Chemo-Finito! After 20 long weeks, all 16 rounds of my chemotherapy treatments are FINISHED!!! It was a very surreal moment ringing the bell and walking away from the infusion floor on Sept 11th, knowing that part of my cancer journey had ended… Tuesdays had become the one constant and familiar part of my routine for so long… I had comfort in the fact that my blood was drawn every week and checked by my doctor to make sure everything looked like it was supposed to… and that I knew what to expect as I was called back for chemo and I would get settled into my recliner chair with a warm blanket and wait for my IV’s to start flowing. I was surrounded by the faces of the people who were on the same Tuesday chemo schedule I was… Some I had become friends with and we would catch up on the past week, and some people I would see and we would just smile and wave at each other because even though we hadn’t spoken, we “knew” each other and were both a part of the cancer club and we didn’t need words to express that. Now that I’m finished with chemo, it’s a little unsettling losing that familiar part of my routine! As scared as I was on the first day of treatment, I didn’t think that I would come to almost miss it! I remember walking in that first day with this huge bag packed full of all the things Pintrest said that I would need to bring to chemo! It’s funny now, looking back, because I didn’t really use any of it! I remember when I would see someone new walk in to the infusion floor with their big bag of stuff and the scared look on their face knowing it was their first day and it was a reminder to me of how far I’d come! After the second or third treatment, the bag was left at home, and I knew what to expect and what snacks/drinks I was going to get from the kitchen area on the treatment floor, and I would know that shortly after my pre-meds would finish flowing, I would become super sleepy from all the Benadryl and would doze off and wouldn’t wake up until I heard the alarm from my IV monitor that the chemo bags were empty and my treatment was over, and it was time to go home and continue my nap for a few more hours. Now, all that is over and I haven’t settled into a new routine yet, I’m back to an unknown/unfamiliar path for a bit…. But just like I did with chemo, I’ll get into the new groove with this in no time!
Prior to starting radiation, I had a Radiation CT scan where they put some wires on me and sent me through the CT scan to get a picture of where they will be sending the radiation beams through. After they had me positioned just right, I was given three little dot tattoos so that they can align the machine in exactly the same place each time I receive radiation. I have one dot (about the size of a mark from a sharpie marker) on each of my sides, just a few inches below my armpit, and one dot in the center of my chest. They basically look like small freckles, but black instead of brown. Today (Oct 4th) I had my first radiation treatment! I will have radiation every day (Mon-Fri) for 6 weeks. It was pretty uneventful and quick! I was on the table with the radiation space ship thing moving around me, buzzing and beeping…. There’s a screen in the corner of the room that I can see all these numbers and calculations and “beam” coordinates. It’s like the traffic control center for my radiation! For parts of the treatment I have to hold my breath for 15-20 seconds at a time. They have a Velcro strap they put around your feet to keep you perfectly still on the table and my arms are above my head and my head fits in this little dent in the table. The whole thing takes about 15 mins and then it’s over! At one point, I felt a little heat sensation and since I’ve been home there after been a few little “stings” here and there around the radiation area, but that’s about it. They said that after about 2 weeks I’ll develop a “sunburn” around the area and that’s when I’ll have to be mindful of any swelling in my arm. Your lymphatic system can be compromised during radiation and since I’ve had lymph nodes removed I will be more prone to developing lymphedema on that side.
Now that I’m getting closer to the treatment finish line, I’m working with the Long-Term Disability people to get everything in order to return to work soon! I’ll have to work around my radiation schedule, and they are suggesting to start with less hours and gradually work back up to full time to give my body a little time to get acclimated to being on the move all day! I’m desperately trying to ween myself off of naps! It’s been the norm every day as I’m still pretty tired and my energy level is NOT back to where it was before! Once I get back to work I’ll have to settle with early bedtimes I guess!
After I finish radiation, I’ll have an appointment with my Oncologist to go over the next steps in my journey. I’ll have a full blood workup, a bone density scan, and a PET scan to peek in all my organs and make sure there isn’t any evidence of cancer sneaking around anywhere! I’ll have to begin taking monthly injections that are hormone blockers and another medication that is for ovarian suppression… My tumor was “estrogen positive” so for the next 10 years I’ll have to take medication to keep estrogen from creating any tumors anywhere else in my body. Every 6 months (for the next 5 years) I’ll have scans done to make sure everything looks cancer free, and I think I’ll have bloodwork done every month for a while… not sure on the time frame of that. In the Spring of 2019, after my skin has had time to heal from radiation, I’ll have my next surgery to take the expanders out of my chest and get my implants finally! I’m hoping that my skin will be extra cooperative and my surgeon has everything looking the way it’s supposed to inside so that the surgery will just take one try and no revisions will be necessary! Fingers crossed!
Overall, the tough part of the journey is almost over! The next part is what will become my new normal… Breast Cancer will always be a part of my life from now on… I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’ll forever be thankful of all the blessings and perspective that I have gained along the way!
As always, I’ll be KCA!