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Sunday, November 28, 2010


It's funny but right after I wrote the last post, early this morning, I suddenly couldn't stay awake.  I logged of the computer, went back to bed, and slept like a rock.  Which makes me wonder: am I keeping too much inside?  Maybe my efforts to pretend everything is normal, everything is fine, I am fine, is acting against me. I've been trying to just accept all this cancer stuff as just another speed bump of the road of life but I'm thinking it might be getting to me more than I'm willing to admit.  It might be time to look into a cancer support group or one of those alternative programs my cancer guide was talking about.  They do healing touch massage, acupuncture, wellness classes, stuff like that.  I kind of dismissed it because the programs are generally held in the evenings, when I'm working, but I could always take a couple days off. 

Something good came out of my insomnia, though: since there was nothing on TV except infomercials and home shopping, I chose QVC for my late night viewing.  They featured an iCarly video camera on their toy show, and when I woke up this afternoon I ordered it for Diva's Christmas gift.  There weren't any product reviews on it yet, so I hope it's a good toy.  Diva loves anything iCarly and she's been wanting a video camera since Mattel came out with a Barbie doll that has a camera in it.  This one cost less and looks a lot more sturdy. Plus, it's purple, her favorite color. I have my fingers crossed that it works well. 

Walker went to town on the bathroom project this weekend.  He took down all the trim, gave the walls and ceiling a second coat of paint, and sanded and primed the vanity inside and out.  On the plus side, we're almost ready to have the new tub liner, shower surround, and lights installed.  On the minus side, the bathroom is torn up worse than before.  Walker had to empty the vanity and take down the towel bars to get his stuff done.  I'll be able to put everything back together after he goes to work, if I can stay awake that long.  If we ever move, I'm going to insist we find a place with two full bathrooms. 


It's after four and I can't sleep.  In fairness, I'm usually just getting home from work around now, so it's not unusual for me to be up, but I only slept about five hours last night.  I thought I'd be winding down early.  Frankly, I'm exhausted.

I've started having skin reactions to my radiation treatments.  I've got little blisters on my chest and under my arm.  Some of the blisters have broken and have turned to scabs.  Lovely, huh?  Yesterday, when I woke up, there were welts on my skin that looked like I'd been scratching in my sleep.  The blisters do itch.  I was thinking I might have to sleep wearing mittens or something.  I had visions of having Walker tape oven mitts to my hands like the "Friends" episode where Phoebe had chicken pox.

The doctor gave me a prescription for a burn cream compound, which I carry around in my purse and smear on when the pain starts to get to me.  Most of the time, my skin doesn't hurt much but then it comes out of nowhere. The cream has a topical pain reliever.  It helps, but it doesn't last more than an hour or two.  I'm not supposed to use it more than three times a day so I wait until I really need it.

Around midnight, I was dozing off at my desk so I went to bed and turned on the TV.  There were all these holiday themed shows on.  I started thinking about last year at this time, how we lost my aunt to cancer so suddenly, right between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and of course I started thinking, what if.....what if the radiation doesn't work, what if it works but the cancer comes back anyway, what if the doctors missed something, what if I made a mistake passing on the chemo, what if this is my last Christmas and I don't even know it.....I'm sure it's normal to go through thoughts like this, I just don't like it.  I'd much rather think positively.  I don't know how to turn off my mind.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


It's raining.  The air has a heavy feeling, and I would not be surprised if that rain turned to snow.  Diva and her little friend Alli made the rounds yesterday, delivering Girl Scout cookies.  I'm glad they got it all done, cause the weather today is bone chilling.  I was planning to go grocery shopping when Walker gets home with the van but I'm starting to rethink that plan.  Right now, I'm parked at home with a loaf of bread dough rising and home made beef barley soup simmering on the stove.  Going outside is just not appealing.

Friday, when I drove to work, the oil light in my car came on whenever I was sitting at a stoplight.  Walker spent yesterday online trying to figure out why, since the car is not low on oil. All he learned was that happens when the oil pressure isn't ideal, but he wasn't able to find a cause or solution.  I'm not sure I should be driving my car until we get this figured out, especially in this weather.  I definitely don't want to get stranded and I don't want to damage my engine. 

It's hunting season here.  Despite the lack of snow (yay!) my neighbors managed to bag six deer yesterday.  Unfortunately, they have three of them hung from a large tree in their front yard.   Where they will likely stay for a week or so.  Right across the street.  Where I have to look at them every time I pass my living room window.  Which is pretty much all day long.  I get that hunting actually helps the deer herd.  I understand that hunting is more humane than letting them starve.  But I would much rather watch them playing in a field than strung up in a tree.  That's just how I roll. 

