More surgery / and my vanity

I’m sitting here this morning in bed. I’m having a bad pain day. The nerve pain is hot across my right side and chest and the there is that tingling tickling burning sensation that travels across to my throat. I cough. Nobody knows exactly why. They know I have a lot of scarring that has adhered to my chest under my arm and I have radiation damage as well. They feel my sensations come because of this issue. All these things that are very hard to fix.

It’s funny how such a little area can make a person disabled when it flares up. It’s very frustrating. I’m so much better than I was last year but I’m still plagued with pain and it’s too much of a focus of my day and it controls my life too much. So on Wednesday next week two surgeons are going to try to ease some of the pain.

My wonderful nerve surgeon and a plastic surgeon are going to try fat grafting. This procedure requires liposuction of an area on the body. With me it will be my stomach- and my love handles 🙂 -see the smiley? I’m all for losing some fat since I’ve put on weight from the medicine I take for nerve pain.

Anyway they spin that fat so they get the good stuff and then they inject in my areas of scarring and pain. The idea is twofold. The scar will be lifted off the chest wall which may relieve some of the pain . Think of having gum stuck in you pants pocket and the two sides are stuck together. Well that is my issue on the side of my body where I had the node biopsy. So your skin is all one piece and when one part is stuck onto your chest wall it throws everything off. My neck gets tight because the scar is so tight it pulls the skin and muscle all the way to my neck. I get rib and breast aches and muscle tightness in my back. All from this small area of my body being off kilter! So the fat will create cushioning under the scar.

The other thing that is looking hopeful with fat grafting is that the stem cells in the fat can help regenerate the radiation damaged tissues. This has been studied over the last few years and the results have been very promising.

So that’s where I am. My third surgery in the last year. All in hopes that I will get to an acceptable pain level. Pain free is likely not going to happen and that’s been hard for me to accept. But I have come to terms with it to a degree but I continue to look for ways to help it improve.

Thankfully I have an amazing surgeon who wants to help. He has brought in a trusted plastic surgeon to do the grafting as he assists. I offer myself up to their expertise and they are pretty optimistic that I’ll get some noticeable relief. So I’m praying this is so and crossing my fingers and toes for an extra boost of hope. If I get some improvement a second grafting can be performed. (More lipo!)

I did ask the plastic surgeon if he would put the extra fat in my face. He said he would during my exam but later thought better of it. Maybe it’s just too much for one session! Maybe he had been joining. I Just thought getting a few wrinkles filled might be an extra bonus!

Since my cancer and subsequent pain issues and because I have three teens who like seeing my hair gray – I have aged a lot in the last few years. So I have had some filler done in my face.

I can hear people gasping. But hello lots of us are getting Botox (I’m not a candidate in my forehead because I have too heavy a brow), fillers and nips and tucks. I don’t want to age gracefully if it is going to go this fast. It is not graceful. So I’m just trying to slow it down -and crap after what I’ve been through I deserve to do things that help me feel good about me.

I’m not one of the confident woman who can accept their body changes and aging. I wish I were. I’ve gained weight and I’m out of shape because I’m limited in the gym. I do walk a lot. But I am not feeling good about me. I’m used to being thinner and more muscular than soft.

I will say that some filler I have had I’ve liked and some I haven’t and thankfully I did not get the kind that lasts lots of years. I don’t like my cheeks probably because I’ve gained weight since I have had my cheeks done. And I feel too cheeky! But I like the filler in my smile lines and in a couple other facial lines. I’m scared to get the filler under my eyes. Which is a problem area for me so I invest in lots of concealer.

I share this because I’m not afraid to show my vanity which come from vulnerability. I’ve been tossed around the last four years. It’s been super hard . Sometimes I wonder why I am still so vain and not just thankful for what I have. The fact is I’m both. I’m thankful and vain. And truly it’s each persons choice what they choose to do or don’t do with their bodies. So I own it. I’m vain but I tell myself that’s ok because I’ve been through hell.

So when the surgeon was thinking he might put some fat in my face I felt excited and nervous. It’s like maybe I could have pain reduction and a cosmetic boost all in one. I figure he changed his mind for a good reason. Probably wants to stick to the real issue at hand. My pain. Which is just fine with me.

In the long run if I had to prioritize what is most important – getting rid of pain would rank #1. Obviously. So heres to surgery number 3 for my post cancer treatment pain – I’m praying for good pain relief . (And if he has some extra fat for a wrinkle or two maybe he would surprise me).

Oh and there is the liposuction 😉

Hey whatever it takes to keep the spirits up right?

