Hi everyone! I thought I would document my first day of radiation treatments here for memory’s sake, since I hope this will all be over and forgotten very soon! First off, for those of you who missed the reason for the radiation treatments, you can read this blog post about my recent diagnosis with DCIS, a common and treatable form of breast cancer.
Second, thanks to each and every one of you who have prayed for me, written to me, dm’d me, tweeted at me, or sent me Facebook flowers and well wishes – your words of support and encouragement should make this a very smooth and easy process. While you’re praying for me, I would ask you to pray for those far more seriously ill than I am who face much more grave prognoses.
So today, I took advantage of the thirty minutes between dropping Adam at school and my 8:45 appointment to go to Mass – that seems like the perfect way to spend the time whenever I can do so! I arrived promptly and changed into the hospital gown they give you and stashing my stuff in my “cubby”, complete with a personalized label just like preschool. A note on those gowns – what exactly is the correct way to wear them? They tie in the front, but not in a way that keeps you from completely exposing yourself so I spend the whole time I am waiting clutching the front of the gown in terror that I will flash someone. If anyone knows the magical formula for tying them appropriately, please leave a comment below!
I was gowned and ready, convinced that I would be off the table and in my car driving home promptly by 9:00 am. WRONG! My very nice technician came in to tell me that the machine I was waiting for was broken and that I would be sorted into the line for the other machine and subject to an approximate 20 minute wait.
No problem, I just retrieved my iPhone from my cubby and was in the process of checking email when a very nice woman named “Joan” entered the room. Joan had just come from meeting with the doctor and had tears streaming down her face. But in this case, they turned out to be very happy tears. “Good doctors here! No more cancer!” Joan shared with me in her very broken English as she rubbed her stocking cap head in excitement. My Spanish is horrible, so all I could do was have a good little empathy happy-cry with Joan and try to let her know how thrilled I was for her.
There’s something I’m learning as I spend time in the Cancer Center. I have expressed here before that I feel like a bit of an impostor – that I shouldn’t be there taking up space or staff time because I don’t really feel sick. Meeting people like Joan is going to be a big part of this journey for me. On Friday, when I was waiting for my xrays, I saw a very young mom and her adorable daughter. The daughter, who looked to be about five, sported her Mommy’s blue eyes and a full head of shocking blond hair that I guessed her Mommy probably had too when she wasn’t bald from chemo. I don’t know that mom’s name, but the site of the two of them sitting and playing game boy in that waiting room stuck with me all weekend. When I was on the table Friday for xrays, I spent the whole time praying for “Blondie and her daughter” – I don’t know them, and will likely never meet them, but I felt compelled to beg God to please heal Blondie immediately and to keep her cute daughter worry free in the process. It’s funny that I’m also equating having a full head of hair to feeling guilty in the Cancer Center waiting room – the ladies in those knit caps are the ones who really need our prayers!
During my wait today, my sister Erin called and chatted me through about fifteen minutes of the 45 I eventually spent waiting. That was a treat and made the wait time pass much more quickly. Once I was actually on the table, the radiation was so quick and easy I was amazed! You lay on your back, hands gripping a bar above your head, and hold very still. I have a tendency to hold my breath when I’m trying to be still, so I need to relax a bit. There is no pain, no sensation at all aside from the machine whirring around you. The machine, by the way, turned out not to be broken after all – which left me with that same sensation I always have when I’m traveling on an airplane and the captain takes you off the plane for a mechanical problem and then reboards you an hour later – was there truly a problem, is the problem truly fixed, and would you ever know the difference anyway?
In these early days of radiation, I’m told I will feel no effects. As early as next week, I could begin to develop skin issues, but that will be a very small price to pay. After my treatment, I bid goodbye to the two techs who will likely become my girlfriends by the end of this process and waited to see my doctor. It turns out that every Monday, regardless of how I’m feeling, I will meet with him for a check up. That check up includes a blood pressure check and weigh in, which is a cruel thing to do right after Christmas! But I’ve decided that since I am going to have to weigh in every Monday, I might as well treat it like Weight Watchers – so now my goal is to lose one pound by next Monday, or to pull the old WW trick of wearing lighter clothing!
Dr. K. is very nice and our meeting was quick and to the point, so I was able to hit my car by 10:15 – only 75 minutes after my original estimation. The fact that this delay happened on the very first day was a good reminder to me that I am not the person who is in charge of this process, and that I need to just relax and go with the flow. That may mean less podcasts, fewer blog posts, and a skipped work out or two. But right now, giving myself over to this part of my healing will take priority.
OK, that’s enough for one day of these random musings – I’ve completed the first of my thirty three scheduled treatments. But don’t worry, I won’t subject you to blog posts every day for the next seven weeks. If you could please remember Blondie, Joan and all of the other ladies sporting knit caps in the waiting room I’d appreciate it so much!