsight, I had become very slow and was emotional about my capacity or lack of. I still wasn’t putting the pieces together that something could be wrong. I was either too busy or too tired to think about my own health. I did, however, as the months continued, decide to go to my Doctor describing my tiredness. Blood tests showed I was OK. So I moved to acupuncture and cupping as I had done so for many years. It didn’t seem to help with the tiredness. So I continued to listen to the voices of the non-profession (my family and friends) to slow down as I was doing too much.
By this stage, my body shape started to change and when I look back on my photos – OMG!! For a smaller sized person, I was looking a bit tubby with “tuck shop lady arms”. Bah! I was enjoying my life too much. Eating and drinking – whilst on a healthy Paleo diet. I went back to the doctor to discuss the unexplained weight gain as the reality was, I was becoming very conscious of my weight so I wouldn’t eat three balanced meals; only a small breakfast and starving myself until dinner.
“Menopause” Doc tells me. No tests. No thyroid problems. It was just based on age. This was ridiculous because my period finished at 42 and I was perimenopausal for a very long time but who was I to question a doctor. I took it all on board and began to gear up to a better well balanced diet.
July 2018: Infections
We were entertaining as we usually do one Saturday night. A room full of family and friends. Of course, as usual I was too busy talking when I sliced my forefinger cutting bread – wow, new knives produce a lot of blood. A quick disinfectant and a band-aid fixed it all up. So I thought. The pain the next day was excruciating and the finger just kept swelling into a balloon. By Monday, the infection or better still, the pus was out of control. A quick trip to the doctor, a tetanus shot and a bandage would usually fix the finger. This took months to even begin to heal. I was getting no relief and to this day, almost two years on, I still have pain with this finger. How much trouble can a cut finger cause? Well, if you have blood cancer and a low immune system, it can be deadly but at this moment, we still did not know there was a lurking disease within.
Around this time I was also on my third cold sore, catching colds which was not really something I did easily. I was just constantly sick. I was wearing masks well before the Corona Virus of today. I was suffering from the cold and in hindsight, this was not being menopausal. Alas, it was winter and some of us felt the cold a little more than others.
August 2018: Bone and Joint Pain
My weight was still ballooning. My tiredness was increasing. I had finished my contracted role and nothing was keeping me down so I decided to start up a new business (yeh, I know!!). Apparently, I was tired because I was overworked and now overweight because of Menopause. There were quick answers for my changes but the solutions were not as quick.
Now my back started to ache. I had a history of L4 & L5 disc pain so a few CT scans showed nothing unusual – it was probably the weight gain. The bones in my arms were aching too and my joints were starting to give my grief. As I was already Gluten and Dairy intolerant – you guessed it – this pain was inflammation from my food intolerances. Dare I not stray from my diet I was told!!
October 2018: Overseas Travel
I don’t know how I did it but somehow I managed to get on a plane to go to a work expo in South Korea. I was very well familiar with this destination as I travelled regulary for work and with family. Thank goodness because I really don’t know if I could have done what I did in an unfamiliar place with the tiredness I was feeling. I managed to sleep whenever I could and travelling on my own allowed me to dictate my own hours within my sponsor’s timetable. I was soooo tired during the trip and it was the first time in my travel experience I could not wait to get home.
November 2018: Champagne Queen becomes a Princess
It was Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival time. An annual event we have been dressing up for and going to for years. It was the highlight of my fashion year. This year though, I could barley squeeze into my clothes (I purchase my outfits throughout the year, on sale of course!) but I must say, my boobs were magnificent! However, something else stood out. I could barely finish a glass of any alcoholic drink before desperately wanting to find a corner to sleep in. If this was not a sign for alarm bells for this Champagne Queen, then nothing would be!
I remember friends starting to question if something was wrong because not drinking excessively at such an event was excessive even for me! I started to nominate myself as designated driver so I could excuse myself from a poured glass of bubbly. Red wine became completely out of the drinking game equation. What do you do? You accept this as the body telling you it is time to review your relationship with alcohol. As if I was going to go to the doctor about not tolerating alcohol! I bet all I would get advised is to stop drinking – even if it was only on weekends, namely a Friday and Saturday night, socially. So I ignored this phenomenon and began cutting alcohol from my life.
December 2018: Tired vs Fatigue
As I was getting more and more tired, I realised that I was suffering something more. I had stopped my nightly walks with my girl friend. Four days a week went to three to two to “I’m going to bed” at 8pm. We would normally walk and talk for about 5km. This multi-tasking and distance was slowing down as my breathing was becoming deeper, out of breath and I recall my husband questioning it being worth going for the walks given I’d go home and go straight to bed.
My days had been looking like this.
7.00am Get up in the morning. Take kids to school.
8.30am Get home, hop back into bed for an hour, wake up, get ready go to the office by 10am.
2.30pm it was the reverse. Hop into bed, wake up
3.30pm pick up kids.
4.00pm Ask them to organise themselves for afternoon tea whilst I slept before their after school activities.
5.00pm Drive them around
6.00pm get home, cook as much as I could for dinner then ask husband to take over.
8.00pm I would either eat or go to bed – pending how I felt.
I had almost over a month of this so I had to go to the doctors again. I described what I thought was no longer tiredness but fatigue. I began to understand the difference. “Unfortunately, you can’t be diagnosed with suspected chronic fatigue until you suffer from it at least six months”. Say what? I may have chronic fatigue AND I have to go through this for another six months. More blood tests and CT scans for an aching back.
By mid-December, my father in law was moved to palliative care and whilst as a family we were with him around the clock, I found myself sleeping beside him in his armchair! I could not wait to get home, get to bed; back to my father in law’s room, jump on the armchair before anyone else did. All I wanted to do was sleep and deep sleep I did.
Tests came back – nothing!!! I cried. Not only did the doctors clinic stuff up my appointment times that I had to wait longer for the results, they are now telling me there is nothing wrong with me. I could not stand this anymore.
I was desperate so I decided to visit a family friend who is a doctor. I begged him to help me out. Do whatever tests are necessary because something was wrong. I was fatigued, sore and an emotional wreck. I couldn’t eat but was still like a bowling ball although my face was starting to shrink. I was a mess and I had enough.