Do You Enjoy Pushing Yourself?

Dr. Kate Master Swim Meet - Breast Cancer Survivor StoryWhat did you do this last weekend? I spent the whole weekend at a Masters swim meet. Sounds super fun doesn’t it. NOT.

I almost didn’t go, but my husband was going to be away, and I figured instead of a weekend at home, my daughter and I could take a trip to Boston. She could play with her cousin, and I could go to the meet. Even still, multiple times I wondered why I bothered to drive to Boston, arrange childcare for the whole weekend, and then spend my precious days off in a pool room.

Truthfully, I have thought about going to this meet for years, but it never worked out for me to go. Or I never wanted to commit to three days away from my family to do it.

I consider myself a swimmer. Swam in high school and college. I dabbled in master’s swimming as an adult. Enjoyed the practices, went to a few meets about ten years ago. Then the practice times changed, and it was harder for me to get there. And, as I mentioned, with a young child, it never seemed to make sense to take the time to go to any meets.

Last fall I decided to focus more on swimming. I have had some issues with fitness and overtraining. Of all sports or fitness programs, swimming is what I know best. I thought it would be a good place to start as I tried to figure out what kind of fitness regimen was going to work for me.

I planned to swim at least three times a week and entered some meets. It was more than a little depressing to see how much slower my times were, even from ten years ago. But I wanted to have some gauge of where I was at and something to shoot for.

I decided to enter a regional meet in Worcester, MA last December. I thought I had been swimming enough and that my fitness had recovered enough so I could expect to improve on my times.Dr. Kate Regional Swim Meet - Breast Cancer Survivor Story

I was wrong. I performed terribly. More importantly, I felt tired and worn out. I was gasping for air on virtually all of my races. It was so disappointing. I wondered if my breast cancer medication (tamoxifen) was interfering with my ability to improve. Or, in addition to forcing menopause upon me, did chemotherapy do some damage to my heart and that’s why I was so winded.

Not that I could do anything about those things. So I stopped thinking about the things I could not control and instead considered what I could do differently. I decided to make some changes. I did not have more time for working out. Instead, I needed to work out smarter.

I changed my swim workouts a little and added more consistent strength and conditioning (CrossFit). Seems to have worked. In fact, I think I spent less time working out in the last few months. Another reminder that more is not always better.

I know I spent less time swimming which was another reason I almost didn’t go to the meet. I figured how could I expect to swim faster when I haven’t been swimming much. I didn’t want another example of my aging body and declining fitness.

But then I decided I’ll never know if the changes I made are making a difference if I don’t test it. If I wait until I know I’m in great shape to go to another meet, I’ll never go. So I signed up. Not right away, but within a few days, I started to regret my decision, started doubting myself.

Why am I doing this? I kept asking myself that question, without a good answer. When I arrived at the meet on Saturday morning, I sat in my car for a few minutes to wrap my head around swimming and the meet; and, to try to answer why I am doing this.Dr. Kate's Breast Cancer Survivor Exercise Story

It’s supposed to be fun, right? Yes. Pushing yourself is fun. Get out of your comfort zone. See what you can do. And it was fun, because I did well. For this meet, I felt strong. I wasn’t winded. I performed well in all of my events.

So different from the meet in December. However, it is because of the meet in December, and my crappy, disappointing results, that I made changes which produced better results. If I didn’t go to the first meet, I wouldn’t have known I needed to do things differently, and if I didn’t go to the second meet, I wouldn’t know that it worked.

So that’s why I compete. Pushing yourself is fun. It’s fun to see positive results. Clearly not all results are positive, though. But better things can come from disappointing results. Poor or mediocre results are not that fun, but are useful nonetheless and can be the reason for success down the road.

Put yourself out there. Be a little (or even a lot) uncomfortable. If you fail, learn from it, make a change and come back to try again. You’ll either enjoy the ride or learn something, and that’s a win-win.

Dr. Kate KilloranDr. Kate Killoran is a board-certified OB/GYN with 15+ years of clinical experience and a breast cancer survivor. Medical school, residency, and clinical practice educated her thoroughly about disease. What her medical education failed to teach her was how to be healthy and well. This she learned from her breast cancer diagnosis.

