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Archive for the ‘cancer’ Category

Just Imagine…..

As much as the Doctors and Nurses try to prepare you for the side effects of radiation…..there’s just really no way to really know until you experience it.  Nothing like first hand knowledge!

(just know that I have resisted posting the pics I took….was afraid some of my friends would have weak stomachs!  LOLOL)

 

So….imagine that you were on a beach…of a lake or ocean…your choice….and only half of your chest was exposed.  Now….stay in the sun for several days,…..with the sun gathering intensity each day.  At first, you don’t really notice any difference….except of course….for the swelling that happens ON THE INSIDE……

Ok….now….as the sun beams gather intensity……day after day after day…..you begin to notice your skin turning pink….no big deal really….except NOW you have these funny red bumps that ITCH…and I mean ITCH!!! (it’s called folliculitis).  So….the nurse tells you about some cream to purchase in the special pharmacy at the cancer clinic.  IT WORKS….It stops the itch, relieves some of the tenderness and makes things livable. But the bumps seem to move across your chest…..thankfully, once that follicle has erupted, it can’t erupt again…..thank goodness!

Just as you are adjusting to dealing with the itching issue, then comes the BLISTERS….In a most uncomfortable place!  It just HURTS…all the time.  It hurts when you touch it, it hurts when your undergarments touch it, it hurts if you don’t wear undergarments…..it just HURTS!  (at this point I was ready to throw in the towel)  So the nurse gives me samples of a stick to your skin, removable, cut to fit foam pad.  Ahhhhhh!!!!!  what a relief!  It still hurts when you have to touch the blisters but at least it keeps the undergarments from rubbing and causing more pain.  When I complained about the pain….the nurse gave me a sample of a plastic square that has some sort of gel on one side.  You place it against the burned skin and it relieves the pain and cools the skin.  It is very helpful.

And the sun intensity continues….

JUST when you adjust to dealing with the itch AND the pain AND the rubbing of clothing…..THEN comes the most painful part of all……the sunburned armpit.  Which in reality has and is the most painful of all.  (BTW on treatment days I’m not allowed to wear deodorant….just corn starch…seems to work just fine!)  Oh…Don’t forget that your chest has since turned a deep pink/red like a really bad sunburn.  The skin on the chest is not painful to touch…but the swelling and tenderness continues.  I think what magnifies the pain in the armpit is a mole that sits just outside the armpit and has turned dark and crispy.  OH MY how it hurts.  But the skin (and an incision site from the removal of lymph nodes that sits inside the armpit) is SOOOOOOOO tender and painful to the slightest touch.  In fact, I found myself sleeping with my arm above my head just to relieve the pain.  NONE of the creams I’ve gotten so far have done anything to relieve the pain.  I think I’ll try the gel thing….see if it helps.  The pain in the armpit has gotten worse…even with the weekend of no treatments…..just CAN’T WAIT for the last three treatments of the whole area!!!!  It’s gonna feel SO good…..ugh….

oops…sorry…So NOW….your skin is dark pink, it hurts EVERYWHERE and it’s painful to do things like WEAR CLOTHES! Oh…and your “tan lines” make a lovely SQUARE on your chest…..niiiiice….   What a great day on the beach…huh??

I have 8 treatments left.  3 for the whole breast and 5 of what they call the boost which targets just the incision site.  They tell me that once they begin the boosts then the other skin has a chance to begin healing.  I hope they are correct…

NOW you have an up close and personal idea of what it’s like to go through radiation treatment for breast cancer………welcome to my world!  : )

 

 

 

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Just an update…

I went back and looked and noticed I had not updated the Dr. appt. information for a bit and I have GOOD news!

Dr. Oncologist had a test run on my tumor to see if I would benefit from chemo.  The test was rather expensive but gives the dr. a lot of good information.  It’s called the Oncotype DX (and if you’re wondering, it was over $4000….I know….crazy huh!?!?!)

Well, just before Thanksgiving, the results came back that I would NOT benefit from chemo and could then get started on radiation.  I did not get to see Dr. Oncologist until after Thanksgiving but when I did he thoroughly went over the test results and gave me several pages with all sorts of colored charts and graphs!  The results are split into 3 categories, No benefit, a BIG maybe category and, definite benefit from chemo.  The no benefit cut off score was 18 or lower, I came in at a strong 13…..no question, NO CHEMO!!!!

This test also gives a prognosis of reoccurence.  It said if I took the drug tomoxifen (an estsrogen blocker) for 5 years, then the chance of reoccurence would be 8%!!!!!  That’s amazing!  but it gets better.  It seems the test has not kept up with the current drug therapys and Dr. Oncology says that the drug he prescribed me (can’t remember the name, haven’t had the script filled yet, and can’t read his dr. scribble handwriting) is even better and should drop that 8% at least 2-3 %.  Now that is AMAZING and WONDERFUL!

