Saturday, March 5, 2011

Working Out the Kinks

I had a good wrap up to my end of the week appointments, starting with physical therapy on Thursday.  I met with Doris first, my lymphedema therapist.  She took measurements of various places on both my arms and hands so she could compare them to the measurements we took late last year.  I was happy and surprised to hear that both arms, and hands, were slightly smaller, only by a centimeter or two here and there, but smaller.  It's very strange, my upper left arm feels huge and very puffy, but it measured smaller than it was before.

I talked with her, as Dr. Lotus recommended, about massage techniques for Flopsy to help loosen the scar tissue that was a result of radiation.  Doris said we don't want to rough her up too much just yet, but in two or three weeks we can start a type of physical therapy called scar mobilization.

Right after my appointment with her, I met with Dean.  He focused on the vertebra between my shoulder blades, T3, and up into the base of my neck, T1 and T2. He explained that when the muscles there are tight it pulls on the vertebra, causing them to protrude.  He said it's common after a BLM to hunch forward, shoulders raise, and head pulls forward too.  All of that puts lots of extra stress on T1-T3.  I think I have the double whammy of having had large breasts prior to getting the BLM.  I know I was getting a little hump from carrying those big girls around.  It was confirmed when Dean was massaging T3, it really feels like it pokes out when he massages that area.

Dean said I'm still young enough that with massage and posture correction, we can get the spine to pull back some and straighten up.  He showed me all kinds of exercises to do, and how to make a great little exercise tool with tennis balls.  You put two tennis balls together and wrap them with athletic tape, and you get this thing that looks like a dog toy.  You lay on it, right where T2 or T3 is, and it puts pressure on the muscles, but not the spine.  It's almost like giving yourself a deep tissue massage.  I'm going to try it, plus I love a good craft project.

Physical therapy is one of those things that hurts so good.  I usually feel sore and a little light headed or even dizzy after a session, but so much better the next day.  Dean knows I want to return to work in mid-April or so, and he thinks we can make good progress over the next month.  Come on foot!

In the aftermath of the BLM and lymph node removal, I am beginning to understand it's not just the removal of your breasts and surgical scars you need to recover from.  It's also all the affects this has on your muscles, nerves, and spine.  I think the physical therapy is really going to help, and from there, I will be going into the Cancer Wellness program at the same location.  I'm looking forward to learning a weight training routine for myself; I think it will be important for my upper body strength, and maintaining flexibility, especially in my left arm.

I notice that if I don't work my left arm and shoulder, it really tightens up and either gets painful or extremely numb.  The lymphedema risk will always be there for me, and it's something that I will always have to monitor.  I do plan on getting fitted with a compression glove and sleeve for the left arm, as recommended, but not till after I've lost some weight.  It's not really necessary right now unless I will be flying, which I don't have plans to do anytime soon.

My week finished with a Friday meeting at the Cancer Center with KareBear, the oncology nurse navigator for the Cancer Center, who just completed ninety days on the new job.  Congratulations!  We met to discuss volunteer opportunities for me at the Center, and she loved the idea I had for teaching a writing/journaling class for breast cancer patients.  The class would focus on writing and journaling your way through breast cancer treatment, and how to use a blog to keep your family and friends informed.  She thought it would be great if we could also create a monthly support and writing group for breast cancer patients.  I am very excited about this.  We left it that I would write an outline and proposal for the 2 hour class, meet with her again in two weeks, and then we will go from there to see about getting it scheduled, hopefully this summer.

I am very happy that the Cancer Center where I received treatment is actively trying to create support programs on site for their breast cancer patients.  With all the great care that I received there, I think the one thing that needs improving and development are the other parts of treatment that have more to do with the mind/body connection.  Not to mention the "Sister" connection.  I think really good things are going to happen there, and I hope I can be a part of that.

I shared with KareBear that I was feeling unsure of how I might be received or perceived, given that I'm not an RN or a therapist.  She reassured me I have major credibility as somebody who has gone through it.  I have to agree with that, and I so appreciate how much she values my opinion and experiences.  I think that every Cancer Center should have some kind of mechanism or focus group to get patient input and suggestions on how to improve care and service, cause the truth is, nobody knows this like we do.

Ask us what we need, ask us what would make it better, how you can do it better, and we will tell you.

Just ask us.



Donna M said...

You will make a FANTASTIC group the writing/blogging class idea. I also think a book on blogging as a way to keep family/friends updated would have a market. Hope you consider. You continue to amaze with your ability to take something so huge and turn it around as a give back. Love you and love your spirit, girl.

Damselfly said...

You will be FANTASTIC as a group leader for writing/blogging. I also think the idea of blogging as a way to keep friends/family updated would have legs as a book...if you wanted to develop it into one. So amazing that you keep finding ways to take something so huge and turn it around into givebacks. Love you and love your spirit, girl!

Jill said...

I love the idea of you teaching the writing/journaling class! Awesome idea!! I am so proud of you.

rochambeau said...

Sounds like you have a great team helping you, Writer Girl. AND appreciate so much your willingness to help others heal through creative journaling. Thinking of you on your journey becoming healthy and whole.

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