Yesterday I went for my first physical therapy (PT) session. Having a mastectomy or double mastectomy can cause all sorts of issues that require therapy, especially if lymph nodes are also removed. Here is a site that covers some of the problems. I’ll let you read there instead of re-writing it all again here! My arm hurts. ; )
In all seriousness though, I have had a very, very limited range of motion on my right side where they removed 18 nodes. I have lost most of the strength in that arm and I have had a lot of heaviness and lingering pain, even almost a month after surgery. I have also had numbness and what feels like swelling on that side.
So yesterday at PT we discussed that if I had lymphedema then it would be something I would probably deal with for life. Even though I knew that somewhere in the back of my head, to hear it was pretty scary. After a short verbal assessment we got to work!
The first thing the therapist did was an evaluation of my swelling. The good news – I only have 1-2% swelling on my right side! The therapist said that it is probably post-surgical swelling and not lymphedema!! In theory then, all my “problems” following the surgery can be corrected with therapy! Praise the Lord!
The second thing we did was gauge my range of motion (RoM). We started with my left side and soon realized that I am dealing with a RoM issue on that side as well, I just didn’t realize it since it was so much better than my right side.
She measured in several directions, but basically I was working with about 60-65% RoM on my left side and 30-35% RoM on my right side. I have lots of at-home exercises to work on to increase these numbers!
The third thing the therapist did was what she described as “releasing the lymph system” – I can’t tell you exactly what she did because I quickly shut my eyes in pain and it was hard to see through the tears. It realllllllllly hurt. And she assured that “all the patients cry” when she uses that technique. Not sure if she just told me that to make me feel better about my wimpiness, but anyway…all I know is that when she was done, the RoM on my right side probably doubled. The heaviness was almost gone. The numbness lingers. The pain increased, haha. But overall it made my arm feel much, much, much better.
When I got to the car, I could actually lift my right arm and reach the steering wheel, and I can almost get my right arm up high enough to wash my hair!
Initially Brandon and I were hesitant to sign up for therapy in Durham because of the drive-time and child care arrangements that would be necessary for my appointments. We decided to at least go to Duke for the initial appointment though, and I am so happy to have had that consult with a person who sees post-mastectomy patients all day, every day.
I am also happy to report, that as long as my at-home exercises seem to help me, I only have to go back every three weeks, instead of three times a week, which is a reality for some lymphedema patients.
As I have done some reading on post-mastectomy issues, everything I read says that early intervention is key to regaining full strength and range of motion. Would you pray that I regain both. Would you also pray that the swelling goes down completely and I don’t have to deal with lymphedema issues? The therapy is also supposed to help loosen scar tissue so that it does not inhibit the lymph system further.
Starting my therapy a little less than a month post-surgery, I think there is a good shot that I can overcome these side effects! I am so thankful that I have access to such a good team of doctors and the best resources around!
I feel like I have been continually blessed with the outcomes of my treatment. I almost feel guilty getting off so easily when others are suffering so much.
I am particularly thinking of a friend of the family who recently found out with his wife that the baby they are expecting (20-some weeks pregnant) is missing a chromosome and retaining fluid on the brain, and will likely die before or very shortly after he is born. Would you pray for them?
I am thinking of a dear lady (and young mom) in California that has been undergoing treatment for a rare, rapidly growing cancer. Even as she received the chemo, she has had new suspicious spots arise. She has started a new regimen of chemo drugs. Would you also pray for her that these new treatments prove to be more effective?
And some of you may have seen that I posted about Anne on Facebook the other night. Yet another young mom with a BRCA mutation and fighting breast cancer at age 28! She underwent a double mastectomy yesterday morning and preliminary pathology reports show that her lymph nodes were clear!! Praise the Lord! Please continue to pray for her as she will be starting chemo in the new year.
More to come tomorrow!