After the surgery, the work.
In order to remove all the cancer, the surgeon excised a rib and a “significant portion” of back muscle. But time has gone on. The drains are out, the surgical tape is gone, and now it’s scars and stretches and reaches and grit. Argh!
Step 1: Exercises for the lymphedema I’ve developed in my right arm due to the surgery. For those not familiar with it, lymphedema is a temporary or permanent swelling of the extremities (usually arm or leg) due to lymph node damage. Lymph node removal, often a part of later stage cancer surgeries, can result in a backup of fluid into the arm or area where the nodes were removed. And it’s what’s happened to me. My right arm swells and ebbs in accordance with my movement and idleness, and it’s now another side effect of breast cancer that I must – grudgingly – face. Next week’s agenda involves appointments for arm measurements and compression sleeve fitting. And if I must – and I must – get a compression sleeve, I’m going to get one that screams “DIRT BIKE SLAYER,” or one with dangerous-looking tattoos. Because sisters and brothers: Badassery is not solely for the able.
Step 2: Stretches. Oh, what fresh hell is this? My right arm currently swings like a dangling banjo. It is awkward, bumps around, is unsure of what gross movement and gesture it needs in order to return to the chorus. And so the kind physical therapists at my HMO have embarked gleefully (and oh how they laugh and type and so cheerfully cheer the grouchy patient on), on a program to challenge my movements. I stretch with bands, exercise balls, a pulley, and a cane. I reach up the wall to expand the chest and shoulder. I lay down and pull and reach and groan, soaking up hours of each day in order to knead and raise the bread of my tendons. Hello, serratus anterior. Hello, pectoralis minor.
Have a nice day.
Step 3: Aerobic exercise. I must now begin walking again. Months ago, pre-recurrence, I was regularly running 3-5 miles several times a week and lifting weights as well. I was in probably the best shape of my life. And now, after chemo and weeks of rest and tottering around like the old man Tim Conway, I am ready for the streets. 1 mile, 2 miles, and then back to running. Travels around the neighborhood, scouting the town. Sunrise and sunset, calf and bone. Trees.
I hope you, reader, are finding your own road too.
And keeping your feet.
6 thoughts on “PT: Physical Therapy, Post-op Torture, or Potential Travel? Oh, and Lymphedema.”
I don’t usually, if ever, “Like” posts such as yours. I don’t “Like” the fact that you or anybody else has to endure cancer in any form. But I do “Like” (I think Admire is a better term) your post and your blog and your ability to write about it. Your post made me admire your courage to write about it. The catharsis I experience when writing helps me to release at least some of the raw and emotional repressions that can result from my experiences in times such as these. You have to go through it to get past it, and writing helps that process for me. I’ll be back to read more of your posts another day …
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Thank you so much for the support, 3bones. Really appreciate it.
I can’t even imagine the recovery from losing a rib and so much muscle. I am struggling to recover from nerve damage in my foot and that just pales in comparison. So I am cheering you on and in awe of the work you are putting into it.
(Also, I am glad they make lymphedema sleeves in cool patterns now. It beats the beige medical-looking one my mom wears.)
Secret Agent, thank you so kindly for the support. Nruropathyvis no fun either— empathy out to you. I wish you a great Thanksgiving.
That should read: “neuropathy,” not nrurpathyvis. I don’t know where the heck my mind was.