It’s been awhile since I posted an update, not because nothing is happening, but because what’s happening has been hard to describe. A good friend who recently went through her own cancer journey suggested that I make an appointment with the counsellors at the BC Cancer Agency a few weeks after my last chemo. I initially thought this was a bit weird given that last-chemo is a time to celebrate right?! What I’ve found (and what she forewarned me about thankfully) is that while it is indeed a celebration, it’s also a weird time of transition where you can feel adrift. For the past five months I’ve been heads-down giving 110% to my ‘chemo routine’ – daily routines for remembering to take my meds and supplements at the right time (with food, on an empty stomach, not with another med…), getting in my daily half hour of outside exercise, skin care, balancing knitting/watching videos/reading/making things/weeding with my fatigue level of that day and the need to keep my brain busy, but not too busy, so I don’t get restless and irritable…. it feels busy despite not having a bunch of things to do outside of the house.
Then over the course of a week or two that routine is gone and there’s a void that you’re not quite sure what you’re going to fill it with.
It’s now been replaced with “post chemo feeling good” which I’m revelling in until surgery knocks me down again (May 20) but it took awhile to get from one phase to the next. A buddy from way back sent me this meme and I’ve been repeating it as I move through this transition.
I’ve had some very odd ah-ha moments in the past two weeks – the most significant was the realization that my hair will stop falling out and will start growing back. This sounds obvious but it carried the weight of also recognizing that I’m no longer working to “get better” so that I can be strong going into the next round of injecting toxic drugs into my system. Now I’m working towards making my body as strong and flexible as possible before going into surgery <– THIS is something I understand having gone through multiple surgeries in the past. I get it that a lumpectomy, axillary dissection and reduction all at the same time is a different beast than ACL replacement or smashed hand surgery. But still, part is broken = remove/replace/repair part.
I’m a huge fan of seeking out professionals in fields where I’m not an expert (…so pretty much everything). I engaged a fabulous naturopath shortly after my diagnosis. Not only was she recommended by a friend in the health care field whose father recently went through cancer treatment, but I had a pre-existing relationship with her through my SAR team. My academic background in microbiology and biochemistry, coupled with my current obsession with prehospital care makes me inherently wary of the broad field of “natural medicine”. Andrea’s brain is that wonderful mix of pure science and an openness to ‘things that haven’t been peer reviewed yet’, while leaving out the ‘fully out there’ things. She also has a deep professional background in complementary cancer care so understands how to work together with my chemo/surgery/radiation treatments. The one thing that bugs me is not being able to quantify if/how the complementary care facilitated my relatively easy time through chemo. I didn’t tell my oncologist or GPO about it and I’m sure there are many others in this same boat. We can’t prove efficacy without openness…. but am picking my battles through this. Maybe later…
After the last round of chemo fog and fatigue lifted I reached out to my network of physio-friends to find someone close by to meet my needs. So many physios are great for sports-related injuries (I’ve seen many of those) but I wanted someone who I would trust to deal with my specific post-surgery issues. Lo-and-behold we found one that not only is in my town, but has training specifically dealing with post-surgery care for breast cancer patients! Had an appointment with her last week to document a baseline (the data nerd in me loved that) and develop a prehab and rehab program. I engaged a physio to not only develop a plan for me, but also to have someone who won’t be afraid to tell me to slow-the-fuck-down. I had to laugh when she told me that despite only knowing me for an hour, she could see that my biggest challenge was going to be keeping myself from pushing too hard and jeopardizing my recovery. Bingo. We’re going to work well together.
I figure I have about 12 days between when I started feeling good and surgery so am packing in as much as I can in that time frame. Both of my SAR teams welcomed me back on-call with open arms, I went to ropes practice, am planning a practice search or two with Rory and writing my provincial paramedic licensing exam, and am back on my bike and doing longer hikes. Andy is doing a good job of moderating my enthusiasm to do ALL_THE_THINGS with the knowledge that I need to be physically strong and not depleted. It’s indescribable how good it feels to have life be so…..normal, even if it’s just for a week or two.
Don’t worry, am still knitting.