Turning a Corner: the Road to Healing

 

Life does not unfold in a straight line: it meanders, stops us in our tracks, surprises us, delights us, and frustrates us. Anyone who thinks he or she can control his or her life is wildly misguided. (That’s one reason why you see so many angry Leftists.) When we come to terms with the unexpected appearing in our lives is when we can appreciate the entire process as a whole.

This discovery is not new for me. I seem doomed to learn this lesson, over and over again. That’s okay; I assume that each time I learn more about riding the rapids, the better I will ride my way through them the next time. But I’m also aware that I will never fully conquer them; life (or G-d) has a mind of its own.

*     *     *     *

So for the uninitiated, I had a single mastectomy several months ago, followed by chemotherapy. I foolishly assumed that once the chemo was finished, I would be feeling much better. Silly me. Then again, recovery from chemo has been a fascinating experience, and I have not only learned a great deal about cancer and chemotherapy, but a lot about my body and myself.

What have I learned? I have to nurture a whole new level of patience for my recovery. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Meaning I still have those toxins in my body, and I don’t think anyone knows how long it will take to be free of them. Okay, I can work with that. I have one friend who says it will take a year. I say that’s too long. You’re laughing I’ll bet, but the mind is powerful, and although I’m willing to beat my impatience into submission—I mean, develop more patience, I’m just not willing to wait that long. You’ll see.

I have tried to prioritize what’s important, what’s inconvenient, and what’s not worth my notice. For example, I am growing back hair . . . slowly. If I put my face up against my make-up mirror, I can actually see those little buggers growing, even without my glasses! It looks like it’s coming in silver—yippee! but as it grows out, it could still change. My husband runs his hands through my hair—kind of—and jokes about getting caught in the tangles. I don’t know why it makes me laugh, but it does.

And then there are my eyelashes and eyebrows—which I no longer have. Actually, I have become a master artist at drawing eyebrows on my head, but since I only have two eyelash hairs on one eye and a few more on the other, I’ve decided it’s hardly worth the effort to put mascara on, since it will look weird. I just use eyeliner.

Then there are the annoying supplements I have to take twice per day: three teaspoons of glucosamine chondroitin, which is only tolerable mixed in anything flavored. My choice of the week is raspberry/mango. Not too bad, but it will be much better when I don’t have to take it anymore. And then there are a bunch of pills I’m still taking with the drink—I’ve lost track of what they are, but I can’t wait until I’m finished taking them. Jerry and I have a ritual after lunch on Saturdays, when he fills the pill cups for the week with all the pills for me to take twice per day, and I fill the same kinds of cups with three teaspoons each for breakfast and dinner. I make quite a mess measuring it out; I think a subversive part of me wants to spill lots of it on the counter so that I’ll have less to take. That subversive part is not helping, since I still have this week and the next week to complete this ritual.

I can eat just about anything! Now that could be dangerous. I’ve lost my desire for chocolate chip cookies, but just about anything else is fair game. I’ve only lost a couple of pounds, so I can’t justify “putting weight on”; so I guess I’ll just have to be disciplined. Boooor-ing.

The physical challenges have been the most demanding. The least difficult is the peripheral neuropathy, which doesn’t seem to be improving but hasn’t gotten worse. That’s a numbness in the fingers and my toes (although it seems to be in the soles of my feet, too). When I’m barefoot—oops, don’t tell anyone I’m walking barefoot—it feels like I have sand on the bottom of my feet. Just imagine coming home from the beach and the sand is still stuck on your soles, and brushing them off doesn’t help. I try not to notice it. My feet and legs are also swelling, too; I’ve decided I should check that out with the oncology Nurse Practitioner, but I do not want to add another pill to my list. I’ll see what she says.

But the body pain was the hardest. I started exercising with a trainer a couple of weeks after I finished chemo, and that was grueling. Even though we started out moderately, my body simply ached. My quads and hamstrings would not relax. Finally, I figured out a regimen of one Advil per day, a cream with emu oil three times per day (no laughing, now), epsom salts bath once per week, and stretching throughout the day, since I sit at the computer a good part of the day. On Friday I took my last Advil and emu cream. And although I still have some stiffness, I’m doing much better. I don’t know if the pain was due to lack of using my muscles or something left over from the chemo, but I am so much better! I walk three mornings for 30 minutes, work out at the gym three days for an hour (one of those days with the trainer), and I feel like a new woman!

*     *     *     *

The most important lesson I have learned from this whole process is not only that most things are beyond my control, but that life is continually changing; that I rarely know what will appear around any corner, but hope that I will have the presence of mind (after initial concerns) to face it with openness and possibility; that I will have moments of disappointment, frustration and fear, but that I have the stored resilience to work through whatever arises. Especially with the counsel of a loving husband.

