Monday, October 31, 2011

I Am Glow-In-The-Dark Radiant

Almost exactly to the minute two weeks ago I heard the results of the Onco-type pathology which tests the genetic make-up of the tumor. I didn't know tumors had their own genetic make-up, but apparently they do.
The results of that test determined that I will not need chemotherapy. I won't even try to describe to you how relieved I was to hear that.
I started radiation treatments the next day. As of this morning, I have now completed 10 treatments, with 25 more to go. Mike says that I glow in the dark.
Now let me back up a little.
3 weeks ago my children did the most wonderful thing possible. They all came home. All as in our son, both daughters and our son-in-law. They did yard work, and house work. They even cleaned their rooms.
I would have been thrilled with just a visit.
Every time I went out and picked up a tool, my son-in-law scolded me to put it down. My daughters made me sit and sort through things. Then they hauled loads to the dump, and to Goodwill. And it was great having all 4 of them with us at the dinner table. That has never happened since the wedding or before, and who knows when it will happen again, so I enjoyed every moment.
Mike had to go on a quick business trip, so I asked the kids to go with me to the radiation mapping session. That is when you lie down on a skinny metal slab while they take all kinds of x-rays and measure the exact area that will get radiation. Then they tattoo several dots on you so they will always be able to line you up for each treatment. Even though the kids couldn't be in the room for that, I wanted them to see the place where I was being treated, and all the ways the building and the people work to promote healing.
The girls were able to come in with me for the exam, meet my doctor and ask questions. He took all the time they needed to answer concerns, give advice, and tell them about my case. I appreciate his efforts to point us all in a positive direction. During the 40 minute mapping session, after he and the nurse got me set up on the slab, he said, "Okay, close your eyes and go to your happy place while we do the work."
Uh huh, sure.
It was a nice thought, but even with the nice pictures of trees and sky on the ceiling, it was hard to forget that I was having to lie still on a metal slab while a radiation machine moved around me.
After that, I showed the kids the beautiful waiting room for radiation patients, and the connecting enclosed serenity garden, and they met some of the people there who want to do all that can be done to make this turn out the best way possible.
I think it was good for them to see this place, and helpful to have a better idea as to how things will go, and where it will happen. But I remember how I felt when I would help care for Dad when he was being treated, so I can only imagine what was going through their minds. I guess they were probably thinking that no matter how nice it looks, and how great the people are, this is where my mother is coming because she has cancer, and cancer means that things might never be the same.
It was great to have them here. I needed at least one more week, but I'll take what I can get. Anna said she had to pull the C card to be able to come. One of her professors wanted her working on a project during her Fall break, but she told him she was going to help her mom who had cancer. I told her she could pull the C card any time she wanted, as long as it would make it so she could come and see me.
Now I go to radiation treatment every morning, Monday through Friday. Here is an extremely over simplified version of how radiation works. The waves are directed to the area surrounding the tumor location. They cause all of the cells to lose the ability to regenerate. Normal cells recover from that fairly quickly, but cancer cells explode. Then the dead cells are carried out by white blood cells. That explains the exhaustion. My good cells are working overtime to regenerate, or to carry away the dead cancer cell garbage.
I apply special cream 4 times a day to prevent burns. I deal with being tired all the time, and go on long walks to get my heart going for physical reasons and not just for emotional ones. I don't panic when I can't retrieve thoughts (Mike calls it "radiation brain"). I let so many people around me bear me up.
When I am on that slab I think about the waves going through me zapping the cancer cells. I think about how insidious this cancer is. It is not as straight forward as having surgery that cuts it out, and pathology that shows the margins and lymph nodes are clean. There could be cells out there beyond that, and who knows where they are. Because even with all that can be done, there is still the possibility of recurrence. I am shooting for zero with that.
I am grateful for the example of my friend (see the last blog entry below). I have learned from her to do all that can be done, learn all that can be learned, surround myself with people who do the same, then hope, pray and have faith for the rest.
And through it all, enjoy the miracle of being surrounded by love.

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