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Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011 - Anniversary

Hi, I'm back.  I haven't written anything for six months because everything's been fine.  Everyone asks how I'm doing, and I say, "Awesome."  I feel fine, energy is great, and I don't think about it at all.

It's been one year since my lumpectomy.  The time has flown.

I had my annual physical on Tuesday, and my primary physician was almost giddy when talking about my situation.  "You had as good an outcome as you could have had," he said.  Everything else checked out fine.

I had my annual mammogram Wednesday.  Tried out the new 212 Medical Center - very nice.  They got the images and said I'd be getting a letter in the mail with the results.

Yesterday morning I got a call from Ridgeview; they want me to come in this morning for more screening.  There's a possibility of something on my right breast now and they want to check it further.  Well, at least I've been through the drill before - the entire drill - so if I need to do it again, I'll be doing it from a position of experience.  But in all honesty, I really don't want to have to do it all again.

Prayers accepted.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011 -- LAST DAY OF RADIATION!

Treatment is over!  Now I just take my daily dose of Tamoxifen, see my doctor every few months (appointment for March 7 is already on the books), get another mammogram in 6 months, and we see how this story progresses.

It was so great to have my last radiation treatment today.  Really, the entire staff made the experience a pleasant one, and in a way I will miss seeing them every day.  They all congratulated me so that I felt like I was graduating.  At my last consultation with Dr. Sperduto, his nurse, Mary, gave me a "Faith, Love and Hope ...." bracelet and a certificate, signed by all of them!  It was very sweet.

I am MOST happy about getting my mornings back again.  For the last six weeks I've had to plan around the hour and a half it took to drive to Waconia, wait for my treatment, undergo the treatment, sometimes see the doctor, and then drive back.  Tomorrow I plan to go grocery shopping in the morning, which is something its been difficult to do during the treatment regimen.

We have a bottle of champagne in the fridge (although it's a weekday, so we probably shouldn't have any tonight) and we're planning Sunday brunch at Santorini with our friends and neighbors, the Pumas.

In time, the burn spots on my neck and under my breast will finish peeling, and then heal.  Eventually, the pinkness of the rest of the area will fade.  And my hair will continue to grow.  And my nails will hopefully get back to normal.  And my feet should lose their numbness.  And then I'll probably forget I ever went through this.  I hope.

But we know, even more so now after reading The Emperor of All Maladies, that there are no guarantees with cancer.  Sometimes even when you think you're cured, this beast comes back.  But if that happens, we'll deal with it.  I'm reminded by a quote from Chuck Swindoll:

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday, July 22,2011

Radiation is nearly over.  On Monday, I will have R-28 - the last treatment that will include the entire area they've been radiating all along.  The final 5 treatments will focus only on the area where they removed the tumor, which means that my neck (where they've been covering the lymph nodes) will get a much deserved rest.  I have one area, an oval along my left clavicle that is maybe 3" wide by 5" long, that is a pretty raw looking color of red, with dark red bumps that itch.  That area will be hit for the last time on Monday.  But even then, it will take three weeks or so before the delayed effects of the radiation begin to turn around, so more burning might become evident.  Other than that, there's just a funny pink "tan" area, with borders that contrast starkly to my white skin.

We made a cool discovery tonight.  I have about 1/4" of blond peach fuzz covering my head.  As I understand it, this downy re-growth will likely fall out before the "real" hair growth begins.  But it's nice to know there's actually something going on up there that is productive.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We're more than half-way through radiation!  Had R-20 today; 13 more to go!

So far the only side-effect is a mild case of folliculitis (irritated hair follicles) that show as small red bumps and itch like fire from time to time.  1% Cortizone cream helps somewhat, but my best remedy is distractions.  If I'm not thinking about it, then it doesn't itch.

On the way back from radiation last Thursday, I was listening to MPR (as I do every morning on my way to and from radiation) and I heard an interview with a doctor who had recently written a book on cancer.  The book is called, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukheriee.  It sounded fascinating.  So that evening I got out my Nook (one of my many fabulous Christmas gifts), checked the price ($12.99) and downloaded a free sample.  It was so interesting -- while dealing with quite technical aspects of cancer and its treatments, it still manages to read like a who-done-it.  When I got to the end of the free sample, I had to buy the book!  It's quite long - about 650 pages - but I'm on about 250 right now.  I would highly recommend it!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

Good news and bad news.  The clinic called this evening to tell me that the radiation machine is down and I will not be able to get my regular treatment tomorrow morning.  They're waiting for a replacement part to be delivered via FedX tomorrow, so everything should be fine to resume treatments on Wednesday.

The good news is, I have the morning "off" tomorrow.  The bad news is, the missed treatment will have to be added to the end of my regimen, so instead of being finished with my treatments on Friday, January 28, I'll now have to have one more on Monday, January 31.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011 - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Lately, it never fails.  Al & I have high hopes of watching movies until midnight, so we can ring in the new year -- and we poop out.  I think we were in bed by 10 PM last night - after I actually fell asleep in the chair in front of the TV.  And then we slept in.  But when we woke up, we wished each other a Happy New Year then.

So, we're over 1/3 of the way through radiation.  Thursday was R-13, with 20 more remaining (we had both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve off).  Monday will be 14.  So far side effects are minimal - a little slightly pink skin (you know how you can press on a sunburned area and it leaves a white print behind?) and a little itching, mostly on my back.  I'm applying 100% aloe gel to the entire radiated area twice a day -- once right after the treatment and again before bed.

The "local" area that's being radiated is actually a bit larger than I originally thought -- it's the entire left breast, under left arm, and left side of my neck, encompassing the lymph nodes there.  When I'm lying under the machine, I've gotten to anticipate the progression -- one long blast, followed by two short ones from a position at my right, then the machine moves to my left and does the same thing from that side; then in moves behind me and does one long blast from back there, then moves directly over me and does one long one there.  Then I'm done.  Sometimes they take a film or two in between, but usually the process takes less than 15 minutes.

Good news!  I noticed last night that my underarm hair is just starting to grow back.  Well, I'd prefer it not to come back there at all, but that means the hair on my head should be getting ready to regrow as well.  I'm hoping by the end of January to have something on my head to show for it.

Otherwise, everything is good.  No fatigue or pain, so thus far radiation has been pretty much a breeze -- just something on my schedule to do every morning.  That's it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010 - MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Had R-9 (Radiation #9) this morning!  Only 24 left!

I had my weekly BNI meeting this morning (which, by the way, it is so great to be able to regularly attend again; I was missing a lot of them during chemo because they fell when I was feeling the lowest every over week) at 7:30 AM.  Left immediately at 9:00 to head to Waconia for radiation.  When I came in to the waiting room, look what was there:  Santa sitting reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee while a crackling fire and holiday music emanated from the wide-screen HDTV!  What a place!

After my ray gun treatment, I had my weekly meeting with Dr. Sperduto.  I have no skin irritation (yet) or any other sign of what the radiation is doing to me (yet).  So the appointment was rather short.  Since I have to come with either a question or a joke every week, I had a question:  The study materials say no alcohol during radiation.  I asked him if he had a "zero tolerance" policy, or could I have a glass of wine with my Christmas dinner.  He said, "Have the wine.  Just keep it in moderation."  (Whew.  I think that covers the small glass of Bailey's I had a week ago, too.)

Can't believe Christmas is upon us already!  Hoping for a calm, low-key holiday.  Glazed spiral-sliced ham, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, vegetable, rolls -- and 3 pies again!  :)

Merry Christmas, everyone.