So I’ve turned one corner. I’m curious to know what’s around the next one.

Published in Healthcare
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  1. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    What an incredible post!  You are my sister by another mother!

    When I had chemotherapy I was never told about the possibly of future peripheral neuropathy.  My fingers are fine, but my feet and especially my toes have that damn numbness.  I so much miss having “normal” sensations in my feet!  I also have an unusual dryness in my feet, and have to apply a layer of Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion to my feet before putting on my socks.

    I don’t have the body pain, but what I got was alopecia, which is hair loss.  The hair on my arms.  Gone.  The hair under my arms.  Gone.  The hair on my back.  Gone.  The hair on my chest.  Mostly gone.  The hair on the side of my head.  Gone, hence I now shave my head daily to get the hairs on the very back of my head.  My eyelashes and eyebrows came back somewhat.  I have some unruly “Klingon” eyebrows that I keep because the make my eyebrows more full.

    And I am ALIVE!  Every day is a gift.  Every day is precious.  Thank you so much for your post and your beautiful picture.

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    God Bless, Susan. 

    You too Gary

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    And I am ALIVE!  Every day is a gift.

    Indeed!

    • #3
  4. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    What a remarkable post! I so admire your attitude as you cope with the disease that you seem to view as an “inconvenience” that you will overcome. Many Blessings to you.

    • #4
  5. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Wow! You do really good eyebrows! I was really crap at it. Besides, I found that lashes and brows were the first thing to come back.

    Everyone seems to have different symptoms for the neuropathy. When I walk it feels like the bottoms of my feet are little blown up air cushions. And in both feet up to low ankles it feels like I am wearing tight elastic socks. All ten fingers are just plain numb. It’s 18 months since I finished chemo so I am not hopeful for improvement.

    Keep up with your exercising and other activities. I think you’ll feel better sooner than you think. But remember – you were pumped full of poison. 

     

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    What a remarkable post! I so admire your attitude as you cope with the disease that you seem to view as an “inconvenience” that you will overcome. Many Blessings to you.

    You are so kind, @jimmcconnell! It was an inconvenience! ;-) And my poor husband had to listen to my complaints. But I believe I am through the worst. Thanks.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    Wow! You do really good eyebrows! I was really crap at it. Besides, I found that lashes and brows were the first thing to come back.

    Everyone seems to have different symptoms for the neuropathy. When I walk it feels like the bottoms of my feet are little blown up air cushions. And in both feet up to low ankles it feels like I am wearing tight elastic socks. All ten fingers are just plain numb. It’s 18 months since I finished chemo so I am not hopeful for improvement.

    Keep up with your exercising and other activities. I think you’ll feel better sooner than you think. But remember – you were pumped full of poison.

     

    Thanks, JustMe! That’s an old picture when I still had brows and lashes. I still think I’d pass muster now, but I hope they grow in soon! You have definitely had a worse outcome, and I wish you well.

    • #7
  8. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6JbemSdORo

     

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6JbemSdORo

     

    Does this mean we’re engaged?

    • #9
  10. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    Wow! You do really good eyebrows! I was really crap at it. Besides, I found that lashes and brows were the first thing to come back.

    Everyone seems to have different symptoms for the neuropathy. When I walk it feels like the bottoms of my feet are little blown up air cushions. And in both feet up to low ankles it feels like I am wearing tight elastic socks. All ten fingers are just plain numb. It’s 18 months since I finished chemo so I am not hopeful for improvement.

    Keep up with your exercising and other activities. I think you’ll feel better sooner than you think. But remember – you were pumped full of poison.

    I really need my fingers to not be numb to be able to do my job.  I need to be happy about my blessings, and to not be upset about my toes and feet.  Thank you for this reminder and blessing.

    • #10
  11. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Looking good, Susan!

    Prayers ongoing for you and Gary.

    • #11
  12. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Thank you for the inspiration. I’m still recovering from radiation therapy, which was almost two months ago. MRI tomorrow, and depending on the state of healing I will probably be seeing a physical terrorist before long to get the muscles working again. It will be remarkable to be able to stand up for more than 30 seconds without leaning on something.

    Don’t let anyone shame you about bare feet. It’s one of the best things for peripheral neuropathy. Stimulate those foot nerves.

    • #12
  13. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):
    I will probably be seeing a physical terrorist before long to get the muscles working again

    Ha ha, me too. I start on Thursday. I spent so much time hunched over in my chair , unable to get up and walk around, that I’m all bent over before my time. Need to get some upper body exercises.

    • #13
  14. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Thank you for the inspiration. I’m still recovering from radiation therapy, which was almost two months ago. MRI tomorrow, and depending on the state of healing I will probably be seeing a physical terrorist before long to get the muscles working again. It will be remarkable to be able to stand up for more than 30 seconds without leaning on something.

