Tag Archive | cancer remission

Final Post


February 17, 2015// When i started this blog I needed desperately to gather my thoughts, to sort though all that had happened to me, and to learn to accept this new version of my life. In the beginning I needed the companionship of other cancer survivors, to try to validate all I was feeling. I needed to get the thoughts that continued to roll around in my head under control.

Mission accomplished. January 28, 2015 marked four years cancer free. Perhaps the most notable change is that many, many days go by at a time that the word ‘cancer’ does not enter my conversation – or even my mind. Several months ago a message was put on my heart, and it changed everything for me.

The cancer, the changes to my life, everything I have lost, was not a punishment. It was a gift. I worked hard, sacrificed much to support and raise my children as a single parent when my marriage went bad when I was only 23. My children are now grown, but debt remains. At 43, I was looking at at least twenty to thirty more years of work. Retirement would have likely never been an option for me. Instead, I am now about to turn 48, been retired (on disability) for the last five years, and am free to enjoy my days as I please. Who knew cancer could be a blessing?

I was stage IV. It was bad. It could still come back at any time, that will be my reality for the rest of my life. But I’m still here, and will be for a long time to come. But this blog will not. It’s time to wrap it up, to clear it out and use the space to move forward.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me, who shared their experiences and well wishes. My thoughts and prayers will remain with those of you who are still fighting, I will always hold a tender thought for the few who did not win the battle.

Hugs,

Lorraine

Cancer Made My Dreams Come True


First posted December 2013…..

I woke up a couple mornings ago, hours before sunrise. In past years I loved to wake early to enjoy the quite peace of the house before the kids and dogs and TVs came to life for the day. I do it now out of necessity. A recent fight with cancer has left me with chronic pain, becoming stiff and sore if I remain in one position very long. It now takes time and patience to get moving after sleep. While I go through the physical paces of the morning, getting arms and legs and body to all move in the same direction without too much ache, my mind goes through its daily process – thinking of new topics to write about.

Early morning routine complete, I stopped to enjoy a cup of coffee before launching into whatever I had been writing that day. Sitting there, it occurred to me I was happy. This was an unfamiliar feeling for me. I am truly grateful for simply being alive, but admit to frequent sadness over all I have lost. My career was everything to me. Not just means to support my family, but my success or failure at work was directly linked to my self-worth. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sad and empty since cancer brought my career to an end.

So I was really surprised to feel happy. Taking a minute to examine the change, memory flew back several years to a job interview I once had. This was a final interview with senior management, already being approved by the hiring manager and staff. The interviewer only had one question, “If you woke up tomorrow and a magic genie could grant you one wish – if he could remove all obstacles, guarantee money and success, what would be your dream job?” Without hesitation I responded, “To write. If I had time and money and no responsibility, I would love to spend my time writing.”

I thought about this for a minute. Lasting damage from cancer and treatment has rendered me unable to work. I have downsized my life and outside responsibilities to allow me to have a quiet but sufficient existence on disability pay. Thankfully my mind is still intact (as it’s ever been), so I fill my empty days doing the thing I’ve always loved best, writing. What an unexpected turn of events, cancer made my dream come true.

Emotional Challenges Facing Cancer Survivors


“Sometimes I wonder which is worse, having cancer or the mental torture a cancer survivor goes through for the rest of her life; living in fear that every ache, pain, unexplained feeling could be cancer. So different than someone who is merely fearful or obsessed or paranoid about getting cancer. Because for us, chances are that it really, truly, absolutely, very likely, could be cancer.” (From my personal blog Seeing Sunrise. Cancer. Diagnosis, treatment, and finding my new normal.)

Reality is, of course, actually having cancer is the unfortunate winner of that debate. But attention should be paid to the emotional toll the fear takes on a cancer survivor. Imagine if you will, having gone through a horribly traumatic event in your life, getting through it, only to have all the same terrifying thoughts, emotions, and stresses come flooding back to you – every single time you have an ache or pain in your body. Yes, every headache, every sore muscle, every case of indigestion.

It’s a daily struggle to balance being grateful for simply being alive against the never ending stress and anxiety and fear of recurrence. At this point you may be thinking, “this lady could use some counseling!” So true! I am one of the lucky ones who have counseling available. We are currently working with the label of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Compounding the difficulty of dealing with our emotions about our body’s betrayal and our current uncontrollable reaction to that is the good intentions of our friends, family, coworkers, and general public. Our bodies appear healed. Of course that is rarely true. We become talented at hiding our physical damage with clothing, increased modesty, and other little tricks I won’t give away. But to the eyes of even those close to us, we appear healed.

The medical community, and us as survivors, need to do a better job of getting the word out that cancer patient’s ordeals do not end with clean test results. We need to acknowledge and educate that the same amount of concern, consideration, and support is needed once we enter into the next phase of our disease, dealing with the emotional aftermath of betrayal and constant fear of recurrence.

