Archives for the month of: April, 2013

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Imagine my surprise this morning when I checked my email and found a notification from WordPress that there was a comment in my about section.  The wonderful , who writes the blog, My Lymph Node Transplant which I have reblogged a couple times here, has given me the Liebster Award.  I’ve not been blogging long and to be honest, I had no idea what this award meant, so I did what anyone would do and googled it.  Liebster means “sweetheart” or “dearest”.  I found a link to what the original award was about and had a good look at that http://sopphey.onimpression.com/2012/05/liebster-blog-award-origins.html

The list of things to do once you receive this award, as it is given these days, is a little long …

Firstly, accept the award, post the picture of the Liebster Award on the top of the post and say who nominated you for the award and list their blogsite.  That I can do.

Then

  1. List 11 random facts about myself
  2. Nominate 11 other bloggers for the Liebster Award and list their blogsites
  3. Notify the bloggers of their award
  4. Ask the award winners 11 questions to answer when they accept their Liebster Award
  5. Answer the questions the blogger that gave the award to me left for me to answer

These were taken from http://lauradgumm.wordpress.com/ who gave the award to , check her blog for more details.

I couldn’t possibly fulfil all of those requests.  There are random facts about me in my “about” page and some of them really are quite random.  As I’m quite new to blogging I couldn’t possibly find eleven blogs to nominate so I think I’ll stick with one like  did, much more manageable.  And I think I’ll give the questions a miss too. 

It’s very difficult to choose a blog from the huge range out there.  I’ve decided to give the award to Not Down Or Out who writes about her journey with uterine cancer, her treatment, her lack of health insurance and her work.  Her posts are varied and insightful and open.  Please go and read her blog and support her on her journey.

 

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P has struggled with eczema all his life.  After 20 years of applying topical steroids prescribed by his doctors he decided he’d had enough and stopped them cold turkey.  Bad idea.

That little stunt put him in hospital, fighting for his life and the first thing they had to do was put him back on the steroids.  Coming off them after all that time is not something you can do without medical supervision – weaning off them slowly and building up the immune system at the same time is the safest way to go, UNDER MEDICAL SUPERVISION.

When P came in to see me initially we had a very long discussion about what had happened when he tried to come off the steroids before and what he was doing to manage it this time.  He was referred to me by his homeopath Debbie Rayfield (http://www.fountaincentre.com.au/).  I have a good working relationship with Debbie, her clinic is downstairs from mine and I am registered to practice there as she’s on the ground floor and some of my clients just can’t make it up the stairs to my clinic.  So we were able to have a good chat about P’s case afterwards.

P had started his supervised withdrawal six weeks prior and was seeing Debbie as well as an integrative doctor at Your Health (http://www.yourhealth.com.au) in Manly.  He was taking numerous supplements and using natural creams on his skin, ate no meat (though still had some fish in his diet) and did not drink alcohol.

When I first saw him he was purple.  And he looked sore.  And a bit scary.  His skin was peeling off and was very dry, particularly on his stomach.  He hadn’t been able to work during that phase as he is a musician and as he looked and felt so awful he went into a depression and didn’t leave the house for some time.

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photo courtesy of eczemasource.com, copied from google images

It was actually a month before I worked with him.  In the first treatment I mainly did some craniosacral work to help with his stress levels.  At the end of the session I spent ten minutes clearing his main collections of nodes and his stomach (he was able to tolerate both deep and superficial work) using manual lymphatic drainage.

P is a very spiritual person and is able to tune into what is going on in his body on an energetic level which always makes it interesting working with him.  I could be working on something physical and he’d say something like “yes, that’s an old hurt from childhood that I’ve been holding on to”.  Great!  If you can consciously release things on an energetic level while having your physical body worked on then the whole treatment is more effective.  Each time he came we’d use a different combination of therapies, depending on what he presented with.  If he had some aches and pains, we’d throw in some Emmett Technique releases.  If he was feeling run down, more lymphatic drainage.  While doing craniosacral work he’d have all sorts of releases – there’d be smiling or laughing, burping, coughing and overwhelming thoughts of what affirmations he needed to say or things he needed to bring into his life (to name a few).

I’ve been seeing P for nearly eighteen months now, off and on.  Our last three sessions have all been remedial massage!  I use coconut oil as I know his body can tolerate it without a flare up.  Remedial massage is the thing he’s missed the most during his recovery and he’s thrilled he can now have some. 

Because he is compliant (that is, he takes his vitamins/herbs/creams regularly) he is well on his way to a full recovery.  He’s been told it could take two to three years for his skin to become normal again and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get himself there.  What a long way he’s come already.

I don’t often get to see people before their surgery which is a shame, because a couple sessions of manual lymphatic drainage beforehand makes a huge difference on a number of levels …

  • the immune system is given a tune up
  • any lingering toxins are cleared out of the body
  • new pathways away from the site of the surgery can be created helping to reduce swelling or oedema more quickly once the surgery has taken place

I see R on a monthly basis to work on some swelling she has in her lower legs and feet.  She and other females in her family all suffer from this condition and while in her case it is not severe, it is enough to make buying shoes difficult, not to mention it’s just plain uncomfortable.

