Project: Mend Myself!
These past few weeks I’ve felt worn out and broken – both mentally and physically – the aftermath of having cancer eh! In some ways it’s worse as there is no end in sight of what you’re left with – you just have to plod on and try and find a way to carry on and deal with everything.
I have actually felt a little sorry for myself! It must be these crazy hormones! But seriously, it has been really tough – knock after knock takes it’s toll and just piles up and then having my ovaries removed has been taking longer to recover from and just adding more uncomfort and pain!
So like Humpty Dumpty, what do we do with someone who is broken? We put them back together again. No use just staring at those broken pieces! So I’m picking myself up and starting to put myself back together – one piece at a time! In my case a bit slower than I’d like, but onwards we go and some of you will know how I do love a project, so my new project is to “try and mend myself!”. So how on earth am I going to do that?
Exactly, where do I start to build a plan of action?
Luckily I already eat well, exercise, have ‘me’ time (sewing, reading, swimming etc), I am determined and positive, I have great family, friends and support – thank you everyone for all my beautiful flowers etc (these beautiful roses were from my cousin). So I have a good building block. But I need to do more as this just isn’t enough at the moment, so……
Firstly, I made a list of what my symptoms were and off I went to the doctors as I needed a plan and I needed some help. To give you an idea this is the shortened list I gave to my GP:
- Constantly tired and exhausted, broken and restless sleep due to aches and pains, hot/cold flushes – it’s the exhaustion similar to pregnancy.
- Sensitivity to any pain which then seems to stay (e.g. whiplash from car accident back in June – still bad neck/head/chest pain. In August I trod on a metal spike at the beach – foot still feels bruised. October I had keyhole surgery – still have terrible stomach ache) – I basically heal on the outside but not on the inside – or very slowly and this builds up.
- I have all over, and very symmetrical pain which is a bit like a headache all over – head, jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, stomach, legs etc – everywhere basically but can vary from a constant fuzzy heavy feeling that can change quickly to throbbing intense pain where I literally can’t do anything! Mostly it is do-able and I’ve got used to it but sometimes not – still working out the triggers of this.
- Joint and bone pain – which we know is caused by the Exemestane medication – much worse in the cold/damp weather – I can’t do much about this except to exercise and keep my muscles strong to support my joints and bones.
- Hormonal sensitivities: nausea, loss of appetite, heightened sense of smell (smoke/perfume/petrol), dizziness, clumsy, lack of concentration. Itching – especially on my neck, chest, lower arms and legs where the pain is the worst). Restless legs, tingling, pins and needles. Sensitivity to noise and bright lights.
- IBS – my bowels were always good – but now I have to be so careful what I eat – just not as efficient as I used to be!
- Add on the constantly painful brick boob implant and the surgery of my oophorectomy which has left me with stomach ache.
- Then add on an illness like a cold or sick bug or extra tiredness, anxiety etc and it just makes everything far far worse…. the smallest thing that would normally be ok is major to me now – at the moment a bad back isn’t helping!
So basically, Dr Spowage looked a bit sorry for me too (bless him) and explained that I have this hypersensitivity to pain with the Fibromyalgia – all bought on from severe trauma to my body from the treatment of chemotherapy/radiotherapy/surgeries etc – it’s a bit like a post traumatic stress disorder. Basically my brain now has an unusual way of dealing with pain and doesn’t turn it off very well, which has been piling up – hence I’ve been feeling worse rather than better as time goes on. This also explains why after surgeries I am in excruciating pain when I wake up – so my next surgery is going to take a hell of a lot of planning!
I am really strong willed and good with my mind but when the pain is relentless it is so difficult to manage. So we were going to need to try and ‘reset’ my brain to go back to normal. If only it was as simple as an on/off switch! So we’re trying a small dose of Amitriptyline (instead of the Diazepam – it’s not so addictive either apparently) of a night to help me sleep and help calm my brain responses and also help with anxiety – much safer for me to take overnight as this way I can still carry on with normal life in the daytime. We decided to start with a small dose as I seem to be really sensitive to medication too! What fun! I’ve been on it a couple of weeks now and so far I think it’s helping a bit. If nothing else I’m managing to get a bit more sleep. Yay! And more sleep makes everything else more manageable! I will be going back in a month to discuss.
He also explained that since having my ovaries removed I was experiencing Hormone overload big time! Hence all the weird pregnancy-like symptoms – including the need for big macs and pickled onions which is interesting. But hopefully that will calm over time – not sure how much time though? Unfortunately we can’t do much for the hormone stuff so I’ve just got to ride with it and hope it settles for the moment. I must make for interesting watching as I’m either huddled in blankets and gloves, or I’m in a vest top sweating like I’ve been in the sauna (although I do actually spend a lot of spare time in the sauna and jacuzzi now as it helps me manage the pain!) It’s just something else to deal with.
