16 May 2010

Counting My Blessings

I started my radiation treatment this week. Things appear to be going "as expected" from the oncologist's perspective. I didn't expect to feel the side effect of fatigue quite so soon. I am receiving a pretty strong dose of radiation over a large area, from the front and the back. It doesn't take too long--I have to be very, very still in an awkward position for about 15 minutes. This is much better than the 30 or 40 minutes that I had to be still during the treatment planning stages.

They had to create a mold for my upper body, head and arms to fit into so that I am always in precisely the same position for each of my 28 to 33 treatments. My arms have to be over my head, and my hands have to grip onto handles that keep me steady and in place. This is not good news for my previously injured right shoulder which I was in physical therapy for up until the time of my diagnosis. Ouch...it has been hurting a lot since this all started.

Additionally, the skin of my right "breast" and upper chest that receive the radiation from the front and side feels like a bad sunburn for several hours after the treatment, and then on and off during the evening, night and morning before I go again at 11:30 a.m. each day to have it done all over again. I have extremely fair and sensitive skin so I am not surprised. They give me a lotion to apply to the radiated areas to try to keep the skin as hydrated as possible. It is soothing when I apply it, but its effects are not long lasting, so I find myself applying said lotion fairly often. They told me that I could not use it too much.

I have a pretty busy wedding cake schedule for this weekend, so we'll see how I function. There were no weddings this week, or the last week of May so at least I am not having week after week of busy. June however, presents the opposite situation. But, it is June and that is the month for brides. Thankfully, my dear sweet Kimberly has been my angel to help compensate for my inabilities. I don't know what I would have done without her.

May 16, 2010

I am sporting my new "un-wigged" hairstyle these days. Everyone, but me, really likes it. It's different for me but I am getting used to it. All I see are my chubby cheeks. My hair is extremely soft, very salt and pepper, with much more salt than I had previously. It has a natural wave, which I have had since my last baby was born, but is more obvious now without the weight of longer hair. This hair, almost 1" long, is 4 and a half months worth of growth. It's going to take forever for my hair to be even long enough to it the bottom of my ears. Oh well, it is what it is.

I felt pretty melancholy during the first few days of this week. I finally figured out that it was because the daily ritual of radiation just reminds me every day of my diagnosis. I was starting to feel more normal (not that I was ever really normal) and now I am being slowed down again. The "every-day-ness" of this treatment is probably going to be more taxing than the treatment's effects. I feel better when I am not alone. I need people. Most of all, I need my family, and sometimes it feels like certain family members forget that I am still going through this horrible thing. Not always...just sometimes.

I am so appreciative of your thoughts and prayers and loving support. I still need them. I try so hard to make sure that I don't let myself be defined by the cancer. It is not who I am, it is just something that I am going through. But, there are days where the burden is all consuming, and I don't like where my thoughts go on those days. I had one of those days on Thursday and I cried in the car while I was driving home from radiation. The afternoon was so difficult. I was so incredibly tired and I had baking to do and I didn't feel like doing it. I felt sad, and angry, and sorry for myself. Then Doug came home from work and offered to help me bake. He has not done that in a very long time. I could feel my countenance change as well as my heart. Isn't it amazing how the charitable act of one person can make such a difference?

I can't help but think of the lyrics to the hymn Count Your Blessings:

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly
And you will be singing as the days go by.

So, amid the conflict--whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

I know that I am blessed. I know it. I know that there are earthly angels that bless my life every day. My family, my friends, nurses, doctors, technicians or even Shelly at the pharmacy counter at WalMart. I know that even on days when it is really hard to have a positive attitude, I will eventually have my heart soften and feel deep gratitude for all of my blessings.

03 May 2010

Gotta get things "just right"

May 5, 2010
It's been two and a half weeks since my last surgery, and for the most part, I am doing well. My biggest complaint is how heavy the implants are, and that I am constantly aware of them on my body. The feeling does not go away, and they almost constantly sore. It is difficult to believe that I will ever get "used to them".

Let's put this into perspective. Most of you have probably seen on TV what a breast implant looks like. It is a clear balloon-like ball that is filled with saline (or silicone, but those are the ones of great controversy and not what was used for me). A 20 ounce bottle of water is 591 ml. My implants each have 750 ml of saline in them. Now, ya'll know how heavy a full bottle of water is! Just imagine a bigger bottle strapped to both sides of your chest. Now you see what I mean. One of the other reasons they are so uncomfortable is that the space left in my chest is much smaller than what they put in me. So, my skin, muscles and what is left of tissue has to s-t-r-e-t-c-h to accommodate the new residents in my chest area.

I have met with the Radiation Oncologist (Dr. Sailer) and they have begun creating the radiation treatment plan for me. I had the first part last Friday, and tomorrow I go in for the final adjustments and a simulation of the treatments. I begin radiation on Monday. I will have at least 28, but no more than 33 treatments. We won't know until we get into the thick of it. I will go for treatments every day (weekdays) for 6 to 7 weeks.

I find out on May 17th if I really truly do not have to have those last chemotherapy treatments that I didn't have back in January and February because of the horrible side effects that I was having. I am optimistic, but prepared to hear those words that I really don't want to hear.

I have enjoyed the last week and a half as I have been able to be more mobile and drive myself on errands. I even when to Kohl's yesterday and got some new clothes to fit this new body shape that I have right now. It was great.

I have felt so happy to not be so home bound. It's been great to feel more active. I know that there is a possibility that radiation will induce extreme fatigue, so I am taking advantage of every moment while I have energy to move and get things done.

It's been so great to see many of you as I have seen you at different events. Those of you who have seen me know that I am not wearing a wig right now, rather sporting my very, very, short 3/4" long hair style. I become less and less self conscious as I embrace my new look. It will be a year before my hair grows to have any length that I can really work with in a style. It took four months just to get it to 3/4".

Update 5/12/2010

There were some small complications in getting my treatment plan for radiation complete. Nothing serious, they are just trying to get it just right. I had my first treatment yesterday (Tuesday) and my second one today. This is life for me for the next 6 weeks. Everyday at 11:30 I arrive at Wake Radiology Oncologists for my treatment. It takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. The hardest part is staying still for that length of time. It's not the actual staying still that is hard as much as having to take my arms and fix them above my head. This is not a good thing for my temperamental right shoulder. It had been doing so much better (what with not working like a mad woman on crazy amounts of cake each week) but when it gets into a fixed position for any length of time, those joints just seize up.

My skin is already feeling like I have a sunburn. Not cool. It hurts more as my clothes rub up against it. They give me a special lotion that is supposed to help. I hope it does.

I noticed that I have been more emotionally sensitive since the Radiation phase has begun. I have bouts of melancholy. I have tried to examine my mind for the why. All I can come up with is that after weeks of just recovery from surgeries, I am once again in the thick of the cancer treatment, That means more discomfort, and new side effects. It just is a daily reminder of my diagnosis. I was started to feel more "alive" again. I don't want to see that go, even if it is for only a few weeks.

I know that I just have to get up and get going each day and do whatever is physically possible each day so that I don't dwell on the part of every day that is uncomfortable. I cannot let this intrusion of the world break my spirit. So I won't.

I am amazed how already the time of chemotherapy seems like a distant memory. A pretty horrible memory, but it is over. The surgeries (the big ones) are over. And I am still me, my body is just a bit "damaged" here and there. Radiation will be done at the end of June, and then THAT will become a memory. And then HOPEFULLY, that will be the end of that.

Hope springs eternal. :)