I realize it has been a while since I posted an update. Silence doesn’t mean much in Grancertown, it merely means I have lacked inspiration to write anything. But I do have some updates to share.
In the weeks since chemo ended I have waited for my body to make some kind of miraculous change into my pre-cancerous self. Each day I wake up wondering if the chemo 15 has disappeared, if my hair is growing back. Though I do see some hair (it is mostly all white, thanks karma), my body has not morphed back into mega-babe, like I now wistfully see in hindsight. I’ll keep waiting.
I am able to jog 3 miles, without walking, on most days and have completed 5/6 weeks of a muscle building program on my Mirror, which feel like small achievements. I was also able to stop taking three pills that had been mainstays in my treatment: Prilosec, Omeprazole and Senna. It’s funny, chemo and the supplementary drugs even helped some chronic problems I have and now that I am off them, old habits have returned (I’m looking at you ulcerative coliltis and diarrhea).
Other fun news is that, true to form from my chemo in 2016, the very last hair to go on my body is my eyelashes. All but 9 have defected. And I am serious, I can count them. So even though I am done with chemo, I probably look the sickest I have all along. People with no eyelashes are weird. Full stop. Oh and my pinkie toenails have fallen off, just for good measure I guess.
Tomorrow marks a few substantive shifts. I start my job as a teaching assistant again and I start radiation. Funny how they landed on the same day. Nothing like ripping the bandaid off.
I had my ‘radiation simulation’ appointment a few weeks ago. This is where you meet with your Radiological Oncologist to plot out the plan for radiation therapy. You also meet your Radiation Therapist who walks you through the procedure of mapping your lasers. This was actually pretty cool. They laid me on what looked like a black pillow and modeled me, like the game ‘Statuemaker,’ into the exact position they want me in for radiation. The pillow was then inflated and somehow hardened into an exact mold for use with each treatment. They must have a room full of black pillow molds somewhere, and I want to get my eyes on that macabre graveyard.
I was also ‘given’ three tiny pin-prick tattoos to help guide the lasers. One on my breast and one under each armpit for symmetry. I was expecting a tattoo gun, but they went old school with what looked like a tiny, sharp spile filled with black ink. It pricked the skin and then poured the ink in the wound and voila! Three new, bizarre tattoos.
My doctor is a lovely, wise older woman whose accent and general demeanor make me wish she could read me a bedtime story. She was looking at my chart, re-acquainting herself with my issues and she said, ‘you had a big tumor.’ No one had really said something so specific right to my face. I appreciated her candor. She said the plan is to irradiate me in 3 locations over 33 days- my breast, axillary lymph nodes (in my armpit) and lymph nodes in my clavicle. Each area comes with its own bag of garbage side effects.
In all 3 areas, the radiation lasers will burn my skin and anything below it including, but not limited to, my implant, muscle, and lung. The side effects are burns that will compound upon themselves over time meaning that when I get 2-3 weeks in, I will start to see and feel the burns and my body will become fatigued from the inflammation. She said it is possible that I will develop a long-term cough from the burns to my lung. And quite possibly the most troubling, and likely, side effect is the risk of worsening the lymphedema of my right arm.
She suggested I start physical therapy to try and manually drain my arm immediately, and get it twice a week going forward. As I feared, when I called to make an appointment, the first available was in September. I am on a waiting list for cancellations, but it is not like I can just flee the building when I am working with students, so who knows. In the meantime, I found a local business that does lymphatic massage which is great, but it is $125/hour, no insurance versus seeing the PTs where I would only pay a co-pay. Ah the joys!
I will have radiation 5 days a week for 33 days. This will take about 6.5 weeks. My standing appointment is for either 7 or 7:30am M-F so I can try and get to work on time. I will hope to squeeze in PT at night twice a week. All this coupled with the kids’ fall schedules has my head spinning a bit, but I will manage, I always do. My biggest concern is that now Joe will have to be 100% in charge of getting the kids up, fed and ready for school. If you happen to work at my kids school and see them eating from a box of cereal haphazardly placed in their backpacks, know that I had no hand in that.
So on I forge. Very little phases me anymore. You want to shoot lasers into my very soul? Go ahead, I’ll just lay down. It is funny how blase one can get about procedures and treatments when you have been through what I have. It is freeing in a way. I don’t have to make a lot of decisions as they are mapped out for me and I just show up. I am like an old circus animal, I just do the routine without remembering the indecency of my situation.
I guess you could sum it up by saying that I am simply just good at cancer.