Monday, July 25, 2016

"Take a load off Anny, take a load for free. Take a load off Anny, and, and, and.... you put the load right on me." lyrics from "the weight" by the band

something amazing has happened! i actually put my tai chi dvd in my laptop and did the workout. if you have read some of my previous blogs, you will know that my tai chi dvd and i were having a staring contest( the dvd had been winning up to now). this is a beginners tai chi dvd. on the cover of the dvd,  it says that it is for "older adults and the physically challenged!". not sure why they used an exclamation point after that description, but i unfortunately fall into both categories. on the dvd, there is an instructor, and a student helper. the student helper's name is claire. claire is a very pleasant older adult. she knows all of the moves, moves gracefully, and does not break a sweat. claire has about 20 years on me. unlike claire, i do not know the moves, am not graceful, and actually sweated pretty profusely. the instructor kept saying that "claire is a dancer". all i know is that claire kicked my butt.

that said, i think that i will continue with the tai chi. i would rather attend a live class( claire does not talk very much on  my dvd). i found that with zumba, after doing the  dvd a few times ,just the dvd  is boring. a live class is  much more fun. in a live class, the routines change from class to class, and there is just something more inspiring about being in a live class. my physical therapist told me today, that even  not considering my bad knee, it would take me  approximately a year to get back to where i was physically able to attend a whole zumba class. sad face here. of course, i know that i would have to get my knee replaced before i could go back. anyone need a pair of zumba shoes and several belly scarves?

here are the pros that i have discovered with tai chi:

1. it can be a gentle, strengthening exercise.

2. it focuses on deep and complete breathing.

3. it improves balance, thus limiting the possibility of falls.

4. it can be calming and relaxing.

5. there is basically no special equipment required ( although comfortable yoga type pants and a tee shirt are useful).

6. it helps with flexibility

7. it is supposed to increase energy levels.

there are only a few cons:( as i see it)

1. it is not zumba

2. currently, there are no live classes being taught in my area.

 joking aside, i think that this is pretty much the perfect exercise for me now- at this point in my recovery from cancer. i really enjoy walking, which i do as often as possible, but the tai chi is a good addition to my walking. and since tai chi is supposed to help with balance and preventing falls, this might actually help when i am walking. i will let you use your imagination on this point.

i am currently still going to physical therapy for lymphatic massage. "the weight" is literal in my case. i still have a lot of swelling in my chest, side, back and arm, but my physical therapist is making quite a bit  of progress. she said that not all people respond to the massage, but that obviously i am. my husband went with me to one of my sessions, and my physical therapist taught him how to do the massage at home. it is so kind of him to do this for me, and it is helping as well. i have found that working ( 9 hours on my feet) makes the lymphedema worse. not too much that i can do about that at this point, except for limiting work as much as is possible for me and my work schedule.

as i understand it, lymphedema is a chronic condition that can be managed, but not completely cured. i still wear my compression sleeve, especially when i am working. early diagnosis and treatment are the keys here. i strongly advise anyone who thinks that they may have lymphedema, to consult with a physical therapist who is trained to treat lymphedema patients. getting physical therapy for this has been one of the most positive things that i have done for myself . again, please be  your own best patient advocate, and do what you can to make things better for yourself.

so, i am planning on continuing my tai chi dvd, and  giving claire a run for her money. i would not place any bets on me as yet. after all, claire is a dancer.....

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"you took my joy, i want it back! you took my joy, i want it back." by lucinda williams

that is pretty much the way that i am feeling right now. and have felt, really, since i lost my butterfly. and of course, since i lost my breasts. i took this picture for " the Truth about thyroid cancer". as i recall, those of us who have had  thyroid cancer have about a 30% chance of having another primary cancer. the percentage may be more or less than 30%- i have seen it all over the place, but 30% seems about right to me. i had a skin cancer removed from my leg ( squamous cell) about a year after having thyroid cancer. i did not make a big deal about my skin cancer - all i had to have done was just the surgical removal of the cancerous growth. no chemotherapy this time, but i did have to change my dermatology appointments from once yearly to twice a year. hind sight is always 20/20 as they say, but that should have gotten my attention. would i have done anything differently? perhaps. i was on a very low dose estrogen/progesterone regiment for menopausal symptoms. while i do not believe, after a lot of research on my part, that the hormonal therapy alone caused  my breast cancer, i think that the tendency to have another primary cancer, and the fact that hormonal therapy has been proven to speed things along if you have a predisposition to breast cancer, would most likely have caused me to stop the hormones.

at the end of next month, it will be a year since my last round of chemotherapy. honestly,  it has been a hard couple of years for me. going through the chemotherapy, mastectomy surgery, reconstruction surgery and having to take  the anti-estrogen drug that i will be on for the next  ten years have taken quite a bit out of me. i often wonder how much harder this has been since i also had the  thyroid cancer. some of the symptoms that i have had from the chemotherapy are symptoms that a patient with thyroid cancer has. you could say that it has been a double whammy for me!

