Posts Tagged ‘Radiation’

quick update

December 8, 2010

I’ve been remiss in not updating my progress here.  Sorry.  Fulltime work, going to PT and medical appointments along with motherhood and life in general…keeps me busy.

PET Scan – Radiation Oncologist said, “stupid test, too expensive, inconclusive..”  Also said he’d make the appointment for me to see Dr. Butler….the queen of all docs, the “Surgeon” and I say that with a mix of both fear and respect.  Butler has more experience than anyone else in town with breast cancer and has seen plenty of fat necrosis, tumors, and all things foreign in breast tissue.

My appointment with Butler was this past monday, and her opinion on the lump, after a considerable amount of time wielding the ultrasound wand was…………the lump is “rib”.  The lump will not have a needle stuck in it. Too close to the heart and the lungs, and risk of puncturing a lung or worse is too great.  Great…good news, right?  Wish I could get my mind to believe that.  In my heart I don’t believe it, but I guess I have to believe it.   I’ve had Medical Onco, Plastics Guy, Radiation Onco, and now the Surgeon all say, “nah….probably not tumor.” 

My Supreme Surgeon did, however, express great concern with the decision of GP to take me off of blood thinners after only three months.  Concerned enough to insist that I call the Hemetologist/Oncologist at U of M to get another opinion, and while I’m at it (she said in her most authoritarian way) get her opinion on the method and plan for the finish of the reconstruction (which is currently planned for late January.)  She didn’t like the PS plan to just remove the lump….because after all, she thinks it is my rib.  My rib grotesquely contorted out of shape.  From the plastic surgery. 



sleep math

December 10, 2009

I always hated story problems in math.  Here is a good one:

day four of awake at 2:30 from hot flashes this morning (except I don’t really like calling it morning…morning usually means getting ready to start my day, and I am really so not ready to start the day yet….)

so.  awake at 2:30, now it is 4:04.  Alarm clock usually goes off at 4:35.  Today I’ll hit snooze a couple times until 5:00.  Need to leave for work early (out the driveway by 6:15) to get stuff done that I can’t do at home because I’m so so so tired, and demands of family and children suck up all energy after 4:00 pm.  Can’t allow myself to sleep before 9:00 pm or else I’ll be awake even earlier.

Which variable can I manipulate to eliminate the dog-tired effects of post radiation fatigue and hot flash sleep inhibitors? 

Take your best guess.  Please show your work.

awww geez…………

November 9, 2009

Oh for God’s sake.  Here it is 4:51 am on Monday morning , coffee is brewing, I’m just trying to get dressed for work, and I can’t find my new boob.  Somewhere in all that emotional instability of the last radiation on last Friday, I took the damn thing off, and…I don’t know where she is.

Guess I’ll go find a couple of old shoulder pads to quick-like stitch together to stick up under my shirt to create a pathetic bump-for-a-boob.  Thank goodness I’m doing a lab demo today, maybe with a couple layers of shirt and an apron it won’t look too bad..

Honestly.  I have no idea where the stupid thing is.  Funny how your brain blocks some things out.

3 am saturday

November 7, 2009

Well, yesterday, the 28th and final day of radiation was no fun thing.   I knew that getting into “the postion” would be painful, and of course it was.  I’m not usually a crybaby, but involuntary tears rolled down my cheeks as soon as my radiators scurried out of the big room with thick walls.  Thank God for the Dali Lama!  The chanting CD  became incredibly important in this little radiation adventure.  Something about it enabled me to pretty quickly drop off the edge of conscious thought and into some kind of “zone” that I can’t really explain very well.  All I know, is that as soon as I surrender completely to the chanting vibrations, the clicking and hum of the great big radiation machine disappears completely.  It’s as if everything disappears and I drop into some light level of unconsciousness……  That’s a great gift when you get radiated for 20 minutes every day.

Except that “radiated everyday” is in my past now.  Something about the physical pain of this week combined with the emotions of knowing that daily physical treatment  came to an end wrapped me in a big insecurity blanket and made me, normally the level-headed one, feel completely emotionally raw and exposed.  It was a wierd mix of happiness and fear.  Fear in the lighter sense for my physical self.  My chest is supremely uncomfortable.  My fabulous oncology nurse called me back at the last minute to put some special treatment dressings on my burns, and now, 10 hours later, I am kind of  “OK”.  My great radiation oncologist, Dr. Rubin, encouraged me to take the pain meds he prescribed, saying, “In the US we don’t medicate cancer patients enough”.  So right now, sitting up in the middle of the night in my bed, I feel not great, but OK, and I’ll take that as a gift.

