Friday, March 12, 2010

It's swell to run

Well, I was on a roll for a while, but as usual, life got in the way of writing my blog. Actually I didn't feel like I had much to report, but of course that has changed.

As some of you may know, I started running this fall. Those who know me well, understand that running is something I have never done, nor had any interest in. This story begins on a beautiful fall morning when Patty and I had gone out for a bike ride. We rode up to the AHS track and she said we were just going to run a lap. I laughed in her face. My body does not run. After much coaxing, she convinced me. After all, she was only a few months out of surgery and was still in treatment. It had been years for me. So I ran, well at least I tried, albeit not very successfully. That day I went home and told Andy. I don't want to say that he laughed, but he had this look on his face that I had never seen. He was the one who was the runner, not me. For the next week I thought about it continuously. I thought about my friend Tracy who did the walk with me last year. She lost over 125 lbs. and was now running every day! Our lives parallel in so many ways, why not this one? I could run too. Maybe we could even do a race together. So I started, little by little. I began in my basement on my treadmill--heaven forbid anyone see me struggling on the street. I increased each time I ran, and before Christmas I was just over 2 miles--not a lot, but more than I had ever done. I was never even a walker before the 3Day. I actually started to enjoy it, then the holidays came, and with them came a decrease in my running. There was little time to run, and I took a few weeks off.

As relaxing as that time off was, I began to notice a change in my left arm. It started to hurt more, and I noticed some swelling--lymphedema. Lymphedema sometimes occurs after a mastectomy when lymph nodes have been removed. Your lymph nodes regulate your lymphatic fluid throughout your body. This fluid is what fights off infection. After surgery, you are given range of motion exercises to help prevent developing lymphedema. I was diligent about mine. You are also instructed to not go into a hot tub or to lift anything heavy. You have to be careful about wearing clothing that fits tightly on your arm, and be cautious about shaving and manicures because of the risk of infection. I did everything that I was supposed to.

Unfortunately, these symptoms did not just come out of the blue. Last year during the walk was the first time I started experiencing arm pain. If you read my blog last year, you will remember the bear of a hill on Day 2. That day I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and had pushed up the sleeves. They didn't feel too tight, but as I was walking up the hill, probably faster than I should have, my arm began to hurt. I immediately put it over my head and pulled my sleeve down. It helped to alleviate the pain momentarily, but it continued to return off and on throughout the remainder of the walk. When I came home, I took it easy for a few days, and my arm felt fine. Over the next couple of months, it didn't bother me too much, although it would sometimes return when I overdid it.

When the pain started in January, I was not able to relieve it as I had in the past. I figured it was because of the running; therefore, I stopped altogether. Earlier in the fall I had mentioned my lymphedema to my oncologist, and she gave me a prescription for a compression sleeve. I hadn't needed it up until then, so I never filled it. I tried to hold off a little longer, but it seemed to get worse. I finally bit the bullet and ordered my sleeve. I was hoping that I wouldn't have to wear it all the time. Meanwhile, I was not working out. My teammates had started to train, and I was fearful to.

Last week I drove to Salem to pick up my sleeve. It had been backordered, and took several weeks to come in. After I battled the Friday afternoon traffic, I excitedly arrived, knowing that I would finally begin to work out again. As I walked into the Hutchinson Medical Supply fitting room armed with 2 sleeves (get it?), I was not looking forward to wearing one of them all of the time. I took the first one out of the wrapper, folded it over, and slid it up my arm. It didn't stay. It didn't even fit loosely on my arm, never mind compressing it. Damn it! They ordered the wrong size. Come to find out, they didn't. The sleeve was actually mismarked. Obviously, they had to order me another one. More time wasted, waiting to train.

While I was waiting for my second sleeve to come in, I began talking to a friend who also has lymphedema. We talked about physical therapy, which I will be starting soon, and how her therapist said that cardiovascular exercise helps lessen lymphedema. HELLO!!! The reason I had developed more symptoms was because I STOPPED running!!! Stupid! I immediately went home, and ran that night--not too far, but it was running nonetheless. I felt great, and my arm didn't bother me!

So my sleeve still hasn't come in, but I have been walking and running every day this week. Yahoo! It has been great. Now I am ready--ready to really start training again.

So that was great news for me, but there is more, sort of.

On Wednesday, I went to DFCI for my 6 month check-up. They usually don't do much, just a breast exam, blood work, and I get an injection. When I met with Lisa, the awesome nurse who draws my blood, I was shocked with she brought over 6 vials to be filled. What!?! I have never had 6 vials! I didn't have good veins before chemo, never mind afterward. What were these 6 vials for? She explained to me that there is a cancer blood test. I had never had it before, and was more terrified than ever. She did a great job, got all the blood she needed, and didn't cause a bruise afterward. After my blood work and injection, I went to see Dr. Chen, my oncologist.
She examined me and said that everything looked great. She also checked my blood work and informed me that it was also fine. What a relief! Once you have had a cancer, it is a constant fear that it will someday return. This was fabulous news.

After I arrived home, I posted my news on Facebook. I had so many people respond. My family and friends are what got me through that difficult time, and their encouragement and support never waiver. Later that evening I went to my basement to run. I had a good run, and went a little further than the time before. When I walked upstairs to take a shower, I noticed that my neck was red and blotchy. As a matter of fact, it was itchy too. I chalked it up to heat rash, showered, and went to bed. When I awoke in the morning, the rash had spread and was now on my face and wrists. A phone call to my PCP was in order. After a quick appointment, I found that I had an allergic reaction to my injection. I had been taking this drug for 2 years! I had never heard of such a thing, but I guess it happens. My doctor gave me a prescription for steroids, and as of today I am doing much better. Well, what exactly does this mean for me? We'll have to wait and see what happens the next time I get my injection in June. I'll keep you posted.

Royally yours,

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