As of this morning, I am exactly halfway through the radiation treatment.  I’ve had little to no reactions (other than pink skin) up until now.  But now there are places that are super itchy and some that look like a bright red rash and over all, my breast is super sore and tender.  I have a tan “box”…..square.  As my principal told me before it all started….I would have one side that was ready for a nude beach and one side that wasn’t…..how true she was!

Jan. 18 is scheduled to be my last radiation appt.  I’m fortunate to have had some long weekends in the middle part of the treatment.  It gives my skin time to heal.  I’m afraid to think what it would have been without the extra time.  They say it will take about 6 weeks for my skin to return to normal.  I’m not sure I remember what ‘normal’ is anymore.

I saw Dr. Surgeon this week for a 3-month checkup.  He was pleased with the healing of the incisions and thought things looked great considering the radiation treatment.  I have to see him at least one more time 6 months from now.  Hopefully that will be the last visit to Dr. Surgeon.  I’m looking forward to the day that I can only have 2 doctors in speed dial instead of 5!

 

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Thoughts from my brain today….

When I found out I had cancer…and began telling my closest friends and family most reacted as I did……shocked.  But they also were incredibly compassionate, kind and wonderfully supportive.  Then as the people outside my inner circle began finding out….I had some interesting reactions.  Most were as I mentioned, kind and compassionate.  As the saying goes, There’s one (or more) in every crowd” and I have found it to be true in this situation.

I KNOW that I was extremely fortunate to have my cancer found so early, I KNOW that I’m extremely fortunate that my cancer was easily treated and not life threatening, I KNOW that I’m fortunate to still have both breasts and all my hair.  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t say a prayer of thanks for all these things.

But I have to say……when you are told you have cancer….your life changes….drastically.  Is a lumpectomy better than a mastectomy?  sure but it’s still surgery and someone is still cutting into my body and removing things.  Is radiation less dramatic physically than chemotherapy? Sure…no question….but I still have to schedule my life around my daily treatments for weeks and my body is still reacting to the treatment….not really a walk in the park.  Am I still able to work through all of this….well, yes, I still showed up to work everyday…but I can’t say that I was focused on my job like I normally would be.  My student’s performance at the Christmas concert is a grim reminder of what I HAVEN’T accomplished with them this year…and I feel guilty….everyday.

So when someone you know, and/or love says “I have cancer” (of ANY KIND) please, be kind, compassionate and supportive.  Don’t down play their life changing experience.  We all react differently…..just accept what they tell you with love for them.  Don’t compare them to other friends and relatives that have had the same or similar experiences.  Don’t think that their looking and acting strong is really how they feel inside. (personally, I’m just a blink away from tears most of the time….just don’t allow them to fall too often).  Just…..hug them and love them….please….

 

(I think I feel and little better now……ahhhhh….)

 

 

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Just a glimmer….

I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I started radiation treatments on Tuesday.  I have 30 total…..and I’ve finished 3 as of today!  The nurses, technicians and staff at the center are just awesome.  So kind, compassionate and caring.  It makes having to go everyday so much easier.  The best part is that they have free valet parking…which I have used when it was really, really cold.  I plan to use it whenever the weather is bad.

Wednesdays are the long days.  After the treatment (which I failed to mention only lasts about 10 minutes) I have to check in with Dr. Radiation to just be sure everything is going ok.  And after 3 treatments, everything is OK.  I’ve been told that the skin reactions are supposed to show up after a couple of weeks.  I don’t think it will take my skin that long…..it’s already starting to be uncomfortable.

Each day is one day closer to being finished.  I’m looking forward to Christmas Break when I don’t have to get up and get dressed until the afternoon treatment!

 

 

 

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Today I did something I’ve never done before.  Here’s a hint….

 

 

Our school district has raised funds for the OMRF for many, many years and this is one of the events.  I’ve never done a “fun run” before (and NO, I didn’t attempt the 5K) but it was really fun!

My school put together a team shirt…..

 

On the front they honored women in our school who have or have battled breast cancer…..

 

(the picture doesn’t show the silver print very well, but I love that it sparkles!)

I feel very honored to be supported by such wonderful people.  I consider them my school family.  I know that if I need ANYTHING….all I have to do is ask.  It’s rather humbling.

Here’s some of my friends…

It’s also quite surreal to see my name on this shirt.  Even though I am reminded daily that my life has been altered….it’s always a shock to see it in print or have to check a box on a form that says “has cancer”, or to see a friend that I haven’t seen in a while and have to say it out loud.  I’m just weird I guess.

But as Thanksgiving Day approaches….My list of things to be thankful for is quite long.  But I am….thankful for family and friends that remember to pray for me and check on me.  I am blessed!!!

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And….more waiting

Today I saw Dr. Radiation….a wonderful and kind woman.  We are still waiting for the results of the last test to decide if chemo is necessary.  If so, (which I’m hoping not) chemo comes before radiation.  So…..we went ahead and scheduled the first radiation appt for Nov. 28, assuming the test results are in and that the test shows I don’t need chemo.

