I’m Being Phased Out…

This month has been a little more challenging for me than others this year.  (And we’re less than 40 days in to 2011!)   My period started at the end of January.  Sort of.  I think.  At least I hope that’s what’s going on now.  Or was going on.  Female issues have never been simple things in my life! 

Before I began Tamoxifen I was “like clockwork”.  Well, kinda.  I became syncopated later in life.  Thirty-eight years old to be exact.  Before that I might cycle three or four times a year.  But for roughly the last eleven years I’ve been “like clockwork.”  I knew my body.  I knew when things would “kick in”.  I knew how long things would last.  I was a Carefree woman!  Seriously, I think whoever branded those pretty pink packages of feminine products with the word Carefree delicately placed were geniuses!  They must have had me in mind.  Until recently.  Ten days and counting.  I shoulda bought stock in McNeil-PPC, Inc.!

At first I struggled with spotting.  Was I or wasn’t I going to start?  I was a few days late.  No biggee.  Knew I wasn’t pregnant.  Figured the new medication would affect my body somewhat.  Trepidation still reigned each morning I awoke.  Should I or shouldn’t I “wear something”?  Wasn’t as concerned about the cost of the products as I was needing to keep them handy in the event I needed something.  I chose to err on the side of caution.  Ladies, you know how uncomfortable that can be!  Then I chose to tempt fate.  HA!  It won every time.  She’s a nasty bitch!  Everything inside of me hurt.  My back ached.  My head ached.  My moods swung as freely as Tarzan on his vines in the jungle chasing after Jane!  Wowza!

Once I finally “kicked in” I felt settled, normal.  But then I wondered how to start counting the days?  Which one was Day One?  After ten days from what I believed Day One probably was, I called my oncologist.  ‘Cause who you gonna call?  Wasn’t this probably a cancer drug related side effect?  I wasn’t alarmed  just exhausted and so hoping it would stop!  Vivian, my oncologist’s nurse told me my longevity was not so much due to Tamoxifen as it was my age.  “You’re what?  Still forty-nine?”  She said it like you ask a 49-year-old woman if she’s still 25.  Well, yes.  Last I checked…hellooooo!  What was she getting at?  “Well…” she continued.  “You could be starting to…stop.” 

Now I never thought that being fertile was a big deal to me.  I used to make jokes when folks would ask me how many kids I had.  “Two…that I know of.  Ha, ha, ha…”  I heard some comedian say that once and thought it was pretty freakin’ funny.  But now it hit me differently.  I think I’m too young to be an “old woman”.  My hair is long and not brittle or gray – okay it’s a little gray.  But it’s really strong and healthy!  I have great skin.  I’m still horny.  In fact, like my periods, that too was like clockwork.  My girlfriends can tell you.  Between 11AM and 2PM each day for about 2 weeks a month…then pretty much anytime after that any remaining day.   My husband, trooper that he is, has put up with it for the sake of our marriage.

The hardest blow to me, though, when I heard the news of the possible onset of menopause wasn’t that it heralds the end of my ability to create life (with some help, I know.).  But that it should sneak up on me at the same time I’m watching my oldest “baby” getting ready to leave the nest.  How did my nearly 11-pound bundle of boy grow into a huge man in just eighteen short years? 

I look small standing next to him, but I’m 5′ 9″ tall.  I’ve never thought of myself as petite.  But this weekend I noticed my lovely 12-year-old daughter is looking me quite nearly in the eye when we stand toe-to-toe, too.  When did they stop being my little kids?  My babies?  Those questions bring another:  When did I stop being young?  Was that my grandma’s reflection I thought I saw faintly looking back at me in the mirror as I stood next to my “little boy” this weekend?  I remember she was a small woman.  Or did I remember her as small because my memories of her are as I knew her when I was in high school?  I was young then.  She was old.

I recently whined publicly about my despair at seeing my young man over an extended weekend visit and how the time flew by and made me all too aware of how quickly time is passing.  In a few short months he’ll be heading off to college.  That move symbolizes for me his moving on in life from being my child to being his own man.  I was emotional as I thought about where that move left me.  Many friends stepped in and offered me comforting words, congratulatory words on a job well done, philosophical words on the meaning of being a parent.  But the words that struck me most in a myriad of ways came from a no-nonsense woman I’ve recently become friends with,  Molly MacDonald, a fellow breast cancer survivor and founder of The Pink Fund, a non-profit organization that helps those in active cancer treatment meet their bills,  “Get used to it, us Moms are meant to be phased out of their jobs when the birds leave the nest…” 

It’s hard to accept that I can be phased out of any part of life.  Outsourced?  Me?  But my funky cycle this month makes me realize that my body may have started to naturally phase itself from one stage to another.  Vixen to Crone.  And the idea makes me wonder if I should go quietly into that good night or should I rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

I named my son Neelan Thomas because it sounded so much like Dylan Thomas.  I never thought the two would intersect in my head and my heart as boldly as they did this weekend.  Phased out?  Me?  HELL, NO!  Rage on, I say.  Rage on!  I’ll always be a surivor.