April 28, 2010


today was my LAST treatment! done with chemo, done with radiation, and done with cancer...hopefully forever.

...i've officially earned the title 'cancer survivor'. and now, it's on with life.

April 25, 2010

radiation...week three.

there really is little material to write about for this part of the journey. i remember reading that on someone elses blog and thinking that i would surely be able to figure out something to write about. as i learned (the hard way) with associative nausea and chemo, you should always listen to the people who have been there before you. so, with little to write about, i'll just give a brief update...

finished four more treatments this week, which brings the grand total to fourteen...three more to go. people ask me if i'm excited to be done. the answer is, of course, yes.... i'm so over getting up early every day, driving to radiation, changing into a johnny, getting radiation, changing again, and then going to work for a full day. and, i'm ready to really move past cancer. but, it's not nearly the same excitement as it was when i was nearing the end of chemo. radiation is 'easy' in comparison to the physical brutality of chemo. i know that radiation will bite me harder twenty years down the road...but, it's really a piece of cake in comparison to the six months before it. and, i quite enjoy seeing my radiation therapists every morning - they are some of the greatest people, ever, and they make the experience bearable, if not a little pleasant. so, am i excited? yes...but aside from normalcy and a few extra hours of sleep, there won't be too much of a change.

as for side effects, i suppose you could say things are becoming more apparent, but no where near unbearable. the worst is the fatigue...i'm really, really tired. but, i take into consideration that i'm working full time and waking up real early every day. so, yes, i'm extra tired...but, i can still carry on with most things. my throat really hasn't changed. it still doesn't hurt, although sometimes it's a little uncomfortable to swallow. i notice it most first thing in the morning, and it fades throughout the day. it hasn't stopped me from eating anything, but i have added a bit of ice cream some nights when it's a little irritated. also, you can now see a faint outline of my radiation field on my chest. it's like the most mild sunburn, and it really doesn't hurt at all...and, most people don't see it until i point it out.

that's about it. keep your fingers crossed that any cancer cells that escaped the chemo have been destroyed by the radiation, and that in just three days, i won't have to say 'cancer treatment' ever again when people ask what my plans for the day are.

April 18, 2010

radiation...week two.

not a whole lot to report on the radiation front this week.... every day was a non-event, and i'm still amazed by how quickly the treatment actually goes. the getting up early part is starting to wear on me, but luckily, i've had an easy time with side effects. i have no skin irritation, the soreness is better than it was last week, and aside from sleeping over ten hours last night - the fatigue really isn't that bad either. the only side effect i'm starting to feel is the sore throat. and, i don't even know that i'd call it a sore throat...it feels like food gets stuck in my throat, or doesn't go all the way down, when i swallow. it doesn't hurt, but it's not comfortable, either. although, that seems to have subsided a bit over the weekend...so, we'll see how that progresses...hopefully it won't.

again, the highlight of all this is the people. the three radiation therapists on my machine (and another one who rotates in every now and then) are absolutely incredible. they make having to get up early every day and drive to a cancer center totally bearable. in fact, i think more about what the question of the day will be on my drive there than the fact that i'm still getting treatment for cancer. i owe them an endless appreciation.

also, ran into my radiation oncologist this week as i was heading in for a treatment. i haven't seen him since we did my planning (the doctors rotate sites, and he hasn't been there on my doctor day), and seeing him was just the burst of optimism i needed. he gave me a big hug, asked me how i was feeling, and then told me how lucky he was to have me as his patient. he's one of my favorite people that i've met in this cancer experience...and i've met lots of people.

and, lastly, i've made a friend...he gets treatment right before me on the other machine, and we pass each other every day. he's always been friendly and waved, but earlier this week we started saying 'hi' to one another, and recently we've stopped for a quick chat. he only has four treatments left, and i have seven...so, i'll be sad to not run into him - but, i'm excited that he'll be done. and i feel lucky to have met him...he's definitely been a ray of sunshine every morning.

so, i've got one seven more to go. no treatment tomorrow because of patriots day, so four this week, and then the last three next week. it's hard to believe at that point i'll actually be done with all my treatments. it's been nine months since this all started, and i'm so ready to be done and over it for good. and, i know i've said this a lot...but, if it weren't for the people, i wouldn't be able to do it. it's the energy and spirit of those who i interact with at every appointment, treatment and in every waiting room that have kept me going.... if only everyone knew what a difference just a simple smile could make in someone elses day.

April 14, 2010

it's how you face each day that matters

with cancer, it is well known there are many things you cannot control...however, there are lots of things that you can. and, you can certainly control the way you wake up and face every day...

i don't want anyone to think i'm saying that this is by any means easy to do...but, however hard it is, it's still a choice. it's a choice whether or not we wake up every day and choose to face it with hopefulness and optimism or fear and resentment. and, it's in that moment we make that decision that the day begins.

that said, there are many things, especially with cancer, that get thrown into our days and steer us one way or another...and, our attitude usually follows. if your day starts off with a negative attitude, then there's really no place to go from that point but into a further state of negativity. not only does this make the day - the day that's not going well - seem to drag on forever, but it affects the quality of life. on the other hand, if you start off the day with an attitude of positivity, then you're better poised to face each challenge that's thrown your way - kind of like having reserves of energy, when you use a little, you still have some to keep you carrying on.... and, sometimes, it's your ability to simply carry on that makes all the difference.

