Some improvements in post-cancer care – and with me too…

If you have read my past blog posts you know I have dealt with four surgeries since fall of 2016 to deal with the pain I ended up with after breast cancer treatments.  My last surgery in Feb of this year was a grafting surgery and it has involved a long recovery mixed with many months of PT.

So here I am almost 6 months out and I have been working hard in PT to get this arm moving. I have found an incredible PT team that is well versed in my issues and have been specially trained to deal with them. The program they follow is called ReVital and it is a Rehabilitation program for cancer patients.  It encompasses many forms of rehab- not only PT. Though some cancer centers already have rehabilitation in house some don’t and these participants are highly trained to deal with many issues during cancer treatments and well after.

There are so many facets to cancer- – fighting it being one – recovery being another – and  the during treatment and post cancer issues like pain, depression, fatigue, disability etc being another. For so long this latter facet has poorly addressed. But I am seeing and increase in available resources including rehab and also more written about post cancer pain- this implies that more cancer doctors and  pain management centers are becoming more aware of the issues- and the reality of the problem being acknowledged. In addition the cancer doctors themselves are also learning that their patients need to be fully served when they are facing cancer treatments and they are beginning to understand the potential residual effects that these cancer treatments can impose on patients- sometimes symptoms showing up years after treatments end. So now we see more of these docs being proactive in having the ability to refer a patient for help when they begin to complain about their issues.

This is a big deal for many of us who have had to go to plead their cases to doctors who couldn’t understand why we hurt so badly after our treatments. We weren’t supposed to complain. We were supposed to be happy to be alive. And we are- but we need to be heard and believed when we say we hurt after our cancer treatments are over.

I made a mistake after my treatments ended I should have gone right to PT- I did go when I had an odd and very uncomfortable nerve pain show up basically over night.about three months later. Would my pain issue have not occurred if I had don PT before that nerve pain reared it’s ugly head? I don’t know. But I thought when I had ongoing issues that my docs would have had my back. But after PT the issues persisted  on and on and my cancer surgeon scratched her head and kind of pushed me off into the unknown to try to find someone to help me figure it out. I went to numerous – like a lot- of doctors over the following couple years and I got nowhere.

My world came crashing in midway through 2016 when my pain hit an all-time high and I was bedridden. Many doctor doors closed on me then, too many. I felt more alone then I had ever been. I was at an all-time mental low. Then finally when I yet again went to plead with my cancer surgeon for some help and she treated me literally like I had a mental issue and not a pain issue that was the last time I saw her- and I went home despondent.  I was in a very bad place. And it took prayer and tenacity to keep going and finally I found doctors who wanted to help me. Who weren’t afraid to try.

Nobody should have to go through that!  Before cancer I didn’t have the pain – after I did.  Radiation damage is now recognized and talked about in the cancer community and the fact that it can pop up soon after treatment or years later is being discussed more in-depth.  Chemo causes its own long term effects.  We are warned of some of this before treatments begin. Like deer in headlights we are frozen and see the treatments as the only way to get safely off that awful road.

In my hindsight world I would have not gotten radiation after my lumpectomy. I was early stage. Did I really need it? Maybe I would have gotten recurrence in that breast- maybe not. But the pain I have suffered since my diagnosis – 6 years ago now- has been very very hard. And there have been times I had so many dark thoughts. Looking at it in the rearview  -I think I would avoid radiation and take my higher risk of recurrence (because it exists anyway) to avoid the pain. But that is what I have learned and sadly not what I did.

It may be that we who suffer severe pain from our treatments might never find a life that is actually pain free. But what we do need is the support of our doctors when we find ourselves in this very difficult spot. We need medical professionals who can help try to get us to the best version of feeling better that is possible.

I thank God that in the 6 years since I was diagnosed that we are seeing these improvements in this area. I think the surface is only just being scratched and there is so much potential in this area of patient care that I hope we see more and more improvements in the years to come.

As for me – I have made some good progress since this last surgery.  I have been in PT since mid-April and I still have pain but my arm range of motion (ROM) is vastly improved. We have hit a point in trying to improve my ROM where I am getting more pain flares.  I won’t go into all the medical reasons why but they PTs seem to think this is ok. For me it is easy to get nervous and discouraged. It is so easy for me to want to NOT move my arm – or do my exercises – but I force myself.  One thing I seem to do on a regular basis is to overdo things and get pain flares. Many times I don’t even know what I did to flare – that is frustrating.

