DONE

Well, I’m fast approaching my fourth week out of radiation. Still have some itchy skin, and some bizarre throbbing pain every now and then that I assume is a sign of continued healing. They said the radiation would keep affecting me for 2 weeks after we actually stopped, and it did. However,  I was so anxious to return to a regular schedule, I might have not been as patient as I should have work-wise. As a result, by the end of the week, I’m beat. I keep swearing I’ll sleep all day on the weekend, but I seem to live in a sports bar, with all day college football games on Saturday so that’s not really happening. Even without the sporty-sports, I start getting antsy after 9:00AM and feel as though I’m wasting a perfectly good day.

Currently, everything feels surreal. Each day I hear about something that happened since May or June, when all this started, but I have almost no recollection of it. I feel as though I’ve gone through each day sleepwalking. Hopefully, I’ve been functioning somewhat, anyway. I know I was TRYING.

I have neglected to report an event from two months ago. I just couldn’t address it until now. To add insult to injury, our sweet Daisy doggen became ill suddenly and had to be put to sleep. Cancer strikes again. We STILL haven’t recovered from THAT emotional devastation. Maybe it’s multiplied by Robert’s and my lowered immunity to bad news and almost psychotic need to have SOMETHING be normal at this point.

During that dreadful day, when the chips were down, my friends responded like they’d been waiting for an opportunity to rush to the rescue. “The Duchess” and Tony W came to stay with Gracie, the basset we adopted so she and Daisy could be little old ladies together. So much for that genius plan that lasted all of 8 months. Robert, Austin and I stumbled, bleary-eyed and in a state of shock, into the vet clinic to say goodbye. By the time Daisy drifted to sleep with Robert reassuring her and all our hands on her, I thought none of us would be able to get up off the floor, maybe ever again.

We drove home saying things to try to make each other feel better, but it was a sniffly, teary ride. Austin was so supportive. I wish he hadn’t been home to go through that, but then again, I’m glad he was. Derek was in Missouri, so he didn’t get to say his goodbyes. But if all four of us had been on the floor weeping, it would have simply been too much to bear. By the time we returned home, I thought “the Duchess” had probably pet a hole in Grace, (to comfort her.) So, once in the safety of our living room, there were five of us with red, watery eyes and a dog who was wondering what the heck was wrong with us all and WHERE had we left her “sister.”

As a result of the glorious past… 5 months(??) I get really emotional. Not sure if that’s the medication, or if it’s the experience(s), but I really want to take some time to sit still and figure out what all has transpired. Punch drunk, I guess you’d call it.

Mostly, these days, I’m looking forward to a time when my eyes stop welling up, I’m looking forward to having energy, and I’m looking forward to the END of this year.

I’m hoping this doesn’t sound too negative. I’m also grateful for the support of family, friends, readers and visitors. Also, (most importantly) my Robert has been amazing, and wonderful and has had to deal with a lot of crap. So, if I haven’t said it enough, you rock, mister.

And now, just so we can well up some more…

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Sweet Daisy doing her impression of Rose in the Titanic movie.

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HOW MANY ONCOLOGISTS DOES IT TAKE

Well, I disappeared for awhile into the cancer universe. Time flies when you’re having fun!image

To catch up…  After a month of recovery I met with the MEDICAL oncologist and the RADIATION oncologist. The radiation oncologist told me what my surgeon had.  6 weeks of radiation. Following that, according to my MEDICAL oncologist, I start a prescription I get to take for the next 5 years. The medicine removes the last traces of estrogen from my body. Did you know that your body produces estrogen – even if you have no ovaries? Or any other of that pesky girl stuff?? Why didn’t I know that? I must’ve missed that day in health class.  Anyway, the medication will sop up any estrogen being produced, lest it feed another cancer cell or two. (My tumor was estrogen positive.)  I’m not sure what my life will be like with no estrogen at all. Currently, it’s a roller coaster of hot flashes that feel as though I’m about to burst into flames interspersed with some heavy-duty mood swings. So the next 5 years should be AWESOME EXCITING.

