Lymphedema is never easy. It comes and it goes, seemingly without having to do anything to trigger it. Certainly nothing I’ve tried keeps it from flaring up.
Welcome to the life of a breast cancer survivor.
Some days are good and others not so much. Today is not a good day, pain wise. I knew that getting up. In fact, I knew it going to bed. I knew it was flaring up and all the wrapping and preventative measures I was taking would do little to stem the flow of pure, unadulterated pain.
It does not have to be a HUGE deal, this lymphedema, to really hurt like heck. My doctors say they have cases where survivors have one arm so swollen it is three times the size of the other. I have nothing so alarming. In fact, one cannot tell the difference visually from my best to my worst day which is sort of the point. When I have a flare up, nobody knows how badly I’m hurting besides me.
The other day I went to refill my script for Tamoxifen. The pharmacist said they were out and would have to order my meds (this after I was told it was already filled). While I didn’t mind coming back I was curious, why didn’t they have it in house? She said it was a ‘rare’ medication to wit I replied that every breast cancer survivor I ever met was on it. She countered that while that might be the case initially, the vast majority stop taking it in the first year and that myself and one other woman were the only patients they had on the drug in my entire city. And this when I use the biggest pharmacy in all of Milpitas.
I was stunned. Really? Everyone stops taking it?
I had read that somewhere, that it was a real problem but the drug is tough, staying on it you have to be even tougher than you were when going through treatment because chemo is going to be over someday, right? And your hair will grow back and you will be able to taste again. But Tamoxifen is a long term commitment, a decade for some of us lucky girls. Yee ha.
Yes, the meds are tough but I’m the type who is driven by fear, not greed. Someone once told me that humans were driving by one of two base emotions, fear or greed and that made sense to me because I’ve been driven by fear my entire life. Nothing new happened when I went through treatment for cancer then. I did everything they asked, was scrupulous about following all medical advice and protocols and all because I was terrified. Greed never factored into the equation.
I guess for many, fear fade the longer they are cancer free and while that might make others more happy go lucky or even resilient, for myself, the fear can be as fresh and sharp and driving as it was the day I heard those fateful words, ‘You have cancer’. It can happen that quick.
Fear is good that way. It keeps me honest, it keeps me taking my meds and it keeps me moving forward, spates of lymphedema notwithstanding.
Fear sits quietly in the background, simmering on the back burner of my life, just waiting for the opportunity to bubble over and take over my life again.
Strangely enough, that’s not always a bad thing.