Friday, November 24, 2006

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

This is gory so viewer beware.

I had my homecare nurse take some pics of my war wounds yesterday. The wounds from the Nov.2nd surgery got infected and re-opened once the steri-stips came off two weeks post-op. I believe the infection came about because of the steriods they put me on the prevent inflammation, combined with the fact that I have no lymph nodes left in the area to fight infection. But, the wounds from the other 2 surgeries, only weeks before healed up no problem. The difference is the steroids. The nurse must now visit me everyday to "pack" the holes left on my body with gauze and clean out the area. It will be at least another 2 weeks of this until the holes heal up. It looks much worse than it is, I feel no pain. Possibly (ok, likely) because of all the pain meds I'm on for the nerve damage to my brachial plexus.

This is my slashed (3 operations to remove tumours), and
burned (radiation) axilla. It's got 1 long scar and some damaged
skin. The pic is unfortunately kind of dark. My most recent
scars are on my shoulder (hole now), and side (chest wall). This pic shows
2 that are totally healed and 2 that are still healing. The redness
is just from the bandages irritating my skin.

I still have complete loss of mobility of my right wrist and my fingers don' t work properly. They don't know if I will get mobility back, with nerve damage they can't predict apparently. I saw an occupational therapist and she made me this wicked contraption that helps to mobilize my wrist and the wires attached to my fingers help me move them! It looks CRAZY but it is sooo cool. I am typing right now with both hands which I haven't been able to do in a few weeks! I can write again and do just about anything when I wear this thing. It looks far more cumbersome than it is, I honestly barely notice I'm wearing it. It is far more uncomfortable not to wear it because then I notice the loss of function. The OT literally made the brace from scratch in front of my eyes over 3 visits and I am so grateful for it! I can brush my teeth again normally and put a clip in my hair! Still can't manipulate a hair elastic, but hey, I can use a knife, sign my name and do my zipper up again! Such little things, but it means so much to be able to do them again-- who cares if I have to wear the bionic arm! I think it is fan-friggin-tastic!

I have been feeling really good the past couple weeks. My pain is totally under control and I don't feel tired or loopy. The meds are doing their thing without changing my personality so I am quite pleased that we seem to have finally found the right mix at the right dose. Feeling so good means that I have TIME to do things, yet I'm not working. So, I did reach out and contact some agencies to volunteer and I am looking forward to it.

I met with the local hospice and I will be a volunteer driver for them. What that means is that they can call me to arrange to pick up a person who is terminally ill to bring them from home to to the hospice for a program. The hospice offers free treatments like massage, reiki and other programs to terminally ill people, but sometimes these people have no way to get to the hospice. So, they can call me and I can take them! They have to do a police check on me (oh, oh! what will they find?!) which will take a couple weeks, then I will start getting calls. I'm really looking forward to meeting the clients. I will also be working a couple shifts wrapping christmas gifts on behalf of the hospice at the mall down the road. I LOVE gift wrapping. Weird, I know, but seriously, wrapping is my favourite part of Christmas! I love making pretty packages so I am looking forward to these wrapping shifts. The mall is in a community called Cherry Hill which is basically an whole geriatric neighbourhood. I mean, retirement community. I think the gift wrapping table at the mall will be well frequented by little old grannies with arthritis so I should be pleasantly busy making beautiful packages!

I also contacted a children's organization--which shall remain nameless because I don't want my blog to pop up when the organization is googled--and am working in a school one lunch hour per week helping with a sort of "good citizen" group for kids. I did it this week and it was a total gong-show. The woman running it was a wack-job and has no idea how to relate to kids, keep them interested, listen to them ... she was so out to lunch! I couldn't believe how the hour with 20 kids was squandered away because she was utterly disorganized, ill-prepared, and in another world.

The kids didn't seem to notice (they were between about 7-10 years old) and I think genuinely like her because she is "nice" but the group was chaotic and mostly they just talked amongst themselves while the woman rambled about home safety. I debated whether or not to return next week because I was so embarrassed to be a part of this group, but I'm going to give it another shot and see how much I can influence the woman and maybe help to run the program better.