 

Managing Lymphedema


Lymphedema is a condition that can occur when the lymph system is blocked or damaged. Lymph fluid builds up in the area of the body that is not draining properly and causes severe swelling of the tissue. Although the swelling can happen anywhere in the body, it most frequently occurs in the arms and legs. It is usually limited to the arm or leg on the side of the damage, but can effect either or both. This is an unfortunate common occurrence in people who have or have been treated for cancer. Swelling of one or both arms happens frequently in women who have been treated for breast cancer since lymph nodes are often involved. The same holds true with women treated for cervical, ovarian, or other GYN related cancers and swelling of the leg or legs.

Complications – Obvious issues with lymphedema include difficulty finding clothing to fit over affected arm or leg and loss of range of motion, meaning the inability to move and bend the limb because of the extreme swelling. This can be life altering. In more severe cases it can prevent a patient from doing the simplest things like dressing appropriate to go in public; self care such as normal hygiene and cooking and keeping house; or even walking. The change to such basic daily life can lead to depression and other psychological issues. Perhaps more urgent is the risk of infection. Because the swollen tissue becomes damaged and has a lack of oxygen flow, it can become extremely slow to heal. The smallest cut or scrape can become infected and if not treated immediately, has the potential to quickly become a limb, or life, threatening situation.

Treatment – Although there is no cure for Lymphedema, there are often steps that can be taken to reduce the swelling and associated pain. Treatment can include light exercise or massage to help the lymph fluid continue to flow and not pool in the effected area; wrapping bandages around the swollen limb, always wrapping tightest around the fingers or toes and becoming slightly looser as the wrap approaches the body. This encourages the fluid to move back out of the limb where it can more easily be absorbed by the body. Pneumatic compression combines the effects of both massage and wrapping. A ‘sleeve’ that is hooked to a pump is placed around the effected limb. It then inflates, again starting from the finger or toe area and working up toward the trunk of the body, to encourage dissipation of the built up lymph fluid. Once swelling is reduced, doctors often suggest wearing a compression garment to hold the area tight and lessen the chance it will swell to such degree again.

It should be noted that every case is different. Each person’s body reacts differently and underlying health issues can complicate or prevent certain treatments. Wise patients become inventive, using trial and error to find what gives them the most relief. I suffer from lymphedema in both legs. When it was at its worst, I was unable to participate in the simplest exercise and massage and compression garments were out of the question. I found when they began to ache, a sure sign intense swelling was about to happen, I could reduce the impact by wrapping them lightly in elastic bandages, propping my feet above my heart, and applying ice packs. No scientific reason for the ice packs, just know it worked for me. Thankfully, my lymphedema has lessened as time has passed, now just more of a pain and tightness event. This does not happen in all patients, many are debilitated by lymphedema for life.

The information above was furnished courtesy of The Mayo Clinic, the National Cancer Institute, the National Lymphedema Network, and my personal experience with cervical cancer and lymphedema.

Seeing Sunrise


End of August 2010 I woke up in pain.  A 15 minute doctor’s appointment ended with the words, “It’s cancer. And it’s bad.” Another visit with another doctor towards the end of January 2011 ended with the words, “We can find no sign of your cancer.”  The weeks and months between the two visits passed in a frenzy of action, allowing little time to process all that was happening…

continue reading…

How Cancer Made My Dreams Come True


I woke up a couple mornings ago, hours before sunrise. In past years I loved to wake early to enjoy the quite peace of the house before the kids and dogs and TVs came to life for the day. I do it now out of necessity. A recent fight with cancer has left me with chronic pain, becoming stiff and sore if I remain in one position very long. It now takes time and patience to get moving after sleep. While I go through the physical paces of the morning, getting arms and legs and body to all move in the same direction without too much ache, my mind goes through its daily process – thinking of new topics to write about.

Early morning routine complete, I stopped to enjoy a cup of coffee before launching into whatever I had been writing that day. Sitting there, it occurred to me I was happy. This was an unfamiliar feeling for me. I am truly grateful for simply being alive, but admit to frequent sadness over all I have lost. My career was everything to me. Not just means to support my family, but my success or failure at work was directly linked to my self-worth. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sad and empty since cancer brought my career to an end.

So I was really surprised to feel happy. Taking a minute to examine the change, memory flew back several years to a job interview I once had. This was a final interview with senior management, already being approved by the hiring manager and staff. The interviewer only had one question, “If you woke up tomorrow and a magic genie could grant you one wish – if he could remove all obstacles, guarantee money and success, what would be your dream job?” Without hesitation I responded, “To write. If I had time and money and no responsibility, I would love to spend my time writing.”

I thought about this for a minute. Lasting damage from cancer and treatment has rendered me unable to work. I have downsized my life and outside responsibilities to allow me to have a quiet but sufficient existence on disability pay. Thankfully my mind is still intact (as it’s ever been), so I fill my empty days doing the thing I’ve always loved best, writing. What an unexpected turn of events, cancer has allowed me to live my dream.