R was diagnosed with a DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) in her right breast in December.  She’s been having annual screening for over twenty years as she was considered high risk and after a couple months of deliberation she has decided to have a double mastectomy and a tram flap reconstruction at the same time.  This is a huge decision on many levels.  A DCIS is not usually considered an aggressive cancer and the recommendation is a lumpectomy, sometimes followed by radiation and one of the hormone inhibiting drugs if deemed necessary.  But R’s reasoning is that she has been screened for 20 years and she’d like to stop worrying.

The surgery is major but one of the main benefits is that there is only one (usually, of course there may be complications but hopefully not).   Muscle, fat and skin are taken from your abdomen to create a new breast using your own tissue.  The transverse rectus abdominus muscle is used to create a breast and later on, if you choose, there is another surgery to create a nipple and areola.  Or you can use a prosthesis nipple – a client told me today she bought one and wore it to bed the other day and woke up with a new nipple on her arm!  Probably best to take it off before going to bed.)

The surgery is long, eight hours or so.  As with any procedure there is a risk  with anaesthetic.  And the recovery is long and quite painful (think about it, you’re moving your stomach muscle up to your chest, ouch). 

The following excerpt is from About.com Breast Cancer, http://breastcancer.about.com/od/reconstructivesurgery/tp/tram_flap.htm

Moving Muscle and Skin

TRAM Transverse Rectus Abdominus Breast ReconstructionIllustration © National Cancer Institute
On the skin markings, your plastic surgeon will make an incision, and raise the skin and muscle flap. A tunnel will be created under your skin so that the flap can be relocated. This tissue flap will go through the tunnel to your mastectomy incision. Notice that this illustration shows a free flap — the skin, fat, blood vessels, and muscle have been cut.

Creating Your New Breast

TRAM Transverse Rectus Abdominus Breast ReconstructionIllustration © National Cancer Institute
The abdominal skin flap (still attached to muscle) will be positioned so that it fills in the skin that was lost during your mastectomy. If you’re having a pedicle flap, your plastic surgeon will close the skin incision to create a new breast. And if you’re having a free flap, your surgeon will use microsurgery to reconnect blood vessels first, and then close the skin incisions.
 

Post surgery there is hourly monitoring to make sure that the tissue is still functioning (there is a small chance of necrosis) and numerous drips which are gradually taken out over the next few days.  There are bandages for the breast and braces for the tummy.  The stomach will likely be sore for about six weeks.  But at the end of all that, there are beautiful breasts made from your own tissue.

After the surgery, as soon as she feels able, R will come in for some post-op lymphatic drainge to help her

  • eliminate toxins from the surgery
  • build her immune system back up
  • reduce the swelling around the surgery site

Extra care is taken and only superficial work is done in the abdomen, that is, if she’s able to tolerate any work at all.  With R I have to be mindful that her lymphatic system is compromised already but luckily she will not have nodes removed in the surgery so the main collections under her armpit should not be traumatised and I can direct fluid towards them as well as the nodes in her neck.

Surgery is next week, good luck R.

Oh my! There’s a topic.

On the third Monday of every month I attend the local women’s support group in my area (http://www.bcna.org.au/membergroup/group/active-women-touched-cancer-celebrating-life).  There’s a mix bag of cancers and ages, the one common thread being that the members of the group are all women.  I go along as a local practitioner and any female is welcome to come to support a loved one or to find out information for themselves.

Imagephoto credit – google images

This week the speaker was Elaine George, a sexologist who conducts workshops, couples retreats and speaks publicly on sexual health issues.  She also writes columns for the Telegraph the Herald and speaks on radio and TV. – http://www.sexologyaustralia.com.au. 

We’re quite a small group, sometimes only three or four ladies.  This week there were about ten!  Can’t image why!  Actually, it’s easy to understand why.  Sex and cancer are not two things that readily go together and the opportunity to ask questions to an expert in a safe environment was a unique opportunity.

Elaine’s main message was that intimacy and communication is key.  Talking to your partner about how you are feeling and how he is feeling is something that doesn’t always happen in the early stages of cancer treatment, everyone is in shock and literally going from day to day, so there can be misunderstandings about whether either partner wants sex or not.  Most of the ladies present agreed that it was the furthest thing from their minds during treatment, many had breast or gynecological surgeries and didn’t feel very feminine or sexy and they certainly didn’t have any desire.  But at the same time they wondered about their partners.  Feedback was that partners sometimes felt too afraid to ask because they didn’t want to cause any physical (or emotional) pain.  Basically, it’s a really tough time to be intimate.  Elaine then went on to remind us that intimacy can be achieved without engaging in intercourse.  She demonstrated an easy exercise – sit across from your partner and have them close their eyes then lightly stroke their face, hair and upper body using no pressure at all, almost like a feather.  It’s very intimate, comforting and close.  She said that often the partner just needs to know that he is loved and appreciated and acknowledged.

