A New Beginning – A Woman’s Story In Surviving Breast Cancer
Throughout the many years of working as a therapist, I have had the privilege to meet and treat many different people with many different diagnosis, pain and discomforts.
With age, I have come to realise that my own life experiences can often be some of the greatest value as a therapist. For my clients, it often makes it easier to understand and relate to their physical, emotional and mental challenge – and what they might need.
Miss Tay, a 32-year-old woman was referred to me by a well-known oncologist in Singapore who needed three sessions of lymphatic treatment of the upper extremities. Miss Tay had undergone right breast surgery six months ago with axillary dissection – the removal of all lymph nodes in the right armpit was followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormonal therapy.
At First Glance
Observing the way Miss Tay walked into the clinic, I almost knew that we were treating more than a physical condition. She needed emotional and mental support to overcome the fear, anxiety and many unknown and unanswered questions about her future. On my end, listening, intuition and support would be the most important to create trust, comfort and ease.
Miss Tay came in her exercise clothing and had arrived from a Pilates class. The clothes made her skinny body look fragile and her ribs and shoulder joints were almost visible through the clothes. Adorned on her head was a colorful blue and white scarf to compensate for her hair loss and to camouflage a pale and tired-looking face. Miss Tay’s body was bent forward, her right shoulder tugged against her chest, a swollen arm and her head slightly tilted towards the shoulder.
During our personal conversation and assessment, she appeared shy and uncomfortable in her own skin. She later opened up to me that for the last six months, she did not know if she would survive her ordeal with cancer and was scared about the future and if she would be cleared of the disease.
The eldest of three siblings, Miss Tay was still living at home and was helping her family financially with the household expenses. She told me that she was a passionate graphic designer with an interesting job in a good company. When it came to relationships, Miss Tay shared that she was in a steady and loving relationship for the last five years and was fortunate enough to have the full support from her family and boyfriend. Her interests included swimming and jogging. Unfortunately, she had been unable to participate in both activities since being diagnosed with this aggressive stage three breast cancer just four months prior.
The breast cancer came as a shock and without any warning signs. Within a few days, she had undergone surgery followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and now, medication. Miss Tay’s deepest fear was her chance of surviving. Many questions loomed: if she would be able to have children, get back to work, and help the family financially. The greatest of all the questions though is if she would ever regain her health and strength to live an active and joyful life.
Apart from her fear of being able to beat this aggressive cancer, she suffered from the loss of sensation around the right chest and armpit area, an uncomfortable swelling of the arm, tightness in her shoulder and limited extension and rotation of active shoulder movements. The treatments she received included advice from a nutritionist and a twice-weekly visit to the physiotherapist.
To help ease Miss Tay of her worries, I did three lymphatic treatments which stimulate the lymph nodes. The chosen treatment was simple and applied with gentle and slow movements at specific points of the body to stimulate the swollen lymph nodes – combined with the right timing and words to help ease the pain and discomfort.
Within just one session, there was an immediate positive physical result. The swelling of her right arm had almost subsided, and her shoulder mobility had already increased by 75%. Miss Tay was astonished by the impressive result from just one treatment and she was looking forward to return for a second visit. Her succeeding treatments were scheduled within five days to allow time for her body to detox and assimilate its own capacity. My advice to her was to drink plenty of fluids, get sufficient sleep and to go on nature walks to activate the body and silence the mind.
After she completed three sessions, there was no more swelling of the right arm and the shoulder presented a full range of motion. The physical improvement made her feel stronger and healthier, as she was able to perform her daily activities without constantly being reminded of her own limitations. She even began to go swimming and took up yoga classes to improve her mind and body awareness.
A Lasting Friendship
The connection didn’t stop there. Miss Tay would stop by the clinic to say hello and to give me an update on her positive physical, social and mental progress. When time permitted, she would come and sit with me, sometimes in silence or we would practice breathing exercises or positive thinking to help her change restrictive and limiting beliefs. Needless to say, I became more than just a therapist to her, but maybe more so an anchor point in her life when she needed it most.
One year after her cancer diagnosis, Miss Tay’s hair grew back, she gained weight and her skin looked radiant. Socially, she also returned to work for her old company and she was able to help her family financially. Physically, she also settled into a healthy routine and participated in activities she enjoyed a lot and learned to make choices that she loved and benefited from. Mentally, she is much stronger and she and her boyfriend made a date for their wedding in the hope and spirit of starting a family.
In the next few articles, I will be giving you some true, inspirational stories from my book Pain Free, because I really think that they will bring you closer to understanding the meaning and purpose of what we do and how you can become pain-free.
Do you have a similar story? Please share it with us.
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