Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Needles In My Life

As a qualified needle-phobic I have come to a post-treatment point where I no longer balk (OK I no longer cry and sulk and go white and snappy) at the thought of a blood test, but still I have a tinge of dread. I just can't be a willing participant in things that hurt me. It's a little disconcerting then that I now have a regular relationship with two particular needles, one by choice (its not heroin mum), one by necessity, both very much for my own good.

I went to Miami on a work trip once and everywhere I went, amidst the calf implants and rollerbladers, there was always a gay man with a Great Dane and a Chihuahua. I thought it weird to have two such incongruous dogs. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but essentially one of the needles is HUGE and the other the smallest of small. Yes, this is Acupuncture v's Zoladex.

Since my untimely recurrence in Jan it has been decided that I try a new method of endocrine therapy in the form of a nightly tablet, Letrozol, and a 4 weekly mamma of an injection, Zoladex. I was still giddy from the relief of the 'no more chemo' news, that I happily skipped from consulting to treatment room, safe in the knowledge my blood-test-dread might imminently resurface, but I'm a big brave needlephobe who can now handle injections with poise, grace and minimal to no fuss. Erm, not so much. So cocky was I in my new found bravery that I made the error of all medical errors, I glanced down. For the first time in my 32 year history of injection partaking (aside of course from when I injected myself, but that required a whole other plane of consciousness - dramatic? me?). Why I chose to do it on this particular occasion is beyond me, but it has tainted my Zoladex experience for the next five years. I quickly glanced up hoping I'd confused myself and the nurse hadn't taken the cap off yet, but Dadjokes, on the other side of the room also looked, and offered up, 'Blimey, that's a bit meaty isn't it?'

Yes, yes it is. A BIRO sized, OK, Biro nib sized...OK, toothpick sized hollow tube to allow a pellet to get out the end and under your skin is no blood test let me tell you. Alright, so no worse than getting your ears pierced, only lasts a couple of seconds and goes in my tummy, so I'm sure it could be worse, but not in my experience of injections, so I spend the next 27 days quietly dreading the 28th when I have to volunteer myself up to my GP for further stomach stabbing. I'm pretty sure I'm not being too much of a wuss, since I come away with a bruise that lasts a good week or so. And which we all know makes the experience sort of enjoyable and definitely worthwhile. Any sort of tangible evidence that pain and bravery have happened here is a pretty satisfying reward. Come on, who hasn't secretly let their oven-burn develop a tiny bit before running under cold water? Just me? oh...

So it must be due to some other strange universal forces that I find myself lying on a bed being pierced with several needles on a weekly basis, and not only am I choosing this plan, but I am paying for it.

I have a theory about breast cancer and that is I haven't a clue why it happened to me. I know no one has, but since it is rare in my age group, and since I don't have the faulty gene that predisposes me to it, I am left with my own theories. They vary thus: I misused my deodorant, G*d doesn't like me very much, my flat is cursed, I internalise my stress. I am in the process of moving and I have a very mistrusting relationship with my underarms now, the other thing I can't do much about, but the final thing I am working on as my anti-cancer 2012 strategy. How do I know I didn't bring this on myself by worrying? Always worrying. Somehow I have reached a point where formulating this theory has me worrying about the fact I'm worrying. So I willingly turned to point one in my anti-stress treatment plan; Acupuncture

Today was a good example. After a nightmare morning involving estate agents, deadlines and pissing rain I jumped in a cab to make my appointment on time. G*d was clearly challenging me to create a comparative frame of reference since he delivered ridiculous traffic and the only cabbie in London who doesn't know the knowledge. By the time he dropped me at the wrong address without an umbrella, late and out of pocket I was weepy-stressed enough to present a perfect test case. After three minutes of needles I felt peaceful and floaty and miraculously oh-what-the-hell about everything. I wouldn't say perfectly relaxed, but definitely different.

I won't lie, it helps that my acupuncturist is mildly to moderately attractive (DadJokes, I promise this is not why I insist on spending a large proportion of my wages on him - Katie and I see the same guy and we are of the opinion he has manipulated both our girlish giggle responses). I just feel like I'm doing something to help. Apparently your breast sits on your liver channel. This makes some sense to me since breast cancer tends to spread to the liver, so if he's clearing my liver channel, I'm all for it. Even if it is in my head, at least I'm having a positive reaction. Add in my definite reduction in hot flushes, better sleep, and less hip pain and its already worth the money. Once I've got my head around the fact I will be pierced repeatedly for half an hour, and I don't approach every appointment with needle nervousness, maybe I can get that proper relaxing benefit out of it too. Um, maybe I'd better think more seriously about yoga. Or Valium?..

this is a picture of a dog getting acupuncture for goodness sake

Disclaimer: Any Zolodex users, current or impending, who are perturbed by my account, please bear in mind my patheticism and flagrant use of drama.


  1. My sister used to inject daily and I just don't know how she did it. Not because I am scared but because it takes balls to have needles stuck in you.

    Glad to hear the acupuncture is working. I'm a big believer in complementary ( not 'alternative' - we get so fed up with people telling us sis's MS will be cured by goat poo or whatever bolox) treatments. Sis has osteopathy and regular massage and it really helps her wellbeing.

    I am constantly in awe at your spririt & strength. LLGxx

  2. Hi Sophie,
    Have they given you any of the numbing gel that you can use on your stomach before the Zoladex injections? I had it and couldn't really feel them for the two years I spent getting jabbed with that big needle :-/ but my Dad didn't have any when he had Zoladex for prostate cancer.
    Odd that I can compare menopausal syptoms with my Dad ;-) Hot flushes are seriously crappy!!
    Enjoy your accupunture, I think it's fab! Didn't have any during treatment but have had plenty since.
    Hope you're feeling as good as poss and enjoying a moment of sunshine :-)

  3. Hi Sophie

    I sympathize with the needle thing - it's been a struggle for me to get used to them too. As I'm in the triple negative land of no hormone therapy I find myself strangely envious of your needle deal (is it really for 5 years?!) and also relieved. Envious because there is no hormone treatment to help me and I sometimes wish there was, but also relieved there isn't as I know I'd hate it. After radiotherapy ends in 3 weeks I'm finished with all my treatment (hurrah/gulp!). In the end we can only deal with the cancer we get and do the treatment that works. I am all in favour of acupuncture and can also recommend the batty but lovely reiki which I never expected to like or believe in but was the most effective complimentary treatment I had during chemo. It makes me feel healed/happy/totally mellow so I'm a convert. (There is a great reiki woman at Cancerkin who is lovely and has a gorgeous name too - Rain)

    Best wishes


  4. My zoledex days are over now but my nurse used to offer me the cold spray. I soon decided that no spray was better than the cold spray, it just seemed to prolong the process. In two years of having the treatment I never looked at the needle! I am very interested to know if the accupuncture is helping. I too worry about why I got BC at a young age and have no answers for it. xx

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