Meet Daisy (and duke)

Meet Daisy. She is my new beach cruiser.  When we bought our beach cottage this past spring I knew I wanted a bike. But I never really felt like I would be able to ride again because of the issues with the nerve damage on the right side of my body.  I kept telling Kevin we needed to wait to look at bikes until I felt better. The thing is I don’t know if this is as better as I am going until we do the next procedure which may be fat grafting. 

My arm and side tends to get all “burny” and achy feeling when I overdo. Ice packs are my friends. As are heading pads it depends on the moment. And I don’t know what overdo is. It varies -so I hold back on the things -like getting a bike. 

The other day kevin saw an older neighbor in our new beach neighborhoood  (we are like the babies in this neighborhood I am discovering !) and she was riding a three wheel bike. Kevin thought maybe I could try one of those to see if I could ride easily using just one arm. I thought -three wheels!? That’s a tricycle – but ok why not. I need to be open minded because I have a disability now and I want to adapt as best I can to be able to live life the best I can. So we planned to just go look at trikes. 

And if you are looking at the picture Daisy isn’t a trike. She’s a bike! Pretty as can be. 

We stopped at a bike store on route 1 as they were getting ready to close. We had to have our beach time and didn’t plan the timing too well but we lucked out and found an accommodating  store even though it was just about closing time. 

Two beautiful young woman were getting ready to take all the bikes set up in from t of the store inside. I could tell immediately they were Russian. The shore gets many young people that come over to work the summer shifts. I wanted to start my whole convo about how my kids are from Kazakhstan blah blah but I didn’t bc they were closing.  I don’t have those convos anymore now that my kids are older bc they are often with me and I think it’s their story to tell now. And they stay mute. But once in a while if they aren’t around I like to tell it but I had a bike to try so I stayed quiet. 

The manager of the shop a thirty something guy with a beard told us he didn’t have trikes at this location -bummer. I could tell he didn’t like the trikes. Why did I know this? Because he basically said so. I guess I wasnt too keen on them either  especially after he said how much space they took up in his small shop. I didn’t want big and heavy – having a bad arm doesn’t bode well for having to maneuver a big bike. 

I explained my plight – show me a cruiser with big long handle bars so I don’t have to reach far. And he did! There was an entire fleet of bikes I could choose from and I saw the yellow green cruiser with the white seat and I asked them to pull that one out. 

I had a long light sweater on over my bathing suit which I didn’t take off when I got on the bike -I was too excited -so I just held it up with my hands as I rode.  It must have made a pretty picture! 

The seat was so comfortable and it was so easy to peddle. I rode around the lot laughing and almost crying because the feeling of freedom was so immense. I can’t explain well but after being so sidlelined for so long the feeling of moving on the bike was amazing. It isn’t a horse but it’s something. 

Kevin turned to the manager and said “I will need a bike for me. She will be taking that one.”

I laughed and rode around and around. 

And Kevin bought Duke. Kevin is not sure about naming his bike but he’ll go with it. He is just that way. 

I love Daisy. And now she has Duke to spend her time with. He’s a good looking bike. A cruiser but manly in his build. 

We rode all over the neighborhood the first night. I was sore the next day and my arm hurt but I likely used it more than I should.  I can easily ride here with one arm.  My left arm is not my dominate so asking it to do more is awkward for me. The right arm wants to jump in and help. I’m learning my bounds. 

I sent my surgeon the photo of me with Daisy. I owe him so much thanks for getting me this far. I still have a ways to go but this is miles from where I was.  I did ask him if bikes are ok and I promised that I was not riding my horse. He responded with happiness at my ability to ride a bike and said bikes are ok. Horses not ok. 

Yet. 

But they will be. It’s a goal. 

But for now there is the freedom of riding Daisy. 

And for the ability to do that I’m very grateful. 


Duke

Doing the Mundane

You never appreciate doing boring laborious chores more than when you have been unable to do them for so long. For me my weekend was filled with fun everyday boring stuff and I’m so glad I was able to participate. I still had some pain but often forgot about it as I kept busy. I’m sore as heck even two days later. My muscles are still getting stronger after being laid up for so long. But I’m feeling good and I’m happy.

So let me bore you with my mundane weekend. For me it was not a bore. It was bliss. 

There was Friday night dinner out -with my mom and my hubby as my dates. 


On Saturday there was a little butterfly watching as we began to spread sand over the dirt and stone of our chicken enclosure. 


We worked. The boys shoveled over four yards of sand and since I still can’t shovel  (maybe I’ll be able to rake again someday!) I moved sand along with my feet and that proved to be a great workout. 