But I move forward in fits and starts.  We joined a health club with a pool because I have a rekindled love of the water. I was able to get into the ocean and past the breaks in the surf. I did get pummeled by a wave once – that brought back memories. I have kayaked using the paddle sort of- I suck at it – I am very glad to have peddles at this juncture. I have been in the gym doing light workouts and I have ridden my horse. But I have also had a number of pain flares that side-lined me too. There is no straight path and I really still have no idea where I might wind up and I don’t think my forty PT visits my insurance allots is going to cover what I need. So I hope they will extend me.  That can be a battle too.  I have learned not to expect smooth sailing. But I am ever so pleased when something does go smoothly.

Before cancer I was in great shape.  I was strong. I looked fit. And now… well my version of strong has changed- but I have goals – but they have no end dates- I just keep extending them.  I am trying not to be so vain too. I am hard on myself for gaining weight, for aging…I need to give myself a break. I am trying. Trying should be my middle name. I am always trying- even when I don’t think I can move my feet out of the concrete- somehow I just keep trying. …I don’t know where I will end up but at least I keep trying- and that is not a bad thing.

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This is in early July. I have even more ROM on the right side now. This was an exercise that did flare me up. When I began PT I was at about half this range.

That Cat

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My barn cat Ziggy died yesterday. A hit and run.

I was outside yesterday morning with my very old sheepdog- letting him pee out front because he can’t get down the back deck stairs anymore- when I saw a young teen get out an SUV that had pulled into my neighbors driveway across the street – she went up and knocked on the neighbors door.  I know the neighbors don’t have teens so the SUV and the teen seemed out of place.

Her knock was not answered and she turned back toward the car.  I think she had seen me when I first stepped outside a minute before but I had stepped back behind the tree in my yard not wanting to be seen bc I was snooping. Yes I admit I was. But I wasn’t hidden well. The teen began walking back to the car.  I had called my dog to come in and I as I turned to go in I glanced over to the SUV and I saw that she was not stopping at the SUV. She was passing it and heading my way. I pretended not to see her. I am not a morning person – and I am not big on conversing before I have some food and my tea. 

 It was 7:30am -I thought she must be selling something. But it was way too early to be selling things- so that theory made no sense. Then it dawned on me as I heard the low ring of our doorbell that she wouldn’t be selling anything – something else was up -so I went to the door.

Maybe they were lost I thought. Some homes on this stretch of road are hidden down long driveways with their mailboxes on the opposite side of the road. So I opened the door and I was definitely not expecting to hear what I heard this young lady say. 

“We-my mom and I-wondered if you knew who owned the cat we saw over there. It was killed by a car.”

“Oh f*ck”. Were my first words. Then my apology for such words. Then I say to this young person – Oh well well you’ve heard them before. I was rambling.

Then my questions – is it black? Yes. Did it have white. I think so. She said – but we aren’t the ones who hit him. No. No I know.  Then I am saying I can’t handle picking the cat up I’ll get my son. (Kevin was out of town). She said –my mom says it has a collar. Oh my cat doesn’t have one. (Later I realize that she misheard her mom most likely).

At that moment I’m still not sure what I’m feeling. I’m not upset – it might not be our cat right? I’m just there bumbling my words -but I know I can’t handle getting too close. I walk over to my driveway and look past the car and I see a black leg with a white paw laying still on the other side of the road. Oh shit. I’ll get my son I say.

Get a trash bag I tell him. Get the dead cat across the road. I think it’s Ziggy. I don’t even know what he said- but my almost 19 year old son went outside and got that cat in a bag- our much loved barn cat. Though at that moment I didn’t want to believe it was him. Then I wonder if he thanked the girl for stopping. Then I think how this could have unfolded had we not answered the door. Would I have found him hours later when I went to get the mail or when I took my mom to the doctor that day? 

The things that go through the mind.

Even after my son had done this terrible chore. I’m asking him was it Ziggy? Can we be sure? He didn’t know for sure. He went back to look. Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to look again he didn’t say. When he came back in he still wasn’t sure. I was upset and irritated. How can you not know know your own cat I asked him? But shock is shock. And his was not wanting to know it. And there is his mom in shock wanting so hard to believe it was someone else’s cat. I even texted my neighbor that lives up behind us. Checking- Is Jafar at home? But he doesn’t wander far. He’s bigger than Ziggy. She confirms quickly -Jafar is at home..

It was Ziggy, Ziggers, Zigman, Zig….he is gone…as I write this I still can’t believe it.

I talk to my husband on the phone just before he has to go to a meeting. He told me to have my son take Ziggy to the vet – drop off his broken body. They will take care of him.  I was in shock. I didn’t know what I was feeling. Anything?

But then the like a sheet being slowly pulled off my body reality waves over me. And the tears came. So many tears.

F*ck, f*ck, f*ck. Why?

