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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Angels. Angels with Skin On!

Hello friends!  I hope everyone is well.  Today I have completed my 7th radiation.  I am exhausted but my spirit is not broken.  Getting radiation makes you feel like you have been in the tanning bed too long.  You know if you have ever used a tanning bed and you have plans immediately after, you can't shake the sense of smell that you have tanned.  You really want to take a shower.  This is quite the same.  However, with radiation the sensation is coming from deep within.  You cannot get rid of it.  I wonder what it will feel like after 18 more of these treatments.  Except for the extreme fatigue, radiation has not been so bad.  My biggest physical challenge right now is dealing with bone pain everyday.  It comes on in the mid afternoon to early evening.  It seems since radiation started, the pain is coming on earlier in the afternoon and lasting longer. This pain was caused by the last four chemo treatments with the drug, TAXOL.  Taxol causes nerve damage, neuropathy, bone pain, and many of these symptoms can be long term or permanent.  After going through chemotherapy, my bones have felt hollow and weak and my muscles feel atrophied. After sitting for any length of time it is difficult to get up and walk. The good news is I am getting closer to the end of these types of treatments and looking forward to reconstruction.

Now I have to tell you about some amazing people in my life.  As you might remember, my oldest daughter is a senior at Richland High School this year and will graduate in May 2011.  She has the most awesome friends.  Sometimes, like right now, I think of them and just start to cry.  They are happy tears.  There are a few of her friends that make my day great with just a word or a visit.  First of all, there is Hayley.  Hayley is an excellent soccer player and is on the drum line in the band.  She gets up at the crack of dawn and is up late often working on school work.  She and her mother have been clients of mine for a while.  I have been blessed to get to know Hayley on a more personal level.  I have often called her my third daughter.  She and Landri have hung out together since middle school.  However, they have the busiest schedules that have kept them from spending the same amount of time together that they did in the past.  They are still good friends, and Hayley follows my blog.  She just seems to always lift me up whenever she can.  Sometimes when I am on Facebook, she will chat with me...even asking me questions about homework and such.  She makes me feel special and she is such an awesome young lady.  This week she sent me a text asking me to review a college essay for her.  I said I would and she sent it to me through Facebook.  I began tearing up the minute I started to read it.  It was about the person who had made the biggest impact on her life.  It was about me and my battle with triple negative breast cancer.  Wow!  I cannot express how honored I felt.  At the end of the essay, she said that I was her "hero".  How can this be?...That battling this awful disease has gained the attention of a teenager?  As a society, in general, we think of teenagers as self-centered, crazy, irresponsible, shallow individuals caught up in their own little world of friends and fun....existing far from the reality of the real world that is about to hit them.  I am here to tell you, there are some very mature, wonderful kids out there.  These kids work hard and put God at the forefront of their lives...and it shows.  They are kind and considerate and have a great future ahead of them. Hayley is one of these people, a beautiful, smart young lady. She will excel at anything she chooses to do, and I would be proud to call her my own anytime.

Another one of Landri's friends is Brooklyn.  She is a tall beautiful, athletic blonde that will impress you on the basketball court, but at the same time, you could imagine seeing her on the cover of a beauty magazine.  She is kind and sweet and she is a person with high morals and values.  She is a light for Christ and I am glad she is part of Landri's life.  She is often spending time with Landri after basketball practice and I have been blessed to get to know her as well.  She also reads this blog.  She has walked in the Race for the Cure with Landri this year, and was at the salon garage sale ready to help out in any way.  She always seems to give my spirits a lift.  Sometimes she will leave me comments on my blog.  Once again, I am proud of the girls and friends Landri has in her life.

Of course Landri and Presley are the greatest daughters I could ever have.  I am so proud of them both.  Landri is an amazing athlete, a natural born leader, and is strong in her faith.  She has been my cheerleader this year, keeping me up and fighting.  Presley is a beautiful kind-hearted angel.  She is always thinking of others.  Since I have had cancer, she has been especially attentive to me.  She asked me questions all the time like "How was your day mommy?"..."can I do anything for you?"  Sometimes despite how I try to hide them from her, she sees my tears.  She comes up to me and puts her arms around me and holds me.  She says "it's o.k. mommy...I am sorry you are hurting"..."I love you, you are the best mommy in the whole world"...I am truly blessed. 

I believe we all have guardian angels.  I also believe in the hardest times of our lives, God sends us angels "with skin on them".  Landri, Presley, Hayley, Brooklyn, and so many others, are my angels with skin on them.  I love to read your comments so don't hesitate to leave them by clicking "comment" on the bottom of this posting.  Until next time my friends....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Radiation 101

Well I was supposed to start radiation last week.  I went in for the simulation and markings etc. and the radiation oncologists (R.O.) said my heart was positioned in a very weird way inside my chest.  This is due to the fact that I have pectus excavatum.  In other words, my ribs cave in slightly instead of having a nice curvature outwards.  My left ventricle is sticking straight up/out the chest wall instead of pointing to my side where it should be.  So no photon radiation for me as this cannot be done without radiating the heart.  The R.O. said she would use electron beam radiation because the depth can be controlled and it can be done without affecting my heart.  I really have had to try to sort this out in my head because I just did not have a good feeling about the whole thing.  I keep thinking "what is God trying to tell me about this?"  The two ladies in the radiation room who get me all set up are very personable and nice. So I started yesterday, Monday for the first treatment after questioning the doctor some more with Kevin in the room.  (In case you don't know this, our doctors don't like this very much.  We were told that we wouldn't understand because we did not go to school for twelve years to study how to give radiation.  Well, darn it!  I  found out I am not a doctor and my questions are irritating and not really that important.  It's too bad in those twelve years of schooling they don't emphasize doctor/patient communication more!)  Blah, blah, blah!  Whatever!  Kevin and I had to bite out tongues to keep from giving Miss R.O. America the "what for".   It doesn't take long at all to get the radiation, but I am already feeling some sting from it.  I am still dealing with some pretty severe fatigue.  I could literally sleep for 10-18 hours at a time.  Then I will have a burst of energy and I am down again. 

