Tag Archives: whining

Race Report: Louisville Half Marathon

I had signed up for 2019 Indy Women’s and Urban Bourbon Half Marathons months before those races. They were long-term goals that I set for myself last year. I signed up for this race on a whim a few weeks ago mostly because a bunch of women from my running group were running and pacing it. FOMO is apparently a motivator for me nowadays.

So Urban Bourbon Half Marathon was three weekends ago. As I wrote about in an earlier post, it was a great time, so fun, so perfect how prepared I was and how the things I couldn’t control turned out just fine. This race was a bit different.

I’ve had left hamstring soreness since UBHM, though I noticed it several days after, so I’m not sure it was because of that race or something else. Could be too much sitting; could be my obnoxious pulling dogs. Consequently I had only run a few times in the past three weeks. In addition, I hadn’t been keeping up with cross training like I should, eating a lot of shitty food, not drinking enough water. So in the week leading up to this race, I just generally felt not great and was full of ambivalence.

I simply didn’t want to run it. Mostly because it could potentially be a shitshow, for above reasons. Also I didn’t want to make whatever was going on with the hamstring* worse. The icing on the Meh Cake was a friend’s fiftieth birthday party at a local bar the night before the race. This party would be full of close friends and people I like whom I hadn’t seen in a while. I knew I would either leave before I was ready or stay longer than I should.

*back of the knee, feels more like weakness rather than pain; gets worse throughout the day, especially after a dog walk; consulted dr google and got more confused; had a different chronic hamstring injury 12 years ago and would really like to not deal with that bullshit ever again

Also the weather forecast was annoying, specifically the temperature. I know how to dress for 50 and above. I know how to dress for when it’s actually cold. The 40s though. It’s not rocket science, but the right number of the right layers continues to baffle me. Especially in a race, where there’s a bunch of standing around in the beginning. When home, I just leave and I’m warmer in a couple blocks, and I typically only go for 30-60 minutes. Being chilly before the race, then overdressed for more than two hours of running is not fun. So Saturday evening I picked out some clothes and spent the rest of the night second guessing myself. Like I lost sleep and had stupid Dressed-Wrong Dreams. The amount of bourbon I drank at the party didn’t help, and in general I don’t sleep well on the night before a race.

The dogs got me up earlier than I wanted, but I wasn’t asleep anyway. Coffee, English muffin, half a leftover Cuban sandwich; pooping happened. I got dressed in what I had originally planned and left. The Parklands of Floyds Fork is this huge and beautiful park system in eastern Jefferson County. It’s really four connected parks, about 4000 acres, with woods, trails, creeks, roads for biking and running and walking. I wish it were closer than the 30 minute drive. I’ve run and raced here before. It’s nice, though the concrete road isn’t the friendliest for runners. This particular race is actually marathon, half marathon, and 10K distances. All start together, run the same direction, and have different turn around points.

I thought about downgrading to the 10K in the interest of my sore hamstring but decided not to. Probably because it was not horrible all the time. If I had been in constant pain, I probably would have downgraded. I would like to say I would have not run at all if the pain was that bad, but in reality I tend not to do that. I didn’t pay $80 to not run dammit!

Once I got there, I found M/SRTT (Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town), my running group. Greeted people, talked about goals, injuries, clothing, pooping, snot rockets–ya know, runner stuff. Got in the group picture. I had a friend pacing the 2:20 finish, and she encouraged me to run with her. I had my doubts about keeping up that fast. Even though I had just finished with 2:06 a few weeks before, I did not feel good enough that I could get close to that. A couple other women from the group were pacing 2:45. I was planning on running with them and having a good time, but when it came time to corral, I was kind of in the middle of both pacers. I decided to just stay put, somewhere between 2:20 and 2:45 and see what happened.

We started off pretty tightly packed. I started slow, testing to see what my hamstring would tell me. It told me I was stupid. But! It didn’t tell me I was fucking stupid, so I just kept running. Finally the crowd started to thin a little, and I settled into a rhythm around mile 2. There happened to be a hill right here. More or less straight up. Like you see it and think it’s a joke.

