Natural Anti-Depressant

When I was diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) my GP offered to put me on a course of anti-depressants that I was told I would need to take for a minimum of 6 months. I really don’t like taking pills, never have and would much rather find a natural alternative. So I asked, is there a natural alternative? I was told, quite simply, no. I declined the pills.

I struggled to sleep again last night, so with plenty of time to spare I fired up my iPad and took a look at YouTube. Up came my “recommended for you” list and top of the chart was Wayne Dyer speaking about the power of intention. It was over an hour but I had the time so clicked play. I was gripped, so much so I watched the next hour long clip straight after.

His message really resonated with me and moved me so much I just wanted to share it. Here it is…

Signs and Symptoms

If there is one question that has literally driven me nuts over the last few months it is this:

How do I know if what I’m feeling is the onset of Lymphoedema?

Post surgery my body was obviously recovering from the trauma, not only that but I also experienced seroma and cording, coupled with the nerve damage its no wonder I went in to a complete tail spin about the whole thing.

Even now, my arm hasn’t fully recovered but pretty much every day I sense something and the series of questions begins again… What is that? Is this the start? What should I do? Have I done enough or did I do too much?… and so it goes on.

So, when a fellow breast cancer survivor asked me today, “Is what I’m feeling lymphoedema?” I was able to share with her what I have discovered about the early signs and symptoms and hopefully reassure her that she hasn’t suddenly become a hypochondriac.

– heavy arm
– feeling like you have a tennis ball in your arm pit
– pins and needles
– tight skin
– swelling anywhere from the fingers to the top of the arm
– feels warmer than the other arm
– when pressed the skin leaves an indent
– jewelry and or clothes become tighter
– arm goes hard

There are 4 stages to this:

  • Stage 0 (also called subclinical or latent): There are no visible changes to the arm, hand, or upper body at this point, but you may notice a difference in feeling, such as a mild tingling, unusual tiredness, or slight heaviness. You can have stage 0 lymphoedema for months or years before obvious symptoms develop.
  • Stage 1 (mild): The arm, hand, trunk, breast, or other area appears mildly swollen as the protein-rich fluid starts to accumulate. When you press the skin, a temporary small dent (or pit) forms; you may see this referred to as “pitting edema.” Such early-stage lymphoedema is considered reversible with treatment because the skin and tissues haven’t been permanently damaged. When you elevate the arm, for example, the swelling resolves.
  • Stage 2 (moderate): The affected area is even more swollen. Elevating the arm or other area doesn’t help, and pressing on the skin does not leave a pit (non-pitting edema). Some changes to the tissue under the skin are happening, such as inflammation, hardening, or thickening. Stage 2 lymphoedema can be managed with treatment, but any tissue damage can’t be reversed.
  • Stage 3 (severe): This is the most advanced stage, but it is relatively rare in people with breast cancer. At stage 3, the affected limb or area of the body becomes very large and misshapen, and the skin takes on a leathery, wrinkled appearance.

Once you have mild lymphoedema, you are at higher risk for moderate-to-severe lymphoedema than someone who has never had any symptoms. This risk persists even if your symptoms go away with treatment.

Every case is a little bit different, though. Some women have reported the sudden onset of mild or moderate lymphoedema without any warning signs or changes in feeling.

The goal is to reduce our risk of lymphoedema but its important to remember that if we do develop lymphoedema there are many good treatments that can help control the symptoms.

Source:  Breast Cancer.org and Medical News Today

My Face The Fear

worryI was recently asked, as a part of group workshop, to think of a side of my personality right now that I don’t like and to then decorate a mask to represent that character trait. Initially thrilled at the thought of doing some ‘Art Therapy’ I quickly became very apprehensive.

It didn’t take long for me to identify the part I dislike the most though. Its quite simply all the worry, fear and anxiety that I carry around with me and that has taken a hold of my life for the last 4 months. I had no idea how that would transpire on a mask and then it dawned on me – it was manifesting itself in my head, through my thoughts and was working its way down through the rest of my body.