We had time for a little communing with the animals. 


And fixing a Rooster with bumblefoot. 

And I have to share Kevin with his new gas powered power washer. He loves it. 

And we did  a large amount of gardening. We created a lovely area. 



My work posse didn’t want their photo taken but I bribed them with ice cream. It pays to have an awesome ice cream shop minutes from our house! I am So very thankful that my two sons worked so hard all weekend with me and even did shifts at their “real” jobs.  

(Look how tall they have gotten!) 

And of course we communed some more. 


We sanded and gardened our way through the weekend. I spent it with two usually surly sixteen year olds but somehow they were gracious and hard working. Maybe they also got the brevity of the moment. I was doing normal things again. Maybe they didn’t get it. But I sure did -and as I worked I kept marveling at what a blessing it was to put my hands in dirt again and work with the animals.  This is a part of me I’ve missed -being able to do work -I couldn’t shovel at all or lift much-but I did use the hand trowel and planted some plants.  Yes I did a lot of pointing and telling people where I wanted stuff but I spread sand with my feet and tended to a hurt chicken. I groomed my horses and I sat and enjoyed being with them. There is much I can’t do still -but there is much I can do and thats the gift. And for that I’m so grateful. 

Meandering moods 

My moods have waxed and waned lately. The other day I was in a terrible mood. It was one of those that was just making me feel ugly and I swear it permeated out of me and I just looked ugly too. Which didn’t help my mood any.

I am tired of dealing with the pain and I’m tired of missing out on doing things. Some days I feel like I’m about to burst with being tired of feeling crummy. Add life’s doling out other stuff like my daughter being in two car accidents in one week you could understand why I might get moody     .

But it’s not who I want to be.  We are all allowed our moments but I don’t like those moments to last. I don’t want to put negative energy out into the world. Don’t  we have enough of that? I feel like we get back what we put out.  I will tell you that it’s not easy to put out good stuff when you feel crappy.

I seem to find a change in my down spirit when I go looking for positive things. I know it’s bad when a baby goat on Facebook  doesn’t make me laugh. When I get like that I know I’m craving nature. The real kind -like me being out in it. And that’s not always easy now BC of the pain. But when I want something I somehow will figure out a way to do it.

Walking has become important to me. I know that if you keep moving you keep moving. So I keep moving. Even if I don’t want to. If I have to I take pain meds and I go. Pulling in the elixir that nature freely gives lifts my mood most of the time.

When my mood is up I am vastly aware of all the good things in my life. I see how one small area of pain can turn gold into ash. It’s all perspective. And some days my perspective will be positive and others not so much. I am only human.

I keep looking ahead to better days. But I don’t want to waste the days in the present. Waiting is fine but we need to live while we wait.  So I do what I can. I live the best I can. I try hard. Sometimes I’m just tired.

I have another surgery April 21. I am optimistic that my surgeon can help much of the pain. I’m grateful to have found a doctor that is so dedicated to helping woman with post breast therapy pain. Multiple surgeries aren’t uncommon in this group. In the waiting room on one visit I met a woman who was going through her 19th surgery. The third with my surgeon. We exchanged contact info and we are in touch and she joined the Facebook group for post breast therapy pain that I am in.

On that same visit I met Mary. We had “met” online on that same Facebook page a while back. It was fate that we had appointments the same day. Mary and I suffer from the same pain areas and we lament to each other. It feels good to connect with people who are living what you are living.  You don’t feel so alone. When I left the surgeons office that day I felt happy.  Even though I felt crappy. I like days when I can feel happy and crappy at the same time.

I think about what I’d like to do when I feel better. How I’d like to help others. I want to share this story with others. If I could save a person one less closed door, one less doctor telling them their pain isn’t real , or that it isn’t from the cancer treatments, – I’d feel so great. This story may always be dynamic but i know I have circumvented the system and I know that can be of great help to others

There are other things I want to do to help others. I might be able to do some. Some I might not. We will see.

I also want to do things for myself that I havent been able to do for some time – ride my horse, paddle a kayak, swim , lift weights, do laundry (ok that’s a stretch) , cook(sometimes), and spend time on the beach just being.

See what I mean about living in the future? I thinks that’s ok but I want to live here and now.  I want to make now the best it can be under the circumstances and sometimes it takes a lot of effort to that. I have learned to be resilient over this last nine months. I have dealt with pain, surgery, loss and grief and more pain. I am strong. Even in my worst moments there is something inside of me that wants to keep going. Thats been a beacon during some of my hardest days. That little niggle of strong.

