I am long overdue for an update!!
When I last wrote in August, I had just finished my last cycle of chemo. Things got a little busy after that, hence why I temporarily went MIA.
Merrill and I moved back to NYC right after Labor Day and I started going back to work on site. While there are definitely some appealing aspects of WFH, being back at the hospital felt so normal. And so good. Mostly because I finally got to see all my residents - who are adorable and cleaned and decorated my whole office and threw me a welcome back party :) Works has remained busy as ever, which in general has been such a blessing to distract me from this cancer crap. Though I have to say, I'm starting to look forward to the holidays and taking a few days off. Because unlike residency, I have learned that chief year really does not come with weekends or nights off. Luckily, I love it so it doesn't feel like work most of the time, but I am looking forward to sleeping in a few days.
After we got back to NYC, I jumped into lots of doctor's appointments. I saw a radiation oncologist, who laid out my treatment plan - 21 total cycles of radiation, which would take place daily M-F starting 10/19. I mentioned this one tiny detail that I had to take my neurology board exam on 10/21 (results should come out soon so fingers crossed I passed!!). Given that *minor* conflict, we decided to start radiation first thing 10/22. Merrill is an angel and drove me to the hospital each morning by 7am, they put me on the schedule as the first case of the morning, and unlike many areas of medicine these days - the radiation oncology division is an insanely efficient, well-oiled machine. Most of my appointments took under 15 minutes (including the 5 full minutes of treatment). For anyone who is curious, radiation is basically like getting an x-ray except instead of a quick "buzz" and it's over, the buzz going on for 5 minutes or so. To prevent skin damage, or "radiation dermatitis," I was told to put on special vaseline-like lotion 3-4 times day and fortunately, my skin reaction was pretty mild. It turned pink and about a week after I finished treatment I got one little area that blistered and peeled and now I just have a nice tan. Well not exactly "nice" - I have a square of tan and the rest of me is winter/COVID-level pale so I look bizarre. But really not bad, and doesn't hurt at all anymore.
Merrill and I celebrated finishing radiation (and cancer treatment all together!) by going out to a socially-distanced, insane NYC dinner splurge. We went to Masa and ate the most amazing 25ish-course sushi dinner. I really cannot thank my incredible co-residents enough who surprised us with the most delicious bottle of sake I have ever tasted and the sweetest note. And Merrill's incredibly generous friend for covering a huge part of our tab. We are so lucky to have such amazing amazing people in our life. <3
After radiation came lots of follow-up appointments - with my oncologist who I will now see every 3 months to check in. She also referred me to dermatology and a BRCA specialist in the gynecology-oncology division. Turns out melanoma is associated with BRCA1 so I will be getting regular skin checks and regular appointments/ultrasounds/blood work with the gyn-onc team given my risk of ovarian cancer. I also saw my plastic surgeon and finally got to say goodbye to my annoying port. It was done as an office procedure and I have to say - I am not squeamish but wow this was no joke. Lots of blood and cutting and sutures but totally painless thanks to the miracle that is lidocaine. Finally, I saw my plastic surgeon and together with my radiation oncologist, they've given me lots of recommendations to decrease the chance that the radiation ruins my implant or that I get frozen shoulder. Basically lots of yoga. I found a great app that has a specific shoulder flexibility yoga sequences, that I've been doing 3-4 times a week. We also joined the COVID cult and got a peloton. So most of my mornings have been starting with a 5am peloton ride or yoga session. The waking up part is no fun, but having a rush of endorphins even before I drink my coffee is a pretty great way to start the day.
At this point, it is now watch and wait. And hope. If I make it to year 3 without a recurrence, my risk of recurrence drops off a lot and if I make it to 5 years, it drops off so dramatically that I could essentially consider myself cured. So here's to hoping that I don't have any more major updates here ever again :)
Oh also, JOE BIDEN WON AND WE ARE DONE WITH THIS SOCIOPATHIC FOOL. THANK THE LORD (again not religious but I won't lie, I did pray to every moon and rainbow and mother earth spirit I could think of and it seems like they listened). 2020, I think we finally hit your deep, dark rock bottom and are on the up!!!!