or the joys of cording!
So a little while ago I mentioned that I was developing the dreaded cording. It starts in my armpit and goes all the way down to my thumb. I can lift my arms above my shoulders, as long as I keep my elbow bent. I have been trying to do the exercises as often as it is prescribed but it is sometimes hard to do it 4 times a day when I am at work (too many distractions). I do it at least 3 times though. The 2 exercises I struggle the most with are the ones with the wall (see side) and of course they are the most important ones. Now don’t worry yourselves, I do do them, they are just the most painful ones.
Last week was the 3 weeks mark after the operation and I couldn’t feel any improvement so I called the physio and she gave me an appointment this morning. There was a group session also organised for today but I couldn’t attend that as the timings are not practical so I was glad to get a 1on1 session first thing this morning.
I was unsure how long I needed to carry on the exercises and when I could expect improvements and it was nice to be able to ask those questions. She saw the cording signs straight away and helped me with it by massaging the breast scar and the axillary scar and said I could do that myself too and also massage the whole breast by cupping it and circling it around. She said some women feel a bit funny about doing this to themselves but I don’t care, if it is going to make me feel better, I’ll do a handstand in the rain! She then massaged my arm and stretched it every which way (and loose). I could feel the strings popping in my armpit – this is not a pleasant sensation as it feel like burning but the results are great! I can now stretch my arm high against the wall without grimacing in excruciating pain…it is still tight but a lot less painful, thank you very much!
She also added an extra exercise to loosen the tightness across the chest. At first she wanted me to use my extended arm, palm flat and away against the wall but it wasn’t stretching the right part of the arm because I am so not flexible! My fingers don’t bend backwards…so instead I will lean in a door frame, elbow up and that works.
Apparently moisturising will also help so as of tonight, I will start the regime of aqueous cream lathering 🙂 She also said that I can start exercising (as in sport like) in a couple weeks and that pilates will be great.
As I am off for 2 weeks in July to visit my hometown and family by the sea, I asked if she knew of any issues about swimming in the sea (or in a pool) and she said it was fine but to remember there was more resistance in the water so to take it easy. Turns out it might be so much better for me to actually start radiotherapy after my holiday as if I had done it before, I wouldn’t have been able to go swimming for 6 weeks following the end.
I felt really reassured and relaxed at the end of my session. She booked me in to come back in a couple weeks to check the progress and she also told me of a workshop designed for people like me who are coming to an end of their active treatment.
One thing that can leave people a little at loss when their lives have revolved around going to hospital every couple weeks for however many months is to be left to fend for themselves after…well not really as dramatic as that but you know what I mean. Thankfully, the NHS and Kings College (in association with Guy’s and St Thomas) run a 4 weeks course called “Moving forward”. It is designed to help breast cancer survivors to cope with the after, which can be as scary a place as coping with the within and I am definitely going to sign up for that as it covers care but also diet, prevention, exercises, emotional support and even intimacy, which for some can be really tricky. I am far from thinking about intimacy for now but I’ll take any advice they dish out and sort out what I need later.