Just moments before the biggest worry I had was picking up poop on the bedroom from my old dog. But things can change in an instant.

The other day Kevin and I were going to a town nearby to shop and just as the road widens to 4 lanes a groundhog jumped out onto the road. Kevin had little room to do much bc of the traffic and sadly we hit it.  I bent over in my seat and held my ears yelling – no, no, no, no….- on and on. Kevin was rattled- and I am sure my reaction didn’t help. I cried – but calmed enough to shop for the few things we went out for. We were so upset about the groundhog we took a different route home. Since that day last weekend I had been really shook up about that incident. I had been trying to figure it out- look at it. See what it meant. 

But then Ziggy got killed on the road. 

As that sheet of shock wore off the tears burst forth for this sweet cat. For that groundhog too. For the son who struggles in rehab in Florida. For my guilt. Guilt over taking a cat from a nice lady who couldn’t keep him and making him barn cat. But he was born to be a barn cat – he took to it in days. I feel so much responsibility to my animals- and you can’t really control a barn cat. They are enigmas. But still I feel I failed in my responsibility.

I cried and cried. This was why the hitting of the groundhog hung on to me in such a way. I was needing to grieve things I had been holding in. 

There have been so many tears. Guilt and sadness about that and other things. Tears that have needed to come out – not all about this cat – this sweet cat. Tears I have hidden behind a wall that I build in order to be able to walk into each day with my armor on. Those tears clawing to come out and it took the loss of one sweet cat to break the dam.

The cloak of grief over a sweet cat and so much more. That cat that made us smile and laugh. That cat that hunted like no other.. who left us many gifts of dead prey in the barn. Rubbed up on our legs, followed us all over as we did our chores or I rode my horse. That cat who played with his buddy Jet in the barnyard. (Jet has been missing since last week- but I am hopeful he returns.) That cat that went too close to the road. That cat who died and now I grieve for so many things – and maybe in his leaving – in my finally breaking open- because we can only hold things in for so long or they become toxic to us- maybe that cat gave me a final gift. 

Thank you Ziggy- for being our cat…your job with us was complete and on you go to whatever is next. We will not forget you….

 

Guilt

Author Note—Each day I have meant to break this unplanned writing hiatus but it just hasn’t happened. I have plenty of topics to write about – I just don’t make time for it- or when I do the words seem to fall flat. Usually when that happens I know maybe it because I am not being as honest in my writing as I should be. Sometimes there is a balance being able to be honest and keeping a boundary in my writing so as not to bring hurt to others I care about. Sometimes I just can’t find that balance and I don’t post what I write – but it still exists perhaps as a journal entry – or something I can go back to later. Either way the words inside me have been purged and sometimes- if I am writing in distress -that helps and there is no need to send it out to the “webisphere”.  But I want to make writing my habit again. I really do. So I just need to DO It!

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Soon after my son – I am going to call him SonA- went out of state to rehab I found myself sitting in front of his PA at the primary care office we all go to. I was there with another family member about their medical issue – and there I sat quietly in the small exam room- but there was that elephant in the room. PA knew about SonA and that he was in rehab. We had briefed him on the phone about it. So I wasn’t sure if I should bring it up to brief him on the latest info or stay quiet. 

 I didn’t want to bring SonA up because it was my other family members time but between the hellos , how are you’s and getting to the medical issue at hand – it came up. It began with just an update. SonA was going to be moved to a transitional program because there was an issue with insurance. A big issue that had required involving PA -but that is another story entirely – but it had been rectified by the time I saw PA. SonA was to look for employment, go to group meetings daily and see a therapist weekly. 

We chatted a bit about addiction and mental health issues. And all at once PA looks at me and tells me not to feel guilty. I looked at him trying to form a sentence – was I going to cry? He continued to say that so many parents blame themselves for the choices their kids make and that I shouldn’t because this was not my fault. I thanked him and told him I didn’t feel guilty because I know the choices SonA made were his own. Just as any bad choice I have made over my lifetime is not anyone else’s fault. Even though I blamed some of them on others in the past.

But I wasn’t really being truthful – there is guilt – it is multifaceted. So often I think to myself – did anything I did as parent push SonA into addiction? Did we have a bad phone call while he was at college and he went off angry and with a Fxck You attitude and guzzled a bunch of booze and that was the domino that turned into alcoholism? Did I not try hard enough over the years to get him to talk to therapists we took him too- where he would chat about his brilliant ideas (and he is amazingly smart) but he would never open up about his troubles? I begged him to give them a chance – he really never could. Or as he was growing up did I add onto the trauma he already had from being and adopted child? 

