Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Done, Finished, Complete, Through, Over

My cancer treatments are done. It sure is a relief to have all that behind me.  It’ll take a while for my skin to heal from radiation, but it will now have a chance to heal completely. It has been a loooong nine months.

My oncologists have been great.  I credit my medical oncologist with seeing to it that I was able to avoid the nausea that’s so common with chemo. And she kept close watch to make sure that I had no neuropathy issues.  My radiation oncologist is very good about answering all my questions and giving me breaks when my skin needed some time away from the rads.

For the next twelve months I’ll see my medical oncologist every three months. She’ll do very specific blood work to look for any signs of remaining or recurring cancer. Then it will be every six months; and then yearly. For many, many years I hope.

My brain is back. My hair is coming back.  And I’m back to my normal energy levels. 

Thanks to everyone for your support and prayers.

Life is good.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Update and some thoughts

I’m just about finished molting.  Almost all of the peeling is done – just a couple more small spots that haven’t yet let go.  It is red, red, red.  I’m into the “boost” part of radiation now. Higher doses to a smaller area. Four more to go.

My hair growth is finally beginning to look more like hair than fuzz.

It’s been a long nine months since my diagnosis.  I’ve learned a lot about cancer, breast cancer in particular, and its treatment and its emotional effect on people who must deal with it.

I never joined a support group because I’ve had great support from family and friends.  I may be wrong, but it seems that support groups are most important and useful to those who are shocked and/or devastated by the diagnosis. Reading discussion boards such as surprised me at the number of women who are thrown into emotional chaos by this disease. Tears, abject sobbing, and a feeling of hopelessness seem to envelop some women like a dense fog.  They seem consumed by fear of recurrence and keep asking and looking for statistics that tell them it will all be ok.  I feel so sorry for these poor ladies.  Thankfully, there are many, many others who seem to have an attitude as pragmatic as mine.

Ironically, the most distraught women are not those with Stage IV or metastatic cancer. It seems that most of the late-stage women who post on these boards are reconciled to their circumstance.  They offer each other moral support and advice based on their individual experiences.  They become close friends even though they’ve never met. Only someone in that situation can understand what its like, so they are a great comfort to one another. 

Another surprise from these discussion boards is the number of women who hate the whole pink ribbon thing.  They hate “Pinktober” so vehemently that a few refer to it as “F***tober”.  They apparently resent the cheery carnival atmosphere of the pink events,   I wonder if they think that people would attend and participate in somber events that had slide shows of tumors and cancer patients.  I think that these are mostly the ladies who are emotionally undone by their disease.

My radiation treatment ends on Thursday.  I’ll post at least one more entry when I’m done.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A longer break from radiation

No radiation this week. 

My short break from radiation did a lot to ease the pain but, in the meantime, my skin has begun sloughing off.  Like a super-peeling from a sunburn. 

My Radiation Oncologist has suspended treatment for this week and given me Domeboro and Silvadene to help the healing. 

Domeboro is an astringent to dry the skin. And the Silvadene is a silver-based antibiotic to prevent infection in the open wounds from the peeling.

It’ll be nice to not get zapped again until at least Monday, but I’m hoping to then be able to move forward and get this behind me.




Sunday, May 4, 2014

Red Red Red


Actually, dark red with black undertones. And it’s very uncomfortable. 

Conventional wisdom is that radiation is much easier than chemo. I’m an exception to that.  My chemo side effects were irritating and annoying but not painful.  I guess I’m paying for that now.  Been taking Aleve as often as I can. 

I suspended treatment for Friday and Monday to give four days for my skin to heal a little.   Get back to it on Tuesday.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Long Overdue Update


I’m four weeks into radiation therapy.  Only 13 more treatments to go. 

The radiation target is the chest wall where my right breast once was.  I’m red from my clavicle to the middle of my right side. When the doctor saw it on Thursday, his first comment was: “medium rare”.  That area is approaching the deep red of a Red Delicious apple. The good news is that I’m not blistering – yet. The other good news is that the area of the surgery is completely numb so that the only pain is in the surrounding skin. It feels like a severe sunburn; and with my fair skin, I’ve had my share of those.  A couple of Aleve capsules take care of that. 

I’m using Aloe, Miaderm, and Aquaphor on the skin.  I slather one of them on every few hours.  And I really lay it on thick.  I don’t know if that makes a difference to my skin, but I’d rather use too much than too little.   

The doctor says that if I do start to blister, we’ll suspend treatment for a few days to let some healing take place. 

My hair continues to grow slowly and somewhat unevenly.  In some places it is about ½ inch long.  I can pretty much smooth it down now so that I don’t have as much fuzz sticking out from my scalp.  The fuzz just looks silly. 

My eyebrows are back and are dark as they were before.  I hated not having eyebrows. 

Chemo brain is diminishing but apparently not completely gone yet. 

So in general, things continue to go well.  I credit my oncologists for taking good care of me. 

So here’s my cynical description of breast cancer treatment:   

First they fill you with enough poisons to make your hair fall out, your taste buds disappear, your skin dry out, your finger and toenails to flake, and your bones hurt.  Neuropathy of the hands and feet is an added feature. Surgery can occur either before or after the poisoning. Then they cook you until well done. In my case that’s 2.75 hours total (33 5-minute treatments) YMMV.  Everyone involved hopes this is adequate.  Sometimes it isn’t.






Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Radiation Therapy has begun.


On Monday, March 31, I began radiation therapy. I’ll have a total of 33 treatments over 6 ½ weeks.  Monday through Friday. 

The entire process takes 15 minutes or less.  The actual radiation takes 5 minutes.   

I lie down on the mold that was made during the planning session, and the technicians adjust my position so that my three little tattoo dots line up with the lasers.  Then the machine does a CT scan which takes a couple of minutes.  They review the scan image to make sure I’m properly positioned. Then they zap me for 5 minutes.  That’s all there is to it.

After only 3 treatments, there’s no visible effect on my skin yet.  I expect some sunburn-like reddening over time; and hope it gets no worse than that. 

Here’s a link to a Wikipedia article with a photo of the machine that zaps me. It’s a high tech wonder.




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Radiation Treatment Planning

The process for planning radiation treatment is more complex than I’d ever imagined.  I finally Googled it today.  I’d called to let my radiation oncologist’s office know that I’m ready to begin – my temperature is back to normal and I’m feeling much better.   The technician promptly scheduled me to begin treatment today.  But then I got a call from her this morning saying that she’d jumped the gun and that my treatment plan was still in the physics department and was not yet complete.  

So what goes into a radiation treatment plan?  Here’s a brief explanation. Wow!

 My treatment starts on Monday, March 31.