 Today I slept until it was time to get up and get ready to leave for radiation.  When I got home, I put my IPhone on the speaker mount and I began cleaning.  Years ago I taught all kinds of aerobics and exercise classes.  Now I can turn house cleaning into a workout, especially now that it is so easy to get winded.  So I have done laundry all day and vacuumed.  Then I mopped the floor with my feet and a towel and a bottle of cleaner.  All done with grace and style, I might some really good music.  Ok, now if you are believing the "grace and style" part, well we've got to talk.  It was a good one hour heart-pumping work out.  The steroids have left my body thankfully, and I feel like I have a chance to start slimming down...if my energy decides to lend me a visit every now and then that is.  I will tell you one of my side effects of the radiation.  Many of you remember the early days of the tanning bed's popularity.  Well, I was working in health clubs during those early days and I would tan for literally an hour or more at a time (there were not the restrictions like there are now).  Of course I would never let anyone in the general public do this, but we employees used to lay in the beds after hours WAY past the suggested maximum time limits.  It was then that I discovered the term "prickly heat".  This is when you feel something like needles poking you after overexposure to the sun or tanning beds.  Well, I felt that the first day after radiation and today too!  The weird thing is, I did not feel it in the area that they radiated.  I felt it in my lower right leg, my left leg, and a few other places.  Very strange.  I also noticed that I have an appearance of lines across both sides of my chest even though the left side is the only one being radiated.  The lines almost look like sheet marks...or whelps.  They were there after both radiation sessions, but gone by morning. Anyways, I lay on the table in position and I stare at this opening in the acoustical ceiling tile.  Someone has deliberately carved out an opening so that a laser beam of some sort can pass through the tiles to line up with the machine.  There is some sort of mechanism up inside the ceiling and I can see the red beam shining out of the opening.  So I stare, and I focus, and I pray.  The opening is the shape of a cross.  I just keep my focus on that and I pray for God's protection and healing.  I pray that I made the right decision.  Leave me a comment on my blog if you like.  I took the filter off so there should not be a problem.  If you leave me a comment through my postings on facebook, then all who are led to this blog are missing out on your comments.  I have had some excellent advice and so much encouragement.  I know there are other triple negative survivors that are reading this that need your words of support too!  Click on "comment(s)"  below the blog in tiny print and leave me a word.  Until next time my friends...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting Past The Shadows In Your Head

Well, I have not been blogging lately.  I am still waiting to start radiation.  It is Friday night and I am waiting on Kevin to get home.  The girls are with their dad.  Monday I will go in for a "test drive" session of radiation.  I have received the "tattoos" already this past week.  These are just three little dots that are permanently inked on either side of your chest under the arms and one dead center in the just below the chest.  These are reference points for measurements and markings that the physicists will use to plan out the angles of attack with the radiation.  I have secretly been debating on having radiation at all.  I just have not felt sure about it.  I kind of broke down in the radiation oncologists office and she asked me if I was having second thoughts.  I told her that I just wanted to get it over if she really thought that I needed it.  I also told her that I needed to get back to work at least on Fridays and Saturdays and I did not want the stress of all this and the possibility that I might get burned.  She said to me "well how about we just do this Monday through Thursday, 25 sessions?"  I said it was a deal.  I thought it was good that at least I don't have to work and get radiated on the same days, and I will have 3 days to heal and try to keep the skin healthy for reconstruction.  

I had my first set of scans done and they said they were all clear.  I know that is good news.  Somehow though, I wasn't jumping for joy.  I guess I just have an uneasy feeling about the way that these doctors do things.  I have never been offered a PET scan.  When we asked, they said that "they weren't really as good .....(for this, that, etc)".  I know there have been many cases where women were given clear scans one week and literally 3 weeks later were stage 4 with mets in the liver, bones, etc.  I know that many women feel that they have this cloud that hangs over them for the first five years.  Another thing I don't really like is the fact that my oncologist is now saying that I am going to get scans done every 6 months.  At first they said every 3 months, unless I am crazy (which could be true:).  I just remember how fast these tumors grew.  They were growing about 1/2cm every two weeks.  A average breast cancer tumor has a Ki 67 score of about 15-20%.  This is how fast and how many cells are replicating so to speak.  My Ki 67 was 90%.  These little boogers were moving!!  So the idea that some of these nasty cells are floating out there and looking for someplace to land and I am only going to get scanned every six months doesn't really sit well with me.  I am trying to stay positive, and I hate sounding negative. 

 So the radiation oncologist explained to me why I needed radiation.  I asked her if the chemo kills the cancer cells then why radiate the chest.  Her answer made sense.  She told me that due to the fact that I had a mastectomy prior to chemo, many of the tiny blood vessels had been cut/damaged.  Because of this, the chemo drugs don't circulate well into the chest area.  I can see where this is true because I have little feeling in the chest area, under the arms, and into my back.  I know the nerves have been severed, so one can assume that the blood vessels have been damaged too.  So Monday is the practice session, and the real deal happens Tuesday.

I guess every cancer patient who finishes treatments has anxiety over their cancer spreading, coming back, and just being missed.  That is the challenge...getting past the shadows lurking in your head.  It is tough to shove them down and keep them out of the way.  Getting back to your life, a new and hopefully better life is the goal.  Please leave me a comment.  I love reading them.  Until next time my friends...