Yes, I’ve stared the cancer beast down and still gracing the earth
with my presence, but at what cost? I get asked all the time, “How are you
feeling?” and “Feeling any better?” and “Aren’t you happy to be alive?” and
“You beat breast cancer!”
The cancer beast still has its claws digging into my flesh, my
very existence. The number of health issues and pain I now live with are a
direct result from my cancer treatments. I grow tired of the saying, “Make
lemonade out of lemons.” At this stage in my life, I’m having to grapple with
so much permanent physical change that I constantly feel like the wind has been
knocked out of me. I’m gasping for breath yet yearning for control.
For me, I can’t just close the 22-month long breast cancer volumes
and move on. Why? It’s because I wake up every day in horrible chronic pain
caused by the treatments and surgeries that are currently keeping me alive but
not living or thriving.
What throws me for a loop is I was starting to come to terms with
the permanent neuropathy in my hands and feet. I was making it work. It was a 1
½ years after being declared NED that a different and more excruciating type of
pain started seeping into my body.
I kept going to my primary and different specialists asking where
this pain in my lower back was coming from. Then I noticed my pain would shift
without warning to my arms or upper back or legs. A friendly pat on the back or
arm would cause me to wince. I started getting frequent headaches. I would tell
this to my doctors, and they would say I’m just healing from all the treatments
and surgeries. They ran blood test after blood test, costing me hundreds of
dollars and each one came back negative.
I knew something was seriously wrong.
I went to a pain management center, but all the doctor wanted to
do was put me on opioids. I didn’t want to go that route. I still didn’t feel
like I was getting to the root of the problem and felt they were trying to mask
It wasn’t until October 2018 that I met an amazing rheumatoid
specialist at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. I researched rheumatoid
specialists online and came across his name. His reviews are stellar. His
background impressive. I decided to try one last time to be heard and see what
It’s an indescribable feeling when a doctor actually hears you and
sees you. That’s exactly what happened in his office in that first visit. By
this point, I was crying every single day from the pain, all while continuing
to work. He looked me into the eyes and said, “We’re going to get this figured
After more in-depth blood tests, they came back negative. It’s at
that moment he mentioned Fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a neurosensory disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain, joint stiffness, and fatigue. The condition is chronic (ongoing), but pain comes and goes and moves about the body. The disorder is often misdiagnosed or unrecognized and is and often complicated by mood and anxiety disorders. Exact cause is
It has been described as Central Pain Amplification disorder,
meaning the volume of pain sensation in the brain is turned up too high.
I’ve been pouring over blogs, articles and abstracts relating
to chronic pain during my two-month medical leave from work. Before I could
accept what’s happening to my body, I had to first understand how and why
fibromyalgia was triggered.
The onset was triggered by the hysterectomy and bilateral
salpingo oophorectomy I had on 2/15/17. I never fully comprehended on how major
of a surgery it was or for my body to handle after going through breast cancer.
It caused so much additional trauma to the body that it triggered the
Then after more research and watching the fantastic,
heartbreaking and informative documentary Unrest on Netflix, I went even
deeper and have determined this chronic pain would’ve made its presence known eventually.
Though my case isn’t as severe as those in the documentary, it did give me a
greater understanding of my body and reframe my mindset.
I had trauma to my system from birth. I was born three months
premature and weighed 1 lb. 5 oz at birth. My mother had ovarian cancer during
the pregnancy. Her medical team predicted we would either both die or only one
of us would live. We defied the odds, and both lived. Aside from extremely low
birth weight, my lungs collapsed, grand mal seizures and benign tumor on my
right leg. I still have that scar.
The pain and trauma I experienced at birth remained dormant
until the major surgeries shocked it back into existence. Of course, I would’ve
preferred this happen in my 80’s rather than my early 40’s. At least now I can
make more sense as to why I’m dealing with chronic pain now.
I’m finally, finally in a state of acceptance and acknowledge
my limitations. I go back to work on tomorrow, July 8th with accommodations
requested. I have to do what I must to keep working but also protect my
delicate immune system and keep my pain tolerable.
After all, chronic pain never goes away. There is no relief. All I can do is keep it tolerable. It’s mentally and physically draining. I can accept this way of life now, but that doesn’t mean I like it.
Until next time,