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Posts Tagged ‘traumatic stress disorder’

In the midst of the cancer treatments during the summer of ’09, friends sent this fabulous audio get well card  that featured Gilda Radner as Roseanne Roseannadanna kvetching – “I’m depressed, I get wet, my face broke out, I’m nauseous, I’m constipated, my feet swelled, my gums are bleeding, my sinuses are clogged, I’ve heartburn, I’m cranky, and I have gas” – which pretty much summed up how I felt.

The three days of support drugs after each chemo infusion were rugged, and the cumulative effect made the aftermath of the fourth and final infusion much worse. In addition to the complaints listed above, I also had disrupted sleep, headaches, head sweats, an icky metallic taste, a crash-like fatigue and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The PTSD was a surprise. I had expected to feel so grateful and relieved that the worst was behind me, and instead I felt anxious with wormy thoughts like: “What if the chemo didn’t work?”

The very nature of PTSD is that the past haunts the present, and, as is often the case, my fears were fictions about the future. All of my heebie-jeebies were products of my mind zig-zagging through time, thus, to calm myself down, I needed to train my thoughts on the now in which all was safe and all was well regardless of physical discomforts. I needed to breath into my feet, and to be very zen thoughtful in my actions which was easy to do since the chemo made me sloth-like. A wise soul had once told me to “move a muscle, change a thought.” So, every time a squirmy idea surfaced, I got my sloth-like self up off the couch and washed a dish or dialed the phone or did a little Qigong.

A very little Qigong was all I knew, but those few flowing motions connected to conscious breathing and attention to energy were so soothing. Qi (or chi) is Chinese for “vital life force” and gong means to “practice with skill”, and, although I did not feel skillful at Qigong, I believed that I was increasing or enhancing or harnessing my vital life force merely by taking the action and having an intention to access healing energy. It was like giving Reiki to myself, and, I think it’s the same. Reiki, Qi, White Light – healing energy by any other name would be as sweet.

And, contributing to the sweetness of my qigong experience was that my teacher was a darling man from Spain named Nacho. Nacho from Valencia was interning at the peace organization where I work and I liked him instantly because he did not blink an eye when he was introduced to bald me. He may have never considered my physical appearance as he seemed to view people’s essence, but I felt a need to explain; and as soon as I told him that I was bald due to chemo for breast cancer, he insisted that he would teach me qigong. I thought that qigong might entail yoga-like contortions or require marshal arts-like stamina and so I politely refused. Nacho would not take no for an answer though and organized a little class for the entire organization. My colleagues provided peer pressure as well as support, and a lot of laughs. And, as it happened, those few simple moves that Nacho taught us that morning would become immensely helpful for me in those PTSD days after the final infusion.

Another aid for my PChemoSD came in an out-of-the-blue phone call from a friend who had experienced more rigorous chemotherapy on two different occasions that involved different perhaps stronger drugs and longer courses of treatment. This woman with extensive experience confirmed that my fears were natural. When I told her about my anxieties, she told me that she confronted the same what-if-the-chemo-didn’t work fears at the end of both of her rounds; and I exhaled.

I find that “me too” are the two most healing words ever spoken.

In gratitude, L.

ps. I need confess that I am losing steam for Lump Lessons. My intention is to write one more post about radiation, and perhaps an epilogue, and then on to other projects. It has been two and 1/2 years since this blog journey began and it has been an extremely healing endeavor for me. I believe that writing and sharing has been my aftercare. My hope is that there have been a few readers that have had “me too” healing moments along the way.

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