My days at work have been a bit hit and miss and even though I have been beating myself up about being late for work or not going into work, I have now realised that these things just don’t matter. What does matter is my health and getting rid of this disease. Last week I managed to work twenty four hours out of my contracted forty, due to having time off because of not feeling well and having side effects from the chemo, just feeling very tired or attending medical appointments. I have managed better after this chemo cycle than I did the last one and this week there has been a big improvement, as I have managed to work the full week without going home early either. I have in fact put in a total of forty one and a half hours. This I have to put down to the sleeping tablets as I am at last sleeping really well through the night, and am only getting up maybe once or twice to go to the toilet or to get a drink. I have still been having a problem with waking up and have noticed that I am still very drowsy from the sleeping tablets for a couple of hours after waking and this is huge factor of me getting into work late. The lateness is not a lot and has usually only been five to ten minutes and working some of my lunches I am making up for some of my lost time.
The thing is that now I’m asking myself if Lee and my family are right and that work really is too much for me. I have tried so hard to put in my full hours and work the five days that I am supposed to but the problem that I am having is that as soon as I finish work and get home I am falling off to sleep almost immediately, thus giving Lee and me no time for us. Lee is being so good and is making sure that he is back from work in time to pick me up so that I don’t have to mess about with the buses.
One night after work, Lee had to ring me at the office to tell me not to be late leaving the office as a traffic warden told him he had to move, even after he explained why he was waiting. Lee being Lee got into a bit of an argument with the warden which ended up with a policeman coming over. Lee had become very angry by this point and blurted out to the policeman that the traffic warden was well out of order. He explained why he was there and luckily the policeman understood and allowed to him to wait for me to come out of work and walk round to him. How can people be so ignorant and unsympathetic? This traffic warden was quite willing for me to walk across town knowing that I couldn’t manage it at the moment due to the chemo. He didn’t care; because it wasn’t him going through it.
After I got in the car Lee told me exactly what had happened. This particular day I was wearing my wig and after driving off and driving around the corner we had to pull up at some traffic lights. It so happened, that it was at the exact place that the traffic warden was now stood. I didn’t care what they thought, I didn’t care what anyone else thought who just happened to be walking down the street and I didn’t care about the other people being sat in their cars either. I wound my window down fully, stuck my head out of the window, pulled my wig off and shouted over to the traffic warden “Thank You So Much for being Understanding and wanting me to walk a mile through Fucking town” I was so angry. Lee choked on his coke that he was drinking, the traffic warden went scarlet red and didn’t know where to look and the police man was also nearby started to laugh. Was he laughing at me because I must have looked like a total idiot or was he laughing because that stupid traffic warden deserved to be shouted at? I didn’t care what I looked like right then, I didn’t care because I had been pushed so much, that all the little things that had happened over the last couple weeks had now for some reason spiraled, from being petty little things not worth mentioning to ‘I’ve had enough of all the insensitive crap’. The things people say such as ‘you’re looking really well’ in a very surprised voice, when what they are really saying is ‘Wow your look really well for a walking corpse’. Then there are those who talk to you like your are about to dye, first they ask the question “How are you” in the soft wining voice which is followed by the tilt of the head, that I have always answered in the manner that I know that they want “I’m Ok” or ‘I’m fine’, then after this ritual has been done, they have the audacity to start comparing their illnesses such as their toothache, tummy ache, colds and ear infections to bloody cancer. Well I am sorry to say this and dishearten all those toothache, tummy ache, cold, and ear infection people but there is no comparison to having breast cancer and having chemo. If they are crying with these small minor stupid things, then what on earth would they be like if they had cancer and had to have chemo? They cry off from work because they don’t feel well and say they have been up all night with these trivial problems and here I am having to listen to sarcastic comments because I have been off work, or have arrived into work late cos I’m having bloody chemo. Then there are those people who look down at your chest as though they are trying to work out which breast your cancer is in. I think it might be easier for everyone if I started to wear a T-shirt saying ‘I’m not dying’ and have an arrow pointing to the area that the cancer is saying ‘The C is here’. Now that would save a lot of wasted brain power wouldn’t it, different T-shirt for every occasion, ‘I’m feeling nauseas’, ‘My right boob has cancer’, ‘I’m not dying’ and the best one would be, ‘you can talk to me it’s not contagious’. I say this because that is how I am made to feel; all the people that did speak to me don’t anymore. I know it’s because they don’t know what to say but hey they knew what to say before the cancer.
