Today marks four months since my last radiation treatment. Wow, I just can’t believe that much time has passed. I still have a radiation tan (wonder how long that will take to fade), and the skin in that area still itches. I am supposed to keep out of the sun for a year and not put anything, creams or medicines, on the irradiated area unless the doctor approves. I still have pain where the incision scars are, but not as bad as before. I still struggle with lymphedema, but I am able to do more, and I am much stronger. As a matter of fact, I was able to do a three-mile, rough-terrain hike three weeks in a row! Yea!

Although the tamoxifen still wreaks havoc with my moods and appetite (I have lost somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds, and I wasn’t even remotely overweight to begin with), I feel myself moving towards a semblance of normalcy. I suppose the most annoying side effect I have from the tamoxifen is insomnia. Most nights I have to take something to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even with sleeping pills, I don’t fall asleep before 10:30 (usually more like midnight) and I automatically wake up at 6:30. I go, go, go all week, then suddenly crash and can do nothing but sleep for one or two days. Then the cycle starts again.

On the bright side, the claustrophobic feeling I had of being trapped in my own mind and body has dissipated. The knots in my stomach have loosened. The wheels in the brain have slowed and spin at a calmer (but still brisk) pace. Part of this may be because I finally found a therapist who has experience with cancer patients. As I mentioned in another post, after my nightmare experience with another counselor, I went to my oncologist to see if he could recommend someone. It turns out the practice had just started a program to meet patients’ and their families’ emotional needs. The doctors realized that there was just too much for them to address, so they brought in a social worker to fill the void. This social worker is the exact opposite of the inept counselor I saw previously. She has extensive experience with cancer patients and has had cancer herself. She knows. She understands. THAT makes a huge difference. When I get overly stressed, just the thought that I will have someone to talk to allows me to decompress.

So while I am still recovering from my treatments, my outlook on life is beginning to brighten. I have a tenuous hold on happiness most days, and for now that’s enough. That’s progress.

©2010 frayedges and


8 responses to “Decompression

  • fraziernmyra

    so I have notice, nothing last forever at least that is what I been told. keep well

  • buttercup600

    I have read this, and read it again….you are a brave woman and I have so much to be thankful of….your spirit and love shines through here, every single time and I am in awe of that!! May you grow from strength to strength…and thanks for being my friend. I send you love and hugs…Mwah xxxx 🙂

  • frayedges

    Thanks for the kind words. They really do help. I don’t know that I feel so brave. I’m just trying to deal with the cards that were dealt me, and most of the time I’m moving along blindly.

  • carole McCune

    You have a very healthy way of looking back and learning insights from that process. I am so glad that you have a good counselor. And, it appears that you are providing good counsel to others! I am very proud of you.

  • Jamie Dedes

    Until and unless a person has dealt with a life-threatening illness, they have no idea how it twists heart and mind and disrupts life … They can “imagine” … but they just don’t know. It’s amazing to me how callus people … even docs … can be sometimes. I fired some until I got to those who know how to deal. Fortunately there a many who are understanding … perhaps most even.

    The pulmonologist I have now was dancing in the office when my latest tests came back showing some improvement. It was such a sweet thing … Made us feel so good.

    May your health continue to improve. May your spirit heal. May a long, healthy, and joyful life be yours …

    • frayedges

      You’re right about that. I have been fortunate that my doctors have been anything but callous. And the new therapist-she’s been there, she gets it. I’m glad to hear your tests came back with improvement. I hope that continues and you also have a long, joyful, healthy life.

  • brokenpenwriter

    I read this (and your other cancer articles) and everyone’s comments with a brick-sized barrier stuck in my throat and tears that stung like acid until they came out in defeat, releasing the brick as they flowed.
    My mother died of breast cancer when I was a child. My sister and I took care of her at home for three years. That was back in the 1960’s when there was little that could be done besides surgery and radiation treatments. I was so young, I never got a chance to hear Mom talk about her journey through the disease – I only watched it. So I found it difficult to read this, but I also felt like you shared stuff that my mom might have said or felt. When I got to the jubilant statement that you hiked three miles on rough terrain, I sat here and cheered. Rich came in from the livingroom to see what the noise was about.
    Twenty years ago I joined an international study called IBIS (international breast cancer intervention study) as a healthy volunteer for a double-blind trial on the drug Tamoxifen. The goal was to test the drug on 10,000 healthy women in England, US and Austrailia to see if it made sense to give it to women who were at high risk for breast cancer, due to family history. They already knew it helped to reduce the chance of cancer in the second breast by over 40% in women who had lost one breast already. This was the study that identified the so-called breast cancer gene, and other breakthroughs. I took a pill every day for 6 years – with no idea if it was Tamoxifen or something else, and every 6 months I went in and gave blood samples, got mamograms and ultra sound and filled out numerous questionairres. Normally I avoid taking all drugs, prescription or otherwise, but this was different. All my life I feared the devastation of cancer. I had this sick idea that I had to get cancer in order to fight the damned thing and pay it back for what it did to my mother and our family. I raised lots of money for cancer research, but the need to fight with my body continued. When I heard about the trial and was accepted onto it, I suddenly felt like I was fulfilling that need, without having to get cancer. It was such a powerful, freeing concept – to be able to DO something and stay healthy at the same time. When the first discoveries came out of the trial, I collapsed in grateful tears.
    Cancer invaded my life, not my body. But back then they didn’t give counseling for the family situation or the grief and devastation that followed. Everything you said in your stories rang so true – made so much sense – I feel like your words just healed another layer of my childhood trauma. I can’t thank you enough for sharing and for your positive attitude, courage and humor. And for showing me one side of this disease process that I couldn’t know. With your story and the drug you take, I feel connected to you now in a big-picture way. Bless you – you’ve already beaten it – but I’m praying for you anyway. Happy, celebratory prayers. Well Done, frayedges. Keep up the good work – you’re a testament to women’s hope strength and love.

  • frayedges

    I’m glad my posts helped you with your healing process. They have been very cathartic for me to write. Thanks for your encouragement and kind words.

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