She practices what she preaches using her knowledge of health, wellness, and disease to help other women be healthy, happy, and well. She sees patients both in her office in beautiful Camden, Maine as well as online at www.drkatemd.com.

For more information or if you’d like to contact Dr. Kate, please visit drkatemd.com.

Been Diagnosed With Cancer – When Do You Start To Exercise?

So you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you want me to exercise?!So you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you want me to exercise?! I heard this frequently when I approached ovarian cancer patients in chemotherapy clinics to participate in my research. I would sometimes sit for hours in the waiting rooms just to wait for a two minute conversation with a patient, in the hope to assist them to become more active.

I have no doubt that being diagnosed with cancer and having treatment is one of the most challenging things a person can ever go through, and without having cancer myself, i cannot act like I know what they are going through. However, what I do know – an emerging field of exercise oncology – the majority of patients, families and a lot of doctors do not know about. More and more support has been given by oncologists to tell their patients to be active and get moving, when in the past they were wrapped in cotton wool and told to rest. In fact, this has been shown in prospective studies for patients when asked how much they exercised, the ones who engaged in more, lived for longer.

Now going back to the original theme of when do you start to exercise? before or after surgery? during chemo? after chemo?

The answer is now.

Think of it this way – the healthier your body is from being active, the better you will recover from surgery, the stronger you will be during chemo and the more likely you will be back and feeling normal after treatment.

I’ve spoken with oncologists from around Australia and the world and I have told them exactly that. There have been studies for patients before surgery, during chemo and radiotherapy and after treatment, all showing benefits from increased aerobic activity (walking, cycling, aqua aerobics etc) and resistance training (weights).

The time to be active is now.

  1. A 5 minute walk around the block a day to start your regime.
  2. Next week aim at 10 minutes a day.
  3. The week after aim at 15 minutes.
  4. Before you know it, you have a larger endurance capacity, more energy and vitality again.
  5. Believe you can do it, because you can.

Please feel free to pass this blog onto any cancer survivor.

David Mizrahi About David Mizrahi: David currently works as a Clinical Research Associate at The Sydney Children’s Hospital. David is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and received a Master of Science from the University of New South Wales.

Advice For Contacting David: Interested in consulting with oncology patients, as well as setting up exercise-based programs in hospitals and oncology clinics. Contact me for more information – E: d.mizrahi@unsw.edu.au or M: 0404177629.

Physical Therapy Helps Breast Cancer

Physical Therapy For Breast CancerBy: Aaron LeBauer PT, DPT, LeBauer Physical Therapy.

Unknown to most people, physical therapy can play a role in the treatment of breast cancer. Depending on the severity of the disease, extensive chemotherapy and sometimes surgery may be required. Following treatment, patients feel drained and worn out and may feel pain and tightness across the chest, have limited range of motion in the arms, shoulders and neck. This can lower the patient’s quality of life by significantly affecting day-to-day function.

Physical therapy helps with pain management, range of motion and muscle function. In fact, the American Cancer Society strongly recommends a structured exercise program and physical therapists are uniquely qualified to assess the need for, plan and implement such a program.

Post Surgery and Long term Care

Broadly speaking, the role of the physical therapist in breast cancer can be divided into two parts: input immediately after surgery, and long term care input.

1. Immediately after surgery

Breast cancer surgery not only involves removal of the affected breast tissue, but can also include the nearby lymph nodes and some blood vessels as well.  Surgery can contribute to adhesions in the connective tissue, cording in the armpit and restricted motion.

Manual therapy, Myofascial Release and exercise facilitate healing and help restore function in the affected side. As soon as pain subsides, the physical therapist can help increase range of motion, decrease pain and encourage muscle contractions. Physical therapists will prescribe and teach certain self-treatment, stretching and strengthening exercises for surrounding joints like the shoulder and elbow to maintain mobility and muscle function.

Breathing exercises allow for increased expansion of lungs and movements of joints in and around the rib cage. Postural precautions (not sleeping on the side of the operation for a few days for example) may be provided by your surgeon.

The prevention of swelling in the lymph nodes (lymphedema) reduces levels of fatigue, helping patients to remain active.