Not to flatter myself but seriously, I could easily run the whole hour myself with very little preparation-- it reminded me of the days when I was a camp councellor and swim instructor. That was over 10 years ago now, but I was amazed how quickly I could get back into that mode and instruct kids. The thing is that this woman has apparently been running this group for a long time, and I'm just there to help. So, I don't want to step on any toes. She's just a volunteer though too. I'm going to try to wiggle my way in and make up for her deficiencies, because the kids deserve better, and the parents who have signed their kids up for this program deserve better. The manager of the organization called me and left a message saying I was apparently a "hit" with the kids and said if I wanted to speak with her I could call. I think she wants to know what I thought and also if I will stick around. I'm going to avoid talking with her until I've decided what to do because I feel weird just attending once and wanting to say that the program seemed to be an utter waste of time and the volunteer running it was clueless how to relate to kids, doesn't explain things well, didn't actually have a plan for the hour and wasted about half the time just thinking to herself outloud while the kids talked amongst themselves. I could have done better given 15 minutes prep-time if I was permitted to! But, it isn't my place. We'll see. I'll give it another shot, maybe it was just a bad day.

Blah blah blah. Going to meet some co-workers for lunch. They aren't going to recognize me with my steroid induced "moon face" and bionic arm! My face looks like a chipmunk from the steroids but I stopped them two days ago so hopefully the swelling will start to go down quickly! I can't stand my double chin.

In cancer related news, I have been avoiding "looking" for lumps and bumps so I have not found any new ones. My next appt. is Dec. 1st at which time I will hopefully get the lump that may or may not be a seroma biopsied (it's growing actually instead of shrinking which is ominous but I'm in numb-mode so I don't worry about it). I'll look for other lumps the night before. No point in finding anything any sooner. Not that I would. I wouldn't dare find anything else. I'm getting a break. A long break from cancer.


At 1:55 PM, Anonymous brian said...

I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident about a month ago while Googling "Rondeau Park". And since then, I've read every word you've written at least twice. Luckily I can't claim any first-hand knowledge of cancer; before I read your story, cancer was just the charity I'd give some money to every April. But your experiences have taken me, and no doubt countless others, with you along the long road you're walking. I now know so much more about living with this terrible disease than I did before. Thank you for sharing your life so proudly and openly with so many people you will never meet. We feel priviledged to know you.

At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Kim in AL said...

Good for you! I am now quite inspired. I taught math for 13 years and gave it up after some serious burn out issues ragarding the emotional stuff that accompanies the death of a kid in my homeroom (my precious Garrett). I had fear of becoming a bad, uncaring teacher. Now, you've got me thinking about all the good stuff again!
Thank you, sweet Sarah.
Love, Kim in AL glad that you are getting out of the pain zone. I hope your battle scars heal quickly.

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

Ahh all my questions have been answered! The blog idea is genious! I'm glad the "bionic"(?) arm is helping you do some more of the little things. Its crazy the things that people create to help with mobility.

As for volunteering, I think you should totally stick around and maybe suggest breaking the kids into two groups or something that way you can do your thang! Hopefully that lady won't take offence. But you would be such a great benefit to the kids! So much to say, but alas I'll talk to you soon!

Love ya babe!

At 10:35 PM, Blogger Miss Melanoma said...

War wounds or bar fights... you could go either way with these, and people will never know! If I were you, I'd front as a former Hell's Angles chick, or maybe a Dykes on Bikes leader. Meow!


At 2:04 PM, Blogger Carver said...

Hi Sarah,

I'm so glad that you have the bionic arm set up to make it easier to do things. Your volunteer work sounds great and hopefully you can enfluence the disorganized leader. I am especially glad you are feeling better and getting a break from cancer.

Best wishes, Carver

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Heather said...

I posted a comment before, but blogger is acting like an arse.

Sarah, I absolutely HATE that you're going through all of this. It pisses me off to no end. And you're doing it with such balls-i-ness and at the same time, humility. I greatly admire that. And, after speaking with you the other day, I can honestly say that you are beautiful, inside and out.

I love that you're taking a break from cancer. Why look for lumps when there's nothing you can do until you're next appt? Makes sense to me.

Keep on with the volunteer work for a while, you never know how it might pan out - and the driving part is wonderful, so helpful, I know that much.

You're amazing!



PS, if my other response shows up now, then :D

At 2:05 PM, Blogger mrbunsrocks said...

Glad you're feeling better.

I used to live near Cherry Hill (Riverside/Woodward area) and I know what you are saying about the geriatric mall. :)

I am amazed that you can do all of this great volunteer work - you make me feel (deservedly) like a right lazy, selfish lout.

Anyway, can't say how happy I am that you are feeling a bit better and hope to see more updates from you!

At 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope that you regain almost all mobility again without any more pain.
I am so happy that you can now finally get some rest from it all. I think it's amazing what you are doing and I have soo much respect and admiration for you.
Thinking of you.
JanetteT from the Netherlands

At 2:15 PM, Blogger A proud granddaughter said...

Just wanted to send you some virtual hugs.


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