Hanging on to Fitness and a Few Strands of Hair Through Breast Cancer Treatment

I am a Medical Oncologist, a wife, a mother of 4, runner of 12 marathons training to run my 13th with a goal to qualify for Boston when the diagnosis of breast cancer caused a significant detour in my well-planned life. When I asked for guidance on how to continue to stay fit while receiving treatment, I received blank stares and found little data. While I never intended to be in this experiment, I find myself now generating my own data about fitness through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. I am writing this in hopes to help others who find themselves in this same situation.


A New Diagnosis?!!

Before this year I had this nice simple boring medical history that included having 4 kids and a little hypothyroidism. I thought adding breast cancer was enough of a new thing for the year. But apparently now I now also have this thing called Parsonage-Turner syndrome. Just what I wanted; some weird, rare thing that is not well understood. Here is the story: I woke in the wee hours of Saturday with sever right arm and shoulder pain. After giving up on trying to get comfortable, I got out of bed around 3:30 am and made myself at home in front of Netflix and just tried to stay still to minimize the pain. This state of affairs continued into Sunday. Later Sunday when I decided that maybe it was time to get out of the PJs and take a shower, I discovered that I couldn't raise my right arm to wash my bald head. That concerned me a bit, needless to say. Fast forward to yesterday where I was seen by my very smart and experienced oncologist, and she was a little stumped by my story. I had physical exam findings that indicated problems with the long Thoracic nerve which can be seen after breast surgery, but given that I had the surgery in April, that didn't make sense. Could it be related to radiation? Seems early since I had only had 5 treatments before this happened. So she referred me to a cancer rehab medicine specialist who knew immediately what this was based on my story: apparently textbook board question case of Parsonage Turner syndrome. The good news is that all of these scary symptoms were not signs of my cancer going crazy, which of course was my first fear. The other good news is that the severe pain I had over the weekend is gone now and I used my time wisely by watching 3 seasons of the Good Place and finishing the last season of Grace and Frankie. This last bit is the thing that caused my youngest daughter to worry. She has never seen me so dedicated to Netflix. Bad news is that I can't lift my right arm over my head, so it is a good thing I don't really have hair to wash at the moment. Lifting my fork to my face is a bit of a challenge. Kettle bell swings are definitely out for now.  Buy the really good news is that this should resolve with time. It could take a lot of time. Months (hopefully) or years. One more opportunity to strengthen my patience muscle I guess.

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