I hate oranges. Don't know why, just don't like 'em. Oranges, orange juice, anything orange flavored, even the color orange, just makes my skin crawl. So, it was nothing short of ironic when my body started to turn into an orange. Okay, just my breast did, but still. It's called
"peau d'orange," which is just a fancy way of saying, skin of an orange, and is one of the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer that I forgot to mention in my first post (chemo brain!). It causes the skin of the breast to become thick and pitted, much like an orange, and is caused by lymph fluid getting blocked (as a result of the web like way the cancer spreads), pooling, and swelling up.
Lymph fluid is a troublemaker (though not as big a troublemaker as
inflammatory breast cancer). Not only does it try to turn your boobs
into fruit, but it can also contribute to a painful, sometimes
debilitating condition known as lymphedma, which develops when the
lymph fluid gets blocked and can't redistribute itself around the
body, causing swelling. See, when you have a mastectomy, the surgeon
also removes lymph nodes under your arm (called the Axila area), to see
if, and how far, the cancer has spread in that area.
Removing the lymph nodes increases the risk of lymphedema, which is
manageable at best, and scares the crap out of me (you can learn more
about this -- lymphedema, that is, not scaring the crap out me -- at
www.eraseibc.com and www.theibcnetwork.org). I don't have it, but I'm
so worried about it that I don't sleep without a pillow under my arm, and
I never sleep on my left side (where I had the nodes removed), as the pressure
can lead to lymphedema. I take my arm into consideration in everything I do.
Lymphedema can develop weeks, months, or even years after surgery.
So, yeah, just one more post treatment worry to add to the list. But, just like worrying about a recurrence, worrying about side effects, worrying about anything cancer related, if you don't take a break from worrying, you'll go insane.
Once you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, the word "worry" takes
on a life of its own. You worry about the treatment working, the
cancer coming back, the cancer spreading if it does come back,
how you're supposed to live a "normal" life when
the side effects of the drugs you take to keep you alive, make you not
even want to leave the house. You worry that every little ache and
pain is the cancer coming back or getting worse, you worry that at some
point the drugs will stop working. You worry. But you live. Because
you have to. You wouldn't be putting yourself through hell if you didn't
want to keep on living, so you do.
A friend who is also going through treatment told me that, if I need to
cry, go ahead, but to give myself a time limit. So that's what I do. I
feel the tears coming on, and I let them flow, but after 10 minutes, I turn
off the faucet, and I feel better. Every emotion you're feeling is
okay, because you're feeling it, you own it, so just let it ride. Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow once said, "The best thing to do when it's
raining, is to let it rain." Maybe he was simply talking about the
weather, or, maybe he was talking about you and your emotions.
Personally, I believe the latter. If you don't give in to your emotions
every once in a while 1) it can make you constipated (no, really, it
will back you up, and no one needs that), and 2) you won't be able to
truly live and enjoy the life you fought so hard to keep.
I've always loved this quote by Plato, "There are two things a person
should never be angry about; what he can help, and what he cannot."
Smart right? I substitute "worry" for "angry" and it makes me feel
better on those days when I feel like worry is getting the best of me.
If you can change something, change it, quit yer b*tchin' and move on,
or, learn to accept it as it is at that moment, and move on. The
important thing is to keep moving forward, keep living, keep learning,
and keep in mind that you are here for a reason, and fought to be here,
and deserve to live a life that gives a big fat finger to cancer.
Follow Seporah Raizer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SeporahRaizer