Clearing your drains

I haven’t written my blog for a while, as it’s nearly two years since my treatment ended, and I seem to be in pretty good shape, god willing.  I still see a physio once a week to help restore me back to full health.  At first it was because of the tension in my back, but now I am learning so much more about how the body works and how to support it.

One of the knock on effects post breast cancer, particularly after an operation, chemo and radiotherapy is that the lymphatic system can be damaged  Your underarm lymph nodes may have been removed, or perhaps reinserted after examination, plus radiotherapy in particular can mean you are unable to sweat from your underarm.  As this is a major gland for removing toxins from the body, I was worried my impaired lymphatic system would damage my future health.

person raising her hands
Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

There are various things you can do to support your lymphatic system.  The simple act of swinging your arms above your head and then downwards invigorates the lymphatic system.  Also a gentle massage of your collar bone helps drain those toxins away.  More than this, just breathing properly has an incredible effect on the body.  My physio told me to do big belly breaths, five counts for intake of breath, then five for holding and then five for breathing out.  Really push your belly out as much as you can.  This aids the lymphatic system and also helps to release stored emotions in the body.

For some reason, I had stopped breathing into my belly, perhaps for thirty years or so – really breathing into it, so your belly balloons out.  My breathing had become so shallow, that my diaphragm barely moved.  Why was this?  Perhaps I had subconsciously trying to avoid my deepest feelings, or perhaps I’d read some teenage magazine which said that pushing out your belly was unattractive….who knows.  What’s for certain is that now my back seems straighter, and I feel more connected physically and mentally.

Whilst working on my back and spine, my physio said there were all sorts of blockages in my body.  These can be due to emotional shocks, past accidents or operations which can disrupt the flow of energy in the body, hence leading to illness further down the line.  When my physio first tried to stretch my neck by pulling my head, I froze, and feared she may actually pull my head off – probably due to an old ski injury when my neck got caught in the rope barriers leading to the ski lifts!  So over time, my physio is unblocking my body and I feel so much better for it, not just physically, but by unblocking my body, my life seems to flow more easily.  Breathe and move, and do those things you used to do when you were a kid – a handstand, swinging like a monkey, dance around and sing.  Singing is also great for the lymphatic system and for relieving stress.

Try and tune into your body and what it’s trying to tell you.  The lymphatic system is really important (who knew!) and it helps you stay disease-free.

 

 

 

Lean on Me

When I first had my cancer diagnosis I was gutted.  I remember so clearly driving back from hospital with my husband and actually wanting to just drive off the road.  It sounds dramatic, and it was, I had no idea how I was going to deal with this news.  Then I looked at the man next to me, who I love so much, and life seemed worth fighting for.  What I didn’t expect, was for my friends and family to rally round to such an incredible degree.  You are going through this horrible experience on your own, but at the same time, you are being lifted by your team, all of whom have a particular role in your new-found state.   Going through my treatment, I would call on each one for their particular expertise.  At the beginning, I wanted to give something back in return as I was so grateful, but in fact what’s important is to accept the kindness of others, and know that you will do the same for someone else when it’s they go through something horrible.  Each friend is important, but your core team will be there for you, each, in turns out, with a specific role.

backlit dawn foggy friendship
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

The StraightShooter Survivor

She’s already been through the treatment, and she tells it like it is.  It’s the person you call for practical advice from the moment you first find out, to the recovery period.  She doesn’t hold back, and will tell you all the gory details, preparing you for the realities of what you’re about to go through.  In my case, this was my friend Chloe, who was always at the other end of the line

The Dynamo

Immensely practical, this friend will come to your side to organise your day-to-day routine.  Cooking great batches of healthy food for the freezer, making freshly squeezed juices, cleaning the house, and making sure you get exercise every single day, even when you hate the idea.  My sister Ruth fulfilled this role – she was like a magic fairy, coming in to sort me out.

The Healer Expert

Your expert friend, who not only understands conventional medicine, but also food as a medicine.  I was really strict with my diet from the moment I found out, but not in a bonkers way.  Everything Andrea told me to do, I followed, but she wasn’t draconian about it.  Andrea’s basic rules are: eat hot foods during chemo and cold during radiotherapy; cut out alcohol, sugar, wheat, dairy and eat very little meat; and always put a Japanese pickled apricot in your belly button before chemo!

The Visionary

A couple of days after finding out about my cancer diagnosis, Clare drove up to see me.  She has tons of positive energy and knows me well.  She looked at every area of my life, where toxicity could have occurred – food, lifestyle, thoughts – and helped me vision a future for myself to help me get better.  Combatting cancer isn’t just about taking the medicine, it’s about reviewing your life, and taking steps to be healthy in all sorts of ways.

What struck me when going through this process was how kind people are, and for me the lesson was to accept that kindness, without having to return anything.  Your friends and family are there to support you, and you will do the same for them whenever you are needed.  They will all fulfil a different role, and your relationship will never be the same again, it will be stronger having been through this together.  There may also be a couple of people who let you down – this happened to me, and I was angry they weren’t there for me – but now I just keep them at a distance, it’s fine, but I know who my true friends are.