2. Long term treatment

A physical therapist can help patients regain confidence, improve lung capacity, move without pain, remain physically active and live happy, healthy and productive lives. This is achieved using a combination of exercise therapy, manual techniques and home exercise programs.

Patients may also be asked to participate in group exercise activities involving othe cancer patients. A social environment is a good way to promote rehabilitation and allow the patient to recover in a relaxed and comfortable environment.

The Road to Recovery

If you are experiencing any pain, tightness, cording, neck or shoulder problems or feel fatigued, call a physical therapist to schedule an evaluation.  In almost every state you do not need a referral for physical therapy and should call the physical therapy practice of your choice.  You can get recommendations from your friends, family, physician and use the interenet to find a physical therapist in your area. If you have any questions about whether physical therapy is right for you, reply to this email and we are happy to answer your questions.

Your physical therapist will teach you a gentle, progressive exercise and self myofascial release treatment program and will encourage you to work within your pain limits. Never push yourself to the point of sharp or shooting pain. Always take long, deep breaths, and never hold your breath while exercising. In the first few weeks of recovery, it is recommended to exercise with the guidance of a physical therapist.

Physical therapy plays an important role in the road to recovery for patients with breast cancer. Give us a chance to help you, and we’ll show you everything we can do to change your life.

Photo Source: LeBauerBlog.com

Aaron LeBauer PT, DPT, LMBT NC License #5361 & P12004
Dr. Aaron LeBauer is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist. He owns LeBauer Physical Therapy, LLC, with his wife Andra, in Greensboro, N.C.  He earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Elon University in 2008.  Dr. LeBauer graduated from Duke University in 1996 with a B.A. in History and moved  to San Francisco where he studied  Massage Therapy and Health Education at the National Holistic Institute.  He has specialized in Myofascial Release since 2000 and is an Instructor with the John F. Barnes MFR Seminars. A native of Greensboro,  Dr. LeBauer returned in 2005 to continue the third generation of LeBauers as health care professionals in Greensboro. 

Mastectomy Scar – What You Need To Know

Breast Cancer RehabilitationBy: Denise Stewart, founder of Breast and Shoulder Rehabilitation and Breast Cancer Occupational Therapist.

The soft tissues of the chest, breast, shoulder, neck and arm are directly impacted by breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Each of these treatments will have a different impact on each person; however there are some common experiences that can be better understood and managed.

Let’s focus on mastectomy surgery, the resulting mastectomy scar and some common experiences.

I have women report that they dutifully put oil or their best cream on their mastectomy scar line every day, after the wound has healed, so they can have a soft “good” scar.

What is wrong with this treatment option you may ask? The issue is twofold:

  1. The scar tissue extends much further than the mastectomy (surgical) scar line where the skin was stitched together. Scar tissue forms as a normal healing response wherever tissue is cut or damaged. So effectively with a mastectomy, scar tissue needs to form over the entire area where the breast tissue was removed from against the rib cage and where the breast tissue was removed from the skin let’s call this area the mastectomy chest scar . At the side of body, the scar may form and connect to the soft tissues that travel across into the arm, the pectoral muscle, the lymphatic structures, the serratus muscle and other muscles that connect to the shoulder-blade. So potentially, the scar tissue that forms following mastectomy can be a very large area and potentially can affect the stretch of other soft tissues in the nearby areas of the arm and shoulder-blade and the ribs (mastectomy chest scar).
  2. Oil or cream applied to a mastectomy scar line does not cause directional stretch at the deep scar tissue of the surgical scar line or the mastectomy chest scar.
    Scar tissue that forms in the healing phase often gets laid down in directions that are not in the same direction as the previous tissues. In other parts of the body when scar tissue matures (changes over time) our movement creates internal directional forces, which in turn helps to correct the direction, length and softness of the scar tissue.

Characteristics of new scar tissue at the mastectomy (surgical) scar line and the mastectomy chest scar?
Some women may have very poor feeling in this whole mastectomy chest area, it may feel dull.

The skin over the entire area may feel too connected to the rib cage and may lack stretch in the many directions that skin normally stretches.

