Pain, physical and mental

Collage of words: pain, anxiety, stress, depressionFirst a quick update on the cancer front. There is new pain in my ribs. The diagnostic radiologist didn’t see anything on the ultrasound, so she’s recommending a PET-CT as the next step. I haven’t been able to reach my oncologist (who is the one who has to order it) through the clinics where she works, so I’m going to call her on her mobile. I don’t like to do that, but after discussing it with my GP, that’s what I decided to do. I’ll try to reach her today. I don’t like being importunate and I always avoid taking advantage of anything that might smack of privilege, so it was a difficult decision for me to make.

Then there are the mental health issues. When I saw the onco a week or two ago I discussed my anxiety with her, and we talked about the prevalence of anxiety in people with cancer. She was very emphatic about it being a quality of life issue and strongly encouraged me to talk to my GP about it.

Now, I have never explicitly stated in this blog that I used to be a mental health professional, but perhaps the time to “come out” has arrived. Like many MH providers, I apply a double standard to myself, preferring to think that I can deal with just about anything using my own resources. Like many MH providers, I’m full of bull puckey. In point of fact, I am well past the point at which I’d suggest to friends, let alone patients, that they need help.

So I packed up my false pride and machismo (machisma?) and asked my GP, who is a former colleague, what he thought. He kindly and matter-of-factly asked a few open questions and offered me Venlafaxine (also known as Effexor), a drug that is used for depression, anxiety and even neuropathic pain (like post-mastectomy pain syndrome). I’ve agreed to give it a try, along with my usual routine of quiet prayer and meditation, mindfulness exercises and as much exercise as my exhausted body can tolerate.

So that is what taking care of myself looks like today. Writing openly about these difficulties is also a way of taking care of myself, and maybe also of encouraging other people to take care of themselves. That is the paradox of writing a blog like this. I started it for myself, and its primary purpose is still to provide an outlet for my thoughts and feelings. Over time, more and more people have started reading it, and some people have told me that they are able to relate to it and get something positive from it. That makes me very happy. Thank you.

(When I get news about the PET-CT, I’ll post an update here or on the blog’s Facebook page Telling Knots, the 30%.)

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32 Responses

  1. Maxine D says:

    Ah yes – how we think we can do better……… :-). [ I have been on the edges of MH provision too.] I have pretty much taken myself off facebook, so please can you post here – pretty please.
    I will continue to pray

  2. NotDownOrOut says:

    Can I tell you what you have given to me through your blogging? Because, maybe if we told you what you give to others, you would have the sense of a great gift having been reciprocated. I read this today in Catherine Ingram’s book Passionate Presence: Experiencing the Seven Qualities of Awakened Awareness (Gotham Books 2003), and I thought of it again today as I read your blog and said to myself, “Ahh, it can be done. She does this.”

    Ingram talks about how we individually communicate by telling stories and how culture communicates by telling myths. She wrote:

    [I]n any interpersonal relationship there is the appropriate place for life stories. But we realize that telling our stories is really about connecting with, as Emerson put it, “that common heart of which all sincere conversation is the worship.”

    “That common heart” is found in silence. Just as silence is intrinsically the ground of all music, silence is also the ground of all stories. As the notes of a melody arise from and dissolve into silence, our stories arise from and dissolve into silence as well. In confusion, we pay attention mostly to the stories. In awakened awareness, we pay attention mostly to the silence.

    I think you tell us your story and we are drawn to it because it opens a door to the common heart. But, in the silence that lingers after your postings are read, there is an invitation to share that silence. And that is your gift to others. You offer a place in this crazy world to abide peacefully in the present. Maybe it takes a soul very much aware of the fragility of a body locked in battle with cancer to appreciate that we are people, not diseases. Cancer can attack our bodies, but it can never overcome us as people if we remain aware of life.

    No matter what hell on earth you are dealing with, there is a moment for common worship of the common heart. Today’s moment was when you said, “I’ve agreed to give it a try, along with my usual routine of quiet prayer and meditation, mindfulness exercises and as much exercise as my exhausted body can tolerate.”

    Thank you for that and more!

  3. helensamia says:

    Its ok to ask for help… I am sure in your time you said that to others!!

  4. There is an old saying here, “Doctors make the worst patients”. Its a fact – but you are changing that trend with your candor. Great post!

  5. I am thinking of you and cheering you on. Your sister on the roller coaster.

    warmly, marcy

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thank you so much, Marcy.

