Active recovery and numbness
I mentioned in my previous post, that I’m in active recovery. I’ve decided that this is a thing, a new term, something that I’m going to start using when people ask me about where I am in my cancer journey. The terms used are usually active treatment, and recovery and renewal. The latter doesn’t truly describe where I am. If I say I’m in recovery, there is an expectation that I have recovered. This is not in any way true.
For me, active recovery represents the stage I’m in. I’m still going to health care appointments at least twice a week. They may not be appointments with cancer doctors, but they are still cancer related appointments (e.g. oncology physiotherapy, sleep clinic, psychiatry). I’m also taking part in exercise programs (e.g. Living Strong Living Well), and making a point of getting at least 1 hour of exercise every day. Each of these activities takes time out of my day. Then add in that I’m trying to eat better, which involves cooking my own meals, mostly from scratch. Again, something that take time out of my day.
My brain is not functioning at full capacity yet. This means that it often takes longer for me to do things. I cannot concentrate as well as I’d like. Although I’m getting better every day, I’m still suffering some of the cognitive side effects of chemotherapy. These are weird, as you do not know that you are experiencing it until it is healed – then you realize just how much of a fog you were previously in.
Then there are the real physical issues. I have some tendonitis in my shoulder that makes some physical activity difficult. I’m also experiencing a lot more neuropathy pain in my feet. This is in part a good thing, as it is a sign of healing, but it is also rather painful and can limit how much physical activity I can do. My ability to walk seems to have plateaued (or even decreased). I’m stuck at that 5km distance. I’m hoping that some hikes during our upcoming vacation will help me push past that boundary – but I’m also very aware that I may not push past it anytime soon.
I’m also becoming more and more aware of the lack of feeling in my breasts. This is an odd thing – it is almost like after getting a filling at the dentist. You keep wanting to feel your face to confirm that it is there. Eventually, you touch it to confirm that feeling is returning. I keep wanting to feel my breasts. Each time I confirm that they are there, but also it confirms that there is no feeling 🙁 – this test of feeling of one’s breasts is not something one should be doing in public! I also need to massage my breasts, as fluid can build up if I don’t (there are no lymph nodes in the reconstructed breasts). Before I would touch them to ensure they were healthy, now I’m touching them to see what I can feel. There is a new, different, purpose in my mind as I do the familiar activity. The new breasts are also a reminder of the loss. Another something that I am just now starting to come to terms with. As the cognitive numbness fades, the physical numbness serves as a reminder of all that has happened in this last year.
So when someone asks me where I am with my cancer treatment, my answer will be active recovery. I’m actively trying to recover from the insult that was/is cancer.