Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I was originally scheduled for 30 radiation treatments, but found out yesterday that I'd have 33 treatments with my last treatment on January 4.  What is a couple more treatments you ask?  A downer.  I was really hoping to be finished on December 28.  I plan on asking the radiology oncologist what difference those 3 extra treatments will make when I see her next week.  What does the research show?  That's what it is all about.  And if I opt not to do the extra three treatments and I have a recurrence, then I'll always wonder - what if I'd done those last three treatments?   Okay, I'm over it now; I'll be finished with radiation on January 4, 2013.

Yesterday during my radiation appointment, the technicians had me lay on the table, lined up my tattoos and then took multiple x-rays of the areas they planned on radiating.  They also drew lines showing the perimeter of the areas they were treating.  The doctor came in to look at the area and made a minor adjustment which meant that today when I went in, they had to redraw the area on my chest, take a couple of x-rays and have her check the area a second time.  With her confirmation,  they gave me my first treatment.  The machine is quite interesting in that it is located in a room with a metal door about two feet thick and as it rotates around the patient a "window" or collimator adjusts the radiation beam to a flexible shape.  The machine is quiet.  It moves into position and then for 7-15 seconds radiates an area.  It did this seven times radiating basically my right chest wall, lower part of my neck, right armpit, and right side/back.  I immediately followed the treatment with lotion which I'm supposed to do three times a day, but not three hours prior to my treatment.  I've got lanolin, an aloe plant, BioOil, lotion...a little bit of everything to combat the possible damage to my skin.  I'm not to swim, use a hot tub or be in the sun.  The swimming and sun won't be a problem, but I'm bummed I can't use the hot tub.

After radiation today, we met with my oncologist.  My blood work looked fine and he was impressed with the amount of hair I was growing and its length.  I guess I'm at the top of the list of cancer patients for hair growth, really.  He then talked to James and I about the next two months.  First, I'll have an electrocardiogram which will be compared with the one I had last February to make sure my heart has not suffered any damage.  I'll need to have a bone density scan in the next couple of weeks.  I'll also meet with the gynecologist by mid December to discuss the hysterectomy.  The oncologist will want the hysterectomy completed immediately following radiation, so that means I'll need to have surgery the first or second week of January.  Following that surgery, I'll begin taking an aromatase inhibiter which prevents estrogen from being produced.  Aromatase inhibiters can increase the risk of bone loss and fractures, thus the previously mentioned bone scan.  When an AI is taken for 5 - 10 years, it  reduces the risk of relapse by half.

Today was a bit overwhelming with all of the information and appointments, but now that I've processed it and prayed about it, I'm planning next week's menu.  Caleb had taken on the menu board and planned this week's meals.  We're pretty much on track and in addition to what is on the menu, I made some delicious rosemary pretzels with rosemary cheese dip.  I've also tried to make sure I stick with daily exercise, as I put on five pounds pretty quickly (and have since taken it back off).  In addition to great family time, exercise and cooking therapy, I've been working on Apple iBooks for each year of Jared and Caleb's life.  After several days, I have two years worth of pictures, artwork and schoolwork scanned in for Jared and one book completed.  Jared is 13 and Caleb is 10...hmmm - I've got a lot left to do!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My first chemotherapy treatment was on May 30 and November 8 was my last.  James calculated that I've had approximately 2.25 gallons of chemicals run through my body over the past six months.  Even so, my blood work looked good this week and has held stable for the past several weeks. 
The absolutely amazing group of nurses who delivered my weekly chemo.  I won't miss chemo, but I'll miss them!

My last chemo nap.  Yea!
This past week I met with the radiology oncologist on Monday and again on Wednesday.   The soonest that she would consider letting me start radiation was a week after my last chemo due to the individual intensity of each treatment.  With that being said, my first radiation will be on Wednesday, November 14 and my last radiation on Friday December 28.  I’ll have Saturdays and Sundays off in addition to Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.  

Wednesday’s appointment was a long one with me laid out on the CT scan table for over 30 minutes, hands above my head holding a bar, legs straight and rubber-banded together, top off.  They marked the areas on my right chest wall with metal markers along my scar and points where the drains were located.  They also made bulls-eye marks with sharpie markers and in the center of those marks they gave me a freckle tattoo with one in the middle of my chest, one above my belly button, and one on each side of my chest near where the drains were located. They took two scans and photographs, which will be used when mapping and planning my treatment.  Tuesday, they’ll have me laid out again taking x-rays to confirm the exact location of the radiation. 

Although Thursday was my last chemo treatment, I’ll be back for blood work and an oncology visit on Wednesday.  I’ve met with the naturopath doctor and he has changed my supplements slightly; I’ve had those okayed with the radiology oncologist.  I’ve also picked up some pure lanolin and have an aloe plant on hand to help with any fried skin from radiation.  I’ll continue with acupuncture and massage throughout radiation and will taper it down once I’ve completed my treatment. 

 Philippians 4:6 NIV
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

A friend sent me this verse this week and I found it so appropriate.  Throughout diagnosis, surgery, and chemotherapy, I have really been at peace knowing that God will see me through this experience - but it has really been thanks to all of the prayers on my behalf that I have truly done so amazingly well.  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 10, I had no idea what to expect, but I wouldn't change a thing.  Not that I would want anyone to ever have to go through any type of illness, but it certainly has been a positive change for me and my family, and maybe even my friends.  And I know I'm far from finished, with radiation starting on Wednesday, detox from chemo in January, a hysterectomy soon after and years of medication.  But with my last dose of chemo behind me, I feel blessed.

One of my projects this week:  pickled veggies!

Caleb's hockey team from last year went to Fairbanks to play - the kids taped their sticks in pink and wrote Huffman on the blade to support Caleb.  Awesome kids!!

Having some fun with friends for Halloween.  Jared is wearing black and Caleb is wearing green.