So one thing different about this race is intervals. Normally I do intervals. When I started running last year after surgery, I needed to start slow and also I really wanted stick with it. I had done Couch to 5K the year before (didn’t stick) and my favorite part of that program was the middle weeks, when you run for several minutes, then walk for a minute, repeat. I read up on the Galloway Method, a run-walk-run program designed to prevent injury, and decided to try that. I used it for the last few weeks of June, when I was being gentle on myself during recovery. It got me through the early weeks of running, when historically I would have quit. It got me through the heat of summer, when a short break to walk help me calm down enough to keep going. I played with frequency and length of intervals and settled on 2 minutes run, 30 seconds walk as my goldilocks spot. This training got me through my first half marathon, and even though I’d recovered from surgery and seemed to have integrated running into my lifestyle, I felt like if it was working for me, why change? This fall I started skipping intervals, especially if I was running down a hill, and shortening them. So I was doing like a 18-26 second walk and correspondingly longer run. It was all fine. This race…not sure why, I hadn’t planned on doing it this way, but I didn’t run intervals. The first mile of a race, I often don’t do the walks. It’s crowded, my heart rate is fine. All good. Same for this race, but then I ran the second mile. Maybe because my pace was slower I thought I should go for it. Then that hill. If there was a time and place to start walking intervals, it was looming in front of me. But I kept running. I ran up the hill. And didn’t die! So I ran the third mile and kept running.

The giant hill was followed by a long less-steep climb, then a long wooded downhill with occasional flattening out spots. By this point the people in the lead for the 10K had turned around and were now running toward us. This is where I was less satisfied with the race organization, about which until this point I had absolutely no complaints. The road had narrowed and there were no cones. Tons of people not moving over, getting in each other’s way. I’m sure very irritating for the folks in the front of the 10K pack who were hoping for a top 3 finish or whatever. Several people were forced into the grass, others cut people off. Could have been ugly. I just hate seeing so little self-awareness.

Anyway, finally got past the 10K turn around, so there were no longer people running at us. I passed the 4:45 marathon pacer (2:23 half pacer for those not inclined to do the math) and saw my friend pacing 2:20 up ahead. I ran a little faster. I realized my hamstring was fine. Twingy, but not painful. I caught up with her and the other 2:20 pacer around mile 5. I was nice to run with pacers. It was also trippy to realize that this was the farthest I’d ever run straight, no walking. And I still had eight miles to go! I felt good for a while. Chatting with the other people hanging with the 2:20 pacers. Giving myself little pats on the back for not walking. Happy that problematic hamstring was not asserting itself. We got to the half marathon turn around! Only another six and a half miles!

And then, like clock work, the Mile 8 Struggle Bus showed up. For every half I’ve run, somewhere between mile 8 and mile 10, I want to give up. Whether it’s tired legs, tired everything, racing heart, hungry tummy, burning lungs, low energy, whatever, I find myself saying “let’s just walk, running is hot bullshit” It’s totally a mental game at this point. For Filly Women’s and KDF, it was low energy, so I experimented with adding runner candy (Honey Stinger Energy Chews). This worked for UBHM and a few long runs. This race though, I had been eating a few pieces every 40 minutes, which had worked for me before. It was less low energy and more just super tired legs. My hamstring wasn’t necessarily that bad; more like all of both legs were fucking done.

I kept going though! Around mile 10 we were back into the long wooded area, but this time we got to experience it going up hill. Joy. I walked twice, about 10 seconds each time, because I wanted to get my heart rate down a little. These were the only two times I walked the entire 13 miles. I caught back up with the 2:20 pacers. I stuck with them and their motivation really kept me in it. Around mile 11, the huge downhill, my knees started to hurt. Around mile 12, I needed a toilet. I was seriously afraid I’d shit my pants otherwise. Luckily there was a portapotty just a handful of yards off the course. I lost at least a minute, but it was absolutely necessary.