Today we have been pelted with a snowy rainy mix and I want to take a walk later to see how the sun hits the snow on the trees. Maybe I’ll get some photos.

Right now I’ll share some beauty from my walk the other day. I decided to walk into the cornfield.

I hope I am putting out some good chi. I’d sure like to get some back.

A glimpse of the lane along the cornfield.

Pine trees at the edge of the field

Sunset looking at the back of our little farm.

Winter cornfield.

Another look at the back of my farm. I didn’t get rid of the orb. Kind of liked the vibe.

Cornfield selfie

Surgery journal …it keeps on going 

So the last I left off – I think- is that I was slowly healing from my surgery. 

Recap – I had breast cancer surgery which led to pain for three years that was ignored by my breast surgeon. It exacerbated last May 2016. I was bed ridden. I had to begin a journey that would lead mye to a nerve surgeon that agreed that I may have a problem with surgical clips. This clip issue had been suggested to me by a physiatrist I saw over the summer.  Surgical clips are made of metals and are used often in surgeries to close of vessels. They have caused issues In patients but it’s not common or maybe not admitted by doctors that they are an -in fact- an issue. 

The nerve surgeon operated. Removed clips in my axilla (armpit) And he found some clipped onto nerves. Not the right thing to clip.  The nerve surgeon also cut some nerves and buried them into muscle. He removed a neuroma (bundles of scar tissue ). He was optimistic that he had cleared the area of clips and that these were likely the cause of much of my pain. He Closed me up and here I am just over three months later. 

Now I will say that I’m still in the process of healing. But I have had pain in the back of my armpit -it’s not new pain- I think my surgeon thought it was pain that would subside as he treated all that other stuff I mentioned to you above. That pain in the back of my armpit is becoming worse. And the symptom that bothered me the most -the nerve pain that made me cough -is still around and seems to flare when that armpit pain flares. Nobody gets the cough symptom. That is very frustrating.

Is it worse BC I’m more active and doing more things?  Well I’m not bed ridden anymore and I am doing more and the more I use my arm the more it hurts. I can’t work on my range of motion exercises much because it causes pain. And it hurts as a passenger in the car and when I drive. I tried a long ride to the beach a little over a week ago as a passenger and that about crushed me. I am not big on opiates so I’m only willing to take so much medication. It was a stressful trip to say the least. 

I went to see the nerve surgeon this week and he took a long time with me. He pondered my continued pain. He had some ideas of the nerves it could be. He hopes it can calm down and become a non-issue the longer I heal. 

So the plan is to get a series injections right in the areas of my pain. The injections contain lidocaine -a numbing agent -which is short acting and some steroid which we hope will calm the pain down. I get the next injections four weeks apart. I won’t know if this injection will help even for the short term for up to a week.  Then if  I still continue with pain a few months from now I will have to have more surgery. 

Yes I know. It bites. 

But I need to get this pain level under control so it doesn’t limit me so much. I’m limited socially and physically. I’m up and around which I’m so grateful for. But it’s not enough yet. My mom moved in with us at the end of November. I want to be there for her.  I don’t want to be dealing with my own pain issues that it limits me from helping her. 

I’m 75% better than last summer. Being bed ridden and now being up and around is a huge deal. A lot of the pain is gone. But what’s left is bad. If it weren’t for the pills for nerve pain I’d been in bad shape. I hardly ever tolerate any RX meds. I failed all the cancer hormone blocking drugs I’ve tried. I was very pessimistic about the drug neurontin also known as Gabapentin. It’s used to treat seizures but is very effective on nerve pain. Which is a hideous burning pain that can go from light burn to a blaze if left to smolder.  The drug has been great for me. I have little side effects. A few twitches here and there and memory loss. The memory loss is the worst of it for me. I put up with it because the pain control is that good. And the drug isn’t like an opiate. I’m just writing everything down and when I forget something at least I have something to blame it on. I have read coming off the drug is  tough. Not like coming off opiates but it can be hard. But I’ve read how to counteract any unpleasant side effects with natural products like magnesium – which can make the taper off the drug much better. But I’m not even there yet. I still need the drug -so in an unlike fashion for me I’m not going to worry about when I go off it. 

Nobody said that this healing would be easy. I think I just got in my head that it would be a done deal when all those clips came out.  I’m disappointed. But I’m so determined to get to a point where I won’t have so much pain. I don’t know if I’ll actually ever be pain free on my cancer side -but I’d like it to be much better.  And I’m not pain free elsewhere. It’s just that the level of pain that sets us back from true living can be different for each of us. And I met my match. 

