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!

 

 

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HOLIDAY SIDE EFFECTS

For those who read A Pain in the Neck, you will understand that there is no possible way to take five prescriptions without there being some side effects. Mine range from heart burn, nausea, blurred vision, slurred speech, hallucinations, drowsiness, and a sudden desire to be crafty. As in MAKE CRAFTS.

It all began when Derek arrived home on Tuesday from Mizzou. I knew he was home because he’d parked the car in the driveway which makes it impossible for me to drive UP the driveway and pull into the garage. Austin arrived Wednesday. Once the boys are here, the world revolves around football. Wait, I take that back. Whether the boys are here or not, the world revolves around football. College football.

Despite the drug cocktail, I knew I was licked. As I tossed back a Valium with a glass of Chardonnay I had a brilliant idea. It normally takes a wild pack of dogs to get the boys to bring the trusty artificial tree out of the garage and set it up. This time, I would motivate them in a way they’d never expect.

“Guess what we’re going to do this year with the Christmas tree?” I asked the three statues in the den whose eyes were focused on the TWO television screens that were maniacally playing marching band music as inane announcers solemnly intoned, “They’re really going to have to come out in this next half and take control of the ball or they’re going to lose this game.”

Obviously riveted by this insightful commentary, I tried the dazed trio again. With an enthusiastic holiday frenzy I did not feel I enthused, “You’ll never guess!”

Sigh. “We’re going to forget all about those precious, handmade Christmas ornaments my late grandmother made from SCRATCH and INSTEAD have a football themed Christmas tree. Mizzou, Baylor – all the schools that accepted my sometimes under-achieving yet personable men (including Robert’s TCU) would be represented. Alabama would also be included by default as it is “grandfathered” in. (For a formal ruling, please contact Ralph Holt.) NOW I had their attention. For about 30 seconds.

“Cool.”

“But how?”

“Is this a trick?”

Indeed. How I was going to carry this off was anybody’s guess, but when you’re a Valium and a painkiller into the day, the details just tend to take care of themselves. First, the color theme. We needed to incorporate black and gold, green and gold, deep red and white, and purple and white? Or black? Whatever.

I didn’t even have to Google or Pinterest to know I would have trouble with the black Christmas ornaments. I did the only thing that made sense. I left the house the next morning before the boys were awake and made my way to Michaels.

I still had no plan. Michaels is no place to be without a plan. I headed for the Christmas ornaments, elbowed an adorable gay couple out of my way, and found packages of eight for 50% off. (50% off ornaments, not gays.) I quickly scooped up red, purple, white, green and opted to pick up a couple of packages of clear ornaments as well. In order to destroy the clear glass, I grabbed a can of glossy black spray paint and a nifty glitter spray called “twilight.” A few glitter pens of gold, silver, white, platinum, black and handsful of red, silver and gold letter stickers signaled the end of the shopping trip – until I spotted thick wire-edged ribbon in red, gold and purple. Because you just never know.

I returned home and spread my bounty on the dining room table. Then, I strung the clear glass ball ornaments in the garage and began to spray paint like there was no tomorrow. (And before Robert could come out and tell me I was doing it wrong/and or was going to blow myself up.)

Back at the dining table, a Christmas miracle happened. Derek and Austin pulled up chairs and began “crafting” right along with me. It took us HOURS, and some creative slogans, but I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve spent with them in ages. The best part about it was we weren’t really DOING anything. There was no TV. Derek played some Christmas music, and we just CHATTED. Truly, I thought they’d drift in and out as I did the work, but they were right there the whole way. We laughed, we encouraged each other, we helped each other spell challenging words like “Missouri.”

Who’d have thought I’d be hosting a Christmas ornament decoration committee with my 20+-year-old boys? For proof, lest it actually be one of those hallucinations mentioned earlier, I have evidence.

Derek and Austin “crafting.”

Christmas miracle number two? By the time I got home from errands this morning, the tree was up and lit. The two TVs were still in place – or out of place – but every miracle comes with a price.

I have no idea how the tree will actually look, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s our first tree to make as a family. I’m just sorry it was overdue. I’ll post pictures when complete. In the meantime…

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Update: I was pleased to see the boys insisted on adding some of Grandma’s old ornaments. I guess those little felt and sequined ornaments remind them of their childhoods as well.

Now, if we can only find a Heisman Trophy replica to place on top of the tree, we can all burn in hell together.