Another five presents have come out of the box. I got some good memories in this set.
A new Christmas ornament
A book of hymns
I got this book when my father and I sang in the choir for a Billy Graham crusade in Buffalo when I was in high school.
The farm’s backyard
This was taken early in the summer when we all still had long hair. Mr. Curiosity certainly looks a lot like Miss Adventure in this photo.
A Norman Rockwell mug
This is part of a set of Norman Rockwell mugs my parents had that we only got to use for special occasions. I was excited when I opened this presents. It definitely brings back happy memories of my childhood.
I just want to know how the candies got in a bag for a Wolverine faucet. Luckily they don’t taste like brass.
Three full weeks down, three full weeks (and a day) to go.
Yesterday was the half-way point on my radiation treatment. On one hand, I’m excited to be halfway done. On the other, I can’t believe it’s only halfway. Side effects of the radiation are still pretty minimal, although I am noticing more dry skin and pinkness, especially on the expander.
I celebrated with another marking session, this one for the last five days of radiation that will target the area around my mastectomy scar with electron beams instead of X-rays. The techs slid in an additional device on the radiation machine that will bring the pattern specific to my scar closer to my body. They transferred marks from a template onto my skin (Sharpies, once again) and then from my skin to a clear plate in the device. They’ll use the clear plate to develop a mold and pour the lead alloy around it to make my radiation pattern.
Part of the action for the marking session was figuring out the specific angle to irradiate me, which involved spinning both the table I lay on and the radiation generator. This was all directed by an in-house physicist. I want to know how you get that job, but all I was able to get out of her was that she has a Masters in Physics. By the time we were done, I looked like I had a sock monkey mouth drawn on my expander.
Today I managed to get one of the techs talking and learned some fascinating details about the radiation process. This will be more of a “process” post than a “how I’m doing” post, so if you’d rather skip it, I understand.
The first thing I learned today was why I’m supposed to turn my head a bit when I lay down. I had thought it was just so I lined up better, but turns out it’s really to stretch out the skin on my neck a little and move my chin out of the way for the third and fourth treatments. Those two treatments are targeting the lymph nodes under my collarbone. I didn’t realize there would be radiation up that high. I guess I need to start moisturizing up there as well.
The other information I learned today had to do with the old way of doing radiation treatments. Now, for every treatment, there are lead interlocking leaves in the X-ray machine that the computer moves so only a specific part of my chest is irradiated. Before the computer could make the changes, the techs had to put in custom-made panels for each treatment. They would actually use a molten lead alloy and pour it into a mold designed just for you, and create one for each treatment. I get two squares and then a shape that looks like Utah tipped over 90 degrees. The tech said they would have to be in and out of the room up to ten times for each patient, which would mean I’d have to lay on the table with my arm in the torture device for even longer. No thank you! I want to be out as quickly as possible. As it is, my shoulder muscle complains mightily and half the time my finger start to go numb.
And those are my fun facts for the day!
It’s three weeks into radiation, which is when side effects often start to appear. I’ve got nothing too bothersome going on, just some minor annoyances. I have one patch of dry skin high up on my chest. The location was really confusing me, since it’s not really even in the radiation area. Dr. Figura cleared up the confusion for me this morning, though, when he asked if it was where I had a sticker. That explains it exactly! It’s even a round patch of dry skin. I am faithfully slathering on moisturizer twice a day to the whole area, so hopefully the dry patch shrinks quickly and nothing else appears.
The other annoyance is the skin and muscle getting irradiated are tightening up. The physical therapist warned me this could happen, so I’ve been stretching the area whenever I think about it. It feel worst first thing in the morning, and I feel it mostly in my armpit.
I have been using my Swell Spot on a weekly basis. I think the radiation encourages the buildup of fluid around the expander and in my armpit. I don’t appreciate stretching my arm out in front of me and feeling the expander rub on the inside of my arm. It gets in the way when I drive as well. As I said, nothing too horrible, but definitely annoying.
Another week down, four more to go. When this week is over, I’ll be half done. That’s exciting. I did get five new radiation presents last week. No theme this week, but lots of smiles.
A shower scrubby
The kids had lots of fun throwing this around the house. It doesn’t cause any damage when it gets thrown into things.
A photo of my grandfather and daughter
A photo of a photo, which means very poor quality, but I think I need to teach my mother what red-eye correction is.
Seeds for my garden
This was a game from my childhood. You have to start with the light pegs since there’s more of them than the dark pegs now.
The box is getting noticeably emptier, which is good!
Radiation has quickly moved into a routine. Every day goes something like this:
- I get to the Cancer Center
- Scan my card and sit for a minute (I usually don’t even have time to check my email. I’ve stopped bringing my book, they’re so fast getting me in.)
- Head back to my room
- Lay on the table, with my arm in the horribly uncomfortable braces, and a pad under my knees. I keep waiting for my shoulder to stop hurting or my fingers to stop going numb. Hasn’t happened yet. On a good note, I have nailed the perfect place for my head.
- The techs scootch me over a bit here and there so I line up perfectly
- Four scans – one below, two on top, one farther below. The two from below need a wedge of metal in the X-ray machine to direct the radiation correctly, so the techs have to come in after the first scan and before the last scan
- I’m out of there within 15 minutes
There are a couple of differences, depending on the day. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I get a bolus of fake skin put over my chest for the first two treatments. This allows the radiation to target closer to the surface of my skin. Once a week I get X-rays to make sure everything’s still lining up. Once a week I see Dr. Figura, just to make sure there are no problems (none so far). I will occasionally get a dosimeter put on to make sure I’m getting the correct dosage.
All in all, a quick process on a daily basis. It just takes forever to be done with the whole treatment to be done.
I had my first full week of radiation. Only five more weeks, and one day to go. I was supposed to start on a Wednesday and finish on a Friday, but the doctor needed to add one more treatment angle. So, I started on a Thursday and will end on a Monday. Much harder to find a good place to go out to celebration dinner on a Monday night.
But, I got to open five more presents this week.
Rocks to decorate my houseplants
A postcard from San Salvador, Bahamas
This was my favorite radiation present. Not only did it remind me of all the fun I’ve had in the Bahamas, but it’s a postcard I can use for postcrossing.