Emotionally, I don’t know where I am.  I feel insecure.  Dr. R told me on wednesday that I have a great prognosis with better than 80% chance of survival.  Just that 80% doesn’t sound good enough to me.  And I am fearful about my follow-up care.  I don’t know why.  I still have a bunch of medical appointments on my planner for the rest of November and a few into December, but at this time, I’m still not clear about exactly how we manage the next year……..  And all the while I struggle with the pain and the insecurities, I know that I am lucky to be doing “so well” and feel a little guilty being so wrapped up in this self centered examination of the details of cancer.

As awful as my radiation experience was, it was made bearable by the professional people at Flower Hospital who cared for me and about me.  From the moment I walk through the door, the medical receptionists know my name and check me in like a VIP.  I can’t say enough good things about my Radiation Technicians on C machine.  Thanks for allowing me the time to cry on your shoulder, and for coming in on your day off (with your special surprise!!) to see me on my last day.  Both were moments I won’t forget.  I just love the onco-nurses, especially Pat.  Thanks for listening to me.  And quirky Dr. R……I do have great respect and admiration for his manner and knowledge.  Lucky me to have experienced all of these compassionate and intelligent people.

four more

November 3, 2009

As of today, November third, I have four more radiation treatments.  I would say only four more, but honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to make it.  I feel like crying at the drop of a hat.  Any movement is so uncomfortable, but if I sit perfectly still, my skin stings and feels like it is shrinking into the size of a postage stamp.  It is challenging to think of clothes to wear to work that won’t touch the big radiation field on my left chest.  Hell, it is challenging to just put clothes on, to move my arm in that backwards kind of motion we all take for granted when we put on a shirt or jacket…..that hurts and pulls on the burned skin, and it feels like it is going to rip.  Of course, my radiators have assured me, it is not going to rip. 

Luckily, everyone around me has been so kind.   My principal and supervisor have been just wonderful and supportive.  I am so grateful for their empathy.  Dr. R, the radiators, and nurses at Flower have also been sensitive and responsive to my complaints.  Got a ‘script for prilosic for the reflux problem yesterday.  We’ll see how that works. 

Maybe I am more sensitive than the average person to radiation.  There is another woman with BC and gets radiated at the same time as me, she has no burns yet, and  has had 20 rads treatments.  I think this stage is just such a mental game.  It is a moment by moment challenge to rise mentally above the pain and exist on a separate plain.

Is radiation painful?

October 31, 2009

It’s late on Halloween night.   My kids had a good time, but I didn’t get to go out and trick or treat with them….my radiation area is uncomfortable with any walking that is much more than a leisurely stroll.  What a disappointment. 

I’ve had a few friends ask me if radiation is painful.  Well, I meditate during treatment, so no pain at all then.  When the technicians help me sit up, that is fairly UNcomfortable now.  It’s like realizing you have been out in the sun WAAAYYY TOO LONG.  My skin just feels super tight against my body, so all movement makes me so aware of the square-foot-plus-some radiation field, which by the way, feels like elephant skin.  Just even walking with any kind of force in my step creates an instant awareness of how each drop of my foot jars the skin on chest.  Reaching for anything on a high shelf, turning my head to check traffic behind me, carrying the laundry downstairs…..all things that move the skin on my chest, and creates discomfort.  And the worst part is the radiation field in my armpit.  That really is annoying physically and mentally, too, because it is a 24/7 discomfort.  When I wake up in the middle of the night from hot flashes, now I have to find a position that doesn’t hurt to get back to sleep….radiation field on the left side, stupid expander implant on the right… chest feels like an alien entity.  (I did briefly think of just going topless for a Halloween costume….that would be scary enough……alas, too cold in NW Ohio even if half of my chest has no operating nerve endings….)  I’m walking around with “the incredible hulk” posture….you know, arms slightly bowed out from my body, due to the burn in the armpit and the underarm area.  I am so tired of this. 

And I’m tired of being tired.  The fatigue is really wearing thin now.  When I began this radiation part of the cancer trip, I heard stories of people who work full-time through their entire radiation time.  I thought, “Great!  That will be me!  I can do this, because I believe I can, I have the will to do it, and I want to go back to work!”    So, it is very very difficult for me to admit that I am not strong enough to do this.  I have never said that before about anything, and it makes me scared and upset and disappointed.  I think I will only work part-time next week, my last week of radiation.  :^(


three for thursday

October 29, 2009

Have three appointments today.  Doctor, Victory Center, Radiators.

