I was lying in the hammock last weekend wondering what happened. The chemo portion of my breast cancer treatment was so full of optimism, bravery, joy even, and now everything is just plain flat. I turned to the sky hoping for an amusing cloud shape to brighten my mood, but there was nothing. It was a dull, flat blue, to match my dull, flat blue mood.
Jill, our cat, has become enamored with the hammock. She stretches out across it, easily taking up the second-man side, and doesn’t want to be bothered by anyone or anything. The gentle sway lulls her into a place I remember all too well, but lately eludes me. One difference, I wasn’t cranky about it. Jill treats the hammock like her Precious, and anyone that interferes or tries to part her from it immediately is recast as the enemy. I, personally, enjoy her company on the hammock and am delighted at her newfound obsession, however baffling it may be. Jill doesn’t sit on furniture as a rule, or on laps. She prefers solid ground beneath her paws. That is, until she discovered the hammock. Or maybe, in her intuitive sagacity, she was merely trying to tempt me back to a place where I find peace. Funny thing, after I ensconced myself on the hammock on Saturday, she sat with me for a while then abandoned it for a sunny spot on top of the patio table. Rolling over now and then to catch a glimpse of me from the corner of her eye, she casually watched me watching her. And there it was, my bright spot peeking out, at long last! Watching her enjoy her perch in the sun, her sides rising and falling in deep, rhythmic purrs, I could feel a spark of joy ignite and begin to grow. I only need to fan the ember, to coax it to a flame.
It’s been a while since I’ve written. I find it hard to write about flat things. Regardless, flat or not, they may help someone in their (breast) cancer journey or in their generic health journey, so here goes:
– Drains – one drain came out ten days after surgery and the second one after seventeen days. No, you cannot feel it when they pull the drain out. If anything, it feels like a little pressure and then it is over. There are plenty of You-Tube videos out there of drains being removed. Watch one if you have a drain removal in your future and you will feel more relaxed going into it. I did. After the second drain was removed, I ended up with a small hematoma where the drain tube sat under the scar. After seventeen days, my body was over it and ready to be rid of the drain. It was different from the fluid that collected on the right side, which is soft and normal colored (a seroma). The hematoma turned dark red and almost started to look like a bruise. I smeared Mayan Clay (yep, straight from the Yucatan!) on it and it went away in a couple of days. Mayan Clay pulls out impurities and soothes the skin. I’ve used it for insect bites and sunburn with amazing results. It takes out the burn and the itch. It’s my go-to cure all for skin irritations and toxic reactions.
– Once the drains were out, I could start working on getting my movement back for real. The right side is fine. The extra week of limited activity on the left side seems to have been too long a time for taking it easy. Long story short, I have developed what is called “cording” in my left arm. Apparently there is no definitive reason as to what causes cording, but it is likely the lymphatic channel that was severed getting backed up and reacting. The result, a painful, tight spot on the inside of my left bicep just below my armpit. If you feel a strange pain in your arm around three weeks after lymph node surgery, get thee to a lymphatic therapy specialist! I called over to the physical therapy center immediately and they got me in the next day, which was this morning. After an hour of painful stretching and massage, I found I had a very deep well to draw from for feeling sorry for myself. I have a high tolerance for certain kinds of pain – tooth pain, muscle pain, emotional pain – but not nerve pain. My cording seems to possibly involve the nerve, so when it stretches it twangs the nerve and creates an electric shock sensation. Do that long enough and, well, you’ve heard the term “gunning for bear.” Apparently cording is a process and takes some time to work itself out, so I likely have a couple of months of “bear season.” I do apologize in advance to anyone and everyone who ends up in the woods with me. I suggest you run …
– I’m not really sure how to say this next piece, but I think it’s important so I’m just going to spit it out – my scars are now six inch long nipples. Yep, that’s right, the nerve endings are reattaching themselves and my scars have taken over where my nipples left off as erogenous zones, only times one-thousand. If you, or someone you know, is considering mastectomy surgery and whether or not to do reconstruction, this is definitely something to consider. I went flat with no reconstruction, but have complete feeling back in the skin of my chest as well as the ability for tactile arousal through the breast area. With reconstruction, that is not possible. Your breasts will be dead. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will have the same experience I have, but I am not the only one. It’s something to consider, a question to ask. No one told me this was a possibility and I never considered asking. Who knew the body was so adaptive!
– My hair is growing back. I developed a five o’clock shadow on my head right after surgery and it has now grown out to G.I. Jane length. It’s fuzzy in places, hair-like in others, with some over zealous strands sticking out like alfalfa wisps here and there. I’m looking forward to my first hair cut. I’m also taking suggestions for an I’ve-got-hair celebratory crazy color event where I dye my hair just because. Below are some ideas, or you can just weight in on a color in the comments section. It has to grow for another couple of weeks so I have time to find that perfect out of this world look, or color.
Thanks again for all your support and encouragement. A special shout-out to Mark for nudging me back into writing mode. When we connect with the universe, everything we need is always right around us. We need only open ourselves up and let it all in.