Brachial plexus injury #11 – treatments and supplements for nerve injury

After my left arm was paralysed from nerve damage caused by the mastectomy, I went into over-drive on the research front on treatments and supplements that could help.  Here are some I tried.

My nerve surgeon didn’t quite sneer, but he raised eloquent eyebrows and told me in his beautiful Italian accent that in his experience, the only thing that would restore nerve function in my case was surgery.  I thought it was a pity that he wasn’t more open to supplements that could improve the rate of healing in his patients, but there you go.

SUPPLEMENTS

LionsMane

Lion’s Mane Mushroom. Image credit: “Igelstachelbart Nov 06” by Lebrac – eigene arbeit von Lebrac. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – from Wikipaedia

1.  Hericium Erinaceus or Lion’s Mane Mushroom

I’ve already covered this in my post MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS #3 – LION’S MANE (HERICIUM ERINACEUS) FOR NERVE REPAIR but I thought I’d briefly mention this again.  This mushroom has been scientifically-tested and in laboratory tests, shown to help stimulate nerve regeneration, including nerves in brains.

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Brachial plexus injury #10 – the Frankenstein chronicles

Frankenstein_and_Mummy_IMG_1648_small2

When I woke up from surgery I could feel this huge bandage, like a pillow, on my neck.  I felt like Frankenstein.

I didn’t dare move my neck because I had visions of my head falling off.

But the bandage had to be changed, and that’s when I plucked up my courage to look in the mirror.  What I saw was surprisingly innocuous. Instead of a huge wound, there were a few stitches, and some long but shallow cuts, spanning one side of the collarbone.

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Brachial Plexus injury #8 – books I read when my arm was paralysed

Needless to say, after the mastectomy left me with a paralysed arm, the only self-help books I could bear to read were those of people who had been through shittier situations and come through smelling of roses (or in the case of positive thinkers, thinking and affirming they smelled of roses).

The first book I will recommend is “The Impossible just takes a little longer” by Art Berg.  I actually read the book years ago, before the brachial plexus disaster – how prescient of me!

ImpossibleBook

The author, Art Berg, was a young man, a star athelete, on the verge of getting married to a beauty queen and sweetheart, when his car got totalled.  The accident left him totally paralysed from the neck down. (Just like Christopher Reeves, except he pre-dated Christopher Reeves).

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Brachial Plexus injury #6 – Glass half empty

I indulged in “if-onlys” in the months after the nerve injury.

If only I hadn’t had the mastectomy, I would still have my arm.

If only I hadn’t had an implant put in, my arm wouldn’t have been positioned for 3 hours in a way that caused the brachial plexus injury.

If only I didn’t have the brachial plexus injury I would be able to get on with the rest of my cancer treatment.

Having taken the decision, after two years of pursuing complementary therapies, to go the allopathic, conventional route with surgery, what happened was a cosmic slap in the face.

My breast surgeon tried to jolly me up with his brand of British stiff-upper-lip positivity:  “glass half full, glass half full.”  But he wasn’tthe one who had to live with a paralysed arm.  Imagine how he would feel if he lost the use of his arm and couldn’t practice surgery, or couldn’t play a round of his beloved golf.  Would he be able to smile at me and say his glass was half full?

What happened shook my faith in the world as a beneficient.  Someone commented that I was negative.  I guess I was.  My life up to that point, had been uneventful, even boring.  Oh, I wished for my boring life again.  Suddenly, I was plunged into some sort of nightmare, without the emotional resilience or skills to cope with such a setback.  So yes, I apologise if I wasn’t jolly and positive and singing New Age affirmations.  Because that’s not the way I am.

Before the mastectomy, I was the poster girl for dealing with cancer using complementary therapies.  After the mastectomy, I couldn’t even look either camp in the face.  I felt as if I’d failed by abandoning complementary therapies (“look what happens when you embrace the allopathic”), and going the conventional route.

And I didn’t have the faith that the allopathic camp have in conventional cancer treatment any more.  If this very rare complication can happen to me, during what was fairly routine surgery, what next?

Brachial Plexus injury #5 – acupuncture to the rescue

Colon4

The famous Colon 4.
photo credit: http://www.sthelensacupuncturist.com/

I had my first acupuncture session 4 days’ after the mastectomy, my surgeon agreed to release me for 4 hours from the hospital.  He knew that acupuncture helped calm my agitated system down and gave me a reasonable night’s rest.

However, two days after the electromyography torture test, I had an encounter with acupuncture that wasn’t so pleasant.

