16 Down. 12 to Go.

I have completed 16 radiation treatments and have 12 more to go.  I am there every morning at 9:45 a.m.  Imagine having a doctor’s appointment every day for a month!  It’s not fun and honestly I am so sick of it.  But the appointment is quick and painless – which makes it a little easier.  I do see the same faces every morning and am on a first name basis with many in the radiation oncology office.  Not too surprising since I am there every day!  So here is how it all goes down:  When I arrive I sign in and barely have time to sit down before they call me back.  They have quite a system going and have patients scheduled every 15 minutes.  I head directly to the ladies locker room where I undress from the waist up and put on a lovely hospital gown.  I put my clothes and purse in a locker and head back to another waiting area outside of the radiation room(s).  I never even sit down – the Techs always call me back right away.  I lay down on the table with my head and arms in the mold they made especially for me.  The Techs line me up, line up the machine, and then they leave the room.  They work the machine from a desk right outside of the room.  I often wonder how safe this really is if the Techs don’t want to be in the room!  Anyway, the actual radiation lasts about 3 to 5 minutes.  It literally takes me longer to get undressed and re-dressed than the actual time I am being radiated.  And of course I have the drive there and back – that’s the longest.  Anyway, I am finding in general I am in and out in 15 minutes with the exception of Mondays where I have to meet with the doctor after radiation.  Although that too is really brief.

I am starting to see some side effects from radiation.  My right breast that is being radiated looks slightly sunburned.  But it’s not uncomfortable at this point.  I apply Aquaphor ( a really thick lotion) liberally every night.  I learned today that it will likely continue to get red and may even “peak” after radiation is complete.  But it will eventually go away.  Fatigue is another common side effect they warned me about.  I will say I am feeling tired these days, especially towards the end of the day.  But honestly I don’t know if it is related to radiation or not.  It could just be the craziness of the holiday season, the constant doctor’s appointments, or the fact that I have a very busy 4 1/2 year old.  Or some combination of all of those things.  Who knows.  But at this point it’s not anything I can’t deal with and it’s not like the fatigue I felt during chemotherapy.  Now that was awful.

I did have a situation last week with a treatment.  I showed up at my regularly scheduled time.  I happened to be comparing cancer/radiation stories with another patient in the waiting room and realized I was sitting longer than normal.  Finally my name was called but this time it was to tell me that the machine was down and the repairman was on the way.  It was going to take a while to fix so they wanted to know if I could come back this afternoon.  Let’s just say I was frustrated.  It had just happened so they did not have time to reach me prior to my arrival.  While I know it was not their fault, it was extremely inconvenient.  Wanting to get my 28 treatments done by the end of this year, I said that I would find a way to re-arrange my afternoon schedule and find child care for my daughter.  I made a couple of phone calls and lined up the afternoon.  A good friend had Gracie over for a play date (thank you!) and I was able to get back to the radiation oncology office for a late afternoon radiation treatment.  If all goes as planned, my last treatment will be on December 29th.  They tell me the machine rarely breaks down.  But as my luck will have it, the machine has been down twice now since I have started radiation.  Here’s to hoping the machine (and I) stay healthy and I can get all 28 treatments done in 2011!

Thanks to everyone for their continued support.  Hope everyone is taking the time to enjoy the holiday season!

 

 

You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me

You all know that it has been a tough year for me and Ed (and family).  Breast cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, surgery and now radiation – all within the past 8 months.  Lately I  feel like I want to stand on a mountain top and scream.  Just let it all out!  Absolutely nothing is going our way.  It’s literally one thing after the other I can’t even begin to list them all.  What is going on?  We are truly being tested.  I thought it happened in 3’s…so they say…but we are well beyond that for the year.  To add to the drama of 2011, on Friday evening Ed and I we were in a car accident.  The good news is:  everyone walked away and is fine; Gracie was not with us (that would have made the situation 10 times worse); and it was not our fault.  But our car was beat up pretty bad and we were shaken.  We were able to drive away from the scene, but our car is not really driveable because the driver’s side door does not close securely.  So just another thing for us to deal with!  And perfect timing – December – the holidays, radiation everyday (except for the 26th)….UUUGGGHHH.  Come on, can we please, please, please catch a break?  I have never looked forward to New Year’s like I am this year!  Ed and I can’t wait to say good-bye to 2011 and hello to 2012!  It can only get better from here, right?

On a positive note, we had a nice Thanksgiving.  Hope you did too!