As a few of you may know I have also been trying a CBD oil (cannabidinoil – cannabis with the THC addictive hallucinative stuff taken out) to see if it could be a natural remedy for the pain and help me sleep, it’s not addictive or harmful – I haven’t been taking any other pain medication in the day while trying this to make it a fair trial and to know whether it was this that was helping. I bought the first CBD oil from Holland and Barretts. It wasn’t strong enough to make much difference to the pain and I finished the bottle in a week. So I purchased a higher dosage (25%) from CBD Brothers…..checkout their website for loads more info if you are interested www.cbdbrothers.com
I went for the hemp oil to start with, which is made from the bigger plant, as it’s a lot cheaper (£20) than the cannabis oil extract (from £60-£200 per 10ml) which is made from the smaller harder to grow plants.
I put a few drops under my tongue a few times a day and hold it there for a minute and swallow. This new oil tastes stronger – it’s not nice but it’s ok. Plus it definitely has a relaxing effect and takes the edge of the pain – I can feel it working immediately if I get any on my lips. I must admit that if I could afford it I would try the cannabis oil but it’s really expensive. There is research happening by the NHS and by the end of the year there is new legislation coming in so companies have to have a licence to sell in the UK – it’s gradually getting recognised. So I will be continuing with this while it works. I think this could safely help many people so will be interesting to see the results of any trials.
So, continuing with my project to heal myself…….
Sometimes people cross our paths for a reason……. I’m still trying to exercise when I can – so important for those feel good endorphins and to keep me strong. While in the changing rooms at The Essex I was discussing with my swimming friends what I could do to help myself more than what I’m already doing – and I don’t want to chuck a load of meds down to cover up the symptoms either! I needed a natural and safe remedy. I am a reflexologist – I know I need to treat the cause not the symptoms. At this point Nicki Bannerman (my radio broadcaster friend – find her on Twitter!) said “oh, you need to go and see Louisa, she does natural remedies and stuff!” And at that point, Louisa walks in! So I get a card with her number and get to see her the very next day! Some things are just meant to happen. Thank you swimming friends!
So, Louisa Hallowes is a Herbalist and Naturopath! It feels like she is an angel sent to help mend me. I love my herbs and natural remedies but her knowledge was beyond my research! She’s given me some brilliant recommendations that I didn’t know already and she’s mixed me up an extremely disgusting tasting herbal remedy to drink (so must mean it’s good!) which includes:
- Ashwaganda – for joint, nerve and muscle pain; promotes sound sleep; calming; supports yoga.
- Skullcap – relaxes nervous tension, induces calm and counteracts insomnia.
- Rhodiola – treats immune depletion caused by chemotherapy; relieves muscle stiffness and spasms; taken by Russian athletes for stamina.
- Reishi – nourishes the heart and spirit; tonic for the chi and blood; treats asthma.
- Licorice – chi tonic; increases energy; mild sedative; adrenal tonic, detoxifies poisons
- Astragalus – most powerful herb for the immune system and counteracting effects of radiation and chemotherapy; treats collapse of energy and weakness of lungs.
- Panax ginseng – chi tonic for shock, collapse and lung deficiency; helpful in convalescence, debility and weakness; calms the spirit.
- Rehmannia – blood and yin tonic; treats anaemia, pallor, palpitations and insomnia.
I mixed it in with my smoothie one morning but it still tasted yuk so now I just down it in one! I should feel a gradual affect and improvement – will let you know in my next post as need to give it a few weeks.
She also recommended I read up on the Tapping for pain (EFT) Technique. Which I’m reading – it’s an emotional release therapy – worth a try. So I’ve been happily tapping my face, shoulders and chest telling my body how much I want to heal – if nothing else it’s helping me get to sleep.
So other recommendations included:
- Magnesium citrate – half a teaspoon in some water to help maintain my digestive system and keep everything moving, good for bones and also meant to help relax and aid sleep.
- Dandelion coffee daily – this is lovely and it is supposed to have cancer killing properties too which is an added bonus – click on the link to read more! I mainly drink hot water sometimes with lemon/ginger/honey, but I
now have a cup of this and a cup of Matcha green tea too!
- Digestive enzymes to help assimilate nutrients from food – this is a tablet I take daily to help my body absorb more nutrients from the good foods I’m eating.
- Stock! – as in meat stock as often as I can – so I’ve been making soup! We’ll come to cooking later! and also try Oatmilk instead of Soya or Cows milk because of hormones but yet to try this.
- Avocado and chocolate mousse to increase weight – avocados and coconut are good fats!…..Blend 1 avocado with half a tin of coconut milk, ½ cup of cacoa or cocoa powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Add a teaspoon of honey to taste. Serve in individual ramekins or small bowls.