I wasn’t a great mom. I was in over my head. I got angry, I yelled, and I spanked my kids. I believed in spankings. I don’t anymore. My dad believed in spankings, we got the belt, or we were threatened with the belt. As a mom, when the kids were young, I had many convos over spankings vs no spankings, time outs vs time ins etc etc. All I can say is in hindsight I have changed my tune on many things. But I know I thought when I was raising my kids I was doing my best – and I was. But now I spend time hating myself for being so rigid, so stressed- just not the mom I thought I would be.

 I have guilt that I am trying to work on. I have apologized to my kids. Told them I hope I was fun sometimes. Was I fun? I think I was. I remember shopping in Walmart so many times for art projects that we could do on a hot summer day, or after school. We painted, and glued. Once or twice we all made gingerbread houses. I played with my kids, I love toys and I loved to play. I remember all of us dancing in the family room to classic rock. So I was fun too. But I still have guilt. 

I guess when you have kids that go through hard times because of their choices any parent may feel some of the way I do. I truly know I did not make my son into an alcoholic, I know that my son has had some mental health issues for a long time. But what I do know is that we spend our lives trying to undo the damage that our childhoods inflict on us. I hate to think I contributed to my son’s issues.

I think even the kid who grew up with the best parents like my husband did will not come out of childhood unscathed. He himself is an alcoholic with 34 plus years of sobriety under his belt.

We never come out of childhood without battle wounds. As we are developing our brains as young kids – becoming a more fully formed individual -we are effected by so much around us.  Then we spend much of our lives making choices based on our early experiences and we inflict that damage onto others and but hopefully we give them our good stuff too- it is why there are cycles of the same behaviors in families. If we are lucky and we begin to see the issues then we can begin to do the work to better understand ourselves –  and we can learn how the experiences in our lives have driven how we behave…and then we can work to have better reactions and to make better choices. Some people never get to this self discovery part. So I guess I should be happy I have. 

But that still doesn’t take away my guilt. I just have it. I want to forgive myself for not being an awesome mom. I am working on it because I do know I did do some good things. But there are so many things I would like to redo. Maybe thats why some people dive into grandparenting with a vengeance so they get a redo. Some things are so much more clear in hindsight. We can do so much better when we have gained some wisdom. 

SonA called me early on in his rehab and I again apologized to him. He said it wasn’t my fault. He said that I had been a good mom and he had been a shitty son.  That hurt too. You never want your kids to feel so badly about themselves. 

I told SonA he wasn’t a shitty son. Had he been challenging? Yes. But I told him he was a kid and I was the adult and I have to own my part- there were times I could have done better – responded better.  He has a beautiful mind – a beautiful soul. He just has some things to work on if he will trust the program he is in and the therapist he is seeing. I don’t want him to live with guilt. 

Are we just destined to it? To live with guilt? Maybe when we feel guilty it is an opening to begin to dig deep into that feeling – own the mistakes, learn from them and heal. That is what I am trying to do. Own my mistakes – look at them and then work with them – if I need to apologize for something I do.  I try not to soak in the guilt because I get stuck there and that isn’t healthy.  I am a bit stuck now. I probably need therapy and will look in the fall for someone – I have so much going on this summer. Maybe I will pull myself out before then. Writing this helps…even if the mom police want to shame me. 

But the good thing is I am still a parent and I  get to be an improved parent to my kids. I get to make the adjustments and changes I needed to make. My parenting goes on though it has a changed role now that they are young adults.

But guilt can run deep. I have learned that others might forgive you, God forgives you, but sometimes the hardest thing to do is to forgive ourselves. 

Difficult things

This is a topic that is rather private  for me and very hard to talk about. I have not been one to share too much on family issues over the years. I do feel that by sharing some of my experience on this issue that perhaps it will help other families in this crisis. Or maybe at the least they won’t feel so alone. So here goes…

My neighbor – whom I’ve never met (we live in the country so houses are further apart)-  startled me the other day as I was about to grab some dog food out of the garage. I was harried and late for feeding time and bone tired from lost sleep. She said something as she stood in my driveway. “Pardon?” I asked. But I thought I knew exactly who it was and I was right.

“Are you Mrs. Sweeney?”. She asked again. “Yes” I answered.. “It was your son who….the other night”

I am going to save you the exact details of that event but my 18 year old son fueled by alcohol became a volatile and crazed the other night –  and he ran out of the house as I was calling the police and subsequently terrorized our neighbor. I feel so awful for what they went through. I am sure in his state he thought he was trying to get into our house but he can’t remember any of it. I know it was terrifying for this neighbor and what I heard I can never un-hear. You never want to know that your child is in such a terrible state of mind.