I am really looking forward to seeing Veronica at The Victory Center…..her speciality is called Healing Touch, and she is wonderful.  It has been such a shame that since I have gone back to work full time (kind of, anyways) that I don’t have time to receive services at TVCThis is the stuff, the healing energy that makes all the other medical therapies bearable.

And speaking of other medical therapies…I am thrilled to say that two days post zometa, I have no adverse efffects.  Mainly, no bone pain.  I was quite concerned about that, given the blog reports a quick search on wordpress provided.

And the radiation?  I try to make it the best experience possible, I have GREAT CD’s to listen to (thanks to superfriend-Kathy) I take advantage of the 20 minutes on the table to meditate, I have a pleasant relationship with everyone I encounter…I pretend like all the nurses are my friends, and I’m on a social visit, but in reality, it really sucks.  I have nothing good to say about it, other than the killin’ cancer part, of course.  Good thing I like my radiators, Donna and Natalie.  Otherwise it would be really intolerable.  Actually, nearly every nurse at Hickman has been wonderful.  It’s kinda’ like the old TV show “Cheers”…….it’s a place where everybody knows your name.  Of course, I’d much rather be at a bar where everybody knows my name, but that’s not my place in the universe right now.


October 27, 2009

Finally.  Today I finally received my first infusion of the bisphosphonate clinical trial drug, Zometa.  If all goes well, Zo and I are going to be friends for three years.  Once a month, I’ll go get hooked up to an IV line at Flower Hospital, to further the study investigating the effects of Zoledronic Acid for breast cancer patients.  According to, “Zoledronic acid inhibits the release of calcium from bones.  Zometa is used to treat high blood levels of calcium caused by cancer (hypercalcemia of malignancy). Zometa also treats multiple myeloma (a type of bone marrow cancer) or bone cancer that has spread from elsewhere in the body.”  All nice thoughts (especially since my mom died of multiple myeloma).

Actually I was really anxious about this.  Like, way more anxious than was warrented…I think.  Unfortunately, this form of the drug has one big drawback, “Some people using medicines similar to Zometa have developed bone loss in the jaw, also called osteonecrosis of the jaw. Symptoms of this condition may include jaw pain, swelling, numbness, loose teeth, gum infection, or slow healing after injury or surgery involving the gums. You may be more likely to develop osteonecrosis of the jaw if you have cancer or have been treated with chemotherapy, radiation……”  –Obviously an infusion won’t begin jaw death, but apparently it was worrisome enough for my psyche to mess with my head for today. 

more later, I just dozed off at the keyboard………….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ………


big day tomorrow

October 26, 2009

Short post, I’m beat. 

Tomorrow is a big day………..I’ll find myself in yet another chemo suite, but this time to receive an infusion of Zometa the drug that I was randomized to for the Bisphosphonates trial.  This is the drug that is supposed to make my bones stronger…the idea is that IF my cancer is still lurking somewhere and has ideas of metastizing to another part of my body a little less expendable than my breasts (like my bones) this will reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.  

I had struggled with the decision to sign on to this study for weeks and weeks, and once I made my decision last August, it was  temporarily closed.  The study just opened again last week, and this Thursday was the last date I could get in.  So last Friday I completed more blood work, they decided to accept my dental work completed in September, and today more blood work.

Tomorrow, I go to the chemo area of Hickman Cancer Center at Flower Hospital, receive a relatively short infusion, supposed to be 15 minutes.  I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous.  My last experiences with infusions were lengthy and kind of dramatic with side effects.  But, this is a completely different kind of drug.  (I’m thinkin’……) 

Tried to get a half day sub, but no good ones were left, so I’ll just do another marathon.  Leave the house at 6:00 to 6:30, work until 1:50, get a friend to cover the last class, and fly to Flower for the 2:30 infusion.  Hopehopehope it doesn’t take too long because I have an appointment with the radiators at 3:30 to sear my skin some more. 

Who ever said radiation is easier than chemo lied.

fifty and fatigued

October 25, 2009

too pooped to post.  overwhelmed with obligations.  All I really want to do is write, but I am getting freaked out by what’s NOT getting done that should be done (at work.)  I’ll write something after a visit with the unitarians.

I’ll say it again, radiation is NOT easier than chemotherapy.  not for me anyways.