And finally, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my big sissy.  I promise not to mention which one this is.  *grin*

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Milestone

Today was my twelfth radiation treatment, which means I'm more than a third of the way to the finish line.  Just the last few days, my skin has started turning a little red and my "treatment area" has become just a bit sore.  All in all, it's not bad.  I have learned to squat rather than bend over, as that reduces the chances of squishing the girls.  I make a pillow barrier around me when I sleep, so the dogs don't jump on any sore spots when they greet me in the mornings.  I reach for things with my right arm, as the left arm has some tender spots underneath.  Like that.  It's all good.

The radiation team tells me I'm a rock star when it comes to treatment:  I line myself up perfectly on the table, I've got gated breathing down to a science, I don't freak out when the machines are buzzing and moving around my head.  I joked that finally, I had found my talent.  It appears that I'm really good at being a cancer patient.  Go figure. 

I've started the bathroom makeover, but I have to admit we're not moving very fast.  I have one coat of paint on all the walls and ceiling.  That's it.  Unfortunately, I did that about ten days ago.  Last weekend I just wasn't up to working on it. We also have to hire a guy to put in our new exhaust fan, and he's booked out a couple weeks, so I don't feel any rush.  Sometimes I feel like I need a deadline to motivate me.  As long as we're done sometime this year, that's good enough for me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Yay for Johnae!

Johnae got the all clear on Thursday!  To say she was relieved would be a major understatement.  I'm willing to bet she never blows her mammo off again.  Hugs, Johnae!  I'm glad you got good news. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One Down, Six to Go....

Today was my fifth radiation treatment, bringing to close the first week of my seven week treatment plan. I have the routine down pretty well now.  It's been so far, so good with the treatments.  My skin shows no sign of damage yet.  I have some weird discomfort when I reach with my left arm, but that could still be nerve trauma from the surgery.  Dr C told me it could be up to six months until that goes away completely.  At any rate, it is more "bothersome" than painful.

This week, I had meetings with the radiation oncologist, the oncologist's nurse, and someone called a "cancer guide" who gave me information on the holistic services offered at the cancer center.  Some of the programs sound like fun: a monthly meeting of patients and surviors, healing touch therapy, and even acupuncture.  The problem is, many of the programs are offered during my working hours, and my office isn't close to the clinic.  If I want to attend these offerings, I will need to use vacation time to do it.  I took the pamphlets, but I'll make my mind up later.

Yesterday, my wonderful friend Johnae got the dreaded "call back" on her mammogram.  Our local clinic sends a letter if all is well.  The call means there is "something" on your films.  Not every "something" turns out to be cancer, and the clinic asked Johnae to come in next week for a follow up.  With me, they wanted my butt (well, they actually wanted my boob, but I digress) in there at 8 o'clock the next morning.  So to me, telling Johnae to come next week is a good sign.  She didn't want to wait (of course!) and asked to be put on a cancellation list.  They must have heard her anxiety because they told her to come tomorrow, early, and prepare to wait.  They will work her in at some point during the day. Johnae credits my cancer with prodding her into her mammogram.  She was two years out from her last one.  Hopefully, she'll have an all clear by lunchtime tomorrow.  If not, well, we can travel this journey together.  If you're a praying sort, please think of Johnae.  Otherwise, we appreciate the powers rabbits feet, four leaf clovers, horse shoes, and crossed fingers, too.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Radiation Therapy

Finally, I've started radiation treatments.  Wahoo!  Okay, it's not exactly a party but it isn't bad.  The treatments only take about ten minutes and the techs are fun to work with.  If you can get past being topless in front of a bunch of people, it's not a big deal.  I'm long over the whole topless thing.  I lost my last shred of dignity when I had to spend two full days naked, with a catheter hanging out of me, in a glass walled room full of people at Mayo when I had treatment for a uterine fibroid.  I think there were twelve people coming and going through that one.  Nothing much embarrasses me any more.

Each week day I go into the cancer center, change into a gown, and wait to be taken to the treatment room.  It's pretty much like the sim:  gown comes off, lay on the table, feet strapped together, bumper under the knees, arms up overhead and held still by my custom bean bag pillow thing. A couple of techs line up my tattoos and leave the room, then I start doing gated breathing and the radiation thingie zaps at my chest.  Turns out I'm really good at gated breathing.  The techs kept telling me I was the best gated breather they've ever had, and I was all proud of myself, but then I found out that the breath monitor is a brand new piece of equipment at the cancer center so only a couple of us have used it.  Still, I asked for a banner and a crown.  Hey, a title is a title.  It's not often I'm declared the best of something.

After my first treatment, I got dressed and headed out to the front desk.  As I passed through the waiting room I was surprised to see my mom sitting at a table working a jig saw puzzle.  She was all settled in with a cup of coffee and a muffin like this was just another part of her routine.  I had told her that she was welcome to come to the cancer center anytime, but I am able to drive myself so I really didn't expect her to come.  She brought me a snack size Butterfinger candy bar.  I love my mom.  She was there the next day, too.  With another Butterfinger.  After my treatment I sat down with her, and we finished the jig saw puzzle together.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shooting the Moon

 Working nights, I often come home to beautiful night skies.  For months now, I've wanted to learn to photograph the night sky, but my old camera just didn't have the capability to get good night shots. One of the first things I tried with my new camera was shooting the moon.  Clearly, I would need a tripod if I wanted to continue to get night shots.  Here is my first attempt:

It occurred to me that I could try steadying the camera on something, so I leaned my elbows against the car and tried again.  Still not a great shot, but there was some improvement.