I grabbed some wrapping paper, tore it up and started to glue it around the forehead, sprinkling over some sequins to represent the hundreds of thoughts I had day and night that were uncontrollable. All the “what ifs” and “whys” that went round and round, all the hundreds of lists of things I needed to try and remember about what I should and shouldn’t be doing, how my life was, and what it is now, why this had happened and what was going to happen to me, to my life and how that would affect the people I love around me. Millions upon millions of thoughts that were mounting up and weighing me down.

The black areas below my eyes then became the weight that worry was having, causing me sleepless nights and huge amounts of pain and anxiety.

Tearing up pink tissue paper I covered the rest of the face. Keeping the seems open and tattered to show the effect this was having on the rest of my body and how it was tearing me apart.

The shiny, smiley sticker faces above the eyes are for all the times people ask me how I am. “Yeah, everything’s fine thanks. How are you?” had become the standard response but it was just too far from the truth for me to feel comfortable to share. The smiles are quite simply the faces I wear to make everyone else feel better.

The whole exercise was very telling and explaining it all to the rest of the group was incredibly emotional. It made me realise though that I am only hurting myself by worrying and letting my fear rule my life.

This was my face, the fear.

Post Op Numbness – Week 18

The numb area has slightly shifted again. Trying to photoshop the area each week on to the original photo is not that easy so you could put it down to inaccuracy. However, the shapes are shifting and whether I get the areas slightly out of whack or not, there are definitely patches that have moved.

arm5

MLD for Lymphoedema Prevention

mldThere is it seems some evidence to suggest that MLD (manual lymphatic drainage) can reduce the risk of secondary lymphoedema. The treatment as a preventative measure however is not backed by the NHS unfortunately.

I decided to source and pay for the treatment myself. Why? Well because I firmly believe that it is better to try and prevent an incurable condition than not and also because it gave me peace of mind, allowing someone else to manage and monitor my arm for me. I must point out that this was ignoring the advice of my consultant, who although she knew of and referred her patients who have lymphoedema to the therapist in question, still advised me not to waste my money. For me it’s not a waste. If there is something further I can be doing to reduce my risk of lymphoedema then I’m going to do it. If in the future I get lymphoedema then I will at least have the peace of mind that I did everything I could.

I was lucky to find that the MLD therapist was located within walking distance of my house. I went for an initial consultation to discuss my situation and he proposed a timetable based on the level of my risk.

I have been having MLD once a month since my surgery. This will initially continue for the first 6 months post surgery and will then be reviewed and a new timetable worked out.

I can’t give you any guarantees on this one. All I know is that I am happier knowing that I am doing all I can to reduce my risk.

To find an MLD therapist near you go to www.mlduk.org.uk

Source: NCBI and Joachim Zuther

1 Minute Meditation for Stress

When life throws you a curve ball its difficult to not let it get to you. I get frustrated, stressed, anxious and worried when 4 months on, things are still not back to “normal”. I’m doing everything I can to reduce my risk of Lymphoedema but the one thing I truly struggle with is the stress of having had cancer and how it continues to butt in on my life like an obnoxious party guest.

I feel like my life has been turned around. Some of the changes have been good but a lot of them have been out of my control – forced on me to change my life and how I live it, and I don’t like that one little bit.

I can honestly say I don’t remember the last time I had a stress free weekend or had a full week go by when I haven’t broken down about something. I’ve had a gut full to say the least. I just want to get over it and move on but every time I feel like I’m on top of things and have accepted the way its going to be, something comes hurtling out of the blue and knocks me down and stresses me out.

I know that stress really is something that should be avoided at all costs when it comes to lymphoedema risk reduction but to be honest, that’s easier said than done. I know that meditation for example can help enormously with stress but I’m not very disciplined in that respect and unless its an organised session then I’m probably not going to do it.

I’ve just stumbled across this video by Dr John Douillard. I’ve come to be a bit of a fan of his videos on YouTube so when I found this particular one I thought I would give it a go. It’s a one minute meditation technique. Who knows, it might just work.