"My Precious Life and My PhysioPod"
"I begin this narrative with perhaps rather an in-depth, hopefully not boring, description of my life, but I think a necessary route in order to bring you to the point in my life that led me to be introduced to and enlightened by, the amazing benefit of Deep Oscillation and the delight that is Mary Fickling and Julie Soroczyn, the Sisters and Directors of PhysioPod.
First off, I consider myself to be very fortunate. I was delivered on a Saturday and despite what can now only be described as a bit of a 'faulty chassis' - I seemingly came with an excellent “warranty” that has facilitated my being regularly repaired by various excellent NHS consultants and nurses, and returned to life in surprisingly good working order!
It's a shame that warranty didn’t extend to marriages! The first, married far too young, stumbled painfully along to an irretrievable end after thirteen years. But it did, however, produce two wonderful children, a pigeon pair and a constant joy to this day. My resolution to “never go there again!” gradually disintegrated and six years later I married “the love of my life” and we all strode happily along as a family for the next 20 years.
Together with being a two-time breast cancer survivor, I was also diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in my 20s, hence the 'faulty chassis" - but which has remained miraculously asymptomatic for the last 50 years.
The Breast Cancer treatment did however, leave me with scarring on my lungs from Radiotherapy and the scar tissue from surgery caused secondary Lymphoedema in my left arm, the focus of my narrative.
2007… a year not to be forgotten!
'The Big 6O' and leaving party celebrations were a smiling success and I went forward with renewed vigour and energy.
One month later, the smiles were wiped away, any further project development towards my 'Lifestyle Consultancy' dream were dramatically curtailed, as life began to systematically disintegrate. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the only course of action, a mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) - the operation to remove all of the lymph nodes/glands from my armpit.
My devastation at the destruction of a significant part of my femininity and self-esteem lifted by the fact that, though radical, the surgery was a success, my prognosis was very positive and breast reconstruction totally possible. Apart from taking Tamoxifen for the next 5 years, no further treatment was necessary. There was a little mention of the possibility of Lymphoedema developing and opinion was that I was so fit and supple, that this was unlikely. With post-operative exercises and regained positivity, I achieved outstanding mobility within two months.
In the third month post surgery, a small swelling began to appear on the inside of my elbow, the resultant surgical scar tissue had caused Lymphoedema to develop. Thankfully, I began manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) treatment, with bandaging, taping and the wearing of compression sleeves, in an attempt to restrain its increase and invasion. Advice was, take special care, avoid stress/distress, keep positive and stay mindfully active.
To quote “I think I saw hope disappearing over the horizon with its backside on fire” - my heart, together with my immune system, plummeted.
Any sort of stress or upset and my arm began instantly swelling. Despite my struggling attempts at positivity, a plethora of infections ensued, which in turn evoked a massive increase in the Lymphoedema and Cellulitis. I required huge extensive bandaging of my arm… I wailed to my Son … “I look like “The Mummy!”… he laughingly but lovingly responded “but you ARE the Mummy!” thank goodness for my children!
Positivity was clawing to the surface, when grief and sadness struck again, with the unexpected death of my dear Father, who was also my darling Mother’s carer. Happy as I was, as their only child, to shoulder responsibility for her care and support, it also involved travelling fortnightly to Norfolk from Middlesex, a demanding and tiring commitment, with obvious impact on my arm.
“The Fat Arm” dictated the pattern of my life and my choice of clothing, if it fitted the fat arm I could wear/buy it! My compromised immune led to repeated bouts of Cellulitis and by now the arm was very swollen and heavy and the fluid becoming thick and pitting. The constant support of the charity run Lymphoedema clinic and their dedicated therapists, together with some empathetic counselling, gradually began to see some improvement in my arm and my health generally.
I moved to Enfield to be close to my daughter and with her brave support, was finally able to undergo breast reconstruction. With the wonderful NHS post-operative care, together with a new and equally wonderful Lymphoedema Clinic, I made an excellent recovery and was delighted with my repaired body image.
My daughter bought me a dear little dog and I with Mum’s help, bought a little camper van with automatic transmission… very easy on the arm! My regular journeys to Norfolk seemed easier, being seated up high and Mum was also able to enjoy the scenery on outings together. We all enjoyed a happy two years, during which time I also managed to get my dear Mum moved down to Enfield to be close by.
From the first appointment Christine worked miracles. I visited her each time I returned to Dorset and was enlightened each time. We also shared a common interest due to my past experience as a Sports and Holistic Massage Therapist having my own practice and clinic in a Sports Centre.
Then came the pivotal point of my journey! Christine met Mary Fickling and Julie Soroczyn, who had just founded PhysioPod. Being very impressed by the merits of the Deep Oscillation treatment, and the physical benefits to the Therapist, Christine invested in a machine.
