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Healing

ejourneys's picture

In short, I am amazed.

My breast still looks burned, especially where I got my boost radiation, but it looks worse than it feels. Five days after my last treatment, the blistered skin on my areola fell off to reveal brand new, unburnt skin underneath. Before and after pictures here.

My other blistered site (on the underside of my breast) had been my main source of pain, which I ranked a level 3 out of 10 at most. Usually it got no higher than a 2. By December 10 that pain had disappeared.

I returned to strength training on December 6, which is to say that I am taking it nice and slow, with a 1.5 kg. (3.3 lb.) soft weight. I started by performing 3 sets/10 reps of bicep curls and tricep extensions. On Dec. 11 I added front raises. On Dec. 16 I added side raises. Those sessions occur every two or three days. Prior to treatment I had been working with 15-lb. weights on the curls and raises and a 20-lb. weight on tricep extensions, along with performing other weightlifting exercises.

On the day before my biopsy in February I had reached 4 minutes on my basic plank. Two days before my lumpectomy in March I had done a 4-minute basic and 1-minute-45-second side planks. I then took a hiatus until 24 days after surgery, when I managed a minute each on basic and sides. I took another hiatus when I started chemo in May. On Dec. 14 (and on the next three days) I returned to planks, beginning with a 1-minute basic plank and 30-second side planks.

I am thrilled to be back! Reduced capacity doesn't matter. Whatever I can do, I will do; this is all about giving my body what it needs. My internal dialogue goes something like, "Okay, bones, let's get you some protection so you can stand up to the Arimidex." I found a great video here on stretches for breast cancer patients.

I've been experiencing mild and temporary heartburn with Arimidex, which I take about an hour before bed. It's nothing compared to the heartburn I had experienced under chemo. (Under Adriamycin/Cytoxan and until I was put on Prilosec, my heartburn had been unrelenting and even taking sips of water had been painful. In contrast, I feel a bit of discomfort for maybe an hour after I take Arimidex and it doesn't interfere with eating or drinking.) Unless that discomfort disappears, I'll let my oncologist know at my next appointment, but I don't think I need anything for it. I'd rather not return to Prilosec because it can possibly affect my bones (explained in this entry) and I already deal with that possibility with Arimidex.

I was heartened to read that painful side effects from Arimidex don't correlate with improved survival. I didn't know that such a connection had been made in the first place, but based on this new and large study it's good to know that "no pain, no gain" seems not to apply here. "The authors wrote that further trials will be needed to resolve these negative results with opposite signals in the past."

On Dec. 12 I enjoyed my breast cancer support group's holiday party, which included a cookie exchange. My partner and I have been splitting each cookie in half and sharing the bounty a few pieces at a time.

My contribution is on the right: an easy, no-bake mini-cake improvisation. I had made a sample batch beforehand to test everything out. This marks the first time I have ever figured out a recipe in advance. My exact ingredients were:
1/2C Quaker oats
1/4C Sunsweet chopped dates
1/4C Winn-Dixie flake coconut
1/4C Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet dark chocolate chips
1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons raw unprocessed wildflower honey
1C water, brought to a boil
8 foil-backed baking cups

In first (microwave safe) bowl, combine oats, dates, coconut, and chocolate chips. Mix thoroughly.

In second bowl, place gelatin and honey. Add boiling water. Stir until gelatin and honey are both dissolved.

Pour gelatin mixture slowly into oats mixture, stirring and combining thoroughly.

Heat in microwave for 3 minutes. Remove from microwave, mix further if necessary, let cool. Spoon into baking cups and refrigerate for 3 hours. Serves 8.

The party included the announcement that the group on which I've been working with the radiation facility's LCSW has gotten the go-ahead. Called "Creativity Heals," its mission is to foster all forms and levels of creativity as a coping mechanism for cancer patients (all cancers) at whatever point (diagnosis, treatment, survivorship). Meetings will begin in late January. For me the group combines getting support and giving back to people who have taken very good care of me.

My past experience includes teaching creative writing courses and workshops, but drawing had been my main creative expression during treatment. Doodling used a different part of my brain and was more free-flowing when words didn't come. Listening to music and dancing at my desk nurtured me in other ways. I have also signed up to be a cancer blog mentor for a free online course that Rebecca Hogue will give next year. More details here.

Dec. 11 marked my 360th day of maintenance (I had reached my goal weight about 2-1/2 months prior to diagnosis), which meant another 30-day update on MyFitnessPal. Here's the big picture:

Here's the detailed view:

Dec. 16 marked a full year of maintenance. I had been a lifelong yo-yo, experiencing what I had called "acute bouts of fitness." I continue my work to ditch the yo-yo component and to stay fit in a way that is sustainable for me, especially now. My weight for the year averaged 1.3 lbs. below goal. Average daily exercise burn was 391 calories. Average daily consumption was 1916 calories, making my average net calories (total minus exercise calories burned) 1525.

I take joy in reclaiming the little things. I don't own and don't want an electric shaver, and had been using my father's old loading razor to remove facial stubble. The American Cancer Society's guide to chemotherapy recommends, "Use an electric shaver instead of a razor to prevent breaks or cuts in your skin," since chemo increases susceptibility to infection. Before chemo had gotten rid of my hair I had let my facial stubble grow rather than take my chances with a blade.

I am now two months past the end of chemo. My chin hairs have returned along with (some) hair on the top of my head. It felt good to take that weighty metal razor in hand and apply a few careful swipes.

Comments

Puffin2014's picture

Thanks for sharing the link to the exercise video, it's exactly what I needed. My shoulder is soooo stiff with the combination of having rotator cuff surgery on the same side as my lumpectomy and radiation

VickiSam's picture

Thank you so much for sharing ...  Continued healing, and health I pray for you.

Strength, Courage and HOPE for a Cure.

Vicki Sam

ejourneys's picture

Continued healing and health for you as well.  Merry Christmas!

ejourneys's picture

I'm so glad the video helps.  Wishing you good healing and Merry Christmas!

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