This first appointment is where I get my tattoos that will help them set up the radiation machine each time.  I’m so anxious to speed things along and have everything happen on MY schedule.  (it’s the choir teacher in me….always planning weeks ahead.)  But I’ll just have to practice my patience and take it one day at a time.

 

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And it continues…

This week I saw Dr. Oncologist.  He’s a great man with a wonderful sense of humor (I know this from experience…I tested it!)  He said that if I was to have cancer, I had the best kind!  It’s easily treated!  I always strive for the best and it worked here too!

There is one more test to be run on the tumor to see if chemo is something for us to consider.  It will be another week or so before I find out the results but he is confident (with the looks of the other pathology reports) that I WON’T need chemo!!!!  This would be an answer to prayer!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before but several of my Doctors have said it so it must be true.  With my type of cancer, and for catching it so early, by doing the lumpectomy and radiation it is the equivalent to doing a mastectomy.  I’m glad I didn’t have to have complete body parts removed.  Although, I have a pretty big cavern where the lump was removed.  I asked Dr. Oncologist if the hole would fill in (knowing that the breast is mostly made up of fatty tissue) he said “yes”.  I said….so if stay fat, it will fill in better?  He said…(with a smirky grin) “I’m not even going there!”  A great answer from a very smart (and funny) man!  We ALL got to laugh!

I meet with Dr. Radiation next Wed. afternoon.  I’m hoping we can get the treatments started soon.  I’m not looking forward to the treatment but would like to celebrate the new year cancer free.

I’m healing very nicely.  The incisions are beginning to calm down and it seems to look as though the scars will hardly be visible.  It’s very difficult to see myself in the mirror everyday and see the disfigurement.  But I’m encouraged more and more each week and things look better and better.

I’m back to normal at school, although I’m not sure if my students are happy or sad about this!  LOL  I feel as though I have cheated them.  I’ve missed at LEAST one day a week (and sometimes 2) for two months.  This week I will only miss 2 classes.  I’m really ready for normal again.

 

 

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Yesterday, I had my follow up appt. with Dr. Surgeon.  The final pathology results came back as ALL CLEAR!!!  Evidently a couple of lymph nodes “lit up” with the radioactive isotopes but when they were put under the microscope….no cancer!  I am incredibly thankful and relieved! (they ended up taking a total of 5 nodes….no wonder my arm pit has been so sore!)

I also found out that the cancer was caused from estrogen and testosterone…..I was taking both replacements at the recommendation of Dr. GYN.  I believe we’ll be having a bit of a discussion next time I visit him. This also means I can NEVER use any type of replacement, synthetic or natural, to help me deal with the hot flashes or emotional roller coaster……ugh.  Dr. Surgeon said that there are some things that Dr. Oncologist could recommend.  I hope it works!!!

Now, there’s more healing time and appointment with Dr. Oncologist.  Time to move forward and put this behind me.

Thanks for all the cards, prayers, positive thoughts and friendship…..I love and appreciate them all!!!!!

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Healing Time…

Monday was surgery day…..Started at 7:30 a.m. taking blood…..wire insertion……nuclear medicine…..and finally surgery.  I was waking up in recovery at 9 p.m.  It was a very long day for me and my family…Mom, Dad, David, Diane and my friend Connie. Jimmy, my brother, showed up after work.  I didn’t get to eat or drink anything from midnight Sunday until Monday evening!

I had several moments of being overwhelmed with the whole business but everything came out ok.  After the surgery, I was having pain and nausea that we couldn’t seem to get under control.  I was begging to stay overnight….so they called they Dr. and he agreed.  It was the best decision.  Mom and I were so exhausted that staying there was certainly the best option.

Mom stayed with me until today, Thursday.  It was awesome having her here.  I had friends that brought food, so she got our meals on the table, we napped everyday, we crafted a bit and had a great time together.  Today she felt the need to be useful so she straightened my garage a bit.  It was a very nice gesture!  That and vacuumed the floor for me.  I am thankful for both!

I meet with the surgeon for a followup appt on Tuesday.  Everything seems to be healing well.  The incision under my arm is the most uncomfortable.  but it gets better everyday.  I’m hoping to go back to school on Monday.  It will be hard and tiring but I need to do it.

I think the cats like it when I stay home!  They have been quite entertaining!  I’m glad they are here to keep me company.

On another note, My sister, had her mammogram after I found out I had cancer (she had missed a few years).  They found a abnormal lymph node, did an ultra sound, then a biopsy, and Hallelujah, it was NOT cancer.  They will keep it under a close watch but I’m so thankful she doesn’t have to live through this same experience.

waiting..again…for the next step.

 

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Marking time….

This is one of the things I do to center myself….

 

Banana Cranberry Bread….

These will become gifts for Bosses Day….

Pecan Cranberry Muffins….

These will be breakfast for the next few days!

Both were very tasty!

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