Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Radiation Routine

The countdown is on...four more days for radiation treatment and then we can close the chapter on these sessions. It is hard to explain what going through radiation is like...well brain radiation, but it has been an experience. One of the most ummm..."interesting" parts of this experience has been the van rides that have been taking me to my daily radiation. The Cleveland Clinic provides a great free service that takes patients free of charge to and from radiation treatment . However, given where I live, I am the first patient to get picked up and the last person to get dropped off. So we are talking over 6 hours of just sitting as patients are picked up and dropped off.

My actual radiation sesions are at 12:15 every day and last for less than 5 minutes...really quick sessions. So the daily routine goes as follows...wake up, drink some tea, take the first dose of steriods at 8am. Read some scripture and try and get the mind right before dragging on some clothes to get ready and meet the van. Meet up with the van at around 8:40am and get settled for a few hours of driving. Arrive at the hospital, take the second dose of steriods at noon. and then wait to get seen Get the radiation and then wait to get back on the van for some more driving. Arrive home at around 4pm....or earlier if your lucky.

Not the most fun of situations...but at least it is almost done!! And I guess i could be more sociable with the older folks that ride the van...but I think they think i'm shy...or quiet or something....everyone knows how shy I am! :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Today I had a support group meeting and we did the pick a word exercise. That is where we pick a stone from the bag and when called on, we turn it over, read the word and share how that word is playing a part in your life. So tonight I got the word "beauty". So of course my first comments were to let them know that I have had to redifine my beauty definition as I lost all my weight (and my butt!) and my hair and other features of your "beauty" that you come to get use too. But seriously speaking, I think that cancer has allowed people to see more of my inner beauty. When its all said and done, the physical parts of beauty were never made to last. It all eventually fades away and if you have been banking on just those parts then you have been setting yourself up for failure. The real aspects of beauty is what lies deep inside...your personality, the way you interact with others, and the way that you can bring out the best in others.
You can always get some hair weave and some good mascara to bump up the physical, but if you don't have any substance, there are not enough MAC make up counters in the US that will help you out with that! (and I love me some MAC makeup!)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

F-E-A-R a four letter word

In my house the use of certain four letter words were forbidden of course. No foul language in the house. Now I find myself staring another four letter word dead in the face: FEAR. I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared at this new part of the journey that i'm on. I guess I woudn't be human if I didn't get a little frightened. When I first thought about whole brain radiation, my thoughts went immediately to those cartoons when they have like those radient beams coming out your head! And then I thought about brain damage and anything else that could go wrong. Of course the doctor set me straight on the real deal with radiation and what it really consists of. So then my fears focused around the actually side effects, and going through them. Its just all a bit much! But the big part is not staying in that feeling of fear and getting stuck in a rut. So I try not to think towards the future too much, because the uncertainty of what is to come is very scary. I also try and remember that the bottom line is that I am not in this journey alone. God has really brought me a very long way and he is still right beside me taking care of me. Once I remember that, I can get through these radiation treatments and whatever else might come afterwards. My good friend sent me this scripture and it is so true:

Psalm 56:3-4 - When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another Test...for the Testimony

Although I am on a break from chemo, I still have to get maintenance drugs every 3 weeks. So on Thursday I went in to get my fix of Herceptin (for the cancer) and Zometa (for the bones). My nurses and counselor at the Cleveland Clinic are excellent by the way. So I mentioned to my nurse that I have been having some small headaches ever so often and it had been happening since the beginning of the week. The docs and the nurse always say please tell them about any aches and pain that I may have...just to be safe. So they scheduled me for an MRI of the head for that same day...just to be safe and make sure everything is Kosher. If you have read my earlier entries you know that I absolutely HATE the MRI machine...but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Early Friday morning my phone rings. Its always a bad sign if your doctor calls you early in the morning to give you test results. This call proved that point. The MRI shows several "lesions" in the brain...the cancer has spread to the brain. Devastation, Hurt, Sadness, all these emotions at once along with tears after hearing the news...but I try and remember that God will give me the strength to get through this.

With the initial shock over, I meet with the Radiology Oncologist and listen to the detailed diagnosis and treatment plan. Seems that I have several "lesions" (aka tumors) in my brain so our best bet is whole brain radiation. After listening to the details and the list of possible side effects, I get mapped for my radiation treatments. What they do is make a mold of the head/face and then they map out where the radiation beams will hit on the mask so when you come they are always hitting you at the same spot. The mask will also make sure your head is completely still when they do the procedure.

So I will get 15 sessions of radiation. And the thing with radiation is that it continues to work after the sessions are done. Radiation itself is only like 10 minutes and is painless. It's the side effects that are problem with radiation: fatigue, hair loss, skin changes, headaches, nausea, and hearing changes...and those are the short term effects. Just when I was getting use to my nice, soft, chemo straightened hair, here comes radiation to zap it away. Oh well, that is the least of my worries! Bottom line is that God is in control no matter what happens, and he once again will get me through this. He has never forsaken his children and I know he wont leave me alone.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

And What is Normal?

So now that I am on a break from chemo, I am assuming the next step is "feeling normal". But really what does that mean? Well here is what I am waiting on. I'm waiting on my tummy to feel normal and want food on a regular more funny stuff tummy. Just food no nausea.

Now I know I have complained about the hot flashes...but if you got them you would complain too! So next on the normal express is for hot flashes to cease and desist...or at least not be so intense. Although I must admit they have gotten much better since I have been on this break. And even though there is a chance I might be in menopause to stay, it looks like these flashes may be headed towards the door.

Next is the itching/burning/stinging that I was getting in my hands and feet. Well Praise God that I don't get that anymore. The last stinging incident was put to rest on the shores on Brewers Beach in St. Thomas and since then, I haven't felt that...its all about the celebrating the small things people!

Lastly is just that feeling that everything is ok. I know there is no definition for normal, but to me its just that routine of "normal things" get up, go to work, eat, come home, work out, eat, sleep...and feeling ok while doing all of these things. Maybe its like a switch that will be turned on in my system where I will just one day be like "yeah, this is it...i'm back to normal." Or maybe its gradual and one day I won't even realize that I have been thrusted back into this cycle of normalcy. Either way I look forward to either scenario with baited breath...okay maybe thats to dramatic...but you know what I mean!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Caribbean Therapy

One of the first things that I was able to do after I heard that I am on a break from chemo was go on a vacation. God blessed me with enough health and strength so that I could make the trip to St. Thomas for Christmas. As some of you may know, ever since I left for college I have been home for Christmas every single year. After everything that has happened this year, at first I thought that I would have to break that tradition. But God allowed me to get on that plane and relax at home for a week. I really think that there are therapeutic benefits to warm weather and sunlight. The water might have been freezing, but I sure did hit the beach a few times and immerse myself in that nice clear water. Just to be able to go outside and see a perfect blue sky just does something to your attitude that anxiety pills can't touch!