Some women develop a significant sensitivity / pain to both light and deep touch.

In the weeks and months after surgery, the scar tissue has very limited stretch. If connections form with nearby tissue, this will cause restriction in movements in the arm. Full reach up and back behind the body may be difficult to achieve.

The mastectomy (surgical) scar line will look red or darker than your skin colour. This scar line can pucker and adhere to nearby structures (eg the pectoral muscle, the tissue covering the ribs).

Fluid may collect below the horizontal scar line because the lymphatics are not able to get passed the scar tissue.

Does scar tissue change over time?
Over time scar tissue can change, it can become stretchy, links to nearby tissue may even break away or remodel.

Pain may not be experienced when the tissue is touched and the scar line will become a lighter colour. For scar tissue to change and be remodelled it primarily requires stretch or directional force to be applied to the scar tissue, hydration (water) and a good blood supply.

It is the first requirement – stretch or directional force that poses a problem for the mastectomy scar tissue. Because of the position on the chest /rib cage, scar tissue may not actually get adequate stretch in many cases.

The usual time frame for new scar tissue to become mature, stretchy scar tissue is approximately two years. This time frame will be extended if radiotherapy is undertaken.

Can we help tight mastectomy scar tissue change and remodelling?
Because mastectomy scar tissue covers a large area and changes to scar tissue takes a long time – a supported self-management approach may need to be adopted to achieve better outcomes for women. Self-management requires:

  • Learning and using self-assessment skills to evaluate stretch in tissues over the entire chest area;
  • Learning and using a good arm and shoulder-blade movement assessment and recovery strategy;
  • Frequently use treatments that create a positive change to the tight scar tissue over the first 6-12 months after breast surgery;
  • Regularly use treatments to create a positive change to scar tissue over the 12-24 months after breast surgery;
  • Regularly use treatments to create positive change to scar tissue for 2-4 years if radiotherapy was undertaken; and
  • For some women a management program may need to be undertaken for decades.

Training, specialist treatments, monitoring and coaching are recognized support services for self-management programs for other chronic medical conditions. Support from breast cancer rehabilitation and exercise specialists must also be made available for women experiencing problematic tight mastectomy scar tissue.

The next blog will continue to discuss common experiences of mastectomy scar tissue and management options.

  • soft tissues are muscles, skin, fat, fascia, blood vessels, nerves.
  • women with severe radiotherapy damage may be an exception to this type of self-management program.

Denise Stewart Breast Cancer Occupational TherapistDenise Stewart, founder of Breast and Shoulder Rehabilitation and an Occupational Therapist trained in Australia at University of Queensland. Her career started at a major public hospital, providing rehabilitation to people with very serious and chronic illness and injuries.

Arms Over Backbend – A Therapeutic Yoga Pose

Lorraine Agular, PT, ERYT 500

Lorraine Aguilar P.T. , E-RYT 500

By: Diana Ross, E-RYT 500, Co-Founder of Breast Cancer Yoga.

Breast Cancer Yoga would like to introduce Lorraine Aguilar, (who is also my yoga teacher.)  Lorraine Aguilar, P.T., ERYT 500 is the director/founder of Yoga Flow Studio in Glen Head, NY.  She is a practicing Physical Therapist since 1991 and specializes in yoga therapeutics and orthopedic manual therapy.

Lorraine has been practicing yoga since 1992 and teaching since 1995. She received her 500-hour yoga certification from Beryl Bender Birch from the Hard & the Soft Institute, and is now part of her teacher training staff. For 14 years she studied Anusara Yoga with founder, John Friend, and was an Anusara Inspired teacher for 13 years. Lorraine continues to practice and study Ashtanga, Iyengar and Alignment based yogas. Yoga Flow Studio is an official yoga center which  offers a 300 hour Therapeutic Teacher Training, as well as workshops in Anatomy for Yoga.

I would like to mention that Lorraine and I will be doing a special “Yoga and Ceremony” Summer Solstice retreat at Menla Mountain Retreat in the Catskills Mountains. http://www.yogaflowstudio.com/events/solstice-retreat-2014.php

It is my pleasure to introduce her; her style and enthusiasm of teaching with this restorative yoga pose, which we will call “Arms Over Backbend”. This is a great pose for those in breast cancer recovery and for managing or preventing lymphedema.

