So in the latest episode of Breast Cancer Fun
, our fair heroine
went off to the physical therapist (that's physiotherapist to you brits) because of shoulder and neck pain.
In spite of the fact that I'm supposed to be "in remission" now, I continue to have troubles with various side effects of cancer treatment. Radiation damage has caused quite a bit of scarring, especially in my pectoral muscles, and also sternocladomastoid muscles. I tend to guard the right side - to roll my right shoulder forward to protect the "injury" site. So my darling family practice doctor referred me for physical therapy to see if we could get my shoulder and neck to stop hurting all the time.
I met the therapist, who turns out to have a daughter a year younger than mine at the same school - ah, that would be why she looked familiar. She had me stretch and bend in various ways to try and sort out where the problem is, shoulder or ribcage or neck or c-spine. Whatever. Just make it not hurt, please?
After doing various tests, she had me lie down, and did maybe 10 or 15 minutes worth of stretches and massage on my neck.
Now, I know you all know that I think of myself as one tough cookie. Firefighter, rock climber, mountain climber, leaper of tall buildings, no chemotherapy or radiation can beat me down. So why, about half way through this tiny neck massage, did I almost burst into tears?
In all of the cancer treatment and MRIs and blood tests and CAT scans and MUGA scans and surgery and associated poking and prodding, this is the first, literally the first time someone has done something that actually felt like healing.
Let me give you some examples. I like every single person on my medical team, and I think they are all very good at what they do. My surgeon is a doll, both wertperch and I really like her; the oncologist seems a bit humorless at first, but he clearly cares. A lot. The nurses in the infusion center still hug me whenever I go in. (And tease me about my curly hair...) The radiation oncologist is a total geek boy, but once he figured out I had a sense of humor, he would walk down the hall with me after my visit, so he could chat some more. Wert and I took to calling him Dr. Vulcan, partly a play on his real name, but partly because when I joked with him, he'd get this classic "I am aware you have made a joke, hu-mon, but I will not pander to you by actually SMILING" expression on his face. It made him fun to kid.
But nothing, not one little thing about cancer treatment feels pleasant. Surgery sucks. Chemotherapy is four months of feeling either vaguely or acutely nauseous, and having your brain pretty much quit functioning for the duration. When I go visit the infusion center now to see the doc, I get nauseous, just by association, as I approach the room. Having a port put in meant that I got stuck with needles slightly less, but people who spend all day drawing blood have to have pretty thick skins. Radiation therapists even more so - they see a lot of people in pretty lousy shape, and they are tough - far tougher than I am. But it also can make them a bit insensitive to someone's pain.
I also notice that the docs seem to forget that parts of their "cures" are unpleasant. When I told the radiation oncologist that I now had weeping, blistered first AND second degree burns on my chest, he replied, "Oh, that's good!" My snappy comeback? "Apparently you and I are not going to see eye to eye on this."
Now, if you've ever been in a good bike wreck and gotten road rash
on your elbows or knees, it was very much like that - managing to both itch and hurt at the same time. Apparently this is the "brisk response" that your friendly neighborhood radiation geek
wants to see. Having the port
removed was a "procedure" rather than "surgery", and it didn't hurt - except for the numbing shots, which of course always hurt - but it felt awful.
The tube ran up under my collarbone, down, avoiding the corner of my lung, and fed into my anterior vena cava - translation, into one of the biggest veins leading to my heart. Imagine that scene from Alien
that creeps everyone out so much, but with a snake slithering out of your heart rather than a bug from your stomach. TMI, you say?
They are all trying to cure me. Their hearts are in the right place, and I know this. But I often dread the cures - they vary only in their level and duration of barbarity. Short and acute barbarity? Two hours unable to move while they tattoo radiation marks on my chest? Or long and drawn out barbarity? Seven weeks of being cooked. Every day. No, you can't have a break.
But what nice physical therapy lady did today actually felt...good. She listened to what was hurting, and she touched my neck, and it helped. It was healing, not just curing.
I had forgotten this until I started to write this down, but as I left, she said, "You may be a bit sore from what I did today - if I hurt you, I'm sorry."
If I hurt you, I'm sorry.
And that, dearly beloved
, is why I cried today after I got back to the car.
rootbeer277 says re Healing vs. curing : In most gaming systems, the difference between curing and healing is the difference between restoring hit points and removing harmful effects such as poison and blindness.