Acupuncture works by releasing blockages or facilitating flow of energy by the insertion of very fine needles into energy lines (meridians) in the body.  Pain when needles are inserted may indicate a blockage at that meridian.

The acupuncturist I saw wasn’t my regular acupuncturist (who was on holiday and recommended I see this other acupuncturist instead).  This second acupuncturist used to be a concert pianist and I was looking forward to meeting him because I was a pianist myself.  The room where he had his practice couch had a grand piano in it!

He inserted a needle into a classic acupuncture point, Colon 4, which is between the thumb and index finger.  OMG.  I nearly jumped into the air.  The pain was unexpected.  The point actually started swelling up and bruising blue-purple before our eyes.  I felt the pain radiate into the knuckles.

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Brachial Plexus injury #4 – What is the Brachial Plexus

When I woke up from my mastectomy, I discovered that my left arm was paralysed.  I couldn’t lift it.  The arm, down to my thumb and half the index finger were numb and unfeeling.  Turns out that I had a compression injury to the brachial plexus during surgery probably because the arm was tractioned for about 3 hours.  Why it happened to me, I don’t know.  I don’t know anyone else who’s had this happen to them.  But here’s my story.

So, what’s the brachial plexus?

BP2

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Brachial Plexus injury #3 – The wild-wild world of elasticated waistbands

I’m back again.  I was going to ration out my posts – believe it or not, these were written some time back – but I’ve decided to post everything I’ve got while I can.  It’s also the only way I can motivate myself to write.  So here are the Brachial Plexus Injury chronicles continued:  I woke up from my mastectomy to find my left arm paralysed, and what follows is my attempt at finding humour and some sort of road map in the nightmarish days that followed …

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I still remember the third day in the hospital, the nurse came in to find I had got my eye mask on.

She immediately thought I’d recovered the use of my left arm back and was suspicious when I told her it was still paralysed [I think it was beyond their experience that someone could lose the use of their arm in a mastectomy].

eyemask

How do you put this on with only one working hand/arm?

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The Brachial plexus Chronicles #2 – 3 weeks later – C7 returns

[continuing the saga of what happened after my mastectomy, when I woke up from surgery to find that my left arm was paralysed.  I apologise if this seems like wallowing in the experience, but I’m writing this partly as therapy, and also for any other poor bugger who has to go through what I did.  I remember hunting on the internet for similar experiences, to discover there was nothing.  This was totally outside the realm of most mastectomy patients.  Hopefully anyone going through the same will walk with me and know what to expect and know you are not alone!]

Electromyography without the Sound Effects. photo credit: faithmedical.com

Three weeks after the mastectomy, I had to go back to the hospital for another electromyography (EMG), a type of muscle test.

A needle is inserted through the skin into the muscle tissue.  This needle is connected to an oscilloscope that measures the activity of the nerve.

On this second visit, I asked to see the results from the test conducted two days after the mastectomy.  For some reason, although I had asked (and so had the physiotherapist), the results were not made available which made me very suspicious.

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The Brachial Plexus Chronicles # 1 – the world is a dangerous place for a one-armed person

Continuing the saga of what happened after my mastectomy:  I woke up from surgery to find that I couldn’t move my left arm.  It was numb and paralysed from the shoulder down.  The surgery had resulted in damage to the brachial plexus, a very complicated branch of nerves that control movement in the arms and fingers.  I knew of no one who had been through what I was going through.  This series of posts is dedicated to anyone else out there who is going through a similar nightmare and is feeling like a boat shipwrecked on a deserted island … you are not alone!

SardineTube

Travelling on the London Tube (with more sardine trips to come!)

I thought I was coping well, several weeks into the post-mastectomy period.  Physically, I was doing fine, recovering from the surgery and anaesthesia.  I was well enough to rush from one appointment to another. I even travelled to my appointments by public transport: the Tube and bus.

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Mastectomy #8D: When disaster strikes (Part 4) … nerve tests

Preface – Why I write about my mastectomy. 

Mastectomy T-shirt1

Yep, been there … done that …

Before my mastectomy, in the search for reassurance, I scoured the internet for first person experiences.  

Some of the posts I read left me reeling, and thinking “there but for the Grace of God …”.  

And yet I read on, devouring the suffering (just as passers-by rubber-neck a traffic accident), because it was strangely addictive, a bit like porn (except no one deliberately goes through a mastectomy to make money!)

[I never thought that I would someday join this group of exclusive women in providing my own personal horror story.]

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