Back on the road! One mile left! It was not a fun mile. I was no longer running with my pacing friend. My legs hurt. I was tired. Finally the end. I did not sprint to finish, but I did manage to get my arms up like I wasn’t about to crawl the last yards.

I look happy because I don’t have to run anymore. Maybe ever.

My time was 2:22. Not the best, but way better than I thought I was capable of. Hell, I didn’t know I was capable of running for more than a few miles without walking, much less a half marathon. I didn’t see anyone I knew around the finishers’ area. There was Derby Pie as an end-of-race perk, but it was so sweet, I could only choke down a few bites. There was also beer (provided by Goodwood Brewery, a race sponsor), but at that point I think anything other than plain water would have made me vomit. I just wanted to go home and lie in a bath tub full of hot epsom salt water.

So that’s what I did. I was moving like a 90 year old. The walk back to the car was comical. Very stiff, very sore. My hamstring didn’t seem any worse than every other sore, agonized part of my body. I ate the other half of the leftover Cuban while the tub was filling up and had a bottle of water mixed with electrolyte replacement. The soak in the tub was perfect.

I ran three half marathons in six weeks, five this year. One was a PR and one was with no walking intervals, something I wasn’t sure I could do. I’m kinda proud of myself and my training. I look forward to all the shorter races I have lined up over the winter, mostly just fun stuff nearby, a few of which I’ve gotten Spouse to sign up to run with me. Lots of group runs with M/SRTT. I have some trail races coming up too. And a Thanksgiving Morning race, which I have always been opposed to in theory and, until now, in practice. I guess I’m a real runner, for good or ill. Now I just need to rest this stupid hamstring. At least it’s taken my mind off my stupid fat thumb.

I Suppose I Should Write About My Stupid Thumb

Hmm it’s been awhile.

What started as a cancer blog, quickly evolved into a running diary, and even more quickly died a quiet death once the race I was training for was over.

For several months I didn’t have any cancer news to share.  I see my oncologist every three or four months to make sure everything is still good.  When you’re NED (no evidence of disease), no news is the best news.

My running slowed to a crawl over most of the winter months, but I picked it up around February to start training for the Filly Women’s Half Marathon at the beginning of April and the Kentucky Derby Festival Half Marathon at the end of April.  Currently training for the Indy Women’s Half toward the end of September and the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in October.

I started sewing more and hope to post lots of pictures of Finished Objects and Works in Progress.

The point of this post though is to finally talk about my stupid thumb.

I’ve been putting this off, hoping it would just get better and I could forget that I ever had issues, but it is apparent that my stupid thumb is my new-new normal and I should accept that.  Now I wish I had started posting back in April, back before it was a thumb problem and was only mild tightness in my forearm.  I wish I had been tracking and recording my progress, because now I have to rely on my shit memory to tell if it’s getting better or worse.  Anyone who has seen me recently and asked “how’s your summer?” has heard the whole story.

So it started the day after the Filly Women’s Half.  I was pulling weeds in the front yard when I noticed a little tightness in my right forearm and inner elbow area that hadn’t been there before.  Odd and random.  I recognized it as similar to the soreness I felt while recovering from the double mastectomy, though that was higher on the inside of my arm.  It had been more than 10 months since my surgery.  Almost 9 months that I considered myself pretty well healed up–little chest tightness, full range of motion, phantom pain calming down, scars shrinking and fading and becoming less itchy.  I totally thought I was done with having to worry about anything other than getting cancer again. 

A quick word about cording or lymphatic cording, also known as Axillary Web Syndrome.  It is a sometimes side effect of sentinel node biopsy or axillary node dissection.  Damage to the lymph system can cause scarring or hardening of the lymph and blood vessels, creating stiff cords just below the skin that are most commonly in the armpit but can travel down the arm too.  It’s not well understood, which is a little infuriating.  Breast cancer is not an uncommon disease, lymph node removal is the norm for breast cancer surgery, and studies suggest cording happens in up to 72% of patients who have had node dissection.