There are so many different feelings about working during chemotherapy and cancer treatments. Some people say that they worked all the way through chemo and others say that they couldn’t work at all as they suffered so bad from the side effects and the nausea. Which category do I fit into? I want to be able to say that I worked all the way through but it seems to be getting harder and harder as every day passes. The tiredness is really playing a big part in my life right now, I’ve always been a person with so much energy, but I think half of what I am feeling about work has a lot to do with that I don’t feel like part of the team anymore, and I am also getting fed up of being made to feel guilty about having time off. I am feeling isolated and I feel like a failure along with the feeling of uncertainty of what is going to happen with regards to my treatment. Yes I know I am having chemo and I know that I will have a bilateral mastectomy which will be followed by radiotherapy and hormone treatment, but the uncertainty that I have is; will they get all the cancer out of me, what will I look like after my surgery, what is radiotherapy like and what hormone treatment will I be on and how will that effect me. These are questions that can only be answered in time and I have still a long journey left ahead of me.
Even though I have worked every day this week and stayed until half past five I am however starting to flag in the afternoons. My concentration level is getting worse, my eyes get heavier and heavier as the day goes on and the words on my monitor become very blurred and don’t make sense to me anymore. My way of working round this has been to keep going to the ladies room to get me out of my chair and away from my computer just to have a breather. I hate going to the works ladies room; it's always so cold and I swear; it is that cold that there should be a chisel placed at the side of each toilet, to chisel way any frozen particles of liquids. I always use the disabled toilet as there is more room in there than the other 2 cubicles, they’re so small that there isn’t enough room to turn around to flush the toilet without opening the door, or you get a drenching and have to go out with splashes all over your bottom work garments; in my case trousers.
Crouched over the sink one afternoon to pat myself with a little cold water I whipped my bandana off. The mirror opposite with the light shining in showed me how much the treatment is changing me. I had expected my head to be the same colour as my face, but I suppose that the lack of exposure over the years of having hair, shielded the sun rays and so it is still very visible where my hair line used to start and finish, from the discoloured cloudy grey white of my bald head. I must get some sun to it' I thought. Still taking in my weird looking reflection, I noticed how tired my eyes were looking, and how pale my face had become even though I was wearing make-up. Feeling very tired I rubbed my hand over my head to feel it; for some reason I find this comforting, the feeling of my smooth scalp is very very soothing. I felt a wet substance trickle down my cheek and then another and another. ‘Noooo not now’ I told myself. I had started to cry, another tear fell and then another, by now I had past caring and decided just to let the tears flow. I didn't care because it felt good. Streaks had now been formed down my face and cheeks from where the tears had washed away my make-up. Why was I crying? I had no idea, I wasn’t sad or upset, it just happened. I was crying just for the sake of it, and realizing this I started to laugh. Laughing because I had no idea why I was actually crying and laughing at the sight that looked back at me from the mirror, I didn’t have any control over my emotions anymore. Right at that instance I had a very naughty urge to go back into the office looking like I did, streaky face and blood shot eyes along with my cloudy grey bald head. Now that would definitely give them something to talk about. I can see it now; ‘Let’s give Karen even less to do cos she can’t cope and is crying all the time’ it’ wouldn’t be ‘Oh let’s get Karen in the office and have a little heart to heart with her to see how she’s getting on’. Then there would be the whispers of ‘did you see Karen Bald?’ I didn't dare go back like I was, and so after my tear ducts had decided that they’d shed enough of the wet substance, I touched up my make-up, neatly tied my bandana around my head and returned back to the office and back to work as if nothing had happened. The cry did seem to awaken my senses a bit but it didn't last long and after only entering half a dozen client details onto the system I found myself gazing into space once again with my eyelids half closed.
On the Thursday of the 2nd week after treatment I actually got into work on time, in fact I arrived into the office 15 minutes early. Elsa was already there as usual and as I walked into the office she looked up at me and said with a smile on her face “Oh you can make it on time then?”“Yup” I answered her, “I only took one sleeping tablet last night”. Now at this point, I was shocked at what she said but I did think that she was probably having a joke with me and a bad one at that. The thing is I couldn’t get the remark off my mind and when it came to half past five and I had shut my computer down and gathered my things together, with a smile I looked round at Elsa and said “Now the question is, do I take two sleeping tablets as prescribed and risk being in later tomorrow or do I take one to hopefully be in on time again” Smiling back at me she simply replied “Take one”. I couldn’t believe her reply, what on earth? Who the hell does she think she is? I walked out of the office very calmly to make out that the remark didn’t bother me and as I walked away from the office I could feel myself welling up more and more. I was so angry. What I should have done was pulled her up about her insensitive remark, and told her that if I was to take one sleeping tablet then it would be my choice not hers. She is not my doctor and had no right to say what she had said to me first thing this morning, and no right to say what she had just said before I left. I was angry at myself for not confronting her about it but as always I coward away feeling crushed and hurt and by the time I got into the car beside Lee, I had tears rolling down my cheeks.“What’s wrong?” he asked me, looking confused and really concerned. I told him what Elsa had said this morning and what had been said just before leaving.“That’s it” He snapped “you’re not going in again; you’re going on sick leave until all your treatment is finished with”. I didn’t blame him for being angry, I was angry and for the first time I actually agreed with him. I was now ready to go on sick leave and all because of one stupid woman called Elsa.
