In the past two days I’ve taken our new dog for short walks, just around the block. It is more than I have done since this whole thing started back in May with my diagnosis. It may not seem like much now but in the coming months it could be a milestone I might think I’ll never be able to accomplish again. I struck a deal with my daughter, we share in walking the dog, this will give us both exercise as well as the dog. I will walk the dog in the mornings and she will walk him in the evening.
This might not seem like much to most of you and maybe it isn’t. I do this even though I am in pain though the pain today is much less than it has been since my first surgery in August. I walk around feeling like there is a huge mass in or just below my right armpit while the area where I no longer have a breast feels like something foreign lives there. Well, I guess there does because there is a plastic expander under the surface which has yet to be expanded. When I touch the area the place where my fingers touch has no sensation but below the surface under the expander I can feel the pressure from my fingers. It is an odd sensation to say the least. The skin feels like leather to my fingers, like I’m touching something that isn’t really me at least until I reach the edge where sensation still exists.
My armpit feels the same way and this extends towards my back a bit and down my arm. Portions of my upper arm are overly sensitive, I liken it to the feeling of a rug burn where it feels like your nerve endings are on fire or just so sensitive that the slightest touch feels raw and painful.
The odd thing is occasionally I get an itch in these areas. I realized the other day I need to be careful or I could scratch deeply creating a wound and never know it until blood would flow. Even though the drain has been removed I still use the small pillow on occasion because sometimes it just feels like there is something large and uncomfortable under my arm, placing the pillow there helps to ease the feeling and make me feel more comfortable.
I sleep with four pillows, no actually five if I count the small pillow. Why? Well, I often ask myself that same question. One for under my head. The other I overlap slightly with the pillow that is under my head so when I lie on my back the right side of my head rests against the raised portion of the pillow overlapping the pillow under my head. I’ve always had trouble sleeping on my back and this seems to ease that problem. When I do sleep on my back a third pillow is used which is placed slightly along my right side and under my shoulder and right arm. The small pillow is always between my side and my right arm no matter what position I sleep in. The only other position I sleep in is on my left side and the fourth pillow lies in front of me with my right arm resting on and sometimes around it hugging it, while the small pillow is still between my right arm and my side. I guess, the answer as to why is for comfort, since there is no man in my life, I sleep alone. If there was a man in my life I could not imagine how we could sleep together without him being worried he might accidentally cause me pain. I’ve seen movies where they always show a person who is terribly sick surrounded by pillows and now I have a better understanding of why that would be and how emotionally charged the scene in real life would be when the spouse crawls in bed with the person who is sick and holds them, for how rare that must be or how painful but willing to risk the pain or willing to experience more pain in order to feel the comfort of being held.
I’ve been told over and over again by people in the medical field and some outside of it how chemo and radiation has gotten so much better over the years but in my mind all I see is the scenes from a movie I watched a very long time ago where a man was terminally ill, on his own, taking chemo. He hired a woman to help care for him during his treatments and they showed how sick he became and how difficult it was for him to take care of some of the simplest things for himself. In the end it was a tragic love story. I don’t recall the name of the movie but it is one which has stayed with me a long time and when someone tells me they have cancer or I learn of someone with cancer this is how I see their life must be like. I can’t imagine me being able to go through such and yet I feel I have no other choice. I am trying to remain positive that what I will experience will not be that bad however it is not easy.
For now though, I feel almost guilty for not returning to work, at least until I take a walk or run an errand, and return to find myself exhausted or needing to take another pain pill. Sometimes it would be nice to just lie down with my head in someone’s lap feeling their fingers comb through my hair or caress my scalp like so many people do with children without thinking about it and rarely ever do it with an adult. These are the small comforts I wish I had.