The one good – well maybe great thing- that has happened is that from my experience I have been able to help other woman in the same pain situation as I am in ( post breast therapy pain syndrome). A couple woman have even gone to my surgeon after I mentioned him on the Facebook page that I belong to for ladies with post breast cancer therapy pain. 

It feels good that my hardships haven’t gone in vain and that my experience and what I’ve learned and shared could actually be help to others.  

I have a lot of things I want to do. I am so grateful for how far I’ve come. And I call upon God each day to help me to be more patient. I am doing the best I can.

I miss riding my horse. I miss farm chores. I don’t miss doing laundry though -I can do a bit of it but I try not to. This week we hired a cleaning service to come in and clean. It was much needed. We will probably hire them on a regular schedule. I just can’t keep up and my teens aren’t the best cleaners. And I’m kind of done with the eye rolling from them especially when I can’t pull my own weight doing chores. And frankly I don’t want it to be a fight. In the scheme of life it’s just not worth being mad at messy kids. Life’s too short. 

The road to recovery isn’t always a straight line. I’m learning to be more accepting of that. Right now I am better than last summer. I’m so grateful. 

I really am learning to live one day at a time. I don’t know how I’ll feel from day to day. So just focusing on today is the easiest for me. It’s forcing me to live more in the present. The theme to my last blog. 

I’m carried by the thank you’s I’ve gotten for sharing my experiences and hearing that what I’ve written has been empowering them has really be a saving grace. I’ve been carried by the good wishes of friends from all over. 

It’s not a road I’d wish on anyone. During my worst days I sometimes can’t find a thing to be joyful about. But I see that life happens no matter where I am or what I feel – and I want to live life. 

I orten  think of the Apostle Paul in the Bible and his unending optimism and want to call people to Christianity despite his circumstances. His letters never waivered in his goal and he never lamented on his circumstances though he was jailed when he wrote many of the letters that now are books in the New Testament. He found contentment in any circumstance. This was because of his love of other things outside of this earthly place and his faith of what lay ahead for him. 

Sometimes you have to try to enjoy life even when you aren’t where you want to be- whether that be physically or emotionally. I’m no Paul. But I can learn from him. 

This cancer journey has been such an incredible challenge in my life. It’s not easy for me to stop along the way and consider I need to be learning from my discomforts . I just want out of it. But in the moments where I can just stop and breathe and  just live in the present despite my discomfort I see how truly blessed I am. 

I don’t know where the road will lead but I’m on it – better to make the best of it when I can. 

Being part of the farm again. 

For the last two days I have been able to go out and work a bit on our little farm. This is such a big deal for me. I have been unable to do anything for months because of the pain I had. “Had”being a key word. I amstill not pain free after the surgery but I’m able to be part of life again. That’s so huge.  I can’t do that many things physically out at the barn yet but I can do a little and I can give orders! 

It felt good being part of things again. It’s hard to put into words the things I feel right now. I’m such a mix of emotions all the time. But feeling like a normal human again at least some of the time is really awesome.  

I don’t have the stamina yet that I want but it will come. If I do too much I have pain.  I still have some of the pain I hoped would be gone as a result of surgery-but it comes when I do certain things which leaves me with hope that as I gain more mobility with my arm that some of these issues might go. And I’m told it may take a year to heal fully. There is a chance that some of the nerves that were bothered for so long may not heal 100%.  But I’m hoping for the very best outcome. 

But that’s just stuff I don’t want to worry about now. I enjoyed today -being outside with my animals. Just being part of the world again. I came back in before the gale force winds we are supposed to get began. I think it’s blowing away our Indian summer. I’m not looking forward to winter really I’m not a fan of the cold but I’ll not let that keep from being part of my little farm. I’m thankful I’ll be able to go out and enjoy the season. 

I took a number of photos today of basic farm happenings. But to me they are such a gift to be able to be part of such a place. The sights,the sounds, and the smells of a farm. Somehow I feel like farms are part of my soul. There is an amazing comfort for me when I’m on any farm.  I feel it’s where I’m supposed to be.  Well here and the beach and in nature.  I have a large soul I suppose! I’m lucky to have found my places where I can find my center. Some people search a long time for that. 

Hope you enjoy today’s farm photo s. 

Airy my mare

harley my gelding and the horse i ride.

asking for a treat!

the storage area pf our barn . it geta quite a collection of junk and needs to be tidied up periodically

looking out on the back forty. our land is only tonthe fence but i love backing up to preservation land!

molting hen. she is on her way to new feathers.

me standing on manure pile. sums up my life of late!

new 100 gallon water trough w heater!

inside looking out.