Happy Birthday to Me

Today’s my 40th birthday. I must say, all the anxiety about turning such a big round number has pretty much disappeared. A cancer diagnosis is much more stressful than any birthday. Instead, I’m happy to have made it to another birthday, and a cancer-free one at that. StatsGuy lamented the fact that there were no “Congratulations! You made it to another birthday without dying of cancer” birthday cards, so he modified one to make a joke about having only real boob.

It’s amazing to think that it’s been less than a year since I was diagnosed. It’s been a whirlwind of doctor’s visits, tests, and treatments. I do plan on having many more birthdays, and all of them cancer-free, thank you very much.

Plastic Surgeon Update

I have been enjoying my first week after radiation. My skin is almost completely healed – there’s a bit of a tan line around the main treatment area, and I’m peeling on the expander. I can still see evidence of all the hives, but at least they’re not itchy anymore.

Even though I didn’t have radiation, I did have a doctor’s appointment. I met with Dr. Kang (the plastic surgeon) this afternoon for an update after radiation. I just wanted to touch base with him and see what the time frame was for replacing the expander with something squishy. We’re talking six months down the road to schedule the surgery. The big delay is to let the skin heal and the tissue relax a bit (everything has tightened and the expander has ridden up a little in the chest wall). I was a bit surprised at the time frame. I had remembered something more like six weeks rather than six months, but I might just have thinking optimistically.

Take home message is I need to make that appointment with the Pennsylvania Artificial Limb & Brace Company (isn’t that just a mouthful – we’ve decided just to call it PALB for short) for a breast form to even up the breasts. I can get away with the unevenness pretty easily during the winter, but it will become much more obvious over the summer. I’ll put it on my list of things to do for Monday, I guess!

Back at the Cancer Center

I just love this place so much, I decided to come back. Actually, it’s time for another Herceptin treatment. Every three weeks I’m back in the chemo wing. It’s an easy half hour in the chair, and I usually run some errands while I’m in Erie. No problems.

I did head back to the radiation wing for a just a moment today in order to donate my Hug Wrap back to the Cancer Center. I could have kept it, but I’m not going to wear it around the house or anything. I’d rather someone else get some use out of it. The nurse had the great idea to put a little note with it for the next patient. I thought that was a good idea and just wrote a couple of lines about hoping the cheery print would provide some smiles.

Last time wearing my Hug Wrap!

Last time wearing my Hug Wrap!

 

Graduation day!

Radiation is over!!!

Actually, it’s been over for a couple of days, and I’ve been glorying in being able to sleep until 7am (when the dog invariably wakes me up) and not have to drive anywhere if I don’t want to. StatsGuy is back to warming the car up for himself. Lucky for him, the winter seems to be over.

I even got a graduation present from the radiation staff:

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It’s a cute little apple pin. Definitely something worth wearing about for a while, to celebrate being done.

Look at the present box:

The last present

The last present

So empty. I saved a big one for last.

The last present

The last present

It was a box full of love from my family. So sweet!

At this point, my skin is peeling (including my ears), and there’s one sore spot under my armpit. However, most of the skin has healed, even of the pinkness. Next, I have an appointment with the plastic surgeon to figure out when to finish up with the reconstruction.

The Last Week of Presents

I am down to my final day, which means I have last week’s presents to acknowledge. I know I didn’t get them up at the end of the week, but I was busy dealing with the allergic reaction. That’s under control (thanks to the steroids) and I’ve moved on to peeling. It’s annoying and slightly painful, especially right in my armpit, but nothing like the itchiness and swelling I had last week.

Anyways – on to the presents!

More snacks - I love Kashi granola bars

More snacks – I love Kashi granola bars

I had a bit of a heart theme going in the middle of the week.

Candy hearts, that I won't be sharing.

Candy hearts, that I won’t be sharing.

A heart tin

A heart tin

A postcard for my Postcrossing collection.

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A pen from my father's business

A pen from my father’s business

I’ve got one present left (I saved a big one for the end).

I Feel Human Again

As I feared, the hives moved onto my face. I woke up yesterday with my face all puffy and tight and my ears swollen so much the lobes wouldn’t even bend. Even Dr. Figura mentioned they looked “beefy.” Apparently, any kind of radiation reaction shouldn’t move much beyond the treatment area, and certainly all the way up to my face. He asked if I’d changed anything – moisturizer, shampoo, laundry detergent. No to anything I could think of. It seems the allergic reaction was becoming a systemic reaction, and it was time to up the meds to stop it.

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Dr. Figura gave me a prescription for a course of steroids and promised me I’d feel better within 24 hours. Good thing, because I was feeling pretty miserable. Sure enough, by the next morning, the swelling had reduced, and even the itching has mostly stopped. I’ll just have to hope I don’t get a rebound reaction once I’m done with this course. At least I tolerate the steroids pretty well – I don’t even have problems going to sleep after taking a full dose in the evening.

Mitigated itchiness

The skin continues to itch, although it’s moved out of the “claw your skin off” level of itchiness I had on Monday. I did go back to the doctor and asked for something to help, because cool compresses and moisturizer did nothing to lower the level of itch. I am taking Zertec (I’m hoping I bought correctly and not just optimistically when I got the 12-pack instead of the 24-pack).

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I was also given a prescription for silver sulfadiazine, which is a silver-infused, sulfa-based antibiotic used for burn victims. You just smear it over the itchy parts, and eventually the itch goes away.

I find it amusing that the container is blue, since that's the color it can permanently turn your skin if you ingest too much silver.

I find it amusing that the container is blue, since that’s the color it can permanently turn your skin if you ingest too much silver.

Between the two items, the itch is manageable. The initial outbreak is starting to heal, with the hives crusting over and starting to subside. Sadly, the outbreak hasn’t stopped growing. I can easily see where I had treatment around my collarbone and up my neck, since it’s full of hives at this point.

Another treatment area, full of itch

Another treatment area, full of itch

The hives are also starting to bleed out of the treatment area. This morning, I woke up with hives on my ear lobes (really? the ear lobes?) and my right shoulder-blade (radiation goes right through the body). I’m hoping they don’t make it to my face. It takes a couple of days for the itch to subside, so I know I’m not out of the woods yet. Some day it will stop growing and I won’t itch constantly.