Wishing you a happy and healthy 2016!

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Updated March 2016 – For more information on GcMAF, please join the GcMAF and GcMAF Cancer forums on Facebook – they are closed groups, so you have to wait for your membership to be confirmed.  They contain up-to-date information on sources of GcMAF, and also feedback and contributions  by people who are using GcMAF.

(Updated 3 Jan 2016 re. GcMAF)

I used to pray for strength to get through the year.  And the Universe heard me and sent me challenging life experiences (like a divorce, house sale, cancer treatments, the death of two of my beloved cats) to build up my character and strength.

Thanks, Universe!

So this year, my prayer for myself and all of you, is to be happy and healthy.  Let’s see what Mr Universe makes of that!

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Brachial plexus injury #10 – the Frankenstein chronicles

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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 #9 – Back on the roller coaster

RollerCoaster

It was 5 days before surgery.  Two months after the mastectomy.

My left arm was still paralysed.

I’d thought I could sort out the brachial plexus nerve compression damage with osteopathy, chiropractic treatments, hands-on healing and acupuncture.  Everyone was praying for me.  But while the treatments helped ease the area and calmed me down, they did not resolve the issue.

I was in denial up to the moment the nerve surgeon delivered the ultimatum, hoping that a miracle would happen, that my prayers would be answered and I would miraculously wake up with my arm back again, without having to go through surgery.

In the surgeon’s many many years of experience, the only thing that would work to relieve the nerve compression, was surgery.

And there was a sense of urgency:  a narrow window of time in which surgery had to be carried out, otherwise there was a chance the nerve damage could become permanent.

I had no choice really.  My arm still hung limp and useless.  I had to go back to work and needed my arm.  The nerve surgeon assured me that some function would return after the surgery.

But …

… what if it doesn’t work?

… what if I die?

… what if it gets worse?

… what if I get lymphoedema?

There were the usual pre-surgical tests which involved blood tests.  When I gave the doctor my medical history, she said:  “yes, the world is full of suffering”.  When I pointed out that a lot of people didn’t have to go through what I had, she said:  “don’t worry, something bad will happen to them”, as though there was some sort of karmic steam iron going around putting new creases of fate in the bedsheet of people’s lives.  Or that life was a mix of good experiences counterbalanced by bad.

I had no answers.  Only fears and doubts and worries at the moment.  I couldn’t believe that in 5 days’ time I would be having surgery for the second time in 2 months.

That sinking feeling I’d had when I was first diagnosed, of having my breath punched out of me, just as the roller-coaster plunged down a fall, had returned.

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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9 Things People Who Have A Silent Disease Want You To Know

I came across this article written by Mandy Velez, and it pretty much sums up what I’d written previously in my posts on what to say or not to say to someone who has cancer.  Cancer can be a silent disease.  Unless the patient is cachexic or has lost his/her hair, it’s not always obvious it’s cancer.

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Typical response from well-meaning people when they find out you have a life-threatening disease!

9 Things People Who Have A Silent Disease Want You To Know

1. Just because we don’t look sick doesn’t mean we’re not in pain.

Invisible illnesses affect nearly 1 in 2 people in the U.S. That’s about half of the population that has an ailment that doesn’t manifest itself physically. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Conditions from depression to Crohn’s disease affect the internal organs or brain and are just as painful as any outward conditions. This is why it’s a bad idea to judge someone’s abilities based on their appearance:

2. Our illness may chemically affect our mood and temperament, and no, it’s not just an excuse.

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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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Growing roses on the shit

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When I last posted in June 2015, I had good intentions of posting everyday.  I wanted to play catch-up with my “Best of Breast” news posts (which has now 10 months’ worth of backlog!) and to finish telling what happened post-mastectomy and nerve damage.

But life for me this year was like sitting blindfold on a roller-coaster:  divorce … house-sale … recurrence … more cancer treatments … my cat dying of cancer … having to find somewhere to live … financial pressures … work pressures.

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