May 2012 archive

Radiation Rewind

As of today, I have completed 10 rounds of radiation! Only 18 more to go, oh joy!

For me, radiation is very unlike chemotherapy. I honestly feel like a professional at ingesting chemo cocktails, however, I’m such a novice at receiving laser beams. I tell you what, chemo is easy compared to these radioactive beams. Because I’m sure plenty of you are wondering what radiation treatment is actually like, I’ll explain. First off, I lay on a small table-like board. No cushions, just hard surface. I’m in a huge room with 4 red laser beams aimed right at me. If I didn’t know better, I would think the world’s best snipers had it out for me. There is an extremely large machine that moves like a transformer to the several positions it’s required to. Once my radiation therapists have lined me up correctly, they walk out of the room, and within minutes I hear the machine start up. This transformer is controlled by my therapists and slowly moves around my body to certain positions. All of the lasers are aimed at my pelvic region. Treatment itself is pretty quick. I think I end up laying there for about 10 minutes, give or take a few depending on the day. My radiation sessions are super easy. I don’t feel a thing, and laying there completely still isn’t that difficult. It’s what follows treatment that I hate.

Like I’ve shared before, my body has reacted fairly well to chemotherapy. Besides the obvious of losing my hair and being more tired than usual, there hasn’t really been many side effects. I still, to this day, have not thrown up. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had an overall queasy feeling, it just means nothing has come up. Praise God for that. Radiation has been different to my body. Because treatment is aimed at a certain area, and the lasers purpose is to annihilate a very specific and localized region, my lower stomach has been very sore. I expected this, so it wasn’t a shock, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I have never been so thankful for summer, as I am nowadays. I physically can’t wear anything with a waistband any longer, because of the pressure it puts on my stomach. It’s sore from the inside out, and feels similar to what it did immediately after my hysterectomy. Summer dresses are now my best friends. I can happily announce that my skin hasn’t gotten red or blistered. Really, the sensitivity in my stomach is what bothers me most. In addition, I’ve been more tired than I am during my 3-day chemo cycles. These laser beams are intense. Not only are they ripping my insides apart, but my body is trying hard to recover, which in turn makes me exhausted. If I could stand being still for a long period of time, I’m sure I would take more naps. Unfortunately, cancer treatment tends to make me feel lazy, and I fight it as hard as I can. In fact, call me crazy, but I just got a gym membership… My body is going to hate me.

Here’s something new: I’m growing my hair back. And I’m surprisingly not happy about it. It’s such a hassle! Plus, I know that once I’m done with this portion of treatment, I’ll head right back to the chemo drugs that promote hair loss again. So, can’t it just stay gone until I’m through?! Of course not. My hair loss has actually been completely different than what I expected throughout my journey. As you know, during this portion of my treatment, I’m receiving radiation every day (5 days a week) with a weekly dose of chemo. This specific type of chemo drug that I’m receiving now does not cause hair loss, hence why it’s all coming back. That’s something I didn’t know prior to this adventure. I thought chemo automatically equated hair loss. But, as I’m learning, that’s not the case. When I went through my first 3-day chemotherapy cycles, I did lose my head hair, but not the rest of my body hair. For example, I’ve still had to shave my legs as often as I did prior to diagnosis. What crap, huh!? A benefit of not losing all my body hair is that my eyelashes and eyebrows have hung on for most of the ride. Recently, I’ve started wearing false eyelashes because my naturals are getting quite a bit thinner. My underarm hair disappeared during my first 3 cycles, but now has returned along with the hair on my head. My arm hair has remained constant throughout. I’m proof that hair loss is not equal during cancer treatments. I’m just hoping it all gets back on the train once treatment is over. Here’s to praying and hoping for thick and fast growing hair in the fall…head hair, of course!

Can I take a quick minute to thank all my followers and supporters? Wait, I don’t need permission…this is my blog. My deepest thanks to those who continue to walk this journey with me, those who follow my story, those who support me, and those who spend hours and hours praying for my healing. Thank you for taking time out of your busy days to follow my adventure through my diagnosis. You touch my heart and impact my life tremendously, and I truly value it.

