When Pam Blanchard told her family she had breast cancer, she did it with paperwork. The Seymour woman handed out documents to help answer questions.
Blanchard is a planner. She’s been an active voice in her cancer story.
She didn’t just want to get rid of the cancer. Blanchard wanted to survive with the best quality of life possible.
That meant doing her homework. Blanchard learned about safe ways to prevent some of the painful problems that are common for cancer patients.
After researching cold therapy as a way of preventing treatment-related neuropathy (weakness or numbness in the fingers, toes, and limbs), Blanchard brought ice and Ziploc bags to Thompson Cancer Survival Center on her first day of chemotherapy. She sat with the homemade ice packs on her hands and feet as she waited for treatment.
“The first time it was very messy,” Blanchard says. “They were having to mop the floor as the ice was melting.”
After that day, Blanchard went online to find special cold packs she could use. Today, she has no signs of neuropathy, at all.
Then a nurse navigator told Blanchard about physical therapy to prevent lymphedema, a condition that sometimes happens to breast cancer patients. Lymphedema causes swelling in the arm, hand, breast or torso.
Sometimes lymphedema hurts, and it can last a long time. Careful exercise can be a safe way to help prevent it.
“I said, ‘tell me what to do and I’ll do it,’” Blanchard remembers.
Fort Sanders Therapy Center physical therapist Beccy Pulte, PT, CT, helped Blanchard through gentle exercises, working around a seroma that had come up after the cancer surgery.
”With early intervention after a mastectomy and node removal, we can intervene and teach them techniques to keep lymphedema at bay,” Pulte says.
Blanchard was dedicated, not just about showing up for therapy, but also about doing her exercises at home. Fort Sanders Therapy Center directed Blanchard to a downloadable smartphone app to help.
Today Blanchard has no lymphedema, and relatively minimal aftereffects from her aggressive breast cancer. Now she is researching ways to eat healthier meals and keep herself strong for life.
If cancer ever comes back, Blanchard will be ready for a well-planned fight back.
For more information about the Fort Sanders Therapy Center or to make an appointment, call (865) 331-1300 or visit www.fsregional.com/therapy-services/.
For information about cancer diagnosis and treatment at Thompson Cancer Survival Center and Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, visit www.thompsoncancer.com.