Honestly, I have a lot of mixed opinions and so many feelings about receiving radiation therapy.
I am tired of having treatments for cancer and of the side effects. I long to feel really well again. I worry about short and long-term risks and side effects. It's a lot of work. Daily treatments, 5 days/week, about 10 minutes in the machine, but about an hour in and out at the medical center. The supportive care I am providing myself takes far longer: sauna the night before, exercise in the hour before, four doses of niacinamide in the 2 hours before that treatment, an hour in the Hyperbaric Chamber after the treatment, handfuls of supplements, eating a careful diet. It's work to be alert and advocate for myself.
I am also increasingly aware of my gratitude for the treatments and for the people who are so committed to providing them with excellence. I read, hear and witness the advances in the technology designed to make all the treatments I receive more and more effective, safe, and tolerable. My own health and resilience is a treasure. Frequenting a teaching hospital is an opportunity to witness a broad spectrum of physical health experienced by people who are receiving treatment. I experience this as an antidote to self-pity.
Despite how much time it takes up, I am grateful for the access to and the knowledge of supportive therapies to help me receive and integrate these medical treatments.
Mostly, I am grateful for the fact that I am tolerating these treatments really well, that they are working to treat my cancer, and I am nearing the end of the most intense phase of treatment.
I am so very glad that I have been able to continue to practice family medicine and recently to return to a more active work schedule. I am once again seeing patients in person, offering acupuncture, and in the office 4 days/week. I rejoice that my practice has weathered the challenges of a pandemic and my own illness.
A few months ago, a friend began offering yoga online twice weekly. I love her and her energy and I have benefitted from yoga in the past, so I gave it a try. It's an intense hour and it took me many weeks before I could do more than half of the poses she leads us through. I am more competitive than I like to admit and I don't often stick with things that don't come easily. This time, I was kinder to myself than I normally would be since I had just come through chemotherapy. I was also motivated to try to get stronger in preparation for surgery. It just makes sense to me that stronger muscles are more likely to be flexible, to recover their flexibility and to tolerate the challenges of surgical injury and recovery better.
Carrie's classes are still quite a challenge for me and I have yet to get through a session without having to accommodate or retreat to child's pose to take a break. She often offers modifications that increase the intensity of the pose and I rarely even consider most of those modifications.
Yoga is really helping me. I could and still can feel myself getting stronger. I feel more stable in all the poses. I feel that strength persisting into the rest of my life. My balance is better. I am more flexible. I really sense the flexibility in the garden. Every day I can reach my arms further over my head with less discomfort.
I want to really give a shout out to yoga for the rotational flexibility that I would likely not have even noticed was needed. In my daily life, I rarely rotate my trunk (maybe reaching into the back seat while in the car), so I didn't notice how much my chest tissues need that movement and are needed for that movement. Yoga moves me through that range, pointing out how tight I was and still am. Different rotational poses bring stretch and mild intensity to different tissues. Daily there is more movement and space.
Yoga also brings up emotional and spiritual stuck or tight places for my attention and grounds me to be able to take on the work of being more flexible and rooted energetically.
Highly recommended for times of health challenges or times of good health.
Be well. Breathe. Elizabeth
Physical Therapy!Read Now
Goodness Gracious! I have always believed in the effectiveness of physical therapy and thought that not enough people got it. I had no idea how helpful it would be for me.
I had my first session last week and right away, I felt better. Way less pain. Way more range of motion and flexibility. Way more information. Lots of wise guidance.
Physical therapy is more than just a description of exercises to do at home. And it's more than the exercises and movements you do with the therapist.
My therapist did several things with her hands on my body--cause it's body work after all. My skin is a little numb and I can't see my chest and armpits easily while lying down, so I don't quite know what she did. But there was some gentle stretching of my skin, I think, and she moved my arms while she applied gentle pressure to my lower ribs while she coached me in breathing and POOF! A lot of resistance went away and I could suddenly move my arms further. There was some emotional release as well, cause I have felt lighter and less restricted emotionally since.
I am really glad that I ASKED to see a physical therapist BEFORE surgery. Like my first visit with her was before the surgery. She reassured me about how manageable lymphedema can be and measured my arms to have a baseline and to be able to fit me for compression sleeves, in anticipation of treating any lymphatic congestion early. She also informed me about things I can do to prevent lymphedema and to treat it early if it happens. So. Very. Helpful.
This most recent visit was also in anticipation of Radiation Therapy. She helped me to understand that this is no time to do strength training for my upper body since my upper body will be doing enough to integrate this treatment.
So here's a shout out to all the physical therapists out there. The system doesn't appreciate you nearly enough, and I haven't either. The rest of us should get therapy for any surgery and for most injuries (if you can) and encourage our friends and families to do the same.
Elizabeth Alleman, MD is a family physician, acupuncturist practicing and pondering in central Missouri