My adventure will continue for a lifetime. Cancer will only be a chapter. Although there are days where I can’t find the least bit of sunshine in the storm, I refuse to stop paddling. Cancer won’t drown me.

Psalm 5: 11-12 (ESV)

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.”

Baby Brother Went Bald

Today’s a big day, but let me first address this weekend. We went out of town- thumbs up! Who knew that going out of town in this midst of this journey would be so refreshing? It was very nice to get out of the environment that has now turned into the treatment zone. My husband and I flew to Oklahoma City, OK on Friday and just returned yesterday (Sunday). The reason for our travels was for the college graduation of my baby brother. He walked the stage Summa Cum Laude at Oklahoma State University on Saturday morning. I can’t even begin to explain what an honor it was to see him accomplishing such a remarkable feat. He’s the last of my brothers to graduate from OSU. In December of 2010, I had the privilege of watching my older-of-the-two brothers walk the same stage. I cried then, and I cried this weekend. The pride I have for my two younger brothers is overwhelming. In many ways, I look up to them. Not only are they towering over me in height, but their vast knowledge about, well, many things, inspires me. Although we were all raised in the same home in the same way, our views are all different, and I love learning from them. They have taught me so much, and will continue to; of that, I am sure.

Not only was this weekend special because I had the chance to spend time with my brothers, but I was also able to see my grandparents, dad, and step-mom. Spending time with family that I don’t often see rejuvenates my spirit. And all of us being together, celebrating the same occasion, makes it that much better! In addition, the location of celebration was vital. For those who don’t know, I love Stillwater. I love the Oklahoma State campus. It’s overflowing with good memories for me. It sounds like I went there myself, right? Well, I didn’t. But that, in no way, stops me from acting like I’m an alumni! My pride for that school is uncanny. I wear OSU orange as proud as the rest of them. As does my husband. We are true cowboys. In fact, I’m a little surprised when the blood taken from my port isn’t bright orange.

The biggest highlight of my weekend happened during the graduation commencement. My husband and I, along with the rest of my family, were seated and admiring the bagpipes and entrance of the soon-to-be graduates. I was made aware that my brother and his girlfriend were sitting right next to each other, so when my mom turned around and asked if I could see my brother’s girlfriend, I said yes. However, I couldn’t find my brother. Mom explained that he was walking in right behind his girlfriend. I became increasingly confused, because the guy behind her in no way looked like my brother. This kid was bald. No sooner did I realize it, when he found his seat, turned around, and took his cap off to show me. My baby brother was bald. The bald kid was my brother! Needless to say, the tears began to rush from my eyes. This was a huge surprise that everyone kept from me. I had absolutely no idea he was planning on shaving his head, let alone for his graduation. That’s a big statement, and I acknowledge it and am deeply touched by his gift to me. In addition, when his name was finally called, and once he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, as he walked down the center aisle back to his seat, he removed his cap and walked the rest of the way proudly. If you haven’t been to a graduation ceremony before, no one removes their caps during the ceremony. It’s unheard of. Until now. I found out later, that the morning of graduation, instead of doing things soon-to-be graduates do, such as ironing their gowns and meeting up with their friends, he was sitting in his apartment getting his head shaved. Wow. I wish I could put into words the impact that has had on my life. My brother blessed and honored me on his day. For that, I will always be thankful. His bald head is the best gift I have ever received from him. (Although, the Michael Kors watch last Christmas was pretty cool, too…)

This past weekend was much-needed. I feel refreshed and ready to continue on with treatment. Every now and then, getting away is good. I’ve learned that, and will use that knowledge throughout my battle. More weekend trips might occur. In fact, my husband said he wants to go to Chicago or New York sometime, so maybe that will be our next trip! We’ll see…

Hebrews 10:22-25 (MSG version)

“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”