It turns out he was suicidal that night and I have found out since this episode that he has been this way for months and even tried to kill himself over spring break in our home and we never knew about it. A friend came to his aid and my son promised to tell us he was in a bad way the next day – he never did.

The severity of his issues at this time is a shock to my husband and me – his having depression/anxiety is not.  He has been treated for years for ADHD and Depression/anxiety.  The problems we ran into over the last few years were twofold- our son didn’t want to confide in anyone – he was a locked up safe – so therapy was futile though we did send him.  And secondly getting a Psychiatrist for a teen is not easy. We have a definite crisis in this country with the mental health system and it is even worse if your child is and adolescent.

This is really a country crisis not a family crisis. If families can’t get help for their mentally ill children we can have more mass shootings and suicides. I know the problem. There aren’t enough beds so if you have to have your kid seen in the ER and want him/her admitted it is almost impossible – even when the person is suicidal. If the patient stabilizes they release them. And if you are afraid for your own safety or other family members and you want your minor child not to come home then you can be criminally charged in some states or charged with abandonment in others if you leave him/her in the ER.  And if CPS get involved then life can become hell.

In my son’s case he should have been admitted but because he was drunk – a new issue since he began college- they waited for him to sober up. By the time we called in the AM and asked to speak to the mental health specialist in the ER he had already been put into an Uber and sent home- in fact he already had snuck back into the house.  And the fact he was 18 and an adult gave us really no say in anything anyway.

I was so angry with the system. I was angry with myself to? I had been trying to get him to tell me what was going on all semester as I saw his grades plummet and work not being handed in. He rarely would answer my texts or calls and when he did he was short with me. I thought it was motivation- he is brilliant – so I knew he was smart enough to understand the concepts. He just wasn’t doing the work. I am sure my lectures on motivation, asking for academic help,  and my frustration over the lack of drive was not helpful as he was overcome by the feelings he was having. I feel like I missed the mark and now we are here.

This kid has not been an easy one to raise. Our relationship has been ok at best and non-existent at the worst.  But regardless you never want to know your child is hurting in this way. And you never want to see their trajectory in a downward spiral. I knew my kid could lash out in anger at us.  He could be a handful at home but he never directed anger toward friends or in school. But I can see he was crying for help and he was getting his comfort from alcohol and binging to relieve his pain. And then he blew.

My children are adopted and that fact in itself make them have a much higher percentage for mental health issues and substance abuse issues. We talked openly about this in our family. I myself have anxiety and have fought a battle with that for years. We went to family counseling for years. For me there isn’t shame in mental illness but it is hard to talk about for many.  But when it came to my kids issues I only confided in a few people close to me. But we should be able to talk about this. Parents should not feel alone.

I was lucky because I found a support group for parents with adopted kids and it really saved my sanity. We weren’t alone anymore. I had a group that understood the specific issues of the adopted child. But I kept silent in my writing most of the time. There is so much parent shaming/mommy shaming out there. And if you haven’t raised adopted kids you really don’t know the issues. But mental health issues and addiction can effect all of us and that is why I share this. It is not easy for me. My heart breaks for my child that I have wanted to reach all these years but haven’t been able to. Who I have often not liked  but have loved and tried so hard to help in every way to succeed and to be happy. It is what we want for our children. But sometimes they have to want that for themselves more than we want it for them…hopefully now we are on the right path,

The good news is that for the most part my son has allowed us to help navigate him when it comes to his mental health care. But the bad news is that he has not been open about how severe his issues have gotten so he wasn’t getting the help he truly needed.

The depression and hopelessness he was feeling was the gasoline and alcohol has been the flame. Thankfully his friends were very forthcoming when they realized my son was in crisis last week.  When I reached out they told me of their worry for him and told me of things he had done or said that helped the mobile crisis team -that came to our home after the ER failed us – understand that my son needed intervention. I must thank these friends for caring so much for my son who they recognize as a troubled but loving and caring friend. I felt happy that he has made these friends -that wasn’t always easy for him. I hope they remain a support for him in the future.

I know that such swift help is not usually the case as I briefly discussed above.  But if not for the mobile crisis team I would not have known where to turn for the help that my son had agreed to. I would have probably taken him back to another hospital and sought to get him admitted. But the crisis team had other options.

How did I find this team – that came to our home less than two hours after we called them? The police officer that came to our home the night before – after they found our son and got him transported to the hospital- handed us a card and explained that this team might be of some help.  At the moment I didn’t picture our son coming home. I wanted him admitted and then after that I didn’t know. So I didn’t think we would use that card but I set in on the bookcase and sure enough the next day we used it.

