Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
The after effects of breast cancer can leave survivors wondering how much more medical trauma they can take. The daily struggle presents challenges for many survivors. This is one survivor's story.
The after effects of breast cancer can be overwhelming. It's been 1,276 days since cancer was removed from my body. That's three years, five months and 27 days. You'd think, by now, I'd be really feeling great and that my body would have completely healed and I'd be living the good life. Surely, after this length of time, all the scars should have mended, and my body should have learned to adapt to the physical changes, right? But that's not necessarily the case.
I'm normally not one to complain. Most days, even if I'm in pain, I keep it to myself. My way of thinking is why bother involving anyone else in my agony? They can't do a thing to fix it. Oh yes, the "I'm sorry" sentiments help and those sweet empathetic pats on the back offer a little comfort, but the suffering is mine and mine alone.
Some days are worse than others. Between the lymphedema and the fibromyalgia, I struggle. Neither of these two conditions will ever go away, and that's frustrating. The lymphedema can be helped by wearing compression sleeves and using a programmable compression pump and the fibromyalgia can be helped by medication and exercise, but I just long for the days when I used to feel normal. I haven't felt normal in a long time.
Before being diagnosed with breast cancer, my physical body was in fairly good shape. I'd wake up in the morning feeling great! I did what I wanted to do, despite the little aches and pains that came from daily exertion and growing older. I never really felt bad. At most, a couple of Tylenol took care of any discomfort. Those days of good health were unintentionally taken for granted.
So now I learn to temper my days and plan activities around how I feel. It's difficult to acquiesce to my body's needs, but I must. For some reason, I've always felt that I should be calling the shots, not my body, but now it's the other way around. My body dictates what I can and cannot do. Of course, I can always override the decision since my brain is really in control, but it works out best if I listen to my body bend to its wishes.
To be quite blunt, cancer sucks, but even more than that, the after effects really suck. And it doesn't seem very fair that I ended up with a double whammy - lymphedema and fibromyalgia. When I was told I had cancer, I was naive enough to think surgery would take care of the problem. For the most part, it did. The side effects didn't start showing up until several months later. Other than the physical and emotional scars, I never dreamed I'd have constant reminders of the trauma of breast cancer. Boy, was I dumb.
If you haven't been able to gather from my rant, today has been a difficult day. Last week, I decided to go off of the medication for the fibromyalgia. I'd been experiencing some nasty side effects like blurry vision, loss of coordination, dizziness and brain fog. There really isn't a specific medication that works for fibro, in case you didn't know. Doctors use various antidepressants, anticonvulsants or pain medications in an effort to alleviate the debilitating symptoms, but it's really a game of trial and error to find what works in each individual case. While these medications help with serotonin uptake, overactive nerve endings and sleep problems, they also bring with them their own parcel of side effects. It seems I'm always having to choose the lesser of two evils.
Lying on the floor seems to be helping. At least my body is prone and not moving. Tomorrow, I think I'll start taking the medication my doctor prescribed for the fibro again. It did help some with the physical pain and it did help me have a more positive outlook. I wonder if there is some kind of connection between breast cancer and fibromyalgia. Surely there are others affected by breast cancer who also experienced the symptoms of fibromyalgia shortly after their diagnosis.
If I could turn back the hands of time, I would have paid more attention to any and everything that could have potentially caused cancer to form in my body. If there had been anything I could have done differently, I would have. But since I have no idea what caused my cancer or the fibromyalgia, I'll just have to learn to accept this lot in life and make the most of each day. I am very grateful to be alive, but some days, the pain is overwhelming.