As I said in my previous monthly update, August was a month full of anxiety. If I’m being honest, in terms of anxiety, September 2020 was not much better. But the start of September 2020 was so much worse!
On Wednesday 2nd September 2020, I got a call from my oncologist, during which I was told that I wouldn’t be getting any surgery. This came as a bombshell, for me. But, for the sake of the post, let’s just agree that it was something of a disappointment…
I asked the oncologist why and she seemed surprised as well. She said that she’d passed on my preference, that I really wanted to have the surgery, and wasn’t sure why that didn’t seem to have been taken into account. It turned out that she hadn’t personally attended the MultiDisciplinary Team meeting in which my case was discussed (to be fair, not everyone can attend: there are simply too many people from too many departments). Additionally, there were no notes on my file, so she didn’t have any additional information to refer to.
She did, however, say that there were an awful lot of cases to get through, at the moment, in such MDT meetings. Meaning there wasn’t time for lengthy conversations about every case. Which, to my mind, meant that as my case appears stable, it wouldn’t be given as much time and consideration as the more pressing cases. Which, of course, is totally to be expected. The conversation ended with her telling me that she’d have a chat with the person from her department, who had attended the meeting. She said that she’d find out what had happened and get back to me, when she knew.
In terms of who had decided that I wouldn’t be getting surgery? Well, apparently that had come from Bristol. It seems that, because the tumour had reduced in size between May and August, they wanted to see if it would shrink some more by November. Presumably then, the decision had come from the SABR team.
Well, whoever it came from, thanks a bunch! What that decision meant to me, was that I’d have my stupid liver tumour for, at least, another three months. That the tumour would still be sitting there, plotting. Maybe shrinking but maybe growing… And maybe spitting out lots of little baby tumours of its own!
As you can probably imagine, this did nothing to ease my anxiety, which immediately spiked to new and exciting levels…
The only good thing was that before my next scheduled oncology meeting on the 25th of November, I’d be given a PET/CT Scan. And, historically, the only times I’ve been given PET Scans, is just before surgery. Which meant that I had that hope to cling on to, and try and keep me sane.
Which was just as well, because the very next day was my 50th birthday.
As landmark birthdays in the middle of a global pandemic, when you’ve got an 8 month old tumour in your liver, go: it was the best I’ve ever had.
Seriously, though, my family spoiled me rotten, and you can’t ask for more than that.
I delayed sharing the news until the 4th, to avoid it getting in the way, and then I posted the following on Facebook:
Right then: it seems that a liver resection surgery is not currently on the radar. Instead, I’ll be getting a PET Scan in 3 months (presumably, 3 months from the last scan, which will make it some time in the first half of November). From what I understand, this is to see if the tumour is continuing to shrink, following the radiotherapy I received in May… If it does continue shrinking, this will, of course, make any subsequent surgery that much easier. It would also mean that any such surgery would likely take place in the middle of December. Not really what I was hoping for, but at least it gives me the opportunity to get my weight down before any potential surgery!
Yeah… about that getting my weight down, thing… it didn’t happen!
In fact, I’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful in getting anywhere near starting a diet, since that new tumour reared its ugly head in February 2020. Even so, I think it’s fair to say that September 2020 has been a particularly disappointing month for my weight.
And for my anxiety, for that matter.
It was during September 2020 that I realised that I wouldn’t be writing any novels any time soon. I also worked out that sitting at my desk, each day, and utterly failing to write anything meaningful, was making things worse. I finally accepted that trying and failing to write every day was increasing my anxiety and deepening my depression.
So I stopped.
Which meant that I needed something else to fill my time, or I’d just mope. I mowed instead… I mowed and dug and tanked one of the outbuildings. Anything that was physically challenging enough to leave me too tired to overthink my situation.
In hindsight, it was a nice idea, but doomed to failure. There’s no amount of exercise and tiredness that can stop me overthinking things!
Nothing, that is, except drugs…
Which is why, on 24th September 2020, I called my doctor and asked to change my anti-depressants. Basically, I was after anything other than Sertraline. I simply couldn’t put up with that level of anxiety any longer.
The doctor suggested I try Mirtazapine, which also doubled as a sleeping pill. Apparently, I could take it a couple of hours before bed, and I’d be out like a light.
I explained that I remembered hearing that one of the side effects of Mirtazapine was that it made you gain weight, and that I was struggling with that already. The Doctor then pointed out that all of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class of antidepressants tended to make you put on weight. It turned out that SSRIs inhibit the feeling of satiation. Which is to say, they stop you from feeling full… so you eat more.
And I’m sure that it’ll come as no surprise to know that Sertraline is a SSRI…
So, the plan was that I’d wean myself off the Sertraline, at the same time as I introduced the Mirtazapine. In this way, I should limit any period where I was without any kind of help from the various antidepressants. Because, as ever, it takes a couple of weeks for the benefits of a new antidepressant to kick in.
As it was, on the night that I was due to start the Mirtazapine, I’d run out of Sertraline. So I only had the Mirtazapine that day. And, Boy, did it work!
I took the tablet and then lay on my bed, reading my Kindle, waiting to see if the Mirtazapine would do anything. After a few minutes, I jerked back awake, when the Kindle slipped out of my grasp and landed on my chest.
I think it was safe to say that the sleeping tablet element of the Mirtazapine was right on the money.
That said, I still felt a bit drowsy the next morning. And by ‘morning’, I mean ‘early afternoon’. I’d definitely slept, but I certainly didn’t feel refreshed and wide awake.
Still, it was only the first day of Mirtazapine, I needed to give it a chance.
So I got my new prescription of Sertraline, which was at a smaller dosage, so I could start the weaning process.
And that’s what I did for the rest of September 2020: took ever decreasing doses of Sertraline, while increasing my dose of Mirtazapine. And, during this period, while I was on both antidepressants, they sort of cancelled each other out. The Sertraline continued to try to mess with my sleep, while the Mirtazapine continued to try to knock me out.
The only winner, it seemed, was the anxiety, which really was hanging on in there.
So there you have it: September 2020 was a seriously disappointing month. Not only did I fail to get the surgery I so desperately wanted, but I officially became old…
At this point, I’d intended to add something inspiring, age related and involving Morgan Freeman. You see, I’d heard that he didn’t start acting until he was 50, which must give hope to us all. After all, Morgan Freeman is soooooo awesome, that everyone can aspire to be more like him.
But it’s not true. His breakthrough roles came when he was 50, but he’s been acting all his life.
Which means that in an effort to salvage the age-related positivity, on which I want to end, I have to turn to fiction…
In the 1992 film, Death Becomes Her, Bruce Willis’ character, Dr. Ernest Menville dies (that’s not the inspiring bit!). At Dr Meville’s funeral, the vicar says, “Now, Doctor Ernest Menville always felt that life begins at 50…”
The vicar then goes on to detail some of the amazing things that Dr Menville accomplished after he turned 50. Which is about the most positive story I can find that illustrates that life begins at 50.
Except that no one thinks that life begins at 50!
And, narratively, Dr Menville’s achievements were solely used as a counterpoint to the woeful existence of Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn’s characters.
Worse still, Death Becomes Her is simply not a good film. Seriously, don’t watch it. There is no way that the special effects will hold up after nearly 30 years. They barely held up in 1992!
Nope, this whole attempt at positivity is just not the same. Oh, Morgan; why have you forsaken me?
Ah well; maybe October will be a better month…