If it wasn’t for Elsa I didn’t have a problem with work. The rest of them have been very supportive, yes I know I have grumbled that apart from Julie and Carla that they don’t speak to me like they used to and don’t have the banter that we used to have but again I understand this as the rest of the office members are male. I think any man would find it difficult, what do they say to you when in their mind they know that you have breast cancer. Breasts are usually the thing men joke about; Breasts are the things that attract most men to women. Lee is an exception to this rule and is more of a bottom and eyes person. I know I feel tired but that is to be expected, and personally I think I am coping quite well with juggling the emotions of having cancer, going through the side effects from chemo and on top of that coping with nasty horrible snidey comments at work. I am so annoyed with myself for letting Elsa get me upset, I want to really annoy her now like she has me and after having a nice long soak in the bath and discussing it with Lee, he agreed with me that I should work until work got too much for me and not Else, why should she drive me out, after all I have done nothing wrong, I didn’t ask for any of this cancer crap.
I made myself stay awake longer, and did quite well as it was gone nine thirty when I took my two sleeping tablets and headed off up to bed. After a very good night’s sleep, I struggled to open my eyes at five minutes to eight. I had woken to my phone ringing, my morning check up call from Lee, he had woken me earlier and placed a cup of tea at the side of the bed before he had left for work, but I had no recollection this. I had been so tired that I had fallen back to sleep without realising that I we had even spoke. After assuring Lee that I would be ok going into work and promising that I wouldn’t take anymore sarcasm from Elsa I started to get ready.So far in the past I have missed breakfast to try and get to work on time but this morning it was different, I wasn’t going to miss breakfast and I wasn’t going to rush around like a nutter. I would get to work when I got to work which in fact finished up with me arriving into the office at approximately sixteen minutes late to the look of Elsa glaring at me with the look of ‘Oh she’s late AGAIN’. I didn’t speak to her today for two reasons, I couldn’t be bothered with her anymore, I was too tired to be bothered with her and I didn’t want to give Elsa any opportunity to criticise or say anything sarcastic to me. The morning went really slow and when the time came for my lunch break I just got up quickly, said I’m going for lunch and headed straight out of the office before she could respond. For my lunch I went and bought myself a sandwich and a packet of crisps and sat on a bench around the corner from the office, I felt so lonely and sad because the days of having humorous banter with Elsa were gone, I don’t know how to take her anymore, one minute she’s ok with me the next she’s snapping at me or being sarcastic. I sat there and played solitaire on my phone and when I had just five minutes left on my lunch break, I walked back to the office. The afternoon really got to me though as Elsa was making it quite clear that she didn’t want anything to do with me and I realised that over the past couple of months that if it wasn’t for me talking to her then there wouldn’t have been any conversation between us, only words of disapproval of me getting into work late, or on the phone when I rang in to say that I wouldn’t be in. She made it so obvious by laughing and joking with Julie and Carla but the minute they weren’t around she either went into the photocopy room or sat at her computer in complete silence.
I was so relieved when it was time to go home and even more so cos it was Friday and that the weekend had arrived. I just want to feel happy again, I am happy but not at work, I am feeling drained and all weekend I was dreading Monday. Every time I thought about work my stomach churned and I felt sick. Monday came around so quick, too bloody quick and after getting up out of bed and drinking my cup of tea I rang Lee.“Do you mind if I didn’t go into work today” I asked him. Silly question really, but I thought it right to ask him purely because there wasn’t anything really wrong with me. Yes I was tired but I just couldn’t face going into work and sit there frightened to death that Elsa would say something out of order, I didn’t want another day of feeling miserable and upset, I just wanted some piece, I was so bloody tired of it now. At the usual time I rang the office to inform them that I wouldn’t be in. Elsa was different this time and I felt like saying to her ‘Oh you seem more pleasant towards me for a change, did things go your way this weekend’ She also reminded me that I had my oncology appointment tomorrow and told me to rest and she would see me on Wednesday, I was totally shocked. Her mood had changed towards me again and right now I really do not know where I stand with her anymore. I spent the day relaxing on the sofa; I tuned into Loose Women and had a nice long nap in the afternoon, I was full of beans for a change when Lee arrived home from work, I had energy and we talked and talked, in fact it was me who was doing the talking for a change, Lee loved it, I loved it as the evening was more like us from before the chemo started