Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's my birthday and I'll fry if I have to

So, radiation started on Wednesday. I wasn't really sure what to expect even though I had gone in for my simulation. The simulation was on a CT machine, where they lined me all up and took a CT scan, but this was the actual radiation machine. I laid on my mold that they made me and we got all situated. They took a few X-rays to make sure I was in the same spot that I was on Friday. Once they knew I was all lined up, they started radiation. They made some custom metal plates that have notches cut out specifically for my treated areas. I get radiated in 8 different spots. 2 in the center of my chest in between my boobs,  2 on top of my boob, 2 on the side of my boob and 2 under my arm.

Here is a picture of the machine and my mold.


I found this next part very humorous, but you might not... they play music while you are getting your radiation and one of the songs that came on was "Chariots of fire". You know, the typical marathon, slow motion song. I thought back to a memory of watching "Mr. Mom" years ago. Michael Keaton is running in a race for a family picnic against his wife's boss (who he thinks is out to get him and steal his wife). Slow motion....across the finish line... and I had to hold back my giggles so I wouldn't move. It's a very cheesy song, but it played during my radiation and I thought to myself .... " are about to cross the finish line". This is the very last part of my marathon. (since reconstruction is optional, this COULD be the VERY end, but I am obviously opting for reconstruction) Anyways, I found it ironic and humorous that it played on my first day of radiation. When I told Chris about it though, he didn't get it...didn't find it humorous, and didn't understand why I thought it was.

Anyways, Friday was my birthday. It usually falls on Spring Break every year. Add to boot that I share my birthday with my baby brother Christopher, who decided to make his grand debut on my 8th birthday. I usually don't do much for my birthday because most people are out of town, so being shot with a laser sounded really fun, right? I know, you're jealous that YOU don't get to be shot with radioactive lasers on your birthday....  Chris took the day off work, unbeknownst to me, so he went with me and waited in the gown waiting area while I got radiation.

This time they played "Happy Birthday to You" on the radio and sang it to me.

My radiation technicians for the day were Koshy and Nissa. They are super sweet, but I scared the crap out of Nissa. When she came in to set the machine for the last 2 sprays of radiation, I thought a spider was crawling on me. I jumped a little bit and brushed it off of me, and then noticed that it was the strap for my gown tickling my chest. She thought I had either dozed off and suddenly jolted awake or that something from the machine had dropped on me. We both laughed about it for a minute and once we calmed down and our hearts stopped beating so hard, we finished the last 2 sprays.

Here is also a picture of my favorite Valet manager Stephen. They have complimentary valet parking at St Luke's and since that's where MD Anderson's satellite branch is, and their parking is always full, I valet every day. Stephen and his fiance are expecting a baby any day now. She may have already delivered, but as of Friday, she had not. We chat a bit every day while he sends his guys out to get our vehicles. (I've learned that he had curly hair down to the middle of his back in high school, and he had a knee replacement that caused him to be immobile for 6 months but he kept a blog and got lots of encouragement from it)

Then, after we left there, Chris took me to lunch at Bucca Di Beppo but I was still stuffed from my breakfast in bed that morning, courtesy of my Mom, who was staying with my kids, and a little help from Chris on my frappe. I had some lasagna, but only ate a few bites and packed up the rest to go.

Then we headed to Kohl's because I wanted some new Shape-Up tennis shoes. I bought a new pair and a few clothing items. I had mostly tee shirts and jeans in my closet, or warm ups, and since it is getting warm out in Texas, those weren't working out for me, not to mention that I barely have anything that fits anymore. (Thank you steroids!) So, I got a few spring outfits that are easy to get on and off, and don't draw attention to my boobs or my markings that stay on me till April 26.

After that, we headed home for a little bit and snuggled the kids and had some cake that Mom and the kids made me before loading up and heading off to the auction. Chris works at an antique auction on some Fridays and since I didn't know he was taking the day off work, I kind of got mad at him (not that it was his fault) because there was an auction on my Birthday, which meant that I would not have seen him at all that day. So, he asked if they could put me to work at the auction in the office so we could be together. Even though we weren't actually together, I was with him and I had fun.  After the auction, we all went to Ihop to have some late night chow before heading home. I can't wait for the day where our dates don't consist of Dr visits, or auctions, or craft shows without kids. I want a REAL date.

It was a busy day for me, but overall, I guess it was pleasant.

This birthday really meant a lot more to me than other birthdays because I was celebrating LIFE instead of just turning another year older. This is my first birthday since becoming a SURVIVOR and I know I will have plenty more of them to spend with my family. But, it's equivalent to a child's first birthday. Because of my busy schedule, spring break, and lack of energy, I didn't celebrate like I would have liked to, but...oh well. I had lots of love surrounding me, so I can't complain.

This week, I got 3 radiation sessions done....only 27 to go!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Radiation Begins Wednesday (and a few pictures)

Starting Wednesday, I will be doing radiation every day, Monday through Friday, for 6 weeks. My schedule currently runs through April 26th.

I went in on Friday for my simulation, to get all marked up, and tattooed with 4 little dots. I was totally expecting a tattoo gun to start buzzing, but they just use a hollow needle and stick it in you and drip some ink down the needle. I'm sure this is how they used to do tattoos back in the day, but I've never had one done that way. The tattoo dot is to make sure that even if the lines they have drawn on you come off, they still get you lined up correctly under the machine. I also have some bright reddish/pink lines drawn on me, and some blue lines. Grayson keeps asking me why the doctor drew all over me. Hopefully he doesn't get confused and think it's OK to draw on people.... I can totally see him doing this at school.

