Be Kind. Be Patient. Be Gentle.
As the new year slowly approaches I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion. I remember this time one year ago; the fragility I felt both emotionally and physically post breast cancer treatment. I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude [for being alive], love, vulnerability, and fear. My body was healing, but the mastectomy compromised some of my muscles and nerves, as well as the anatomy of my shoulder. The restriction of movement and the pain that I felt was prohibiting me from accomplishing my normal activities. It was debilitating. I began working with my Physiotherapist as well as my Massage Therapist toward the path of physical healing. The journey has taken much longer than I had anticipated.
“For women already facing the physical and emotional trauma of breast cancer, chronic pain after a mastectomy can be devastating.”
Pain is devastating. Post-mastectomy pain prohibits you from enjoying daily activities that, pre-surgery, you took for granted. I never thought that simply lifting my 3 year old son up [or down], dancing with him in my arms, or frolicking in the snow with him, would cause such pain to radiate across my chest, through my shoulder, and down my back that I would barely be able to move for the next few days. I was always active, fit, and [so I thought] healthy. So it is hard not to feel frustrated, angry, and scared. I despise that my physical limitations prevent me from parenting how I wish to parent; and I’m angry that it has taken me so long to traverse this path of healing; and I am scared that I will never regain my freedom from the pain.
What I did not know is that many breast cancer survivors can experience pain post-mastectomy, sometimes months or years after the surgery. Surgeons cannot foresee who may or may not suffer from chronic pain. A year after my mastectomy I had a follow-up with my Oncologist. I was experiencing a new pain – a burning pain that radiated down my side and, if touched, felt like you were pushing on a very tender bruise. I was scared. I thought, perhaps, the cancer returned. However, after assessing me, he assured me that it was the result of nerve damage. He explained that, to remove the breast he had to cut through the nerves. Will this burning sensation and tenderness that I feel ever go away? He was unable to say. There are pain medications that can be prescribed to alleviate the sensations, but I did not want to begin that journey. So I suffer through the pain, committed to my physiotherapy and massage therapy in hopes to naturally heal the post-surgery challenges I face.
“Pain is a psychological trigger for worry about cancer recurrence.”
Pain can mock you. Pain can scare you. Pain can limit you. It has been 1 year and 5 months since I had my mastectomy. And though the restriction of movement has vastly improved, the pain continues to sear through my chest, side, back, and shoulder. It comes in waves. Some days are far worse than others, and most days it’s simply a dull throb; but never is there a day where I am free from the pain. Sometimes, when the pain is so severe, I have to remind myself [and so does my husband] that it is not the result of the cancer reoccurring, but the result of the surgery and healing process. I have to remind myself to be patient with my body. I have to remind myself to be kind to myself. I have to remind myself to be grateful. And when I do think of the positives, when I slow down ever so slightly and be gentle with myself, I feel the pain less.
And as for being grateful, I am just that: Every. Single. Day. I am so grateful to be alive. But, I am human. I will have dark moments. I will experience frustration, irritability, and fear. It’s inevitable. What I need to remember is that I do not have to give strength to these darker emotions. For, if my mood is light, then my spirit is light, and my body will respond with lightness.
Be kind. Be patient. Be gentle. I will heal.
Be Kind. Be Patient. Be Gentle. Published by Crystal Joy Hall