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.
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