Ok, and I finally downloaded pics off my camera to the laptop, so here are a few pictures of my hair growth at this point.... These were taken in late February, so about 2 months after my last chemo...
It's growing in nicely. It's very soft. It looks like it's going to grow in straight, but then in the back, it has these two areas that actually look like curls coming in. So, I'm not sure yet. Most people do have curly hair when their hair grows back, so it wouldn't surprise me....but then again, I don't want to set myself up for curly hair and be disappointed if it comes in straight as a board, like normal. I have Indian blood in me, so straight hair is pretty common, and my entire hair would NOT hold curl. Wouldn't hold a perm back in the 90's when that was the hair to have, and it wouldn't hold hot rolls in the late 90's/early 2000's when that was in style.... So, I've never had big curly it would be a change. I would welcome it, even if just for a while.
Also, as promised, here is somewhat of a picture of my crooked un-even boobs. The right side is way smaller than the left and sits higher from the expander. (it's my right side, but in the picture it's the left side) You can really see the difference in this shirt. It's WAY different now that I am deflated, because this one was taken before I was even fully expanded. This was before my last expansion session.
Remember when I mentioned my "hairy butt crack" under my arm.... well, here is a picture of it. I know, it's SOOO not flattering, but then again, you know I show the REAL side of this ugly thing and it is what it is... So, the picture on the left is with my arm extended. The expander goes all the way up to my "fat pocket" under my arm, and with no lymph nodes there, is accentuates it. It is like a crevice or crater in there.....seriously... The picture on the right is my arm down by my side. Tell me it doesn't look like a butt crack....

So, needless to say, having to look at this daily is a gross reminder of how ugly breast cancer is. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would be celebrating my 34th birthday this Friday with very little hair, and only one boob. I have had some rough emotional days lately. The whole "this isn't fair" has gotten me a few times, and then the modified "mothering" that I have had to do lately has really taken it's toll on me. I am thankful that I am alive for my children, but it also sucks that I can't do certain things with them because of my current limitations. I know, I know.. it will pass, and blah blah blah, but it sucks and for just once, I am actually saying it out loud...

Add to boot that we are on Spring break and JuneBug has the flu, and the 8 yr old has an attitude and just got grounded from her iPod, and it's raining its ass off outside.... and we are confined to the house so we don't share germs.... ugh...
I better quit typing now before I depress everyone else...

I'll return in a better mood next time.

(I added a poll to the left where you can vote on how my hair will grow back)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fully expanded

So, I had another expansion on Monday of last week, and then I met with the radiation oncologist Thursday. She wants to start my radiation on Monday, the 14th, so I have to be deflated by then. I also have to go in for a simulation this Friday, so that means that I have to be deflated by this Thursday. So, Thursday afternoon, I got a call from my plastic surgeon's nurse and she wanted me to come in on Friday morning for my last expansion. She said Dr. Garvey wanted as many days as possible in my expander. So, I went in on Friday morning and the PA said Dr. Garvey's instructions were to put in as much as possible and give me some meds for pain. I knew he was gonna torment me. So, they added another 100cc's in my expander which brought me up to about 550 total cc's. I'm about a B/C cup now. After radiation, they cannot add any more than what I was at prior to radiation because the skin changes so much during radiation, so that's why they are so aggressive right now.

Well, I have been in so much pain this week. It's been hard to get comfortable to sleep, to stand, to sit, and to walk. My ribcage feels like it's on fire. This expander is sitting right on my ribcage and it feels like a really bad sunburn with my bra strap rubbing it. I may have mentioned before, my ribcage sticks out really far. No matter how skinny I get, my ribcage sticks out right under my boobs about the same distance as a small set of boobs. Even the PA was surprised at how far it stuck out.

As for range of motion, I'm completely mobile and my arm can do almost the same thing on both sides. I was feeling a burning, and pulling inside my arm, but it has gone away this week. Either that, or my pain has been so bad that it has taken my mind off the arm, but either way, it feels fine.

Fatigue....I think it's back. I cannot make it past 4pm without dozing off. I have fallen asleep on the couch almost every day last week and this week. I feel so full of energy in the morning, but I crash and burn by 4pm. Some nights, it means I stay awake till about midnight, but some nights, I still fall asleep for good around 9pm. I feel lazy and lethargic in the evenings. Sunday, I went to pick up my daughter at my brothers house and on the way there, the boys fell asleep in the car. The birthday party wasn't quite over yet when I got there, so I decided to take advantage of the boys sleeping and I took a quick cat nap in the front seat. Driving there I felt like I was going to doze off, so the power nap was much needed.

My hair is growing back nicely. It is growing straight forward with the "Hesketh cowlick" in the back, but I have enough that I actually have to wet it down and comb it every morning because I wake up with bad bed head. I can sort of part it to the side, so it looks like a boy haircut, but it is growing in thick and soft. I'll try to post pictures soon. I took some last week, but I haven't been on my laptop to download them yet. I've been doing everything on my iPad and iPhone from the couch. I'm hoping to have enough hair soon so that I can actually get a cute pixie cut and put some color in it.

So, this week, I have a Dr's appointment every day except today. I go for my first physical therapy tomorrow and I think they are fitting me for a compression sleeve. Then Thursday, I get deflated (HALLELUJAH!!!!) and Friday, I go for my radiation simulation/marking session. I start radiation Monday and I go every day for 6 weeks. I'm not even looking forward to seeing my gasoline cost me $94 to fill up last week and I have to drive to The Woodlands every day and back (about 60 miles round trip) addition to all my other mom-taxi duties. Yikes!!

So, I think that's about all I have to report so far. I'll check in this weekend hopefully. Next week is spring break, so if my little squirts let me get anything done, I'll post about my radiation.