There’s a lot to do and she made some more recommendations but I can’t do everything yet. I also want to research more into vitamin D supplements in the winter to help and glucosamine for my joints but one thing at a time to know what is actually helping.
So I feel focused, I have a plan – I feel ready to continue this ongoing battle. Still one step at a time, but I’m trying to do more and I am no way ready to give up! I already eat a healthy and balanced diet with lots of nutrients. I exercise regularly. Yes, I still get a bit anxious and stressed but swimming and yoga help along with a regular massage and physio. Now with my new remedies I should be hitting this from all sides. I could do with a nice relaxing holiday to help out this too but we’re working on this for next year some time as it needs to fit around surgery and I definitely need to go somewhere hot with a beach – meanwhile I can visualise in the sauna and pool at the Essex.
I’ve also adjusted my lifestyle to help – I go to bed early (about 9pm or earlier!), I sit down and try and rest a lot more – this is so difficult for me, so I’ve been using TV to help. I have never watched so many TV series in my life! But it makes me sit down and rest under my heated blanket – thank you Jane (for my blanket) and back to back Nashville (thanks Emma for recommending!) It’s never ending with a family but everyone mucks in more now – with a little prompting. I just vacuum the middles and don’t worry so much about what I can’t see – or I just try not to look. I can’t iron any more so everyone has learnt to shake and flatten! It’s great and saves me hours a week anyway! The boys all help with carrying bags and shopping etc. I have some wrist supports so I can drive with less pain too – at the moment these are covered in gloves so they aren’t so obvious – it helps.
And the best change of all is I have a new kitchen appliance……A Thermomix! You can read more about it at www.thermomix.vorwerk.co.uk or contact Ulrike Tillmanns for a demonstration if you live near us. This little machine is expensive but far cheaper than a new kitchen! It’s a great help for me as I enjoy cooking, we have a small kitchen and I don’t have many kitchen appliances – this is 12 in one!
It is also a mini computer that has guided programmes to help with cooking so Freya can bake Brownies on her own and loads more! Still trying to get the boys to use more though. Phil has made some amazing frothy coffee! And it makes the best proper hot chocolate.
It does so much: weighing, mixing, chopping, milling, kneading, blending, steaming, cooking, beating, precise heating, stirring and emulsifying.
So far we’ve made ice cream, pizza, bread, shepherds pie, fish pie, smoothies, hot chocolates, cookies, cakes, cheese cake, muffins, pasta bake, porridge, lots of soup and so much more. It has made such a difference to my life already as simple chopping and whisking is very painful for me now.
I’ve even started tweaking my own recipes and adapting Easypeasylemonsqueezy recipes. I love this machine!
For my mental health I have managed to get back to work – I’ve cut my hours to 2 1/2 days, so I get rest days. Everyone has been so supportive, thank you. I love my job! People have been surprised how I’ve managed to go back to work – it’s hard and I’m exhausted but I NEED to work for my mental wellbeing and also financially. If Stephen Hawkins can work – and so many other people with chronic pain and illnesses – then I’m sure I can manage – not sure how, but I’m trying! It’s all about balance – we shall see.
I have this beautiful book that my sister in law, Anne, sent me – I love it!:
I know it’s a bit crazy but so am I – I can still find so much happiness too so I will be focusing on that as best I can. I’ll try not to share my painful and bad days too much x
……..and there’s nothing better to help that focus than a new puppy to bring happiness! I know, we are totally mad – number 4 dog! He’s keeping us busy and I’m sure he’s going to be the naughtiest puppy! Welcome Dill to our family……
He is Phil’s early 50th birthday present and our christmas present all rolled into one cute cuddly bundle of joy, plus Basil needs to start his retirement as he’s nearly 10! He is a working cocker spaniel so get ready for lots of puppy pics!
I’ve had my hair cut! Needs must but it all helps as if I look a bit better it may help me to feel better – I don’t look so much like a crazy cat/dog lady! I still look a bit like a boy (hence going to my boys hairdresser!) and the curls just aren’t calming! But it’s easy short – look at all the hair chopped off! Thank you to Ruari. I must also add that he is trained to work with post chemo hair and has just launched an extension to his business – MyNewHair – which helps those suffering from medical hair loss – find him on Facebook.
So as you can see I’ve come back fighting – as much as I can at the moment anyway! Onwards and Upwards as one of my friends would say! Not sure for how long but I’m trying!
- meeting with Rheumatology this week
- group meeting on 20th December to discuss next op – removal of implant, skin/fat grafts, replacement little boob, adjustment of other boob to match. My mum and my sister are coming to this meeting so should be interesting – watch out medical team!
Then it’s Christmas! OMG! I think I’ll hibernate and just watch movies with my fam, eat loads of nice food to gain some weight and cuddle the dogs! I’ll come out again in Spring! xxxxxx