I have completed 14/28 radiation treatments. I’m half way there! It has been a very long year and I am so ready to complete the last phase of treatment!
As mentioned in my previous post, I receive radiation everyday, Monday through Friday, and have Saturday and Sunday off. (This past week I had a 4-day break because we took a quick trip to Dallas. I loved the trip, and REALLY loved having four days off!)
Radiation is not nearly as grueling as my previous phases of treatment, but it’s not necessarily pleasant either. The very first day, the radiation techs positioned my head and arms on the table and molded a pillow around that position.
My pillow allows me to easily position myself exactly as I did the first day. This ensures that I am always laying the same way, and it helps them line me precisely where I need to be to make sure the radiation beams hit at the exact same place each time.
In addition to the pillow, I have about a dozen large X’s across my chest and under my arm. The room has laser lights that run horizontally and vertically throughout, and the X’s on my skin allow the techs to line me up perfectly with the lights. They are very, very precise.
By the way, my X’s were made with a blue sharpie and I get to wash them all off after treatment is completed. If you’ve seen me recently, you may have noticed them, depending on what type of shirt I am wearing. Don’t worry, they’re not permanent. 🙂
When the techs are lining me up on the table I have my head turned to the right and usually have my eyes closed. Occasionally they make new X’s and lines (or remark fading ones), and they’re very quiet about it (because I may have mentioned a time or two that all these blue X’s and lines are not my best look). I do not see them, but I tease that I know they are coming at me with the sharpie because I can smell the ink! They can’t get anything by me, I have a very sensitive nose. 🙂
As far as radiation goes, my plan is rather aggressive. Due to my particular kind of breast cancer, I have a wide radiation field, which basically means a large portion of my left chest, neck, and underarm area is being treated. Each treatment is cumulative, so everyday it burns a little more and now it feels like I have a severe sunburn on that portion of my body. Imagine being sunburned, then going back out in the sun all day again the next day. And the next day. And the next day. (That is why I LOVE weekends off!)
I have been prescribed medications that help the burned area; however, the more treatments I receive, the less effective the meds are at relieving all the pain. I find being out in the sun is almost unbearable (especially on a hot day like today)! I am told that the discomfort will increase; however, if my skin actually blisters (which is not uncommon), I will have to take a few additional days off to let it heal before continuing with treatment. I am hoping I do not get to that point. If I have no delays, my last day of radiation will be July 30th.
Those of you who know me, will have no problem believing this, but I have made several new best friends. 🙂 I see these people everyday, so of course I’m chatty with them and have gotten to know them quite well.
I’ve found Dr. Imamura and his staff at CARTI to be among the most professional and compassionate people I have been in contact with during all phases of my treatment. I will NOT miss the radiation (or the sharpie marks), but I will most certainly miss getting to see my new BFF’s everyday when radiation is completed. I think it’s because they’re from Conway. Have I mentioned lately how I LOVE not having to drive to Houston for treatment? 🙂
Several times a day I am asked, either in person or via text, how I am doing. I do not mind that question at all. (So if you want to know, ask me. Makes me feel loved.) However, I am having a very hard time knowing exactly how to answer. After eight months of chemo followed by a mastectomy, I know what it feels like to have a crummy day and these days I do not feel that level of crummy.
Does radiation hurt? Yes, I am in varying degrees of pain, depending on the day and time of day. Am I miserable? Well, I’m not chemo or post surgery miserable. Everything is relative, you know? So compared to how I have felt since last September, I am actually feeling great right now. But when I say that, I see you look at my X’s and my red, burned skin and I get the feeling you don’t believe me.
I’m uncomfortable, my chest hurts from the burning, and the radiation does make me very tired, but it’s not debilitating like the other treatments have been. I still do almost everything I want to do (unless it involves being out in the hot sun).
Actually, this has been my most favorite summer I can remember. The kids and Patrick agree. We are currently enjoying some of our best days as a family. I’m sure it’s because going through something like this gives one a new perspective on just about everything. Things that were previously taken for granted, are now treasured and appreciated.
Here are some things that I have especially enjoyed this summer:
- Not going to Houston every week, or every three weeks.
- Spending quality time, without a chemo clouded brain, with my family.
- Craving something, and when I eat it, it tastes exactly like I thought it would.
- Driving the kids to all of their summer activities.
- Hearing giggling girls when they spend the night with Maddie and seeing active boys running through the house playing with Creed.
- Going to Kroger to get groceries and having the energy to cook dinner.
- Sleeping through the night.
- Looking at the kitchen counter and not seeing dozens of medicine bottles.
- Going to church and being able to stand up through the entire time of praise and worship.
- Keeping up with household chores. Sorta. 🙂
- Realizing more and more each day what an incredibly supportive and loving extended family I have been blessed with.
- Seeing my hair grow back. (And yes, for those of you who keep asking, it’s curly.)
- Planning upcoming events and trips without worrying whether or not I will feel well enough to participate.
- Anticipating the upcoming school year with excitement because THIS YEAR I will not have to miss Maddie’s dance performances or special school lunches with Creed. (Just really, really happy about that!)
Lots to be thankful for, even with a burned chest. So, yes, these are good days. These are the BEST days actually. I’m trying to savor every moment.
Thank you sweet friends, again, for all the prayers for me and my family. We’re almost to the finish line!