No longer Drowning

Experts say most people drown silently, that it’s not one of those Hollywood events where there is lots of splashing and calls for help. The stricken person just slips away when family and friends are tending to everyday things and momentarily look away from you. That is how it feels to have cancer and lymphedema.

After surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, a cancer patient-along with family, friends, and peers-expect life to return to something that resembles pre-cancer trauma routines and appearance. For some, maybe it is like that; but for me, that is far from the truth. Cancer is a messy business that most people don’t want to talk about and sometimes refuse to acknowledge like it is a jinx, an albatross hanging around a victim’s neck. Rather than drag everyone down or catch an eyeroll or a quasi-empathetic sigh, there comes a moment when the cancer patient, who has suffered so much trauma from all the indignities of being rendered temporarily helpless or forever changed, decides to suffer silently or even drown in the aftermath. I got to that place eighteen months after stage three metastatic breast cancer tore me from my teaching career and a very social life and dropped me into isolation at home. And I am a fortunate cancer survivor.

Compared to how I looked and felt on my worst days, I am now in great shape. My hair grew back, I wasn’t sick all the time, and I became interested in what was going on around me. And even though I looked like I had bounce back, I still had health problems. The biggest issues I had to reckon with were anxiety, focus, and lymphedema. That’s not uncommon, but if you are like me, full recovery is a mindset that doesn’t permit the notion of settling on whatever happens next. I asked my doctors for help solving the problems I had with swelling and neuropathy, and they referred me to Ribbons in Kingsport.

Ribbons has given me confidence that I can become stronger and happier in my walk through life. The atmosphere of the place alone is uplifting. Everyone at this practice is genuinely kind and caring, and every patient who visits for therapy benefits from the positivity that is in the air. I see physical therapists and occupational therapists, and in the short while I’ve had regular appointments I can tell a big difference in my health and mindset. The pain and numbness in my feet is nearly gone, and I no longer have to rely on a cane to steady myself when I walk. It is thrilling to get out of bed and not worry about falling, go up and down stairs without losing balance, and go into a building without help of any kind-and walk normally in a straight line.

My lymphedema is being properly managed now, and my therapist is helping me with exercises and treatments that give me more sensitivity. The exercises I’ve learned are helping me pick up small objects, and I’ve not broken any eggs when removing them from the carton (That’s a thing,  you know…. grasping something and either crushing it in your fingers or dropping it on the floor!). Numbness and pain in your hands and arms is a major disability, and it is exciting to reclaim lost ground.

My mind is clearer, and my wellness is the best it’s been since being diagnosed with cancer. I know in my heart and soul that had I not been referred to Ribbons, I would have drowned by now. I am so grateful for their kindness, expertise, support and love. They are my blessing that has helped me stand up and move freely through life.