Massage therapy. Physical therapy. Radiation therapy. Chemotherapy. Retail therapy.
Mirriam Webster defines therapy as...
: therapeutic treatment especially of bodily, mental, or behavioral disorder.
During last two months, I've faced some of my hardest days since initially recovery from radiation last January. No One Big Thing. Just the accumulating toll of pain, side effects, and fatigue...coupled with terrible weather (I mean it, terrible)...Eli going through the Terrible Twos (again, Terrible)...and witnessing a few of those whom I love face their own physical or emotional hardships.
A few weeks ago, Jason (love him!) took all three kids to Walmart to pick out new Superhero gear and then out for lunch.
If you are a mom of young children, especially multiple young children, you realize what a BFD this was for me. Two hours (Hours!) of uninterrupted time in my own home. No bottoms to wipe. No Mommy, I'm hungry after I literally just cleared your plate of the lunch you were "too full" to eat.
How did I spend my two hours?
I cleaned the kitchen.
Ok. I know. I could use a refresher course in self-indulgence.
See, the thing is this...when you live with fatigue, or a condition like lymphedema (where rest is the most proven treatment), you are forced to walk past chores that most people just do throughout the day. And it grinds you. At least, it grinds me.
I see you, unfolded towels from Tuesday's laundry.
And you, Mystery Sticky Stuff on the front of the dishwasher.
And even you, full recycling basket.
Which is why cleaning the kitchen was, in fact, therapeutic.
When I feel good...when my energy is high and my swelling is low...I know I have to strike. Accomplish what I can.
Because lately, if I'm going to cook from scratch, I won't be able to finish laundry. If the kids need a bath, the evening dishes will be left until morning.
With my home and my parenting on what feels like a sliding scale, you may be wondering why is it so important for me to leave the house to practicing yoga at a studio? I mean, YouTube, right?
Well, for starters, my updog is a little less graceful with 30 pounds of toddler draped across my body.
But in all seriousness, when I check in at the studio, the hour that follows is all mine. The space allows me to focus on the health and strength of my muscles. And I'm never forced to cut myself short. If there is an uprising over Eli's toast, I won't hear about it until I get home.
That hour is mine.
The view leaving the studio last week.
And when I miss it, I feel it. The yogis may tell you it's my chi or my center or my omm. But I'll tell you what it really is: the fact that it hurts like the devil to reach for the cereal bowls after missing a class or two. Namaste' indeed!
Physical therapy also helps me manage that pain. My 'spa' treatments.
It was explained to me that scar tissue grows in every direction, like throwing down Pick-Up-Sticks. I can train it to grow parallel to my mastectomy scar by running my fingers along the scar during my shower. But its not possible for me to apply the necessary leverage to break up stubborn clumps between my ribs. And sometimes under my arms, scar tissue will bundle together into cords that tie down my range of motion. Which feels a lot like getting kicked in the armpit. Repeatedly.
To break up the scar tissue, I receive ultrasound therapy and scar massage. The ultrasound therapy has the wand and the gel, just like getting an ultrasound during a prenatal appointment, except there is no monitor receiving images. The sound waves are just going in at a strong enough frequency to disrupt the developing scar. It lasts eight minutes, and we cover an area about the size of your phone. There is absolutely no discomfort.
Scar massage is brutal. There's no way to sugar coat it. My therapist presses her fingers into the clumps of scar, doing her best impression of a labor and delivery nurse (breathe, breathe, don't forget to breathe...). And even though I'm sometimes left with a bit of bruising and a lot of tenderness, I feel strangely better.
Red marks along my sternum and underarm from scar massage
The tied down feeling, the sharp pain, the deep, throbbing ache...are somewhat relieved.
These things help with the pain. The rest, especially managing the lymphedema, is up to me. Choosing when to go full throttle, when to ease up. When to bake the bread and clean the kitchen and match up the socks, versus when to respect my body and cue up Netflix and pour bowls of Cheerios for all of us.
It's not just the pain and fatigue that have demanded this balance.
Mentally and emotionally my Survivorship is still a work in progress.
Two years out from diagnosis, my life is still All the Feelings....
I am thankful to beat the odds.
I am pissed that I had to face the odds.
I am proud of what I've endured.
I am scared to do it again someday.
I am overjoyed to spend my days with my three beautiful children.
I am exhausted from spending my days with my three beautiful children.
I want to advocate.
I want to quit adulting and wear my pajamas for a week.
I miss who I once was.
I am curious who I will become.
I've had well-meaning friends suggest therapy. You know, the more traditional lay-on-a-couch, clipboard, mmm hmm mmm hmm tell me more variety of therapy.
For now, I'll stick with this....
Sometimes I go full throttle. I participate in the fundraisers and speak at the events and open the medical bills and check the credit card balance.
And sometimes I ease up. Like two weeks ago when I posted this on FaceBook....
Indoor picnic. Because life gets heavy sometimes. Life tracks poop in from the school playground. And calls and schedules CT scans for the worst day. And life has treatment and fatigue and medical bills. But none of these things matter on a quilt in the sunlight eating PB and raspberry jam.
The next morning I cleaned that poop off London's boots. The following week, the CT scan came and went. And we always manage to pay those bills.
A nurse called Tuesday with the results for my CT scan. Fresh from the shower, I stood in my grey robe creating Lake Havasu on the bathroom floor, digesting her words.
Clear. No changes. No new growths.
I hung up and exhaled a month's worth of anxiety.
And then, because some times my life is a fairytale, or at the very least an Adam Sandler movie, Jason was playing ukulele on the other side of the bathroom door.
I wanna make you smile whenever you're sad
Carry you around when your arthritis is bad
All I wanna do is grow old with you
I'll get your medicine when your tummy aches
Build you a fire if the furnace breaks
Oh it could be so nice, growing old with you
I'll miss you
Give you my coat when you are cold
Even let ya hold the remote control
So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink
Put you to bed if you've had too much to drink
I could be the man who grows old with you
I wanna grow old with you.
Yeah. That happened. :)