Arm Over Backbend

Benefits

  • Quickly promotes inner calm
  • Elevates chest, and deepens breath
  • Promotes lymphatic drainage of breasts and pectoral muscles
  • Post surgical benefits of reducing fibrous adhesions and scar tissue
  • Balances autonomic nervous system (ANS)
  • Allows the shoulder blades to feel supported comfortably
  • Spreads the clavicle, relieves pressure on brachial plexus (network of nerves)
  • Stretches and expands the pectoral muscles
  • Increases venous blood flow toward heart and lymph flow
  • Gently stretches abdominal muscles, rib cage and thoracic spine
  • Reduces low back pain and spasm
  • Promotes awareness of vertebrae isolation

Instructions

  1. Begin seated on the earth with your back to a large bolster and legs extended. A yoga block can be used to support the head when in the full backbend.
  2. Place a belt, shoulder distance around the forearms. Lengthen the spine and fold over the bolster. Lift and draws arms over head and feel yourself reaching and lengthening the side body, and arms. The belt helps with the arms not separating out to side and creates a bit of resistance.

To experience the benefits of yoga for breast cancer, it is essential that you begin with simple, gentle yoga movements. You should also consult a doctor before you begin practicing yoga. It is also necessary that you follow a yogic diet that consists of a mainly vegetarian diet to enhance the benefits of yoga.

 

Diana RossAbout Diana Ross:  E-RYT 500 restorative yoga teacher, survivor that cares and founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Diana is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Ready To Move With A Groove? Exercise – Healthy Bones And A Healthy Heart!

Exercising For Breast Cancer RecoveryHere we are in 2014 and it certainly has been a frigid start to this year! I hope you all had a great ‘jump’ into 2014 and feel inspired as we head into the new year. During the Holiday Season healthy nutrition , can be challenged with the array of Holiday cookies, ‘chocos’ and candies.. Now it is time to place our focus on healthy living. Magazines and Blogs are filled with Detoxes and Cleanse posts…. In this Blog, I instead chose to focus on one of my favorite topics:

It is well known that an exercise program is supportive before, during and after surgery and treatment. Off course it is essential to see it within context of the individual, medical procedures, reaction to meds and energy levels.

Moderation is a big key and it is a great idea to work-out and to ‘work-in’ with quiet, stress reducing modalities such as meditation, Gentle Yoga, Qi Gong or a walk in Nature.

Here are a few points regarding exercise during and post-surgery and/or treatment:

  • Strength training will support bone integrity that becomes compromised with chemo and steroids. Discuss this with your physician if lymph nodes are affected in your cancer treatment or lymphodema in the arm is present.
  • A moderate/low intensity cardio program will support a healthy heart, circulation and mood – a mild sweat is a good guideline. Do wipe off the sweat so it does not re-enter the body, after all, the skin is an organ of elimination. (While undergoing radiation treatment, do discuss this with your doctor, as there are restrictions.)
  • Clothing might present some challenges. Make comfortable and organic cotton choices that allow free movement and airflow.
  • Physical therapy, post-therapy exercise will provide ROM (range of motion) as incisions start to heal. You want to avoid restrictions in movement to prevent secondary shoulder, wrist, neck and back problems. The process of regaining full range of motion after surgery does take time.
  • Acupuncture on the scares and adhesions is a good idea as scars can disrupt the nervous system. At the same time it will boost immune function and provide stress reduction. It is necessary to wait for healing of the skin.
    Fatigue must be respected – yet a gentle exercise program will actually increase energy and support lymphatic flow.
  • Posture exercises: With the physical, emotional and psychological trauma, it is ‘normal’ to pull inwards in a protective manner esp. after surgery. Awareness and gentle exercises that pay attention to good posture will support the physical body and energetic flow between organs and glands.
  • Social support and laughter are so important. If possible seek out a fun, nurturing and safe environment. Uplifting music does help too!
  • Radiation adversely affects heart and lung health. (I am aware that this is a controversial point.) The bottom line is: Do support your cardiovascular system

When it is cold outside, we must make sure to get our daily movement. Certainly there is nothing more refreshing and immune – stimulating than taking a brisk walk outside! However, trying to maneuver icy pavements or paths in Central Park can be challenging and this does increase the risk of falling.

