Monday, 24 October 2016
Erica's blog 4: September 26

26th September: Back at home a bit bruised and sore but happy to be in familiar surroundings. The next few days would be all about rest, getting my drain taken out when the levels had dropped sufficiently and above all taking things easy with my right arm. I was under strict instructions not to lift anything or to exert myself in any way. I had been unaware initially what the long term implications of having all my lymph nodes removed would be. As I no longer had a lymphatic drainage system I could be left with a serious side effect called Lymphedema. Lymphedema is a condition of localised fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system which returns liquid to the thoracic duct and then the blood stream. So tissues with lymphedema are at risk of infection and swelling. There are exercises and physiotherapy you can do to help your system but I will go into this in future blogs.

Prevention is better than cure! Hence no lifting, no lying on the affected side, no tight clothing and in the longer term avoidance of rigorous sports and when doing any sport I would have to wear an arm support for compression purposes. For me this was going to be the most challenging aspect! The cancer and operations I could deal with but the prospect of possibly not being able to play racket sports for the long term or even indefinitely was going to be tough to take. You just have to find alternatives or learn to play left handed! Also the realisation that the simplest tasks in the short term such as chopping food, washing up, changing the beds, opening things, lifting and definitely no driving for a few weeks would be impossible.. hit home.

So what do you do? Adapt. Necessity is the mother of all invention. I started to use my left arm for most tasks. The sight of me sitting on my kitchen work surface on top of a grater and using my left hand to muster a sprinkling of lemon zest must have been something else! Incidentally freeze lemons and grate the rinds into your food, not only does it intensify the flavour but it is supposed to be an enemy to cancer so a friend to us!

Don´t get too down over these smaller issues and find another way of doing things. We are all stronger than we imagine it´s just that we don´t realise it until we are tested. Draw on your inner strength and you will be amazed how you overcome every obstacle put in your way.

For me every day got better, I ate well thanks to the army of Spanish neighbours and friends bringing food to my door like ants! My son became my nurse and changed my bandages, much to his credit, as many adults would have balked at the sight of my scars. For those of you who have cancer and have children my tip is to be as honest as possible but carry on as normal. Every cloud has a silver lining and my illness has given us all an opportunity to recalibrate. It was time the children took on more responsibility domestically and they have stepped up to the challenge. Aside from cooking, cleaning, washing and general household chores, it has become a time for them to show greater maturity and autonomy. It has been tough for them but pulling together helps me along the road to recovery so I applaud their efforts and their spirit despite some grumbles at first! My hope is that living through this experience will make them more resilient and better able to cope with the challenges that life will inevitably throw at them over the coming years.

Lead by example. If you are a bag of nerves just imagine how your children and people around you will feel! No shame in having a good cry, I hold my hand up! It is a good release but get over it and dust yourself off and get off the canvass. A little dramatic? Not really you are in a battle for your life. You have to go the full ten rounds so come out your corner fighting with your gloves up. You will beat cancer with a positive attitude. Your illness is a journey and one that will deal you curve balls.

My curve ball was just about to be launched…the phone call I had been waiting for with my operation results came. The news was not good.

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