Monday, October 15, 2007

Looking Out For Number One!!

No guesses; I'm thinkin' that means no lurkers. Well, it's only been a few weeks, so I'll keep trying.

By the way, it's the Travel Skirt from Ram Wools and I've got about 1 1/2" done and therefore was not able to wear it last Sunday. Oh well, there's always Christmas!

O.K. I had a few things to get off my chest.

But before I start, I just want to say that this is not going to be a Breast Cancer blog. I had it, and since this is Breast Cancer awareness month the subject may come up a time or two.

What I do want to talk about, however, is the continued need for all of us to act on our own behalf when dealing with our health.

If you find a lump (doesn't matter how old you are!), get to a doctor! Make them; yes I said, MAKE them, follow up with a mammogram and/or ultrasound.

Next, it is YOUR responsibility to find out the results; do NOT use the, "if I haven't heard from them, I guess there's nothing to worry about" line. Ask when the doctor expects to have the results and then phone or make an appointment to follow up. (this applies to any test, really)

Here's a biggie, and for some reason, I just keep having to learn it over and over again. If something doesn't feel right, keep going until you get answers! You know your body best, you are not bothering anyone; it's their job and it's your life! Speak Up! Nobody can help or know there's a problem if you don't Speak Up! And don't be afraid to ask for help.

I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in July 2006 and since then, while I have been very lucky a lot of the time, it still surprises me how often I've had to act as my own advocate and I had a pretty good idea how the system works! But what about all the people who have difficulty with the language, or are stuck thinking that, "the Doctor will look after me" and don't know how the system works?

It's an overflowing system, manned by people; people who are capable of missing something, of having a bad day and not picking up on all the details that are "your life"! It's a system, where you are sent from specialist to specialist, who only look at the little part of you that is their specialty; guess what? There's more to you than that little part!

Keep looking until you find someone who looks at the 'whole' of you and puts all the pieces together to find the answer that is right for you!

In the past year and a half I cannot tell you how many people have had a look at my chest; (not terribly glamorous) asked the same questions; seen the same thing and offered very little advise for any complaints/concerns that I had and just kept encouraging me to move forward. And this was good too, but I still had questions and since I pretty well got the same answer with each person I asked...I thought that this was just the way it was going to be forever and you know, that didn't feel too good.

So, I went to a barbecue in September; chatted with a lady about Lymphedema (hers) and she told me about a clinic in Cookstown where the physiotherapists deal with Lymphedema and by association, many breast cancer survivors; so I got the number.

I was sure I didn't have Lymphedema, my arm wasn't swollen and I had been assured time and time again, that my risk was virtually next to nil, having only had a few axillary nodes removed. What I was looking for, was someone to give me some direction on moving forward, because, while in many parts of my life I had moved on; I didn't feel like it. Because I was still uncomfortable and didn't know what was too much to do or not enough, ie. looking for balance. Sigh.

The lovely lady at Cookstown Centre for Wellness took a short history, reassured me that my risk was decreased for developing Lymphedema (again) because I did not have radiation as part of my treatment, asked a few questions and before she saw my chest told me that I had Lymphedema. And you know, I didn't quite follow what she was saying, because I didn't have Lymphedema, I had a discomfort under my arm, some aching, some throbbing some times, some puffiness under my scar that got red sometimes from the heat; that I thought was fat, and some funny fat deposit above my scar, under my arm where, "that's just the way it healed".

But that's not Lymphedema---uh, yea, it is!

She re-educated me on the lymphatic system, she taught me how to perform self massage; she gave me a massage---no deep muscle, very light touch---she gave me forms and reference material to get set up with compression sleeves in the hopes that this will not get worse.

And she listened.

And when she was done (one short hour) I felt fantastic (and verklempt).

And when I got home and had a look...I could not believe the difference!! I was smooth, I was comfortable, I could reach up and not think I was pulling something apart! And all from a few simple hand movements!

And all because I didn't give up looking for somebody that would have the right answer. It wasn't a mission, but it nagged at me and that's when you should pay attention!

This is not about blame; everyone that was involved in my care did the best job that they could, but not everyone knows everything that there is to know and so, be vigilant and find your answers!

My Granny's life advice was, "Look Out For Number One!" Yea, because if you don't; nobody else is going to!

Have you ever noticed mushrooms?

The leaves are falling and life is slowly fading on this season and up from the ground a mushroom pushes forth; lifting the earth out of its way!
And there they are; up from nowhere...actually from something dead under the ground...leaving the pieces of earth that were in their way laying upside down.
Where pansies, just look at you with a funny look on their faces!

FYI: It took just over an hour to write this, dad. Chloe wasn't impressed.

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