Nearly two week ago, I woke up with a shooting pain down my right arm. Every since I had my exchange surgery, I’ve had problems with the nerves in my right arm because my implant presses my port into my collarbone occasionally pinching a nerve that apparently runs down my arm. I’m sure this is all it is this time as well, except every day the pain in my arm gets a little bit worse instead of better. That’s not the way it’s been in the past, so I find that to be a little odd. By the time Monday came around, I could no longer straighten my right arm nor could I raise my arm above my head. I also could see a knot under my arm and from my armpit to my elbow was too painful to even touch. This seemed pretty serious, so I called my plastic surgeon.
He didn’t like the knot. He didn’t like the pain level. So he sent me to have a Doppler done on my arm. Best case scenario, it’s just a muscle or pinched nerve. Worst case scenario, it’s a blood clot. Terrifying case scenario, it’s cancer! That seems to be the story of life after cancer. Every little thing that goes wrong now has that possibility. I can’t spend my entire life fearing cancer is coming back though, so I think about it just like with taking medication or having a surgical procedure or driving a car – all these things might lead to death but probably won’t so I take the needed medication, have the needed surgery, and drive nearly every day.
So off I went to get the Doppler really expecting them to tell me it’s nothing. I just couldn’t see it being a blood clot. My arm wasn’t swollen. It wasn’t red. It just hurt and had a knot. I’m still thinking a pinched nerve or maybe a hurt muscle as I walk in through the door.
My arm hurt so badly that tears streamed down my face as the tech ran the wand from my armpit to my elbow. After a double mastectomy with reconstruction, my pain tolerance went through the roof, so this wasn’t just a little discomfort and I was being a wimp kind of pain. This was like torture kind of pain. I only thought I might pass out once though and I only felt like I might throw-up but I didn’t. All that to find out what I was sure I already knew – Praise God this was not a blood clot!
What was causing the pain though? Well, my port gets blamed again except this time they decide it isn’t worth the risk of leaving it in any longer. I have a CAT scan scheduled in May to check on two black spots they found in my chest last July which is why I still have my port in the first place. My oncologist and breast surgeon both agree that it isn’t worth waiting on though, so March 24th I’ll have my port removed. There’s a lot of relief that comes with having your port taken out. It’s one more step in confirming the cancer is gone for real and they don’t fear it’s coming back again. That’s a wonderful praise to God on the back side of this storm!
Today, I went back to my plastic surgeon to have this spot looked at again. The good news is my arm is starting to feel so much better. The knot is still there though, so I have to keep an eye on it and pay closer attention to it until March 24th when I see my breast surgeon again. If nothing happens and my port is removed and it still isn’t better, they will send me on to an orthopedic to see if I tore a muscle or something along that line. I’m just going to pray it all heals on its own. I don’t need any more doctors. I have enough as it is right now.
There are days when I find the battle after cancer to be just as tough as fighting cancer. This is something I wasn’t prepared for in the beginning. It isn’t really talked about because we feel so lucky to be in remission, to be alive. But I will treat people who go through cancer much differently now. The truth is cancer is very much a war. Think about how a war torn country looks after it has been shot up and bombed. The armies might leave but the one in the middle of the fight is left to create a new life in the midst of chaos and destruction. This is often the beginning of a very new, foreign, and lonely battle. This is a story often overlooked in war and cancer.
My rollercoaster lifestyle continues. Last week, I was lucky enough to have a pretty great week. This one hasn’t been so wonderful. But it’s okay. There’s a time for everything- the good, the great, the bad and the ugly! God has a plan and no matter what it is good!