One Down. Five To Go

I’ve completed the first five of my 30 radiation sessions.

So far, so good.

The weather has been unseasonably cool and it’s been threatening rain all week, so my 45 minute walks to and from the hospital have been pleasant.

I’ve enjoyed having a destination each day. The daily commitment has forced me to pick up the pace of my sloppy stay-at-home routine. And, given that my post-chemo body is too sore to jog and my hole-fallen-into upper body is too sore for my 30min exercise tape, the long walks are perfect.

The radiation targets my entire upper right side — including my neck and portions of my back. I’ve been slathering myself with Glaxal Base and Calendula lotion three times each day in hopes of keeping my skin on long enough to avoid the infamous blisters and weeping sores. Fingers crossed.

All in all, a good week.

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Build Me Up

Radiation one, of thirty, is in the can.

Today’s session included thirty minutes of perfect stillness:

Ten minutes of positioning. Five of X-rays. Five for examination of X-rays and the actual radiation treatment, the remainder.

The toughest part was the juxtaposing music.

The three songs that played during the actual treatment (“Brown Eyed Girl”, “Build Me Up Buttercup”, and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”) brought to mind vivid, evocative memories from various corners of my life.

Try staying perfectly still with this going through your head:

Playing Hooky

In my 20 years of software design and 18 years of school, I often dreamed of stepping off the treadmill and spending a day at home.

Well, I’ve been home four months now and today I’m playing hooky from that.

I skipped the 7:00-9:00 ritual of chasing children, barking orders and threats. I skipped my supplements, my juicing and my morning walk. And I’ve decided to give my whining muscles a desperately needed break from what the pre-c me would have considered an extremely light exercise routine.

I do feel frustrated by my post-chemo crash. That my right eye’s still blistered. That I can no longer jog and have two limbs seized by pain. And I do feel some guilt about calling in sick today.

But I’m going ahead with radiation and, starting Monday, daily zaps will dominate my world for at least six weeks.

So, today I’m just breathing and doing exactly as I please.

It’s funny how different — and good — it feels.

To Zap or Not To Zap

Five days ’til radiation.

But I’m having second thoughts.

Living the aftermath of chemo — the swollen eyes, the mounting fatigue, the weakness, the aching, the blurriness, frustration and fog — I’m questioning the wisdom of this four-fold onslaught.

Mark’s concerned that turning down radiation and hormone therapy would make me low priority for any relapse treatment.

It’s a tough call.

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Okay, Is There A Carbon Monoxide Leak In this House?

I continued to work through the diagnosis, the surgeries and the corresponding recoveries.

I put my head down and powered through the chemo.

Maybe it’s catching up to me now. Or maybe it’s all my recent celebrating, real-life and staying up way past eight.

Whatever the reason, I’m spent.

Procrastination now drags my daily exercise to almost the full day and, due in part to my hole-falling-into experience on Sunday, I’ve had to replace my daily jog with a second leisurely stroll.

But I’m alive.
And healthy.
And happy.

And grateful.

Medical body art

A few months before I met Andrea, I had plans to get a tattoo. I worked with an artist to come up with a design I liked though circumstances prevented me from actually getting the tattoo. Over the years I’ve often talked about Andrea and myself getting matching tattoos to represent our family. Andrea was never interested and joked that I could get one during my mid-life crisis.

I turn 40 next month. I haven’t gotten a tattoo nor do I have any plans to get one. Today, Andrea entered the world of body art when she got five tattoos. Wow! Talk about going the other direction.

Andrea’s five blue pinpoint-sized tattoos are part of a complicated laser-alignment procedure in preparation for her radiation treatments. The alignment ensures that the radiation can be properly targeted during each of the thirty treatments while limiting exposure of Andrea’s lungs and ribs to high intensity x-rays. Apparently a large screaming eagle wouldn’t have been appropriate.

DINNER OUT

We went out for dinner as a family for the first time since November, tonight. We met our author/illustrator friend Lee Edward Fodi at The Wild Oat — yet another in an expected long series of life celebrations now that Andrea’s recovered from her chemo.

Put our heads down and power through

Now that chemo’s over and Andrea’s nearly completed her full recovery cycle (which means she’s about a week away from being able to be out in public without an elevated risk to her health), we can start thinking about the next stage of her cancer treatment… radiation.

We love Andrea’s radio-oncologist. He’s an incredibly nice and patient man. We experienced a remarkable trait of his during our consult with him last week; even though he may know where we’re going with a particular thought or question, he waits until we’ve finished speaking before responding. He doesn’t jump to conclusions or feel it necessary to cut short our thoughts.

Andrea will have a CT scan in the next few weeks. During that appointment, a technician will mark the two locations at which the radiation treatment will be directed. This ensures the treatment is always directed at the same spot.

Beginning in May, Andrea will have radiation treatments each weekday for six weeks. Despite the frequency and duration, radiation seems much less scary to me than did chemo. There are no meds, and no physically- or emotionally-crippling side effects.

We’ve been told to expect Andrea to feel fatigued over the course of the treatment as her body works to regenerate cells that are being killed off each day (just as it got the regeneration process underway from the previous round). We’ve also been told to expect that Andrea will present sunburn-like skin irritations and discolouration beginning in the treatment area around week four of the program.

After she powers through radiation, Andrea will begin hormone therapy. Given what we’ve been through, that’s not as far off in the future as it sounds.