I was lucky enough to be one of Christine’s early patients to experience the totally pleasant feeling and amazing effect that Deep Oscillation had on Lymphoedema.
Each treatment made a huge improvement and the fluid became softer, more pliable and began to move. Between appointments I did my best to support the improvement with personal MLD. I also explained the amazing results to my Lymphoedema Clinic and gave them details in a hope they may be able to invest.
During my next visit Christine enthusiastically informed me that Julie and Mary had launched a smaller portable device, which she was confident would be highly beneficial for me. With her introduction and guidance, the empathetic support of Mary and Julie and more generous help from my dear Mum, I managed to acquire my own machine. The best investment I have made in my life!
My confidence and health gradually improved. Having acquired experience and knowledge as to its use, my magical PhysioPod was a major player in my overall recovery!
2013, almost six years on, I was surviving well and enjoying life to the full. I was blessed to enjoy the love, support, sanguine advice, razor sharp wit and delectable humour that was my dear Mum into her 91st year. Sadly she passed away in the May.
The grief of the series of losses that had been suppressed whilst “getting on with it” suddenly surfaced, and the remainder of the year was difficult for me. The ”fat arm” was not at all happy, but my wonderful PhysioPod machine tirelessly salvaged each day.
New Year 2014 saw me with new resolve. Though somewhat nervous, I joined the local gym, started yoga classes, went swimming and renewed my past interest in Ballroom Dancing. This development was predominantly due to the use of my PhysioPod machine, leading to my regained confidence to uncover my now, “not so fat arm.” I also used the machine on other injuries; overstretched muscles, etc and was safely able to help family and friends.
A lump in my neck led to investigations and MRI scans.
Strangely, and almost unbelievably, one of those scans showed that silicone from my breast implant had been escaping. It had been efficiently transported into the glands on the right side of my neck, causing the lump in my neck, as we used MLD distally from right to left to drain the fluid into the working glands on the right. Subsequent scans, however, revealed cancer in my right breast. That leaking silicone turned out to be a 'lifesaver'.
This time around, treatment and technology had moved on. Surgery was wire-guided and through the same incision point that symmetrical breast shaping of the right breast (which was done to match breast reconstruction of the left). The tumour was less than a centimetre in size, grade 3 and aggressive, it was was successfully removed, the remaining tissue margins and Lymph clear.
After in-depth consultation, due consideration and the statistics, giving me 3 to 4% extra mortality, weighted up against the very considerable detriment that the treatment would cause, I decided not to go ahead. Instead of the Chemotherapy and Herceptin route I opted for Radio-therapy, regular monitoring and taking Tamoxifen again for the foreseeable future.
Needless to say use of my PhysioPod was seriously increased! Scar tissue was kept to the minimum and Lymphoedema prevented. My recovery was steady and relatively rapid.
Darling Daughter, dear little dog, dancing, friends and the camper van beckoned, I wasted no time! Life needed to be grabbed with both hands!
I was able to give up the sanctuary of my Caravan in Wareham and instead made happy excursions to my Son, who had moved to Poole in Dorset. As well as the delights of the Dorset beaches and surrounds, we enjoyed wonderful visits to Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival together.
My Daughter, having kissed a few frogs, found and married her Prince!
2016 saw us move back to Norfolk and familiar territory between the Broads and beaches. My daughter and Son-in-Law bought a lovely 1930s bungalow with a huge garden big enough to accommodate a small Lodge for my own private space.
Supported as ever by my treasured PhysioPod, I was able to confidently meet old friends and make new ones. I was introduced to, and I fell in love with “Ceroc” dancing, and life took on yet another dimension.
2018 I changed my camper van for a pre-owned Mercedes SLK AMG 250 Sports Convertible and have enjoyed touring the beautiful Norfolk coastal scenes and faster fun excursions to my Son in Poole, top down and music playing!
Covid 19 has of course curtailed such fun excursions and the delights of dancing and socializing. As I said at the start, I am very fortunate, safely ensconced with loving company in a delightful environment with access to exercise and fresh air at all times.
Without hesitation they supplied the required parts. In addition, from the information I had divulged in conversation, Mary suggested and supplied a specially updated treatment card for a bothersome bit on my arm, the effects of which are already evident! Marvellous!
Janet using the Deep Oscillation Personal Sport for secondary lymphoedema
Taken 22nd January 2021
Sixteen years and several hurdles on from my first diagnosis, I am happily living my precious life. A life where my “not so fat arm” goes almost unnoticed and it, and other parts of my rebellious body, are constantly supported by my amazing little machine!
Thank you Mary and Julie, and thank you PhysioPod."