I had mild cording in the weeks after surgery, but the stretching I did as part of my recovery took care of it easily.  So I did the stretching I did back in June.  It didn’t go away, and maybe got a little worse, but not appreciably worse.  I had a one-year follow-up appointment with my breast surgeon’s office scheduled for the end of May already, so I figured I would just keep stretching and if it was still a thing, I would bring it up at that appointment.

I ran a 5 mile trail race on Mother’s Day, and afterwards, while I was taking a shower, I noticed that my thumb had gotten badly swollen and I couldn’t really reach the shower head well.  The tightness in my forearm was now painful, extending up to the under arm, and inhibiting my range of motion.  Great.  The trail race was muddy and slippery, but I hadn’t fallen.  WTF

The next day I called the hospital cancer help line wondering if they could hook me up with a physical therapist to get this under control.  The person I spoke with was spectacularly unhelpful, and I got off the phone frustrated and feeling like I just needed to deal until the end of the month.  The thumb swelling was worrying me though because of lymphedema.

A word about lymphedema.  It’s not the same as cording, though they may be related (again, lots more research needs to be done on cording).  It is swelling, happening in the hand, arm, and/or torso of a breast cancer patient, caused by lymph fluid build-up from surgical node removal.  It can get worse if not treated and cause permanent tissue damage.  Not cool.

Stuart and I were going to be flying to Las Vegas for Memorial Day Weekend, before my scheduled appointment, and my stupid swollen thumb was concerning.  Flying can make swelling worse, and I had always heard that women with lymphedema should wear compression sleeves on airplanes for that reason.  So I called the breast surgeon’s office directly and got a referral to the physical therapist who treats the lymphedema patients.

This whole thing was not a fun time for me.  I had spent 9 months feeling like a normal person.  It was what I wanted, and why I chose the surgery I did, a double mastectomy with no reconstruction.  I wanted to get back to living life with a minimum of doctor visits and procedures.  I wanted to carry on with my new normal.  Flat chest, daily dose of tamoxifen, but cancer-free, training for a half marathon, optimistic.  Now I felt like a cancer patient again.  I only had two or three nodes out, I was not overweight, I had not had radiation, I was NED, I had not had an injury, I had not had an infection.  And yet.

I felt like my body was betraying me again.

My physical therapist was awesome.  First she measured both my arms.  She was curious to see that my left arm was bigger than my right (I am right handed and it is my right arm that was the problem arm).  My explanation was I hold my dogs’ leashes in my left hand and they are extreme pullers, so every dog walk is like a one-hour session of resistance training for that arm.  Anyway.  The swelling, apart from the wrist and thumb, wasn’t awful.  The pain and tightness though was pretty bad.  I couldn’t really raise my arm above my shoulder.  She stretched my arm out, which hurt but in a good-hurt way, and did lymphatic drainage massage.  She also ordered me a compression sleeve and compression gauntlet (think fingerless glove) for the flights.   She told me that she wasn’t sure I had lymphedema, that the swelling may be related to the cording, but she was going to treat me as if I did have lymphedema.

I asked her why.  Why after 10 months did this happen?  Nothing seemed to have caused it.  The first symptoms showed up after a race and it got worse after a different race, but it’s not like I ran those two things in a vacuum.  I had run another half marathon in between without incidence.  And I had almost-as-long training runs in between as well.  There was no trauma.  Nothing new.  Why was I problem free for almost a year and within a month of the first tightness sensation I couldn’t reach a coffee cup on a shelf?  Her answer:  “Human bodies are weird.”  Okay, cool.  If I need to simply accept and be zen about this, I can handle.  A concrete explanation would have been nice, a behavior cause that I should avoid repeating, but I’ve long since learned that sometimes shit just happens.

