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Body and Mind after Breast Cancer
Fatigue, Lymphoedema & Exercise
Since my diagnosis four years ago, the challenges have changed with time.
Fatigue was a big issue, but lately it is getting better thankfully. In the early days when I was too ill to exercise, I looked up Bed Yoga on Youtube. It stretched out my limbs and calmed my mind slightly:
I also joined an exercise programme called Moving On before returning to work. It helped with fitness and confidence and I made a few friends. It was provided by Dublin City University and part of their MedEx programme, helping people with different conditions. They are hoping to bring it countrywide, but it might be worth contacting your hospital or local universities to see if they are running similar programmes.
I developed lymphoedema in my right arm, but I feel aqua aerobics and yoga help, as well as the sleeves measured by a lymphoedema specialist. The pool is great as the movement of the water seems to help move the lymph fluid along. The deep breathing in yoga also feels good for lymph drainage.
Working Part Time
My job wound up while I was on two years sick leave, but thankfully they were able to redeploy me elsewhere in the company. I now work two days on, two days off right through the month. This really suits me and helps me recover after two days of working front line in customer service.
The fact that staff are needed seven days a week means I can work all through the month including weekends. I have to say though that I did deal with jealousies from colleagues at the beginning of this, but it calmed down over time…who’d be jealous of what I’ve been through?
Psychologically, I am still very up and down.
I don’t have any children and there wasn’t time to harvest eggs – I needed to start chemo first to reduce the tumour before any surgery. It is hard having to come to terms with that. I tell myself that I’d be too tired or old for kids now anyway! If I meet someone in the future hopefully they already have kids and are not looking to have more. But honestly, relationships have been a bit tricky. I’m reluctant to throw myself into anything where I might be rejected.
On the other hand, cancer has brought my family closer together. I was lucky my parents invited me to stay with them while I was undergoing treatment so that I didn’t have to deal with it alone. I resisted at first but eventually I was too tired to go home!
I also got to know my nieces and nephews a lot more while I was off as they would call in and cheer me up.
There were a few health issues with the family at the same time so we all helped each other along…
After treatment I moved closer to them as I realised I was trying too hard to be “independent” before and it’s no harm accepting help from time to time.
More widely, I try not to be too hard on myself. I try not to look for reasons cancer chose me. I don’t blame myself for my diet, or drinking alcohol… none of that is helpful.
What I *have* found helpful is listening to motivational talks on Youtube when my head is going in the wrong direction, like this:
And counselling is so important. I’m very lucky there is a Cancer Care Centre near where I live and I’ve been having counselling on and off since my diagnosis almost five years ago.
I also really appreciate the Young Breast Cancer Network on Facebook – it is a great place for information and to vent about all things breast cancer.
And if all that fails and I’m particularly down… I know that fresh air helps!
Four years ago, Claire was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer at 38. Her 8cm tumour was a web not a lump and had spread to nine lymph nodes so all nodes were removed. She had chemo, a mastectomy, radiotherapy, thyroid surgery, then reconstruction a year later.
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