of course, my statements are based on nothing more than my own experience and observations.... on the days that i've woken up feeling sad, scared and upset, i've had a really tough time clawing through the day - let alone recovering any optimism. but, on the days that i've woken up and reminded myself that every day i simply wake up is a day to be excited for - i've been able to carry through with a strength and outlook i didn't know i had. it's just that one moment, that quick decision to wake up and choose my attitude - the one thing i really have control over - that has made all the difference.

so, if i could offer one piece of advice to fellow cancer warriors, friends, family, and anyone else who's reading this...it would be to wake up every day and make a concious decision to face the day with optimism. none of us are promised any of these days we're living, so whether or not we have cancer, we ought to be so grateful to simply wake up. and, i know this isn't easy. i get it...i've had really, really tough days, and tough circumstances. i've had to make really difficult decisions, endure really difficult treatments, and live with a really difficult reality - cancer. and, each of those things has torn me down a little bit. i certainley haven't finished each day with such tremendous optimism...in fact, i've ended lots of days in fear and sadness. but, that's not the point...the point is that i've made a challenge to myself to go to sleep, and wake up in a new day. and to not just say that i'm in a new day...but to live it. sure, the same reality follows us day to day...just choosing to start the day with a fresh attitude doesn't change the fact that i had cancer, or that i had to go to treatment - those things are still very real. but, the realities of life have nothing on our choice of attitude...

...and as scarlett o'hara said, "after all, tomorrow is another day".

April 9, 2010

radiation...week one.

it's hard to believe that i am just over a month out of chemo. that's crazy! it seems like it would never end, but this last month has flown by! i've been meaning to update, but with radiation at eight thirty every morning and then a full time work schedule, getting things in order for grad school, doctor's appointments and a social life...well, it just hasn't happened. so, i'll do my best to keep up with weekly updates through radiation...then hopefully back to more insightful posts about cancer survivorship. first, let me bring you up to speed...

two weeks ago, i had what they call my radiation 'mapping' appointment. they have a simulation room, that looks similar to the treatment rooms, but instead of a radiation machine, there's a CT scanner. two very nice radiation therapists brought me in and placed me on the table, lined me up with some red lasers coming from the ceiling, and then made notes about what position i was in (they refer to all these things in numbers and stations...i really had no idea what they were talking about). then, they told me that i'd be having my CT scan...and i went through the scanner just like i have with every other CT scan. then they came out and told me to wait a little while so the doctor could 'do his thing', and it was about another ten minutes until they came back. they got all official again, discussing where i was on the table...then, they told me it was time to get my tattoos. some people think i'm joking when i explain this. yes, they are tattoos...permanent ink marks in my skin. i have three tiny black dots down the center of my chest that they use to line me up in the same exact position every day for all seventeen treatments.

on monday i started radiation...it was a lot of anticipation for what really turned out to be a non-event. i expected some terrible, painful, scary experience...and, when they came back into the room to tell me it was over, i thought something had gone wrong or they needed to re-position me.... i didn't feel a thing, i couldn't actually tell when i was getting radiated, and it took less than three minutes for the whole treatment. so, it really wasn't too terrible...and, the radiation therapists (the nurses of radiation) who do my treatments are so wonderful.

my treatments go something like this.... check in at the front desk, which lets the radiation therapists and computers know i'm there. this, in turn, prompts the computer to pull up my program so that the machine can be set for my treatment. then, i go to the 'gowned waiting area', which is just as glamorous as it sounds. i change from the waist up into a hospital johnny and robe. this is where it gets awkward, because i get treatment at the same time as four old men...and we all sit in the waiting room together...half naked. it usually doesn't take long before the radiation therapists come to get me, and bring me back into the treatment room. the room is large, with the radiation machine right in the middle. each person has a different set up...mine is a cushion for my head, and then a cushion under my knees, which is already set up on the table when i go in (i know it's different because they change it right after me, and the next person has different 'props'). i lay down on my back, they give me a ring to hold so that my hands are on my stomach, and then they use a band to hold my feet together. they move the table around, move me, turn the lights on and off to make sure my tattoos are lined up with the lasers projecting from the walls, and then one of them says 'ninety-four' while another one confirms the position. i asked what this was about on my third day, and was told it's the distance from the source to my skin...which is how the dosemitrists have calculated the correct dose...ninety four centimeters in my case. then, they turn the lights back on, turn the radio up and leave the room. i get treated from either the front or back first, and then the machine moves around to the other side and treats me again. i can only hear a small click, a beep, and a little whirring noise when i'm being treated...which is about twenty seconds on each side. then, they come back and that's it!

as for side effects...i can expect to be extremely fatigued as we go on, i'll have a sore throat, a little sun burn, and be a little sore. but, nothing yet...i feel like i got punched in the chest, but it's only sore to the touch. and, i'm exhausted, but i think that's because i have treatment early every day, and then go to work full time. i don't feel anything during the treatment itself...it's just like having an x-ray.

hopefully this helps give you an idea of what radiation is like. so far, so good.... the silver lining to this, as usual, is the people. they're wonderful. our thing is now 'question of the day'...this started with me asking real questions about radiation, but now is just a fun little routine. today was trivia friday. who knows what monday will bring, but i've got them to look forward to. seriously, thank goodness for these people...without them, cancer would really suck.