Tuesday, April 12, 2011

10 Days Later

That's right, 10 days was in my mind. I figured I'd go in and have this surgery and in ten days I'd be back to normal. Just like having your gall bladder out. Not quite true. Fast forward to the treatment decisions. No chemo, based on lab results, whoohoo! Now to "just" do the radiation. Cake walk, right? Cus I'm not having chemo. Everyone kept saying, "great, you're only having radiation". Yes, well, look at Japan these days. Do we hear anyone saying, "Oh, it's only radiation"?
So I went for my 35 days of treatment, then started dealing with the lymphadema in my right arm and hand. I continue to deal with this today. As I'm getting ready to celebrate my 1 year from surgery, my boob breaks. After a few months, things settle down but I just don't feel right. I'm always feeling one notch off. I don't have anything specific to tell my GP other than, "I'm just not right". Blood work reveals an underactive thyroid. Great, take a pill a day and things start to get better. I quit gaining weight. I haven't lost any, but not gaining 3 or 4 lbs a month is a great thing!
I got through the winter with no issues, had my mammogram and all my follow up appointments and things are going ok. But I'm still very sore. I thought I would be fine in 10 days. Early February, I go back to Dr. Kaufman and express my concerns about how sore I still am. I'm not worried about cancer, I'm very confident that I'm cancer free. It's just that every day before I am out of bed, I am reminded of this. I roll over to hit the alarm and I feel the ache in my muscles and underarm and breast. It's like my Good Morning Wake up Call. Seriously, it's been 18 months since I finsihed the radiation. After a discussion with Dr. Kaufman, I'm reassured that this is from the radiation treatment, that it's ONLY been 18 months and that I have 2 more years of healing. He would be concerned if I felt this way 3-4 years after the treatment. So I go home, assured that this is the way I'm going to feel and that I AM going to continue to see and feel improvements.
So what are the things that can happen to a breast?
lumps/tumors/cancer - check
lympadema from the surgery - check
swelling - check
infection - check
scar tissue - check
fluid build up - check
I'm through the list. Is this normal, absolutely not. But it's all happening to me. As I said, I've been reassured all is healing and it's a slow process, but one that is going to happen.
And now I'm adding a new chapter to the story. Mid March, I'm sitting on my couch, watching some tv, and I feel a strong muscle ache under my arm, I've had these before, so I rubbed it a bit and went back to my tv show. The next day my breast was sore, but in a brand new way. The sensation was like someone was stabbing needles into my nipple. Just putting the blankets over me at night would make it zing. The slightest touch around the nipple would get my attention.
I'm going to listen to my Mom. Keep it for a week and if it doesn't get better, then go to the doctor. Well, I was going away, so I called and made the appointment for the day I returned. There had been no relief so I was glad I was in at the appointment.
Diagnosis is a pinched nerve from the radiation fibrosis. So did you see that on the list of things that can go wrong with a breast? Nope, because it's so far down the list, it's in the miscellaneous category. Since the Vicadin didn't do a thing for this, I am now taking a pill for nerve pain.  Very few side effects with this drug, and it's easy to take with my other pills.  Started out with one a day for a week, and there was no difference
in the pain, but I was feeling a little woozy.  After 5 days, I doubled down and started taking 2 pills in the morning. My breast still hurts, but I don't care now!  I say that because this drug just makes my loopy.  By the time it kicks in, I would not want to drive anywhere or run with scissors.   I'll take them until the end of the week, but another road has to be traveled to find a solution.
When Dr Kaufman told me I'm on to the miscellaneous, well, what was there to say.  He summed it up by saying "you're writing a book"  You should see how big my file is!
Why did I post all this? Because you might need to know these things one day. No one talks about it, no one told me about all these potential side effects from the radiation. People kept saying "only radiation, good!" Are you kidding me? If I knew then what I know now, well, let's just say my decisions would have been different. I'm now at the point of wanting to donate my breast to science.
If you're still reading this, and you feel it's been a long post, you are right.  Times it by 1000 and you'll feel where I am.  I'm not looking for a pity party, I'm just looking for a day when I'm not physically reminded that I had cancer.