Thursday, August 25, 2011

Arm and Shoulder Pain After Breast Cancer

This woman who blogs about breast cancer brought tears to my eyes when I read this. The information about shoulder and arm problems is very useful to anyone who has been through breast cancer surgery and treatments. But what made my throat tighten was her opening bit about the fatigue and brain fog she still experiences three years later ... how a little bit of stress or exertion can "throw her under the bus". And how "folks who haven't been through cancer treatment ... don't really get it".

While I'm sorry she has had to go through all this, I took some comfort from her words because I often feel very alone in my experience (crazy, I know, considering all the people who have been so helpful and supportive). I don't know personally many people who have been through what I have. If someone who hasn't had a similar experience asks me how I'm doing and if I'm honest ... and sometimes, not often, I am ... and I mention my lingering fatigue and how I still struggle cognitively sometimes and how a little bit of being over busy can render me totally useless for a day or even days and how working full time saps me of the energy to do things at home or socially and how my body and brain just seem to shut down sometimes ... well, frequently people say something like, "ME, TOO!" or "This getting older sucks!" or "That's menopause for you!" or "God, I can't remember anything either".  To which I will ... sometimes, not often ... say, "This isn't the same. It's different".  And the reason I don't say it very often is because many people really don't get it. They think, "she's done treatments, she's back to work full time, she has hair (or something like it) growing out of her head again, there isn't a gargoyle sticking out the side of her face, she's not bleeding ... so she must be just fine now".

How I wish that were so. I don't want to over dramatize. I am so much better than I was even a few months ago. I am getting better. Stronger. My endurance mentally, physically, and emotionally is improving. But there's still shit going on that doesn't show for the most part. So, to read this woman's frank talk about her lingering issues touched me deeply and made me feel less alone with my mostly invisible issues. This isn't to say I haven't been fortunate to be surrounded and supported by so many dear and caring family and friends. But surely you, too, have or have had things going on in your life that most people just "don't get" and which you might just keep quiet about. I hope that one good thing that has come out of my breast cancer experience is increased compassion and understanding.

The Accidental Amazon » Arm and Shoulder Pain After Breast Cancer: Arm and Shoulder Pain After Breast Cancer

The Accidental Amazon writes: 
"Fatigue and brain fog still lurk. A little stress can throw me under the bus again ... During a good week, among the thirty or so hours of work I put in, I’ve been able to add one session of intense physical exertion, like spending an hour mowing the lawn or going to the gym. I can usually only pick one thing per week, though, which puts a crimp in getting through my overlong to-do list. But one session a week is better than none. If I’m lucky, I will only have to take a long nap after I exert myself thus. If not, I will have to spend the next few days mostly in bed, saddled with fatigue — again. If, like this week, I have some extra stress, from seeing my breast surgeon yesterday, I find myself knackered again and have to postpone some project I’d like to accomplish, like working on some photographs or writing a blog post. My brain just doesn’t work as well after a shot of stress, and my body ends up once again feeling starved of energy. But I eventually get over it. It’s tedious, and folks who haven’t been through cancer treatment — including my breast surgeon — don’t really get it. But after three years, I’m used to that. 

Chronic, long-term pain and weakness can also sap your energy. So, I’ve been trying to make the effort to address my shoulder and chest pain ..."
She goes on to outline, from a research paper, all the possible shoulder and arm problems (including my frozen shoulders) that might occur after breast cancer treatment. The information is very useful. Click on the link above for this excellent resource.


  1. Oh you are so right. Except the answer I get is you need to start taking more vitamins if you don't have any energy...

  2. I could understand it from people who have been through a similar experience and who are speaking from a place of personal knowledge but when it comes from someone who has no understanding of the process at all, it always astounds me a little.


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