Finally, I rested the camera on the roof of my car and hit the shutter button.  It took a couple tries to actually get the moon in the shot, but eventually I did it.  I still think a tripod is in order, but I was encouraged enough to stay outside practicing until my fingers got too numb to handle the camera.  Here was my last attempt.  I love the way the branches of this locust tree look when they're bare.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Happy Birthday to my biggest sissy!  See, isn't this much better than the old days, when you had to listen to me sing to you?  Hope you have a great day!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Heavy Dew

Here's a drippy post for Watery Wednesday.  This was taken as the sun came up, after a particularly dewy night.

To view other Watery Wednesday posts, click here.

The Sim

On Monday I went to the Cancer Center for a "sim", or simulation, to get set up for radiation treatments.  The procedure is simple, at least from the patient perspective, but lengthy: first, I had get photographed.  The tech, Kristin, told me they take head shots so that the Cancer Center staff can be familiar with the patients when they come in. Next, I was taken to a dressing room to change from my shirt into a hospital gown, (I was able to keep my jeans and shoes on), then I was off to a large room with a CT scanner.  Kristin had me remove my gown and lay on a table with a bumper under my knees.  She wrapped a band around my feet to keep me from crossing my ankles during the procedure.  Then, she fitted a pillow sized bean bag under my head and shoulders while I lay with my arms over my head.  Kristin used a vacuum to suck all the air out of the bean bag, which formed the pillow to my body position.  The radiologists will use this pillow to ensure I'm in the same position each time I have a treatment.

Next, Kristin made some marks on my chest with a Crayola marker.  She added some funky stickers and wire thingies, then the radiologist came in and doodled a bit more.  As they moved around I closed my eyes, focusing on my breathing and trying to stay calm.  When I opened my eyes Kristin was gone and a young guy was standing there.  He introduced himself as Charlie, and then Kristin came back and they sent me into the CT scanner.

The scans themselves were very brief, maybe five minutes all together.  Charlie told me they took two quick scans and one long one.  I only noticed the machine moving twice.  I wasn't supposed to move at all, but I could see out the back of the scanner while I was in there - much better than an MRI.  After the first set of scans Kristin and Charlie and another woman put a band around my ribs with a small light board attached.  The lights hung over my head and measured my breathing as I was scanned again.  There were two red lights in the middle and a strip of green lights going out from the top and bottom of the red lights.  The goal is to take a deep breath, making the red lights come on, then, while holding the deep breath, take shallow breaths while the scanner took another set of pictures.  You want to keep the breaths shallow enough that the green lights don't turn on.  I've been practicing, and I had a couple breaths that never went to the green, but I had a hard time maintaining that as the scan progressed.  They said I did well, and that it would get easier as I progressed through the treatment.

After the CT scans, Charlie pulled off all the stickers and gave me a set of four tiny blue tattoos.  The radiologist will use the tattoos to line up my body for each treatment.  Each tattoo was just one needle stick, and except for the top one, right between the girls, I probably won't notice them.  The one between the girls is high enough to be clearly visible above my shirt.  If it bothers me, meh, I have some great concealer.  It's a small price to pay to (hopefully) cure me of cancer.

After Charlie finished his graffiti, I got dressed and took a tour of the radiation treatment area.  Charlie and I  sat down and went over the side effects while Kristin scheduled my entire course of thirty three treatments.  All told, my appointment was just under two hours.  The treatments will start in a couple days.  Each treatment will be ten to fifteen minutes, and I'll have to come into the Cancer Center each weekday.  If all goes well, I'll take my last treatment just before Christmas.

I have very sensitive skin, which could cause some trouble down the line.  When Charlie removed the boob stickers, I warned him that I would probably have welts.  Still, when he saw the bright red, raised marks, he commented on them.  I think his exact words were, "Wow, that is not good!"  Radiation can cause the skin to burn, peel, and blister.  Charlie gave me some cream to get started with, in hopes of preventing or at least minimizing the skin damage.  I've added aloe vera and hydro cortisone cream to my shopping list. I've also been advised to give up deodorant on the left side for the duration of the treatment, and to use Ivory or Dove soap in the shower.  I guess I'm lucky that I'm taking treatment during cold weather.  My co workers are even luckier, LOL. I Haven't told them about the no deodorant policy.  I will miss my Philosophy shower gel, but I have a bottle of their Bubbly lined up for when this is all over - it smells like champagne.

I'm glad the simulation is behind me.  Now all I have to do is wait.