I believe in ‘risk assessment’: Exercise regularly and moderately, but in a safe and fun environment.

Basic Facts: Let’s Talk About Exercise, Heart Health & Nutrition!
For bone health, esp. in menopause, it is important to add ‘stress’ on the bones. Walking is great, but it is not enough to facilitate sufficient bone stress and remodeling of bone. Walking does support a healthy cardiovascular system, lymphatic drainage and detoxification – besides burning off those Holiday treats…

Resistance training is essential to support stronger bones, especially if one has a genetically predetermined small frame. It is not about lifting heavy weights ‘a la Schwarzenegger’ and one generally does not ‘bulk up’ easily – a concern I still hear about today. Weight training for healthy bones is about a regular ‘overload’ on the connective tissue. If you carry your own shopping bags twice a week, you are doing your bones (but maybe not your back) a favor!

As a Nutrition and Exercise Specialist, I do stress that bones must be supported with good nutrition and a regular weight – training exercise program. It is also helpful not to live on an adrenaline rush. The hormones, esp. elevated cortisol, will adversely affect the mineral metabolism and bone health.

Acid-blocking medications will affect the absorption of calcium and magnesium from foods. This can result in a calcium deficiency affecting bones and teeth, increasing the risk of fractures and cavities. If you are using acid blocking meds, you are welcome to connect with me to discuss your options.

As we age, our tendons are more at risk, esp. if we have not been exposed to using weights or athletic movements. It is better to err on the side of caution by receiving expert guidance. Schedule a few sessions with a professional to get you going or join an exercise class with a good instructor. (Do your research!!!)

If there are pre-existing and additional physical restrictions e.g. joint concerns or joint replacements or other medical considerations, I would recommend starting up with the advice of an exercise professional. I have some clients, whom I meet for a few sessions to ‘get the ball rolling’.

Exercise movements that are functional and support balance training should be incorporated. Core training, stability and flexibility training must also be part of the program. All will support activities of daily living. As we age, generally it is the lack of flexibility and muscle tissue that can predispose us to a greater risk of injury, falls and decreased function.

Heart Health?

Despite all we hear about cancer, it is important to note that heart disease is still the #1 killer of men and women. Certainly, many factors play a role. However, do consider that the heart is a muscle and it needs to be kept strong with regular and continuous exercise.

Heart health requires good nutrition and regular exercise. Various medications will rob nutrients from the heart, brain and body. These nutrients include vitamins such as vitamin A, B, C, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, calcium and CoQ10 and more…All are essential to maintain a healthy heart. If you are on medications, you would want to consider the possibility of medication induced vitamin/mineral deficiency. Chronic stress, living on an adrenaline charge and lack of sleep affects heart health adversely. Exercise is a great stress-reducing modality – but do make sure you rest too and do not over-exercise esp. cardio training!

What Else?

From a mind body perspective, integration of Yoga or other stress – reducing techniques incl. mediation are terrific.

Pilates is very popular too and it is very helpful for flexibility and reduced joint stress.

What matters most?

Choose an exercise program that is right for you!
Choose an exercise program that suits your needs, is effective and does not create pain. Sure, a little sore muscle here and there after strength work will let you now that you made ‘communication’ – your bones will be happy. What can happen with strength training is ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)’. This happens within 24-48 hrs.

Before starting on an exercise program, do check in with your physician if you are on medications and/or have health concerns. Should you have had surgery, it is best to receive ‘clearance’ from the doc before starting to exercise.

In the meantime, let’s keep walking, healing and smiling!