I had given my son two options- we will take you to a homeless shelter or you can get help.  I said to him whatever he’d been doing up until now was not working and things were just getting much worse for him. He was lucky he didn’t get arrested or shot when he not only trespassed but terrorized our neighbor. What would be next for him if he didn’t get help? I waited for his answer- and he chose help. I thanked God.

Once that crisis team got there they asked many questions and my son was very honest and became very emotional during this time. I felt so bad for him but also maybe this was a small breakthrough to releasing the pain he has been living with. The team got him a place at a rehab- which at first I didn’t feel he needed but once we realized that he had alcohol issues we realized that a rehab would be the best place for him. They will work on the substance abuse and also the underlying issues he has been dealing with. He will see a therapist and a psychiatrist. He will attend group sessions on many subjects.

They got him in a good one…one that is based on music as a therapy- he loves music. He flew that night to another state and is now on this journey to recovery. We were very lucky that we got him help so fast.  I thank him for being so open to getting it. I know he was faced with an option but I can tell he knew the best option was to help himself by getting help.

This can be a new beginning for him. I don’t want to have expectations – this is his journey with many battles and there are many things he has to deal with before he knows what his next steps in his life will be.  I hope he can shed his demons or at least begin the process. It can be so freeing and maybe he will see many possibilities for his life.

This is not an easy share for me but I felt I needed to be open. I do want to stress – If you are suffering or have a child who is don’t be afraid to speak up. If you have had a hard time getting mental health help perhaps a mobile crisis unit might be of help. And if you are a friend of a person having trouble please report it to someone. You could save a life. 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I a writer anymore?

I spent the better part of an afternoon this week writing a post about Mother’s Day.  I wrote then edited, started over and edited some more. Sadly the piece just never came together for me. This has been happening a lot. I either begin a piece and can it because I feel like the words are all wrong or I get an idea and I write it in my head- like in the shower- and I never get around to writing it or I get overwhelmed to start it for some reason.

Overwhelmed is a newer word in my vocabulary. There was a time where I could handle many things at once.  I could be very focused and multi-task. Now I am overwhelmed if I have to many things on my plate – which I do because I get overwhelmed and lose focus and then I go shop online. Because I can focus on that. Who can’t obsess over shoes?

But I just wonder am I still a writer?

I imagine a lot of this stems from the last few years and all the surgery for pain and the meds I am taking for nerve pain. It has to have had some effect on my brain. I also have many distractions.  Though my kids are gone most of the time at college and one lives away, I have a lot of responsibilities and distractions. My aging mother lives with us and requires help and rides to appointments and such, we have animals that need care, I run a small company part-time- etc etc. I love these things but I seem to be easily distracted and if pulled away from one task – and it may be trying to write – I sometimes forget to go back to that task until hours later…by that time the outline in my head that would have been a writing piece is gone. Or I read what I wrote and think it is awful.

I am having a hard time getting my thoughts on paper. I am not sure what to do.  I know the best thing for any activity you love to do is to practice it. So if I want to write I should just write – right?  So maybe that is the key- but it feels overwhelming. SUper OVerwhelming.

I did pick up a book at the $5 and under store that is titled “400 Writing Prompts”. It is just as it says- it is filled with lots of questions that could spur a writing topic.  Some I would not write about in a post , like: Plan your perfect birthday party.  Seems like thats not really a great topic for the blog… but hint: It would include Garth Brooks as the band, and maybe Dwayne Johnson as the eye candy for the ladies…ok maybe there is something to writing about topics that I would otherwise skip. I can be silly with them- except I am not kidding about Garth.

I could write about how every spring our house in swarmed by tiny black ants. They get into the dog food. They find a candy wrapper in my purse- yeah thats fun. One just crawled down my arm – ergo what I even mention ants.

Ok so I got distracted…what the heck was I saying?  Oh yes the book. Maybe I need to take a question from the book each day and write about it. It could be short or long-no pressure. Maybe write on “Would I ever get a prenup?”(yes that is in this book!)  What the heck? That ship sailed 20 years ago!

Then there is my photography.  I have lots and lots of photos and I never share them. Well I share some- but I am now so overwhelmed by having so many I get freaked out at over editing them. Most of what I share comes from my phone. Why bring up photography Anne? This is about your writing! Well yes but it is about stuff that overwhelms me too.. like ants in the house.

I know that creative non-scattered (ok I always was a little scattered) person lurks inside I just have to find her and slowly drag her out. If my writing has changed then maybe I will have to do my best to make it as interesting as I can.

See now I am distracted because my son – home from college until he heads to Maine for the summer- is putting the furniture out on the deck and patio- what a nice boy- and I need to be out there to guide him. Not knowing this task was going to occur I sat down to ice my back because I had injections today and I wanted to write. So now I hear him dragging stuff around. See distractions galore!

