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Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Boobs are Making History!

Okay, that's kinda misleading.  Well, maybe not. Here's the story; you can decide:  the radiologist I go to works for Mayo Clinic.  Before I started treatment he showed me a breathing technique called "gated breathing" that involves taking a deep breath, then breathing in and out in shallow breaths while trying to keep your lungs full. They strap a belt around my ribcage that attaches to a set of lights over my head.  The goal is to keep the center light lit up through each zap of radiation.   I don't know if the technique is new, but the device that measures the breathing is new for the clinic.  I am one of only seven patients who have used the device at this facility.  The staff kept telling me I was really good at gated breathing, but I thought they were just being encouraging.  Apparently not.  Yesterday, the doctor told me that the CEO of the company that makes the monitor was visiting the clinic and they wanted him to see me in action.  The doctor asked my permission and of course I said yes.  I would do anything to help anyone who is developing equipment or treatments or anything that helps patients.  The purpose of gated breathing is to create an air barrier between the girls and my heart.  The air barrier helps prevent the radiation from damaging my heart and causing a heart attack down the line.  Gated breathing is reducing the radiation load on my heart by over 50%.  So absolutely - it's important, and I don't care who watches me.  Hell, if it would do any good in the fight against breast cancer, I'd put the girls on a billboard in Times Square.

So today, after I got strapped into my get up, two guys in suits came in and looked at how the device was attached to me.  They were present through the treatment and the series of xrays that I also had today.  Afterward, I was sitting in the waiting room making a jigsaw puzzle with my mom when one of the suits came over and talked to me.  He was telling me that he was impressed with my ability and that he wished everyone was able to do it, and my mom answered, "Oh, we make puzzles at home all the time."  Gotta love my mom. The doctor also stopped me and told me again how great I was at this breathing thing.  He thanked me for letting the visitors come into my treatment.  He said it was important for them, going forward, to hear from the patients now and learn from us. 

The thing is, I never had a hard time with this technique.  The doctor showed me how to do it and asked me to practice before I started treatments.  So I did.  I had it down pat before I was ever on the table.  The ataff  tells me some people never pick it up.  I did figure out, pretty much right away, that I don't need to take the shallow breaths as often as I was taught.  As soon as I had the lights providing feedback it was a piece of cake.  So while the compliments are nice, they baffle me a bit. I do think it's pretty cool that I got to demonstrate to a big shot how to use his own equipment, LOL.

The other exciting thing is that today, I started getting "boosts".  A boost is a concentrated radiation zap along my scar line.  They do these last, which means I've completed the first stage of radiation treatment.  That's the exciting part.  I get zapped three times a day, instead of twice like the normal treatment.  Other than the extra zap, the boost is the same from my perspective. The skin around my scar is just red - no peeling, no blisters, and no icky bruise color.  I'm not sure but I would guess that the boosts will change that.  I'm hoping that the fact that it's scar tissue means that I won't feel it as much.  We'll see....

The only other boob news is that, while my skin is still peeling quite a bit, there's new skin coming in now.  The burn cream and dressings seem to be doing the trick.  I never did lose that patch of skin under my arm that the doctor was concerned about.  Of course, now that I've said that I'm sure it will come off tomorrow. The doctor told me that my skin is looking better now than they would expect at this stage of treatment.  Wahoo!   Only six more to go.....


  1. I swear, if I end up with cancer, I've had a lot of Internet blogger buddies lighting the way for me, so I'll know what to expect! OK, I guess one is never prepared. But I'll bet I'm better off for living through the experiences of others.

  2. I can honestly say I've learned more from my blogger pals than I did from the books I got about breast cancer. The blogger gals tell all - the good, the bad, and the ugly. And unlike books, they are there to cheer you on. =)