After that one appointment and a day or two of doing the at-home stretches she gave me, the cording in my arm had resolved and I had full range of motion back.  Yay!  Unfortunately the cording was now in my wrist and into my hand and my stupid thumb was still swollen.  So that was my summer–twice weekly PT appointments for two and a half months, trying to get rid of the last cording and hopefully the swelling.  My PT taught me how to do lymphatic drainage massage on myself, experiment with hand stretches.  She taught me how to use Kinesio tape to help the swelling.  We even tried laser treatments.

My PT was stumped.  She had never seen cording go into the hand and up someone’s thumb before.  Why, after almost 50 years of not deviating from the norm (except for that cancer thing), was I suddenly a medical oddity?  Who the fucks knows.  The rotten thing is the way cording is treated is stretching and this weird manipulation-massage, but it’s really hard to stretch just your thumb and it’s really hard to pinch enough on your thumb to hit the cord there.  She consulted with her colleagues and none of them had any suggestions for treatment that she wasn’t already doing.  At the end of July she discharged me, saying to call her if I got worse.  I should wear my gauntlet when doing repetitive and/or stressful activities using my hand (like yard work and exercise), avoid lymphedema triggers, keep stretching and doing lymphatic drainage massage.

So now here I am.  The swelling and tightness in my arm is totally gone.  I have full range of motion in my arm, but my wrist is kinda weak.  There is one tiny spot of tightness at the base of my thumb on the back of my hand.  My thumb is still swollen.  I think it is less swollen than it was a few weeks ago, but I *stupidly* haven’t been documenting it, so I’m not even sure.  The fingers on that hand seem fine.  My thumb definitely looks worse at the end of the day, I think.  Who the fuck knows.  Some days are worse than others, and I’m eager to see what improvement comes with fall and cooler temperatures and lower humidity.

I have come to accept that I’ve got mild lymphedema and I need to be watchful.  Of what, I’m not 100%.  I know that I should avoid blood pressure cuffs and injections and blood draws on that arm.  I know that I should avoid tight sleeves and bracelets.  Keep the skin in good condition, avoid extreme temperatures of water, avoid extreme heat in general, no manicures, no cat scratches, no trauma, drink lots of water, avoid fatty foods, avoid sugar, avoid dairy, avoid salty food, avoid spicy food, avoid caffeine, avoid alcohol, avoid MSG, whatever you do don’t gain weight, avoid sun exposure, wear compression garments when flying and on long car rides, avoid being sedentary, avoid overuse, don’t wear a purse on that arm, don’t carry heavy stuff for any length of time, don’t wear a back pack, don’t cut yourself, don’t burn yourself. 

A bunch of things are no big deal, things I’m already doing.  A bunch of things I’m not particularly worried about at this point because my swelling is mild.  But.  Before it was mild, it wasn’t there, so I know that things can just change.  For no reason.  A bunch of these things are not exactly avoidable.  Accidents happen.  I’m not going to stop cooking because I might cut myself or burn myself.  I’m not going to get rid of the cats or stop doing my cat shelter volunteer work in order to bring my risk to zero.  I confess, I have used my thumb as an excuse to not do yard work (y’all it’s bad but honestly it’s been worse and the reason then was solely my avoidance and procrastination), but I’ll get out there and pull weeds…any day now.  Yeah.

So that brings me to the real fist shaking, life-is-so-unfair feelings connected with my stupid thumb.  The I-am-willing-to-ignore-medical-advice vanity that probably says a lot about me.   

I want a chest piece.

I want a chest piece and my PT said she would advise against a tattoo because of the lymphedema.

A chest piece was a huge reason I was so on board and cool with my decision to stay flat after surgery.  Getting on with my post-cancer-surgery life without a bunch of new surgeries and complication risks was absolutely the main reason I chose not to get reconstruction.  I never had wanted one before, but the idea of an awesome chest tattoo covering my scars was icing on the quicker-surer-recovery cake. 