I guess I am done for now. I think taking a topic out of the book might be a good plan. I will try it in the next few days. Maybe “How would I engage a hostile audience?” will be my next topic…is give them the finger an appropriate answer?

Ok – I have to go – there is a wicker chair that needs my placement expertise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ups and Falling Down!

The other day I took this picture:

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When I see this photo I see accomplishment!

I was trying to mark a milestone.  I had just accomplished the feat of taking the wheelbarrow out of the barn and rolling it along as I scooped up horse manure. This may sound super boring and probably an unsavory job to many people but it is a job that I happen to like – you can get a lot of thinking done when you scoop poop- and you often have the company of one or more farm animals. I have been unable to do this job for quite a while because of my chronic nerve pain in my arm and back.  So I was having a “look at me ” moment.  I thought if the nerve pain didn’t flare up too much the next day I would post this photo and brag on this accomplishment.

But then this happened!

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Do you like the dog as prop in the photo?

This must have happened because I was so full of myself from picking up manure! I was in the chicken yard grabbing some items I left in there and I turned caught my foot on the hose as I was stepping forward.  It was one of those falls where you think you have caught yourself and you expect to be upright but you end up on the ground. I landed on my side and my rear – and on my non- nerve damaged side. Thankfully.  I had to make a nice turn to end up that way. I do think one of my guardian angels helped that move because I don’t know how I landed like that.

On the ground my first thoughts were “did I land on a chicken?” (I didn’t – they all ran far away – chickens!) and “ouch my ankle” and then “this is not going to sideline me”. NO No no!!  The next thought was me wondering if my cowboy neighbor who was out feeding his equines saw me fall. (Kevin was nearby but on a loud tractor mowing a field).  I did not want my cowboy neighbor to see me on the ground! It is bad enough that I need he and his wife’s help for all kinds of things (they are young and able!) but I didn’t want him to have to come ask if I needed help getting up off the ground- I would feel ancient.

So I took a deep breath- assessed the damage and hauled myself up off the ground.  My left ankle was tender. But I was ok…I was not in that much pain–lie lie- I was. But I went over to finish some things for the horses including some brushing all the while hoping they didn’t knock me over!  I just could not fathom that something was going to take me down for the count. But I knew I needed to assess the damage to my ankle – both ankles hurt but the left seemed to be getting worse by the minute. So I went into the gym part of our barn and I took off my boot. I could see where I twisted it. Not too swollen.  Good.

I had twisted this ankle before years ago leading a horse down a hill.  But this fall was worse- it hurt much more! I was a bit worried but I waited for Kevin to get off the tractor so he could take a look. He thought it was a sprain -but because it was getting more painful pretty fast we opted to go to the urgent care for an x-ray.  It didn’t take long and they were fairly certain I had no break – but gave me the films with instructions to see primary or ortho as needed – and they locked me into a boot that felt like a ski boot and off I went.

I will admit to moments of self pity and negativity.  I am just beginning to get back in shape and being able to do more things and I did not want this to slow the progress. And I was back needing someone to help me – poor Kevin has had enough.  But I decided not to make it bigger than it was. It is just a sprained ankle. It will take time to heal but maybe I can work around it some and keep moving some.

I got home and broke out of that boot and iced my ankle all night.  I woke up with pain the following day but it seemed less than the day before which surprised me but gave me some encouragement.  I still felt like I needed the boot because I did want to try do something constructive with my Saturday. We always have a list miles long of things that need to get done. I was in the middle of spray painting a wrought iron table I picked up for $50. I wanted to complete that project. So I put on the boot and Kevin covered it with a trash bag and I got painting.  I was able to stand just fine and after a while I became so involved in my work that I forgot I had a sprain (and nerve pain for that matter!).

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Spray Painting!

Today I woke with less ankle pain again. I am paying for the spray painting with some nerve pain in my arm and back but I expected that.  I still can’t move my ankle certain ways. I feel like the foot needs support.  I had taken a knee brace and somehow made a foot brace out of it and that was providing support. The boot seemed like overkill. Today I went to the drugstore and grabbed a couple ankle compression bandages and an ACE wrap. I will keep some form of protection and compression on for a while. I think this is going to heal sooner than later if I can keep from aggravating it. I can see how I will still be able to do most things. I just need to elevate it some each day.