Rika_KechAbout Rika Keck: Find Rika at NYIntegratedHealth.com
 . Rika specializes in Nutrition, Fitness and  Women’s Wellness. Rika is Certified in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, also a CMTA Speaker, Corporate Wellness Consultant and Holistic Life Coach.
Rika Keck, FDN, ACN, CMTA
http://www.NYIntegratedHealth.com
646 285-8588
646 285-8588

The Thrill is Gone – Journey With Lymphedema Continues

Lymphedema Journey With Lesley Ronson-BrownBy Lesley Ronson Brown, 500 Hour Yoga Teacher

As my journey with lymphedema continues, I find I am tiring of it. It is no longer something new or something to get used to. The thrill is gone. Not that it was ever too thrilling, mind you; but it was interesting to learn about and begin to navigate my way through the lymphedema maze. I think, however, I had an underlying hope that if I did everything I was supposed to, that somehow it would go away or lessen substantially. But it hasn’t. It hasn’t gotten too much worse, but some days my arm is definitely bigger and some days a bit smaller. But it seems to be bigger more often than smaller. I feel resigned. This is one long-term relationship I would rather do without.

So what’s a girl to do? Sometimes when I’m stuck and not in the flow (get the lymphedema pun?!), I pretend I am a friend advising someone who is stuck in the same situation. I would tell myself it’s time to set up a counseling/action plan. First, I need to listen to myself and acknowledge my true feelings of frustration, dismay and sadness. Acknowledge that I am in the doldrums, as if on a plateau, a lonely plateau. And then figure a way out of it. Like an explorer lost in a jungle. Time to send out an SOS. And guess who I want to come to my rescue?!

Prince Charming! Yes, sad to say, that fantasy is still a real one. I want my prince to come. But he doesn’t have to take me away. I just want him to make my doctor and physical therapy and lymphatic drainage massage appointments. I admit, I want him to massage my arm, too. And OK, OK, I want him to magically charm my arm into being its regular size again.

But this ain’t no fairy tale. And the only one who can “charm the arm” is me. But I don’t wanna!!!!!! I want to pout, put my hands on my hip, say “agghhh” while moving my heavy-metal-concert be-boppin’ head, but with more speed and more jerkiness. Attracting Prince Charming while doing so, of course.

Just the thought of doing that, though, makes me laugh because it’s not quite my style. But sometimes it’s helpful to get out of your style. It can jumpstart you onto a different path. Hopefully, a better path. Realistically, I know spending more time on my yoga mat as a student, not a teacher, will help me. Just by doing yoga, the frustration fluctuations will begin to lessen, becoming less extreme. Practicing more pranayama, or breathwork, will begin to quieten my ego and move me towards accepting what is. My action plan could involve more volunteer work as that is always a good way to move my ego away from its focus on me, me, me, me, me. I will devote more time to massaging my arm myself. Maybe I can charm it a bit. Or at least find it more charming and lovable as it is.

Even though I will do all that, I have a confession. It is kind of fun to rant and rave. It’s fun to sometimes flail about. Especially for those of us who are usually the nice ones, the happy, positive ones who can handle everything with what looks like ease and even luck. It feels cool to morph from Ms. Perky to Ms. Jerky, and watch people’s reactions when we bust out. It is powerful! I strongly suggest it for all you nice girls out there. It’s a definite scene stealer and a good strategy to get your way because people are stunned into shock. Trust me, they don’t like it when Ms. Nice Girl Perky starts changing. But, unlike our human companions, lymphedema doesn’t care. It isn’t going to budge, no matter how much I stomp or how many deals I try to make with it.

So, since Prince Charming hasn’t shown up yet to take care of my arm, and that arm isn’t going to budge by itself, no matter how I act; I guess it’s time to put on my big girl panties, stomp into my thigh high boots, wriggle into my hoop skirt with the “smart ass white bitch” patch embroidered on it and sashay up some action. Oh, yeah!…now that’s a great visual, isn’t it?

Lesley BrownLesley Ronson Brown is a two-time breast cancer survivor and a three-time lymph node cancer survivor.  She has had lymphedema since 2011 and has learned how to manage it through traditional and complementary therapies.  Lesley is a certified Yoga teacher, with a specialty certification in Restorative Yoga, and has taught for more than 15 years.  She also is certified in Pilates and Group Fitness Exercise. But her favorite thing to teach is yoga!  She currently is completing her 500-hour yoga teacher training and is writing a thesis on Yoga and Lymphedema.

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