I have in the past year become rather fond of my scars.  Like, I think they are badass and sexy.  They have ceased signifying mutilation and now are the mark of me as someone who healed. 

My feelings about my scars are as complicated as my feelings about my cancer.  For a while I felt a kind of survivor guilt.  I know I had cancer and got a big, life changing surgery…but no radiation, no chemo–the things that fuck up life for a lot of cancer patients, I got to skip.  I recognize how lucky I was to get my diagnosis at an early stage.  I was crazy fortunate to be able to get a mammogram the same day I saw my PCP about a lump and get a biopsy a few days later and surgery within a month.  I was crazy fortunate we had plenty of room on credit cards for the high insurance deductible.  I was crazy fortunate my pathology report was about as good as it could be.  But the scars on my chest are not simply the path of least resistance.  I gave up my curvy, still-perky chest to get rid of a disease that I didn’t choose, and I think that should count for something.  I was lucky to be diagnosed at an early stage.  That doesn’t make me less of a cancer survivor. 

So anyway.  Not hating the scars.  Kinda liking them. Not liking liking.  I don’t step out of the shower and look in the mirror and think “thank god I don’t have breasts anymore because the pre-teen flatness of this rib cage and these long, gently curving pink lines are a big improvement.”  No one would think that.  What I do think when looking in the mirror is “I fucking overcame a deadly disease to stand here on my own two feet after just having run ten miles and I am going to keep going and keep running and cancer didn’t kill me now and I’m going to do all I can to make sure cancer can fuck itself forever.” 

Getting a chest piece was part of this.  I no longer want to cover the scars with ink, to hide them, but maybe work with them, make them pretty.  And now I look at my stupid swollen thumb and get a little sad.  Then I wonder what’s the worst that can happen? 

Nothing right now.  I don’t have a design or really any concrete ideas.  But I sure as hell am not ruling it out.

I wish writing were as easy as not writing

Warning:  This post contains multiple, egregious run-on sentences and stylized abuse of conjunctions.

Ugh.  So it’s been almost a week since I’ve updated, and I’m like “oh I have something to write about!” and then I’m like “oh shit I’ve got loads to write about” immediately followed by “I have no desire to do this thing”.

Ugh.

I went with a friend to Gatlinburg, TN over the weekend.  We left Saturday early afternoon and returned today (Monday) mid-afternoon.  Less than 48 hours.  She went because her daughter had a dance competition there and I went because she wanted some adult companionship and I enjoy her company.  We did a similar thing last year, just in Myrtle Beach and for a longer stretch of time.

It was my first time in the Smokies other than driving through.

Fucking gorgeous.

Stuart and I lived near mountains when we were residents of Seattle a million years ago and we ventured occasionally into the Cascades and we could see the Olympics fairly often.  I had forgotten how primal mountain ranges are…how they overwhelm when you are in the middle of them.  When you live in a city and your house is like around 100-120 years old and that’s pretty old for most of the stuff around because everything else is a road that was repaved two years ago (already is buckled and cracked) and a shiny sign (replaced to look more trendy) and freshly planted sod and then you drive through a mountain range and your ears are poppin’ and you look around and everything is ancient, more old than you can really wrap your head around, your life is put into a humbling kind of perspective.

I’ve already lived through the head scratching, chin stroking “life is everything/life is nothing” thought experiment/existential despair that happens when one eats acid or survives an accident/illness or gives birth etc.  Most of us who lived past 30 have gone through some version.  Being in the mountains though is stop-you-in-your-tracks level of “you, in all your amazing human potential, are but a dot compared to what these hills have lived through”.

Could be on account of growing up in Wisconsin.  The Dairy State has some excellent rock formations because of the Ice Age (not the movie) dumping a bunch of terminal moraines all over the state, but for the most part it’s kinda flat.*  Whatever the reason, mountains impress me, and the Smokies are amazing.