Well it is funny how one minute I was so excited about picking up manure and the next I was flat on my butt with a sprained ankle.  That’s life . You just have to take your joy moments and appreciate them. I will be back picking up horse manure again soon enough.  I am grateful my PT is going well and  that I am doing things I haven’t done in so long. I have hope!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates – figuring things out

It has been a good while -yet again- since I have written on my blog. I am trying to find the time and motivation to write again. I guess the good news is that I am busy. Busy doing life. Which for a while I was sidelined from. So busy is really good news for me.

I am about 10 weeks post surgery. I am a few weeks post a great vacation that we took to Wilmington NC and Charleston SC. I am grateful that I was able to take the trip. I got in the truck for the drive down south and a pain flare began. I likely did way too much preparing for this trip. Packing was the the likely culprit that took me from feeling pretty well before we left to being in bad pain on the drive down.

I was pretty bummed out. My recovery from surgery had been promising. I was feeling well. My pain level was down. But what I had noticed was that things were backsliding some. Things in my surgical area felt tight. I had been told to massage my scars and that they would actually get softer in time. My nasty radiated scar is gone so that leaves me with three new scars but they aren’t radiation damaged scars. I wanted to be positive but it has been hard. I am four surgeries in trying to rid me of this post breast cancer therapy pain – so I get defeated sometimes when I feel the pain intensify.

In that truck on the way to Wilmington , NC – I took pain meds- I just had to because this trip was important. I wasn’t going to mess it up. Kevin and I needed to get away.  We are caring for my mother in our home. And she is a wonderful person but Kevin and I hadn’t been away alone much in the last few years – so it was time. And well it was also our 20th Wedding Anniversary. I wanted celebrate that milestone!

I felt a lot of pressure going into this trip. I planned it. I love planning and I was excited to see the areas we chose to visit. I will write more about that trip later but I will say it was a lovely time. But I felt this pressure to not mess it up because of my pain. So in that truck I  was so frustrated with this pain flare. We cut a trip short last fall because of my pain and I was so disappointed. I really wanted to be able to take this trip and not have to cut it short. We were to be away for a week.

I was supposed to begin PT when I got home…another thing I was skeptical of because I hadn’t found any PT that ever helped me. So as we were driving I took out my Ipad and began searching for some type of PT therapy that might be designed for either breaking up scar tissue or for cancer pain in general.

One search led to another and I ended up finding a PT group near my home that performs a type of rehab therapy for cancer patients called ReVital.  I have been going now for a couple weeks. And the therapy group I am seeing near me is really great. I knew from the first visit they knew what they were doing. The therapist asked all the right questions. She knew about radiation damage and issues due to chemo. They work on breaking down scar tissue and are trying to stretch muscles and tendons in my arm that are damaged by radiation and were also made immobile due to frozen shoulder – I also had that after the cancer treatments.

PT is not without pain but the first day the therapist told me straight. If I don’t get this arm moving I am just going to get worse. So here I am going diligently to PT. The fact that horrible scar is gone is allowing me to do more than I would have been able to do if I still had it. So I am ever so thankful to Dr. Del Corral for removing it.

I feel hopeful for the first time in a good while. I know I will probably flare again (and I had a flare the first day of PT and when I left that flare was gone so that really gave me hope). I know there are steps forward and steps back. But I have been fighting for almost three years to get my life back. To feel normal.

Yesterday I drove my mom to her haircut appointment and while she was there I ran to the hardware store and to the grocery. I ran into a friend in the grocery and we chatted for a few minutes. I hurried through my shopping so I could get back to get my mom. It sounds so normal to people reading this I am sure –  but for me it is huge. Just to be able to drive and to have that freedom is so great. And Maybe some of you know this but I have had anxiety for years and shopping alone isn’t easy for me and for a long time I never did it. And now I am doing just that. I am trying so hard to just live life. Normal stuff is good.

So on that trip down south I didn’t know what I was getting into when I booked an appointment for PT. But sitting in the truck I felt like maybe it might be good. Just keep moving forward. That is always in my head. When we got to Wilmington I told myself I was going to enjoy our darn vacation. I was not sitting around! I was going to see stuff. And Kevin – as always- said he would do whatever I needed to do. There was no pressure from him…it was me pushing me.

So the ice pack became my good friend.  I toted it under my arm for much of the trip. Anti- inflam meds were needed daily and a few days into the Charleston leg of our trip I realized I was feeling much better – we had eaten and shopped our way through that city – and we had clocked some walking miles on that trip. It was very good.

All I can say is thank God for ice packs and thank God for the wonderful husband I married 20 years ago in April 1999. I often still cannot imagine my luck.

I am so grateful for being able to do normal things. I am grateful for a PT group that gets my pain situation.

And as my dad would have said- “Keep the nose of the plane up Anne” – I am trying Dad  – I really am.

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Southern Mansion South of Broad Charleston SC