Well I’m unlikely to be smiling this happily this afternoon as I walk towards the mammogram machine for my annual check to ensure that nothing is happening that shouldn’t be. I know that this is all part of the process to ensure that life returns to a ‘new normal’ but that doesn’t take away the unpleasantness that is having a mammogram. It’s not just the actual process, which is in some ways barbaric but necessary to say the least, it’s the brainspace that gets used up on the approach to it and whilst awaiting the results.
No one who has had breast cancer or any type of cancer can ever have another mammogram or scan without being mentally thrown back into their original experience, whether their cancer was picked up by one or they had one following a discovery of some type. In my case my original mammogram detected ‘some abnormality’ and I was asked to return for another mammogram (lucky me eh? 2 mammograms in one week! #winning) The abnormality proved to be cyst and whilst I was being prepared to have it drained an ultra sound found my tumour. Thankfully, my tumour was on the same side as the cyst, hence the name of this blog.
Many patients with breast cancer have not been diagnosed through their routine mammograms, so whilst it’s an extraordinarily helpful diagnostic process, it’s not fool proof, not 100% guarantee that an all clear is an all clear. So that remains in my mind as I stand and brace myself for the vice.
This time however, I’ll take some changing breaths as I approach and the radiologist says ‘Right here we go, this might be a little uncomfortable……..’.
I’ve recently had a bone scan too, to check that some tenderness in my ribs is nothing to be concerned about. An injection of radioactive tracer takes place in the Nuclear Medicine Department and then you wait for 3 hours whilst it circulates around your system attaching itself to your bones, then have the full body scan. During this time you have to drink plenty of fluids and for the next 24 hours you have to flush the toilet twice ‘to protect those using the bathroom after you’ and can’t have any contact with pregnant women and young children.
More info here:
Arriving at the Nuclear Medicine Department I realised that I had been there before, on the morning of my surgery to have some tracer injected for my lymph node removal. That day was a blur really and so it was weird to be jolted back there.
I’ve also had my first appointment with my dedicated Breast Care Nurse- something that should have taken place a while ago but was nevertheless helpful.
Changing breaths are something that I was doing a fair bit of last week at Penny Brohn Centre as I was attending The Approach course there. It was a fabulous amalgam of information, support, advice and most importantly peer group camaraderie. Fate works in mysterious ways and I often marvel at the way that what appears to be chance meetings with people actually prove to have some level of destiny almost to their random groupings. I was meant to attend this course at the beginning of February but feeling decidedly unwell with a winter bug I postponed it, not only because I knew I wasn’t well enough but also to protect others attending, many of whom have compromised immune systems. So, rebooked onto last week’s course, I went along with positive expectations of the course content and looking forward to meeting some new people.
I always look forward to meeting new people, I know that’s not the favourite pastime of many and for some people that creates stress, but my personal approach is that it is what makes us human; connection, association and friendship. What’s not to like? Go on, I dare you, talk to someone you don’t know today. Share a little bit about yourself non- judgementally and see what transpires.
My group on The Approach did not disappoint! The exact opposite. A wide variety of characters, lots of similarities, many differences, much laughter and lots of peer support. There were tears too, many times, but whilst some were tear of sadness, frustration and anger, there were many of happiness. Utterly therapeutic for all.
Changing breaths are a really effective way of changing your ‘state’, increasing your awareness and shifting focus on to what matters. Sitting still, you take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale strongly through your mouth. Just a couple of changing breaths are enough to make the shift. Then commence whatever it is that you are switching over to, a new task, something stressful or a meaningful conversation for example. We used this technique as we switched from one activity to another and importantly prior to relaxation techniques, of which we did a lot. Relaxation is vital for us all and in particular those who are trying to destress their immune systems and so Penny Brohn strongly recommend it and it features in all of their programmes.
When I attended a course previously I found the relaxation really hard. I just didn’t get it and I found it hugely frustrating. It felt like a time filler to me before we got onto the real stuff. This time I gave myself a talking to and made up my mind to be more open minded about it and it was superb. At each session, as we all relaxed back in our fabulous recliner chairs and covered ourselves with warm blankets, I totally relaxed and for the first time really appreciated the benefits, physically and mentally. I was only interrupted by a few hot flushes which meant that I had to fling my blanket off pretty darn quick, and a few snores from my peers as they found some well deserved peaceful rest.
I promised myself that I would make relaxation feature more in my life once at home, even though I still (wrongly) associate relaxation with being lazy. Little did I know that my gorgeous little grandson would help me in this challenge. Having the opportunity to spend some time with him this week was an exciting prospect. When he arrived he was ready for a snooze which his lovely Mumma facilitated perfectly, but then after 30 mins my phone going off roused him. However, he wasn’t really ready to wake up but couldn’t settle so I sat on the sofa with him snuggled into me and talked to him quietly and sang a little (melodiously) and he dropped off to sleep for 1 & ¾ hours. 1 & ¾ hours of stillness for me; no phone, nothing to read, no distractions just the moment. And it was perfect.
One of the other aspects of The Approach course was an evening spent doing something called Biodanza
Wikipedia describe it thus:
Biodanza (neologism from the Greek bio (life) and the Spanish danza (dance), literally the dance of life) is a system of self-development that uses music, movement and positive feelings to deepen self-awareness. It seeks to promote the ability to make a holistic link to oneself and one’s emotions and to express them.
Here’s a 2-minute video to show you what I’m talking about:
I loved it (mostly), Steve would have absolutely hated it.
It incorporated a great deal of creative and interpretive movement and it was on this evening that our greatest laughter came. I’m not going to name names, but the following image will remind those in the know enough to start their healing laughter again.
The image of Steve and I above is us preparing to head to the Peter Kay Danceathon in Coventry in aid of Cancer Research. It was a great night with mostly everyone in fancy dress discoing the night away and I now realise that somewhere in that large arena was one of the people that I met at The Approach course. Naturally we didn’t know each other then but were sharing the same space with the same intention. More evidence that random groupings of people and new friends are anything but random really.
This blog entry is dedicated to all of those on The Approach course with me last week and our Facilitators. Thank you all. We all have so much more living to do.