*not like Illinois flat

Gatlinburg is the Tennessee version of Wisconsin Dells.  If you don’t know what that means, educate yourself (*ahem* count yourself lucky).  It is a mix of kitsch and cheese (figurative for Gatlinburg, literal for the Dells) and trash and fun and the best of the local surroundings.  It is a tourist trap surrounded by cloud-shrouded hills and towering trees and breath-stealing beauty.  It’s America, all its contradictions and weirdness and loveliness.

So I’m home from Gatlinburg and unpacked and back into the heat and humidity (hottest heat index in the entire country!).  Reunited with the dogs and Spouse and Spawn.  And realizing that I should have started this two hours ago.  Posts about cancer** and books*** will have to wait.

**started tamoxifen today

***facebook book meme

I wish writing were easier than just not fucking writing.  Not fucking writing is so easy.  Not fucking writing is my default.

I need to change that.  Hopefully that will happen because I have been doing so much interesting relevant stuff and not because I’m dying of T side effects.

I am, forever, a work in progress.

Four weeks after surgery

I hit the four-week mark today, so I guess I should write something.

After the first two weeks of near-daily noticeable progress, the most recent two weeks has been more of a plateau, one that has at times been rather frustrating.

I started physical therapy exercises, designed to restore strength and flexibility after this type of surgery.  It took awhile to find the sweet spot of doing them, yet not ending up hurting.  It was kinda rough for a week and a half!  I was in more pain any time since the first two days after surgery.  I feel like I finally turned a corner now though.  The middle of my chest and sides/underarms feel almost neutral, which is a huge improvement just since the past couple days, when I had frequent sharp, burning pain in those areas.

It’s just been weird, feeling like I’m kind of floating along on my own with all this, not really knowing what is on the spectrum of normal and what is cause for concern.  I called the surgeon’s office once, hoping to get some guidance about the PT stuff and just generally how much pain is typical, fully acknowledging that everyone is different etc.  I was transferred to a Nurse Navigator, an expert in all things breast cancer.  It was not a good phone call.  Not helpful in the slightest.

I decided that talking to other women would probably be best, so I went to a breast cancer support group yesterday.  It was pretty awesome.  Lots of veteran survivors, a couple Nurse Navigators, and another woman who is just slightly further along in recover than me (her surgery was in April and she has already started tamoxifen).  And I realized that the reason that there has been so little follow up from the surgeon is that typically at this point, a woman is under the care of the plastic surgeon, not the surgical oncologist.  This doesn’t apply to me.  So I decided that I would call the breast surgeon’s office back and explain that I didn’t have another surgeon to release me to lift more weight and go swimming and that type of stuff.  But then today, I felt really good, best in days (weeks!) so we’ll see.  I guess I should at least call and ask at what point I can carry a vacuum around the house and can start buying full gallons of milk instead of the less-heavy half gallons.

My range of motion is definitely getting better!  I can wash my hair without having to hang my head down.  I went today to a u-pick farm and picked ten pounds of blueberries, with lots of reaching and up-and-down motions.  Somewhat concerned that I would be back in Pain City this afternoon, but I feel okay.  And this is after getting up at 5am with Stuart to get the dogs some exercise before the sun came up.*  We did a two-and-a-half mile brisk walk, probably longest and briskest in four weeks.  It felt good (other than being fucking hot) and I think I’m probably ready to resume my daily morning 5-6 miler.  I probably will start solo and work up to bringing the dogs with me.  As I believe I’ve mentioned before, Kira is a puller.**  I think I’ll be able to handle her after not too long.  What we really should do is spend serious time training her not to pull.  Ugh.  That is a topic for a much longer post though.

