We all have setbacks. It just sucks when you are smack in the middle of one.
This week I listened to some friends who are in the midst of complications from breast cancer: lymphodema, infection, pain, range of motion problems and more. As if having breast cancer isn’t bad enough, it is the unexpected “bumps” in the road that sends most of us reeling. In our heads, we set up the schedule for surgeries, radiation or chemo, recovery etc. That in itself is hard enough of one’s lifestyle, but what we don’t factor in is room for the unexpected. Three extra trips per week to the physical therapist for lymphatic massage or trips back to the surgeon to treat infection or worse yet, the possibility of having to start reconstruction over if the infection is bad enough and expanders have to be taken out. Healing and being healed takes time – more time than we could have imagined the day we were diagnosed.
Setbacks take their toll both physically and emotionally.
So, what are we to do? Just suck it up and pretend “all is well?” That seems the easier road for when people ask “how are you doing?” They do care, but really only want to hear, “Just fine,” rather than, “My incision isn’t closing, I got an infection, may need more surgery to clean this out and all this triggered lympodema and I’m on my way to get fitted for a sleeve.”
The answer is ask for help. Yes, ask yet again because it is what you need to recover.
If your family and friends have reached their limit of support (yes, that happens), find another who has been through breast cancer and ask for help. We understand each other and can empathize and that is what you need during a setback – someone to listen. A counselor is also a good idea – someone to help you put things in perspective, someone to be the listening ear and shoulder to cry on if you need that. Just reach out. Cancer Resource Centers in your area may offer free counseling – make that call today or better yet right now. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, but of strength in being determined to do everything in your power to overcome the emotional side effects of breast cancer.
My personal setback happened this past June and I’m just now climbing out of the abyss. While training for and participating in the Avon 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, I pulled my left calf muscle and re-fractured a small bone on the bottom of my left foot. Because of this, my knee also began to swell and hurt and my left leg muscles weren’t firing properly. Thankfully, after trips to my primary care doc, my ortho, x-rays and MRI, the end result has been physical therapy. I’m blessed to have a wonderful PT, Joe King, at Physical Therapy Advantage and he has diligently worked with me to repair the damage. It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I gave in and started wearing running shoes with a gel insole (it was that or a boot) and things are now healing at a much faster rate than wearing heels and triggering further injury.
I’ve been a model patient for two weeks now and the last couple days I’ve started to feel I’m making progress. I haven’t walked long distance, even though I wanted to strap on the sneakers and hit the path. I haven’t done the yard landscaping, even though mother nature calls me every time I look outside.
I have done all my at home exercises. I have been able to cut back on pain meds and I have been able to start slowly resuming my normal pace of life. My patience is finally paying off and my setback is now feeling like I’m moving forward.
If you are reading this and experiencing a setback with your recovery, please do three things now to help yourself:
1. Take a deep breath and count your blessings (you do have them, just need to remind yourself).
2. Find someone you can talk to and share your frustrations. You’ll feel better, really!
3. Make a plan to recover from your setback – write it down and take steps, no matter how small, to start moving forward.
Setbacks are part of life, even if they suck. My recent setback means I’ll be wearing my running shoes; it’s an outward sign of my inner recovery. I remind myself that with each step taken, I’m moving closer to feeling like myself and away from my setback.
The picture below was taken on a recent backpacking trip to the Porcupine Mountains in the Michigan, UP. Great trip, but part of the reason for my setback.