Radiation #6 is tomorrow.  It’s my first full week i.e. 5 days in a row.  Will let you know how it goes.  Wish me luck!

Radiation #5

I have completed 5 radiation treatments and have 23 to go.  I am finding that these appointments are short and painless.  I am in and out in 15 minutes.  It takes me longer to get undressed and re-dressed than the actual treatment.   Not to mention the actual drive time to and from the appointment.  At this point I am not seeing any obvious side effects.  I have had a couple of days where I have felt “off.”  Not sure yet if that was radiation related or not.  Next week I have a radiation treatment every day at 9:45 a.m.  It will be the first full week.  So I anticipate it to be a tough week and have a feeling I might begin to see more side effects.

While they are easy appointments, I am over them already!  That’s not good since I have 23 to go.  I just have so many more things that I would rather be doing than going to a doctor’s appointment every morning.  But I am O.K. and hanging in there.  I know it’s the right thing to do and will reduce my risk of recurrence, which is the goal!  I don’t want to do this again!

Today, in addition to my radiation treatment at 9:45 a.m., I had my every 3 week Herceptin treatment at the Oncologist’s office.  So I was back in the infusion (or chemo) room.

While it’s been a tough year for me and my family, we still have a lot to be thankful for.  Wishing you and your family a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Radiation #1

So today was the big day.  My first radiation treatment was this morning.

My parents are visiting so my dad rode along with me to drop Gracie off at school. Then of we went to the Radiation Oncologist.  We arrived a little early but they called me back rather quickly.  The entire appointment was 15 minutes – from the time we walked in to the time we were walking to the car.  My dad said he barely had time to open up a magazine.

It went just as it did yesterday during my “dress rehearsal.”  Only this time it was the real thing.  They radiated my right breast at three different angles.  I would describe it like getting an x-ray:  the Techs got me all set up, they left the room, the machine lined up, and it appeared they pressed a button that created that x-ray sound.  The machine moved to another angle – repeat.  The machine moved again to the third and final angle – repeat.  The Techs then came back in the room.  It seemed like about 30-45 seconds on each area. Later they told me it isn’t timed, but rather a specific dose.  I thought I would see the lasers entering my body, but I didn’t.

When the radiation was done, I got “inked.”  They gave me three “tats” as Ed likes to call them or tattoos.  Well sort of.  They are tiny, freckle size dots.  If you didn’t know where to look for them you wouldn’t see them.  You know the needle they use when you get your finger pricked for a blood test?  That was the size and type of needle that they used.  There is a “tat” on the top of my right breast and one on each of my sides.  They use them to make sure I am level and to line me up.  Now that I am permanently marked, it allowed me to scrub off all of the black sharpie marks all over my chest.

The appointment and process was quick and painless.  So much so it makes you wonder how it works.

1 down.  27 to go.

 

 

Dress Rehearsal

I had my “dress rehearsal” today for radiation.  My appointment was at 9:45 a.m.  I dropped Gracie at school and headed that way, after a quick stop for coffee.  Once I arrived and signed in, they called me back right away.  I was escorted to a locker room where I stripped down from the waste up, changed into a “gown”, locked my stuff in a locker, and headed back to the radiation area.  I met up with the two Radiation Techs that were going to work with me and they immediately introduced me to the room where I will receive all 28 treatments.  The machine isn’t, but looks a lot like a CT scan machine for those of you that know what that looks like.  Unfortunately, I am all too familiar.  I laid down on the table, raised my arms back, shifted my head to the left – all in a mold they made specifically for me.  My legs were secured in a brace.  After some work to line me up exactly where they need me for radiation, the machine rotated right over my chest and took x-rays.  They drew on me like a blank canvas – imagine a black sharpie all over my chest, specifically my right breast.  They took a few physical pictures for my file and then I was done.  The appointment was 30 minutes from the time I walked in to the time I walked out.  They will now share what they did today with my Radiation Oncologist.  She approves it (or makes changes) and then we are good to go.

I did ask if I was going to be radioactive during this process.  I didn’t know?!  You all (especially those that are around me often) will be happy to know I will not be.

So, I go in tomorrow for the real deal.  The process should be very similar to today.  I will let you know how it goes.  Wish me luck.

Support from TX

San Antonio Support!

My mom’s cousin’s wife – still with me? – plus her sister, her brother, and her son – ran in my honor today in a Komen for the Cure 1/2 and full marathon in San Antonio, TX.  I am humbled and honored.  Thank you for your support of breast cancer programs and research.  And, congrats to each of them for such a big accomplishment!