Do Not Ignore Your Armpits...


I have very good reason to be very sensitive about odd feelings in my armpits.  Truth be told, I'm a little afraid of them.  It's very easy to go from never thinking about your armpits unless they need shaved or they stink to becoming obsessed with every little twinge, trust me on this.  All of this cancer nonsense started with pain in my armpits, pain that was quickly dismissed as being a pulled muscle.    So now, I pay attention when they start sending me messages, at the very least I put some thought into why they might be acting strange.  The problem with my armpits is that unlike my breasts, they know that no matter how badly they behave, I can't remove them.  Sure, they can take the lymph nodes, but they can't take the armpits.  My breast isn't giving me any of this grief.

I'm trying to be thankful for the positive silver lining in the armpit situation, I really am.  After all, I have not had to shave my armpits in 5 months, and I don't really sweat any more.  (And thanks to radiation, I may never have to shave my armpits ever again!  Talk about a positive!  Who gets this lucky?)  But, I could use a little break here, really I could!

The last few days, my armpits have been screaming- tons of grief from these bad boys.    Not just one side or the other, but both sides.  Yes, they've hurt before through this whole process, but not like this.  (Is it possible that they've gotten word about what's about to happen to them?  Or are they just really mad at me for killing the lymph nodes off with chemo?)  I'm trying to figure out if it's something I should be paying attention to, or ignoring.  I'm thinking it might just have something to do with all of the working out that I've been doing, and nothing to do with this cancer business.  (Imagine that... an event going on in my life and my body that has nothing to do with cancer!  I swear I've reached a new milestone!)  It could have to do with the mad cleaning frenzy that I'm on.... or even the fact that I cut the grass last night (yeah, probably shouldn't have done that, but when the dogs stand on the edge of the porch refusing to move until they just can't hold it any longer because the grass is too high, it's time to act.).

I think the weird, achy, discomfort in my arm pits started after my 2nd or 3rd chemo treatment.  It was a completely different beast than the initial pain (that was dismissed as a pulled muscle).   It wasn't anything super bothersome, but I did ask the oncologist's assistant about it.  She said that it was completely normal to have some tenderness with chemo when the lymph nodes had cancer in them.  (I discovered that when dealing with her, no matter what I told her, she was going to tell me that it was completely normal.  I could have told her that instead of growing back hair on my head, the top of my head was covered in broccoli spears, and she would have said it was normal.)  So, in true superwoman form, I grabbed my cape and put the bothersome tenderness out of my mind.  I can't fly and pay attention to the pain in my stupid armpits at the same time anyway!

Moving forward a few weeks, I have another chemo treatment,  and now the mildly bothersome, tenderness (that I'm still trying to ignore) starts to move down my arm a little bit and I'm having a hard time getting comfortable at night to sleep.  At this point, I decide it's probably a good idea to have a discussion with the oncologist about it, not her assistant.  So, I tackle the wonky feeling in my armpit situation with her.  I wonder as she's talking to me if she really knows why my armpits hurt, because it sounds a lot like she's making it up as she goes.   I can't help but be shocked that no one has ever asked her this question before, surely I am not the 1st cancer patient to experience wonky feelings in her armpits during chemo treatments.  She does get points, however, because she didn't try to tell me that it's normal.  I guess we just have to face the fact that even though we've given these doctors permission to play around with our bodies, that sometimes they just don't know the answers- I'm not sure if this scares me or not...  I really think it does scare me big time.


I was so unconvinced by her response to my question about the armpits, that I don't even remember how she explained it.  She did tell me it was going to be okay, although she didn't mention when, which oddly, made me stop thinking about it once again.  You can thank your chemo brain for that, I've got the attention span of a 3 week old, or someone who's had 16 shots of whiskey.

At my post chemo consultation with my awesome surgeon, the topic of my lymph nodes came up once again.  For some reason, I had become obsessed with knowing how many of my lymph nodes had cancer in them, and would we be able to determine that from the pathology reports after my mastectomy.  I was told that unfortunately, no, we aren't going to know how many lymph nodes had cancer in them because the chemo breaks them down and makes them unrecognizable.  That was not the clinical version of that, just my interpretation of the situation, trust me when I say, it sounded very believable when she said it.   Maybe this is why my armpits hurt?  I haven't a clue.  All I know is, I will not be sad to see this pain in my armpits go away!




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