When they prep you up for radiation, they do a simulation which involves lying on a table with your boob exposed to EVERYONE. While you lie there with one arm up over your head, they draw on you. There were also calipers involved, and measuring. It took about 45 minutes total. Afterwards, I was asked to stand up and look in the mirror. Imagine my surprise when I found my left side, from breast bone to under my arm, covered in marker.  I looked like those graphics that show which part of the cow each cut of meat comes from. There were two spots – one on my chest and one under my arm where a piece of clear tape covered an X. Those need to stay in place throughout the 6 weeks of radiation.

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Sadly, since my friend just bought a house with a pool, I was told those marker Xs mean no swimming. So much for my plan to swim laps for exercise. I asked about a tattoo so I could proceed with my plans, but was told the marks are better. Apparently, when in a dark room, aiming radiation “lasers” (I don’t know what they’re called) at you, the easier the target is to see, the better. They kind of put the fear of God in you when they say, “What you’re doing here for the next 6 weeks affects the rest of your life. So, you don’t want to take any chances.”

At the end of the third week of radiation, I started feeling pretty tired. On Friday I could barely keep my eyes open. This seems to be right on schedule for side effects according to the experts. The radiation target is also looking pretty red. Like a sunburn. Not a terrible sunburn, but definitely red. There’s occasional shooting pain – from the healing after the lumpectomy, but nothing really from the radiation. The hard part of all this is finding clothing that doesn’t rub against that irritated skin under your arm or on your breast, yet allows you to go to work without having a complaint filed against you with HR. Side boob is frowned upon in most places of work.

The good news is, we’re half way home!  Oh, and the big marker lines are gone now, just the Xs remain. Woot!

 

 

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING

Picking up sort of where I left off with the Breast Case Scenario post.  

I recovered over the weekend from the lumpectomy surgery and by Thursday of the following week, I had the results. There was one little troublesome spot on the edge of the tissue margin – like so close to the edge it could easily have been missed altogether – and it was going to have to come out. While in there, we would need to take some more tissue from several sides to make sure this spot was a loner. I scheduled the second surgery for the next week, and threw myself a couple of pity parties. Or maybe three. The thought of going in for yet another surgery (my third in a couple of months if you count the cardiac ablation), was daunting to say the least. Plus, the underarm incision for the lymph node removal was still so sore I was pretty miserable. Meh.

So, we once again made our way to the surgical center last week. Luckily, this version didn’t require a divining rod in my chest so the whole process was much easier. I was greeted by a couple of familiar faces.  The anesthesiologist paused as he reviewed my paperwork, “Wait. You we here a week and a half ago?” 

  
 
“Yes. I had so much fun I thought we’d do it again! YOLO.” 

They labeled me to make sure they operated on the correct side, and I was totally out cold by the time they wheeled me in around 2:45 and was glued together again and in recovery within the hour. Everything went “splendidly” in doctor-speak. I was once again given a lovely tube top, pink this time, and sent home with an ice pack and a nice hydrocodone prescription. 

  
(A bit droopy from surgery and a lovely pain pill ingested upon awakening. These people don’t fool around.)

I have been taking it pretty easy since. I decided after the recent emotional trauma to listen to the instructions in my cancer binder that says, “pamper yourself.” This is not a terribly familiar concept to me, so I’m trying it on for size. I’m pleased to say I did manage to sleep until 11:30 AM one of those post surgery days. 

I returned to work for a half day today which turned into more of a 7/8 day. 

Pamper. Fail. 

But I did receive good news this afternoon. The tissue removed last week has been decreed ALL CLEAR. We are now ready to talk radiation. That conversation happens Monday. I guess the speed at which all this is moving is good, because there’s less time to focus on it and fret. 

That’s all I know now, so be on the look out for pampering attempts and whatever comes next. 

*  Special thanks to my mother and Aunt Jan who have attempted to corner the market in comfortable, button up blouses. And to my mother-in-law for homemade pimento cheese.