*Y’all it’s so fucking hot hot-as-balls-hot 80-degrees-at-7am-hot

**She, at 35ish pounds, pulls harder than either of my untrained, 150-lb Irish Wolfhounds ever did

So pain easing, range of motion improving, energy level good.  The surgical glue that covers my wounds is finally starting to peel off.  Unfortunately I’m one of THOSE people who like to pick at and fuss with things like that.  AND IT IS SO ITCHY.  I read somewhere online that you can smear neosporin on the surgical glue to encourage it to come off.  I might do that; then I can put some cortizone-10 on there and hopefully get some relief from this crazy itching.

 

 

 

post of whining

If May was the month of sadness and fear and surgery, June so far is the month of annoyance.

The first two weeks after surgery consisted of daily doses of progress and the accompanying good mood and hopefulness.  The past week or so is more one of stasis.

Not that stasis is bad.  I’d rather mostly stay the same than get worse.  The drains were an extreme pain-in-the-ass, and with their removal I don’t really have a concrete, this-can-happen-any-day-now goal post.  I actually had measurements and a chart that gave me a definite numerical thing to work toward for the first almost two weeks.  Now I just have an amorphous “recovered” to look forward to, and I don’t know when I can expect that to happen.

I’m getting better, able to reach more, farther.  But I’m still careful not to lift much.  I’m dependent on Stuart carrying the full laundry baskets and the vacuum up and down the steps, still asking him to dig the stand mixer and the Cuisinart out from the pantry and set on the counter before he leaves for work.  I still can’t walk Kira, the pullingest dog I’ve ever met, much less owned.  I still can’t lie on my side.

I still can’t do any yard work.  I’m pretty sure the act of pulling weeds or hoeing would result in pain like I haven’t felt yet.  Digging holes, not happening.  Trimming the wisteria, giant nope.  We’ve had a fair amount of rain recently and the growing things are bordering on out-of-control.  I am an inconsistent gardener at best, so this is not without precedent, but usually by now I’ve started to get my act together and minimally tidied up a flower bed or two.  I’ve had a few friends offer to come and help me with some of this, but I know because of the rain, they must have their own yards and beds and gardens to deal with.  I think I may just hire someone.

I know that this is all temporary and will get better.

I can be patient about regaining strength and mobility–it will come and the yard and the house and everything else will still be here.  But what I’m most constantly annoyed by, like a persistent mosquito-buzz in the ear, are the sensations happening on my torso.

It isn’t always painful.  I’m not miserable all the live-long day, though in the morning, when I first get out of bed, the center of my chest could probably accurately be described as a five on the pain scale.  I still get sharp twinges that last a second or two, no big deal.  What is driving me nuts is the tightness across my chest and especially in my right armpit.

It’s kind of an itchy burning.  Not painful, but definitely uncomfortable.  Here is what it feels like:

Imagine, if you will, someone takes a long piece of scotch tape and stretches it across your underarm.  If you are a person who doesn’t shave your armpits, pretend, for the sake of this comparison that you are in fact an armpit-shaver.  So you and your bare underarm are just hanging and some evil prankster comes up and somehow gets you to lift your arm and before you can react, they stretch a long piece of scotch tape up under there and pull it tight and tell you that if you take it off, a puppy will die.  So that’s what it feels like.  Pull-y and itchy and uncomfortable and super NOT RIGHT.  And if you move certain ways you feel like if you could crawl out of your skin, you would in a hot second.

Also irritating, though not quite to the above degree, are the places where the drains came out.  I have two bumps, one on each side of my ribcage, where the tubes exited my body.  I can still feel a long, raised ridge where the tube went up under my skin to the chest area.  The skin all around that is dry and intensely itchy from the wound dressing that was there for the first week (I wonder if  I’m sensitive to the adhesive, cause my skin went crazy train when the dressing came off).  Lotion helps but only for the first little while after application.  I tried going for a short run recently, but the whole area where the drains were was immediately sore, which I took as my body telling me to sit the fuck down.

On top of everything I have a canker sore on the side of my tongue.

So yeah.  I want to be back to normal.  I want to be productive again, but more than that, I just don’t want to be continually uncomfortable.

Okay!  Enough whining.  Time to go get some body lotion.