By Carla Paras-Sison
August 30, 2004
When I woke up in the recovery room after a modified radical mastectomy for malignant breast cancer, I cried a river and then in about half an hour thanked the Lord that it was my left breast that was removed and not my right. I am right-handed and I use my right arm to play badminton.
My surgeon told me I could resume vigorous physical activity — including badminton — after three months. But such vigorous physical activity is prohibited on the side of my surgery (my left side) due to the risk of lymphedema (swelling of the affected arm due to the loss of lymph nodes that can drain fluids in the area) and other possible complications.
November 29, 2004
A day before I completed the three-month rest period from surgery, I was back on the badminton court again. I was in between chemotherapy sessions but I felt extreme relief that I could still hit the shuttlecock when I have only recovered about 70 percent of my old self.
I continued to play badminton in between chemotherapy sessions. My medical oncologist just said to look out for the following signs: pain, dizziness, fever.
Absent those, I could play to my heart’s content. Of course I had to be very careful so that I would not get injured like sprain my ankle or break a bone.
While undergoing radiotherapy, which was scheduled for 28 consecutive weekdays, I played badminton once a week — against my radiation oncologist’s orders.
He wanted me to stop vigorous physical activity because the area being treated with radiation (the left side of my chest) was very dry from the treatment and I risked breaking the skin and getting open wounds.
Taking a break in between games during a tournament — her second — early this year. But I persisted. For the one hour I played badminton, I did not feel any pain. I had no time to be depressed about my condition. It was like a pain killer or tranquilizer. My nerves were always calm and my disposition happy.
Having a burned chest was a real bummer, but being able to do something I love while getting treatment was such a wondrous blessing.
As my radiation oncologist predicted, no amount of moisturizing prevented my skin from breaking. He had to give me topical antibiotics with steroids to control the swelling and ensure the wounds would not get infected. It was a really yucky time for me (pictures of my ugly radiation burns are posted on http://carla1.multiply.com ).
Still, I chose to be stubborn and continued playing badminton, taking copious doses of pain relievers so I would not feel the ache on my chest.
Almost a year after surgery, I began a new round of chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer. The disease has spread to the lymph nodes of my neck, hip and groin, and to my left ribs. I did not stop playing badminton.
I have joined sisters in our breast cancer information service group ICanServe in weekly badminton trysts at Yonex Philippines Badminton Club in Mandaluyong City. They are all good girls who waited until they finished their respective treatments before going back to the court. Since our support group is called ICanServe, we jokingly dubbed our badminton subgroup ICan’tServe.
I believe my twice weekly games have helped me stay well and keep a positive attitude. Life can never go back to normal the way it was before I had cancer, but being able to play with co-survivors (Tuesdays) and with my neighbors, husband and children (Sundays) gives me a semblance of normal life, one of good health and utter wellness — even in the middle of treatment.
I leave my future in God’s loving hands. By His wisdom, He has made me a perennial beginner at badminton, level E or even lower. I have not been able to recover 100 percent of my old self, nor do I want to. By His mercy, I have not suffered any injury nor felt any depression from my badminton outings. Even if I lose all my games, I am happy just sweating it out on court and laughing at my own foibles, reveling in the company of real friends and creating a natural community of caring and compassion.
I will play badminton as often as I can, for as long as I can. It is my goal to stay fit and healthy for myself, my family and my community. So God help me.
Carla Paras-Sison writes for Badminton Philippines and The Philippine Star. Her racket is a Carlton Airblade 400. To know more about Carla and the extent of her condition, visit her website www.ourownlittleway.org.