I think it is time I updated you about the alter egos who have been trying to take over the Feisty Blue Gecko! In particular Dr Evil and Twang arm have been trying hard to take over my identity!!
Dr Evil is the look which I struggle with when I look in the mirror. After all these weeks I still can’t get used to being bald. Grizelda the wig is useful but I find I tend to wear scarves more and feel more comfortable that way. Grizelda is good for travelling from Bangkok to Myanmar and I find I occasionally reach for it if heading out shopping.
As for the Dr Evil look – even though I am still in the midst of the chemo treatments, I am finding a strange fuzz is starting to grow. It is not like hair, but more like a down and strangely seems to be a mousey fair colour. It could even be blonde? I feel as if I am being transformed into a day old chick.
My other identity thief is good old Twang Arm. For a long time after surgery, Twang Arm successfully caused more disruption, pain and anguish that the mastectomy itself. Removal of the 15 lymph nodes caused constant pain, significant nerve damage and restricted movement and really got me down. I started doing physiotherapy exercises but progress has been slow. If you add to this, the days after chemo also made Twang Arm extra stiff and immobile.
I think the turning point, or maybe the first turning point, came when I was finally able to get into a swimming pool on 25th November – quite a few weeks after surgery. Just bobbing gently in the pool and managing a kind of breast stroke (no pun intended) across the pool a couple of times, really seemed to make a difference. It was around that time that I was also able to straighten Twang Arm for the first time.
On return to Yangon I made a secret mark on the bathroom wall so I could monitor how far I could stretch Twang Arm. Slowly, slowly I was able to keep my fingers reaching just a little bit further.
I think the next important turning point, was being able to get in and out of the pool in our apartment in Bangkok. That meant that I could swim daily and this was something which I have also been able to continue with in Yangon. It is probably bordering on obsessive now but I am well and truly hooked if so! I swim a minimum of 5 times a week and get really grumpy if something interferes with this. Now let’s be clear. When I say swim and mention that I swim usually 600 – 800 metres (and have even managed a kilometre – yes I am rather proud of that!) I must be honest. We ‘re talking about very gentle, slow lengths totally devoid of any style, and with my mouth perched as high as possible out of the water. This prevents swallowing any water and prevents my glasses getting too splashed. Besides I have never really be able to swim fish like and with my head under the water!
The results? The mark on the bathroom wall shows that I can now reach considerably higher (more than 6 inches higher). The tightly strung sensation is considerably less now and I can do the original excercise suggested to more than 3 times (the one where you run your fingers up the wall like a spider) and now I can do this easily and with no pulling sensation. I used to get a weird shivering sensation across my shoulder which was actually painful. Now I hardly feel this, and it is no longer painful, just a shuddery sensation which lasts only a second or so. My left ear no longer tingles when I touch it – more signs that the nerve damage is healing.
Now, Twang Arm is still making its presence felt and I am not convinced it will ever be totally better. It still sleeps on a pillow as if it is a precious jewel on a velvet cushion and it does feel uncomfortable most of the time. But when I compare it with even a month after surgery, it is playing a much reduced role in my life and far more manageable.
I find this really encouraging, and I am sure that if I keep on with the gentle physiotherapy excercises, and particularly the swimming, I will ensure that it is not able to take over my life in the way I feared earlier.
Now, I have an appointment with my surgeon Dr W tomorrow, so maybe I had better see what he says too. His expectations are always a bit higher than mine and he produces a new trick for Twang Arm whenever I show off my progress!
So between the day old chick down chasing away Dr Evil and Twang Arm being banished by persistent if gentle excercise, I can focus on the main identity thief. That has to be the beast at the root of all this – breast cancer. And my focus here is clear. I am look ing towards the day when I am no longer a cancer patient – but a cancer survivor.