I was at Walgreens (again) to pick up (yet another) prescription, and had one of the best belly-laughs I’ve had in a while. Thank heavens Macy was with me, or I might have embarrassed myself, and the pharmacist, even more.
To set the scene: I go to Walgreens a lot. They know me there, kind of like how it was for Norm on Cheers, but without the drinks and witty repartee. I have lots of prescriptions, all of which are on a slightly different schedule, so that I can’t ever manage to go pick up a month’s worth of all my drugs but instead make multiple trips every month.
Usually, there’s either a grandfatherly pharmacist or a host of young female techs. This visit, though, I found a sweet young male tech behind the register, and another sweet young male pharmacist. While these two fellas were plenty easy on the eyes and seemed competent at their jobs, I do prefer the grandfatherly pharmacist because he always calls me “miss” instead of “ma’am.” I know, it’s a farce, and I know I’m way more “ma’am” than “miss” at this stage of the game, but I like it anyway.
The young whippersnappers both referred to me as ma’am, but I’m not going to hold that against them. The young tech went to get my order, and the young pharmacist butted in to ask if I had any questions about my meds. I thanked him but said no, I’m a frequent flyer here, quite the pro at taking these drugs. He couldn’t just leave it at that, he had to be extra thorough and read the warning labels on one of the drugs, either one of my antibiotics (yes, I’m STILL on them both) or my iron supplement, I’m not sure which.
So he looked at the label and asked me, in all seriousness, if I might be pregnant or am breastfeeding. I can’t decide which scenario is most amusing: pregnant me, in all my forced-menopause hot-flashing, hormonalness; or the idea of breastfeeding with no um, breasts. Those poor sweet young men behind the counter didn’t know and can’t be blamed. And I’m pretty sure both were quite horrified when I told them, in no uncertain terms, that both scenarios are quite impossible for me and that any baby relying on me for breastfeeding would be utterly starved to pieces.
We had a good hee-haw about it, and the tech said something about the fact that I look young for a cancer patient. Shows how much he knows: there’s no mean demographic for cancer. The pharmacist said, any age is too young to be a cancer patient. And how.
If you’re a guy, you might not want to read this because it’s, well, about menopause. If you’re a gal who’s not yet experienced the joys of menopause, you might not want to read this because it will scare you. A lot. If you’re brave enough to venture forth, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Because my cancer was fed by estrogen, after we got rid of the cancer we also had to remove its fuel source, to discourage it from coming back. Hence the stoppage of estrogen. The most direct way to stop the estrogen is to remove one’s ovaries in a lovely procedure called oovectomy (which would also be a seriously high-scoring Scrabble word). If you’re still fighting a wily infection, like me, being cut open in a hospital of all places is a pretty risky move. Especially since the hospital seems the most likely culprit in the age-old question of “How the Hell Do You Even Get an Infection Like That?” While it’s unlikely that my infection would travel from the chest wall to the nether-regions, that’s a chance I don’t want to take, and frankly the idea of another hospital stay gives me the vapors.
Since I’m not ready for the oovectomy, I get the next-best option of hormone suppression, which is a shot of Lupron every 3 months, and a daily dose of Tamoxifen, which is a SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator) drug. The latter half of that acronym makes me think of something coming out of the Johnson Space Center instead of a prescription bottle from Walgreens, and talk about some great Scrabble words. Build one of those on a triple word spot and you’re damn close to world domination.
So I’m going along in my cancer journey, minding my own business, doing all the things I’m supposed to do, no matter how unpleasant, and yes it’s really good news that the cancer is gone and the infection is on its last legs, too, but do I really have to deal with menopause, too? That just seems mean. You’re seriously going to tell me that battling both cancer and a nasty infection doesn’t exempt one from the hell of menopause? Mean.
I foolishly thought I’d have another decade before having to face the evil triumvirate of menopause: hot flashes, age spots, and weight gain. Even more foolish was the idea that, compared to cancer, menopause would be easy. Silly me.
Living in Houston, land of eternal summer, during hot-flash season, is a challenge. Come to think of it, neither Houston nor hot flashes have a season, so it’s game on, all the time. Local ladies, if you have any remedies for this please pass them on. I have yet to come across a mobile AC unit. I’d be waiting on the doorstep of Radio Shack to purchase said item and would wear it proudly, if only it existed.
So as I’m mopping my sweaty brow after one particularly potent hot flash, I notice some brown spots on my face. Little specs, bigger than freckles but not as big as liver spots. I tried to pick one off, wipe it away, flick it somewhere, anywhere, to no avail. These babies are staying. There’s a constellation near my left eye, and a nice fat one on the inside corner of my right eye. There’s a trio on my forehead, a few singles lingering on my jawline, and God knows where else that I’ve been too busy fighing cancer to really notice up close. Thank you to all my friends for not pointing them out to me. I know you’ve noticed, but were too charitable to tell me I was growing a connect-the-dot game on my face. And there’s a travel version of this game growing on my hands. I’m aging quite visibly as we speak. Thanks, cancer. You bastard.
While the hot flashes are unpleasant and age spots are depressing, the weight gain is really making me mad. I hope there is a special corner of Hell for whoever came up with the hair-brained idea that women will not only lose their breasts but also face scary treatments, complications and all manner of pain & suffering and then gain weight too? That is one messed up system.