Saturday, March 28, 2009
This and that...
I have become very lax about blogging--a combination of low energy and nothing really to say right now!
I'm feeling pretty well. Completing the chemotherapy has made a huge difference in how I feel. My hair has begun to grow back--it's about 1/4 - 1/2 inch long. Sort of duck fuzz. If it were a bit warmer out, I'd be tempted to go without a hat. As it is...Winter is not over in River City!
However... I've developed a condition called lymphedema, or LE for short. What is lymphedema? I hear you saying...
Part of breast cancer surgery (whether lumpectomy or mastectomy) involves removing one or more lymph nodes from under the arm, to see if the cancer has begun to spread (they did find cancer cells in one of the 20 nodes removed in my surgery). The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which filters and clears toxins, infections, and general junk out of the body. When lymph nodes are damaged or removed, other nodes generally take up the slack. In cancer treatment, that sometimes doesn't happen, or the remaining nodes are overstressed by chemotherapy or radiation. When an infection occurs (might be as minor as a kitchen burn or a cat scratch) lymph fluid can build up in the arm. It becomes swollen and sometimes hard, stiff, and painful. Treatment is elevation of the arm, massage (either by someone specially trained, or self-massage), and compression sleeves/gloves of various types. It will never go away completely--even if the swelling is gone, I am at high risk for it to return with an infection or a plane flight.
That's what has happened to me. I had risk factors for it that I was not aware of--no spleen (which is part of the lymphatic system; it was removed when I was 10 years old), a couple of major injuries to that arm, and many nodes removed.
The cancer centre has been wonderful--I would have liked some more warning that it might happen, but now that it has, they have swung into action. I went to an LE clinic this week, and have begun the process to get the compression sleeve (it has to be fitted, the off-the-shelf ones do not work as well). The radiation tech told me she didn't think it would slow down my radiation therapy, but i will meet with the radiation oncologist on Tuesday and see what he thinks. I really don't want to delay it at all!
But it brings home to me that breast cancer (or any cancer) is not only about the surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. There are ongoing issues, life-changing issues that I will have to deal with the rest of my life. LE is the one I will have to deal with (besides the constant worry every time I have a mammogram). Other women have to have breast reconstruction, or their ovaries removed (because estrogen released by the ovaries "feeds" the cancer), or have both breasts removed because they are high-risk...etc.
I will deal with this--at least I was able to have a lumpectomy. Once I learn how to live with LE, I am sure I will be fine. My father had diabetes and he learned to deal with it--I can do the same.
Moving on from medical issues....
I am continuing to restructure my life with Strong Heart as a friend rather than partner. We have been able to get together a couple of times to talk and all has gone well. She is continuing to support me around the breast cancer issue--she promised to walk through it with me, and she always keeps her promises. I am trying to return the favour this weekend, as she is candidating for a pulpit. In a very curious (to me) way, we are doing better at supporting each other now than we have done for several months.
I;m rediscovering life as a single person. Some of it is simpler--I can make decisions about the weekend without consulting anyone else's schedule, certain groceries don't need to be picked up anymore--and some of it is more work--no one else helps with housework or errands--and some of it is lonelier--I still don't like going to a party alone, although that usually vanishes after a few minutes and then the upside is that I can leave when I like. As someone said, "When you live alone, you can put something down and know it will still be there when you come back. That's a good thing if it's a book. It's a bad thing if it's a half-full coffee mug and it's three days later."
On the professional front, I'm looking into interim clergy training. I don't know yet if I have the temperament for it, but I'm applying to my denomination's program. Unfortunately, there's a hold on training at the moment (the economy rears its ugly head), but they're still opening files on people who are interestd. I'm also exploring moving on. River City has been good to me, but I'm feeling God may be calling me to a new place. No ideas on that yet and no firm plans--looking into possbilitiies.
I'm also trying to reorganise my life a bit. Not only clearing the clutter in case of a possible move, but in creating more of a routine for my week, setting aside reading time or sermon-writing time and simply not making appointments during that time, for example. I'd also like to have more of a routine for my day. That's difficult when every day is different in terms of a schedule (Monday I'm off, Tuesday and Wednesday I'm in both River City and Sister City, Thursday I'm in Sister City in the afternoon bu no office hours in River City, etc.). And of course all of this has been thrown off by the radiation treatments, which are scheduled anywhere from 7 am to 9 am... Routine?
We're getting teased by spring in River City--but I am not going to be tempted into putting out the porch furniture, because I know that's the surest way to have a blizzard!