This week has been filled with all sorts of up's and down's which has led to this post being delayed a bit. It seemed like every time I would sit down to write, I would feel a certain way and when I would come back to finish it later, I would be feeling a completely new set of emotions and delete everything I had previously typed. So, where to start?...
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, followed by a great weekend in Chicago to celebrate our friend Mike's wedding. We had a really fun weekend and it was nice to catch up with some old friends that we don't get a chance to see too often.
On Monday, I headed back to see Dr. M (my plastic surgeon) and after one more fill of my tissue expanders, he gave me the okay that we could be done with this step so I could move on to radiation. So, come Wednesday morning I was back at Karmanos for a couple hours getting all geared up to start this next leg of the journey.
I met with Dr. R (my radiation oncologist) for awhile to talk about how I have been doing post-surgery, and to go over all the potential risks and side effects of radiation. Oh you know, just the unavoidable scarring down of up to 1/3 of my right lung, potential demineralization of my ribs putting me at risk of fractures, possible rupture of my tissue expander, lymphedema, fatigue, and burning/scarring of my skin...just to name a few. No biggie, just another day in the life of a cancer patient...being constantly faced with choices that bring uncertain and potentially dangerous outcomes no matter which way you go. Radiation brings many risks, but I feel that lingering cancer cells pose an even greater risk...therefore, the choice is to let the radiation begin! I will have radiation treatments every single day (Monday through Friday) starting this Monday, all the way through the end of January. However, we have decided to hold off on radiating my spine at this point. This is a much more dangerous area of the body to radiate, and a place that we don't want to radiate unless we really have to. Right now, I am not really having symptoms of back pain due to my cancer. I have an achy and sore back most days, but it is more due to deconditioning and fatigue, rather than the metastases. So, for now we will wait and see how I feel and if the time comes when pain becomes a bigger issue, maybe we will radiate.
After meeting with Dr. R, I headed in for my CT simulation. This is when my radiation therapist and Dr. R used a CT machine to determine the exact location and size of the area to be treated. After a bunch of different marks and assessments, I received 4 permanent little blue tattoos to mark where the radiation beam would be directed at each of my treatments. My right chest wall will be the area radiated, so I now have one small tattoo under my right collarbone, one over my sternum, one near my waist on my left side and the last one near my waist on the right side. After this procedure was over, I received my usual monthly injection of Zoladex (the one that suppresses my ovary function), and also received my first injection of Xgeva, which is a bone strengthener that I will be getting every month from now on. Needless to say, when I left Karmanos on Wednesday afternoon, I truly felt like a human pin cushion.
Last Wednesday night, Dr. R called me which made me a little nervous to say the least. Luckily, all she wanted to tell me was that I needed to have some of the saline removed from my left breast so that it wouldn't interfere with the angle of the radiation beam. I knew that some of the fluid may need to be removed but I was completely shocked after leaving Dr. M's office on Thursday afternoon when they removed nearly half of the saline from my tissue expander. I had a "little" meltdown in my car while driving home - for the first time, I truly felt so sad about how I looked. I worked so hard to tolerate the quick expansion of my expanders and I felt that all of the discomfort I went through was for nothing. Now I am left with this stretched out skin and a deflated looking breast and it was just an emotional moment for me. I didn't realize how different it would look after having 150 cc's removed and for whatever reason, I just lost it. I rarely complain about all of the things my body has had to go through - how I have been poked, prodded, cut up and stretched. I know that it is not the biggest deal in the great scheme of things. But the simple fact is that sometimes it's just a lot to take. I know my dissatisfaction with the way I now look will only be temporary but sometimes I just need to let myself be upset and then I can move on and get over it.
Thankfully, immediately after pulling myself together from that appointment, I left to pick up my wonderful friend Meredith and we headed to our support group meeting. I always feel better after going to those meetings and it was just what I needed that day. We had five new people attend this time and I am grateful for the love and support each person brings to the group.
Friday I visited many of my old co-workers at the Rehab Institute of Michigan and it totally made my day to see them. I am grateful for the time I spent working there and the friendships I made because many of these women continue to be my biggest supporters as I go through this battle.
The real part of this week that has weighed heavily on my heart is hearing the news that a special friend of mine is not doing too well. This is a friend I have met along this journey, who is also battling cancer. We have so many crazy connections and similarities (not to mention we were born on the same day!), and she was diagnosed with advanced cancer just about a month after me. I have spent much of this week worrying about her, praying for her, and trying to remain positive about my own health while being faced with the devastating reality of what this disease can do to a vibrant, beautiful 29 year old woman like her. If you could please say some extra prayers for my friend and her family. Prayers for healing, decreased pain, strength, and peace as she bravely continues this fight. I would really appreciate it.
This upcoming week will be another busy one filled with daily radiation appointments, the start of therapy for my chest muscles and shoulders, holiday shopping, and a few special events in the evenings too. Please keep me in your prayers, because I know they are helping me each and every day. Although I make sure to enjoy each day and I am very optimistic about my future, it doesn't mean that there aren't daily struggles and it is your love, support and prayers that help me through those times.
Loved spending time with some of my favorite ladies the night before Thanksgiving
All dolled up with my handsome husband at Mike and Noreen's wedding! ....ps-can you tell the hair is starting to take on a life of it's own?!
My beautiful friend Julie and her husband Joe were at the wedding too - so glad we were able to spend some time in Chicago together. Love you, Poo!
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