The discussion was varied.  There was talk on lubrication (cancer treatment can often put women into menopause which means that hormones stop working to provide natural lubrication), exercises to strengthen the pelvic wall and dilators (for women who have been through uterine cancer).  Other things were mentioned but perhaps this isn’t the place to mention them!

All in all it was a very informative evening talking about things that don’t normally get discussed in public.  Hopefully, in time, speaking with a sexologist will become part of the treatment plan for anyone going through cancer.  Goodness knows it’s a really important topic of discussion.

An update on Helen’s journey and how important manual lymphatic drainage is for her recovery.

My Lymph Node Transplant

Today was my second visit to the physiotherapist, as she wanted to check that the Manual Lymph Drainage and compression stocking were doing their job. I have been very vigilant with my MLD, doing it twice a day and when ever I think about it taking deep breaths and pushing the abdomen in, to stimulate the abdominal lymph nodes. I have noticed that when I do the MLD in the morning I feel a little nauseous after and a slight headache. I think that this is due to the detoxing affect of the MLD and the movement of stagnant lymph around the body. Today the physio did not do a measure but she felt my leg was much softer, the skin not so taunt, abdomen less bloated and the ankle looked far better. The area around the incision in my knee and under my knee felt much softer, though the…

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Up until about a year ago I volunteered regularly at Manly Waters Private Hospital, mainly working with palliative care patients but also with some of the post surgical and rehabilitation patients.  There I met some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever come across, both staff and patients. 

ImageStaff at Manly Waters Private Hospital, http://mhsmanly.com.au/

I was constantly amazed at how upbeat the staff were … ALWAYS!  They were cheeky and loud but at the same time caring and compassionate.  One of my most treasured memories (and believe me, there are many) was the day I went in to work with an elderly palliative lady, doing some nice, gentle massage to her lower body.  She wasn’t able to speak any more but was fairly alert still.  Her husband was visiting, happily settled in his chair reading the paper and doing his crossword.  In came one of the nurses who piped up “Mrs X, look at your hair, how about we give it a brush.  And look, here’s some perfume in your drawer, shall we put some of that on?”  Her face lit up.  What I love about that simple story is how just a random act of kindness can make such a difference.  This was no isolated story at Manly Waters.

I was honoured to be able to spend time with patients and their families at such an emotional time and I was able to get to know a few of the them over their last weeks.  The simple act of gentle touch was a small contribution I was able to make to help them with their pain or fear.  I was never told when a patient had passed on but I always knew, simply by the fact that I didn’t see them again.  It could be quite emotional for me when I realised someone was gone, but that made me aware of how amazing the staff at the hospital were – they built relationships and knew that they would lose patients and yet they were able to be cheerful, upbeat and positive. 

Massage is such a useful tool.  Even if a person is in pain throughout their body their feet and hands can be massaged, it’s a great thing to do to bring comfort to someone in hospital.  Anyone can do it, touch doesn’t need to be left to a professional to be beneficial.  So next time you visit someone in hospital, take along a little oil or use one of their creams and do a little massage for them, they will love it.

When the husband of a client comes in to see me I usually acknowledge that his wife has sent him, just to give him the opportunity to correct me and say that he’s happy about coming for himself.  That way he’s in the driver’s seat straight up, not feeling like he’s being told what to do.

Two weeks ago J came to see me about his snoring.  His wife had sent him after asking whether I thought craniosacral therapy might help him.  He’s not a heavy snorer, more of a social snorer – the trigger is having a couple drinks.  His sinuses can be a bit of a problem too.  Other than that, he’s a healthy, active 50-something year old.

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The treatment?  Easy.  About 45 minutes of craniosacral therapy and 15 of lymphatic drainage.  The main question asked is “what will I feel”?  That’s one I can never answer satisfactorily because everyone experiences it totally differently.  I usually explain the basics about what we’re trying to do with craniosacral therapy – getting some movement happening in the cranial bones which in turn creates some more space in the skull so the fluid that goes around the brain can move more freely.  That in turn means that all the nerves get more cerebrospinal fluid flowing around them which calms the entire body down.  I usually mention that the one side effect of the treatment is that you feel very relaxed!  Geez, that’s not a bad side effect is it?  

Then we do some lymphatic drainage to the main nodes throughout the body and focus on clearing the neck and face to help drain the sinuses.  And trust me, lymphatic drainage on the face is very relaxing too.  It’s a win-win if you ask me.

J came back today after two weeks.  He seemed quite incredulous and shook his head and said “you fixed it, you know.  I had serious misgivings because I thought it was a bit airy-fairy (or words to that effect) but last night was the first time I did any snoring in two weeks and I even had a couple drinks over Easter”.  Quickly followed by “and it was so relaxing it’s worth coming back just for that”.

So today we did more of the same and he’ll be back in two weeks.  Somehow I think this may be a regular thing!