after my treatment for breast cancer stopped, except for taking  the anti-estrogen drug of course, i was at a loss of what to do. holistic care was not offered in my small town. deciding that i needed some physical therapy for the lymphedema in my left arm, and getting one of my doctors to write an order for this, was one of the best decisions concerning my health care  that i have made. i have received valuable advice from my physical therapist. not only has she helped me with the lymphedema, but she has been working on my neck issues that most likely occurred after  my thyroid cancer surgery. we tend to forget that our body parts work together. losing the eleven lymph nodes in my neck certainly added on to the problems of losing the three in my left arm area. ( i will not bore you with the" highway analogy" again- although it is a very good one!)

an acquaintance  of mine recently passed away from cancer .when this happens, it  always makes me pause and take note of my life. am i doing all that i can to get healthy? do i have a good quality of life? am i doing what i want to be doing with what is left of my life? in other words, am i getting my joy back? so far the reviews are mixed. i am trying hard to get healthy, but more needs to be done. i am not sure how to get all of my joy back, but i am working on that,too. i am so fortunate to have wonderful family and friends who offer support, care and unconditional love.

the take away from this blog, i hope, is that others reading this will seriously consider what they need to do to be healthier and happier. do not wait for others to do it for you. do not expect your doctors to have all of the answers. get advice from all kinds of health care providers- doctors, physical therapists, even pharmacists, and make your best decisions on what is best for your good health care. i wish you luck, i wish you good health,  but most of all, i wish you JOY.  by the way, it is so nice to have hair again! ;)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

" i can't talk now, i'm in a parade; can't talk right now, i'm in a parade....... diagnosis: thyroid and breast cancer; prognosis: guarded; occupation: pharmacist. " lyrics ( changed a little) from a new song by paul simon, called " in a parade"

when i am at work, especially, i feel exactly like i am in a parade. my thyroid medication is still off, so add that to chemo brain , the lymphedema, and the other things that breast cancer brings with it and i feel like it takes every bit of energy that i have to march on down the road. i can do it, and i would never put anyone in danger, but it takes a lot out of me. i also have to remember the sad fact that i am not in my twenties anymore. i feel like i should be able to do everything that i was doing before my cancer diagnoses and not feel tired. even a family gathering, or a long day out shopping, wears me out. FATIGUE is one of my worst enemies. i had major fatigue before both cancers were diagnosed, so it is troubling to have it going on now.

some people think that after your thyroid is  removed, you take a tablet and voila! you are good to go. as the majority of people reading this blog know, that is simply not the case. in april,  my thyroid levels were too high, so my doctor had to go down on my dose. but now, i think they are a little too low- i tend to crash, or feel like it, in the late afternoon. if you want an intelligent conversation with me, it would be best to call me before about three or four in the afternoon. after that, i will be in a parade. too much talking, lights, noise of any kind, to name a few things,  simply wear  me out. i feel like my eyes glass over. you are probably wondering if you should perhaps get your prescriptions filled in the morning when i am working? like i said, i push through the fatigue, but it does cost me. i pay the fare usually the next day- i am pretty much toast and just rest, usually. and if it makes you feel any better, i do not work two days in a row. i always have at least one day between work days.

 believe it or not, i am not complaining. i do not work a whole lot- only about 4 or so days a month. but i would like to feel better on a daily basis. and i am getting there, but it is slow going. if i could recommend one, well two actually, things to patients post thyroid cancer and/or breast cancer surgery, it would be physical therapy and therapeutic massage. i did not get any after my thyroid cancer, and i am dealing with those problems now. i had eleven lymph nodes removed from my neck, as well as my entire thyroid and two parathyroids. i did not know about the "lane merging theory" until my physical therapist explained it to me when i started physical therapy last month. i had three more lymph nodes removed with my breast cancer. i have lymphedema in one arm, but also swelling in my side, back and neck area. the problems with my neck occurred  after my thyroid cancer surgery. it would have helped me tremendously if i had gone to PT then. the therapeutic massage has been great as well. i think those two therapies go hand in hand, pun intended.

i have incorporated  a lot of holistic, you might call them, techniques to try to regain some of my strength and feel better. mild exercise, physical therapy and massage, vitamins, trying to get more hours of sleep each night, having a better diet, etc.  i can not return to zumba, which i had previously done for 5 years. this is partly due to my lack of energy, but also i was supposed to have one of my knees replaced a week before my breast cancer surgery. boobs trumped knee, and i will have to wait a while for my knee to be fixed. besides walking, i think that tai chi would be a good, gentle exercise for me. unfortunately, there are no classes at the wellness center near me. i have purchased a DVD on basic tai chi ( for old people and the physically challenged- i  fall into both categories, i am afraid). so far, all i have done is take the wrapper off the DVD. it is propped in front of my DVD player, and so far, all that we do is  just stare at each other. i am hoping to pop it in the DVD player one day soon.

everything i have said in this blog harks back to being your own best  patient advocate. if you are not feeling well, find out what other things might benefit you. do not rely just on that one thyroid hormone pill. no matter how good the medication, it can never replace a healthy thyroid. adding other, holistic methods is an important  key to feeling as good as you can, i think. even with all of this, though, i still have times, every day, when i can not cope as well as i did before thyroid and breast cancer. i suppose it is like that for almost everyone who is dealing with these problems. parade, anyone?