      Have you looked at the Facebook page yet? Feel free to post there, and I’ll make sure that your posts get seen by everyone.

  6. Primomelon says:

    It’s.heartbgreaking to me to read about the war being raged in your body. Since I, too, am a battleground I can understand your plight. I gave my body to my Lord Jesus Christ about 40 years ago so whatever He wants is OK with me. I holld you firmly in my prayers knowing our Lord is merciful and is holding you fast in his arms.


  7. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies…..setting up a standing for ourselves that we would never recommend for another. Been there, done that:) I’m glad you are receiving the necessary treatment. We need every advantage possible in dealing with the physical, spiritual and emotional demands of a Stage IV illness. It’s certainly one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced.

  8. Catherine says:

    I hoping for you that the PET scan reveals no cancer. Can anxiety cause these sorts of pains, I wonder?

    • Knot Telling says:

      Hi Catherine.

      Anxiety can affect the way we relate to pain and can even affect the perceived intensity of pain. In my situation, however, there is little doubt that it’s a new secondary.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  9. We are connected in more ways than one. I am (was?) a psychologist and know very much first-hand the “I can handle” thoughts. Fortunately, I have some very special people around me who know me well enough to check in regularly. I have certainly wondered, and often felt, depressed over the past year and wondered about taking something. I do take Xanax to help me sleep and struggled with the guilt of that, but I finally realized that being able to sleep helps me to function and take better care of myself. So if that is what you need, my friend, do it.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Hi Cristine, and thanks for your comments.

      Having reliable and supportive people around us is a huge help. At the moment my main support person is out of the country (she’ll be back soon) so I feel more alone and at sea than usual.

      For the rest, I finally admitted that I’m not super-human and that I can avail myself of the same help as anyone else. 🙂

  10. dear TK,

    what an inspiration you are to so many who I know read your blog and have an immediate recognition of themselves – me included! because I was a hospice nurse for so many years, I thought I knew so much about physical pain, emotional pain, and grieving. I thought i knew from all I witnessed that in this life, nothing is “unimaginable” – but now I REALLY know that. and it’s sometimes been a real challenge to accept the help I’ve needed to deal with all the unimaginables that have become realities in my own life. it’s a work in progress, but reading this post and all the other very helpful comments encourages me and shores me up to become a better caregiver to myself. thank you, TK, thank you.

    with much love and gratitude,

    Karen, TC

    • Knot Telling says:

      “the unimaginables that have become realities” – what a perfect description, Karen! Thank you so much for that and for all your kind words.

  11. After everything you’ve been through and continue to go through, it’s no mystery that you’d need a little help from friends — medicine, people, whatever. Sometimes alleviating the pain is what we need to get by another day, even another moment.

    KT, thank you for sharing not only your thoughts, but your heart. You reach out to many of us through the various social media; your warmth and caring are not lost on this reader. xoxo

  12. Thank you so much for sharing your truths about what it’s really like for you living day-to-day with metastatic breast cancer. I’m glad you find writing to be a tool for self-care. With out a doubt, it’s tremendously helpful to all who read your words. Waiting for that update. And I’m glad you’re going to give that new drug a drug. Why not?

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thanks so much, Nancy. I’m one of those people who have to write to find out what they think. If someone else can get something out of it, I’m jazzed. 🙂

  13. Susan says:

    KT, I am sorry you are having pain and I think your blog and posts are so helpful to so many because you are willing to share the truth. The anxiety is intense and I just hope the effexor works. It’s important to speak up for yourself about every aspect of your treatment and I am glad you realized to get a hold of your doctor especially when it comes to pain. There is no reason for you to have to suffer when there are a whole line of pain and anxiety meds that can help and still keep you thinking clearly. I agree with Eileen about your beautiful warmth and caring that shines through all of your posts.

  14. DrAttai says:

    NO ONE likes being a patient, and medical professionals are the absolute worst (yes, I speak from personal experience…). I’m glad you decided to try the effexor. Dealing with both the physical and emotional issues related to metastatic breast cancer are much to much for most to bear alone. I’m hopeful that the medication can give you some mental peace, as well as some pain relief. Life is way to short to just stubbornly tough it out, when there are options that can help. Love to you!

  15. bethgainer says:

    Praying for the PET CT to bring good results. There is nothing wrong with getting the help you need for the mental demons. It is so hard to be a patient — the emotional piece of the picture is often forgotten, but I know how important this emotional piece is. Your post really spoke to me, and I can so relate. Warm hugs, xoxo Beth

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