    I have used the phrase physical terrorist before.

    Don’t let anyone shame you about bare feet. It’s one of the best things for peripheral neuropathy. Stimulate those foot nerves.

    I am the only male lawyer I know who pads around his office in stocking feet.  It is good to be your own boss!

    • #14
  15. Max Knots Member
    Max Knots
    @MaxKnots

    Get well Susan. Love your posts! Man plans and God laughs, right? Actually, you too @Garyrobbins and @justmeinaz. Every day is a gift.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Max Knots (View Comment):

    Get well Susan. Love your posts! Man plans and God laughs, right? Actually, you too @ Garyrobbins and @ justmeinaz. Every day is a gift.

    Thanks, Max. Reading your posts certainly brightens my day!

    • #16
  17. Online Park Member
    Online Park
    @OnlinePark

    Susan, I relate to it all and send you healing vibes. My issue at the moment is allowing myself to plan for the future. I didn’t expect to live past two years and now it has been 4. It could now be twenty more. I need to recalibrate somehow. I loved your post.

    • #17
  18. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    You look great in your picture – not kidding. While the silver is growing in, I can picture you in a wild auburn punk wig – !! You are such an inspiration and everyone is rooting and praying for a full recovery – me included.  You have more gumption and better health habits than many – myself included.  God bless you (and Jerry)!

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Online Park (View Comment):

    Susan, I relate to it all and send you healing vibes. My issue at the moment is allowing myself to plan for the future. I didn’t expect to live past two years and now it has been 4. It could now be twenty more. I need to recalibrate somehow. I loved your post.

    And I love your comment! What a gift you’ve received, and I can certainly understand the mindshift that will take. Best wishes on that!

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    You look great in your picture – not kidding. While the silver is growing in, I can picture you in a wild auburn punk wig – !! You are such an inspiration and everyone is rooting and praying for a full recovery – me included. You have more gumption and better health habits than many – myself included. God bless you (and Jerry)!

    Thank you so very much, FSC. When it grows out enough for me to not look like a corpse, I’ll try to show off the new style and whatever color shows up. I’m ever so grateful for all the support.

    • #20
  21. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Great post Susan and great comments from Gary and the others. Wife 10 years out from her chemo/radiation for breast cancer.  Has the neuropathy in her feet still.  Also got lympodema in one arm after the radiation treatment but docs working on that problem. But no cancer. My early stage prostate cancer treatment (cyber knife, 4 radiations) a walk in the park by comparison. 

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    navyjag (View Comment):

    Great post Susan and great comments from Gary and the others. Wife 10 years out from her chemo/radiation for breast cancer. Has the neuropathy in her feet still. Also got lympodema in one arm after the radiation treatment but docs working on that problem. But no cancer. My early stage prostate cancer treatment (cyber knife, 4 radiations) a walk in the park by comparison.

    Thanks for the update, @navyjag. Tell her to hang in there!

    • #22
  23. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6JbemSdORo

     

    Does this mean we’re engaged?

    Are you the one sending me messages from the Silver Singles?  No, I’m just happy you are here, and doo-wop always makes me smile.

    • #23
  24. BillJackson Coolidge
    BillJackson
    @BillJackson

    Thank you for posting this, and this whole series. 

    • #24
  25. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    You are on the healing side of your trip. I bookmarked this post. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but if I have to face anything like what you faced , I want to refer back to this for inspiration

    • #25
  26. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    Ever in my prayers, ever an inspiration. Never stop @susanquinn!

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    EHerring (View Comment):

    You are on the healing side of your trip. I bookmarked this post. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but if I have to face anything like what you faced , I want to refer back to this for inspiration

    Thanks so very much, @eherring! I’m so touched by your comment. Let’s hope for many healthy years ahead of you so you never have to read it again!

    • #27
  28. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    I have some unruly “Klingon” eyebrows that I keep because the make my eyebrows more full.

    And you’ll be ready to try out for a role in the next Star Trek movie!

    • #28
  29. Midwest Southerner Coolidge
    Midwest Southerner
    @MidwestSoutherner

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):
    I will probably be seeing a physical terrorist

    Literally laughed out loud at this. My husband is currently suffering at the hands of one of them, so I appreciate the term. Thanks for the chuckle.

    • #29
  30. Midwest Southerner Coolidge
    Midwest Southerner
    @MidwestSoutherner

    Susan, I was so very happy to see your smiling face when I looked at your post today. Your outlook and attitude through this experience has been so inspiring and a great reminder of the power of prayer and positive thinking. 

    Continuing to keep you in my prayers. You too, @GaryRobbins and @justmeinaz. Actually, that goes for all my friends here on R. 

    • #30