#MyLeftBoob Preps for Phase 3: 6 Weeks of Radiation

Screenshot 2015-08-20 at 4.15.48 PM

My fancy long-sleeved hospital gown matches my chemo cap perfectly.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.  Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave.” ~Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, 1894

Today marks four weeks since I completed 16 weeks of dense dose, kick-your-butt-and-make-you-feel-like-a-Mack-truck-hit-you-while-having-the-flu-every-day-for-four-months, chemo. I wish I could say I was done with treatment after 8 months of this crazy, fast-moving roller coaster ride, but I still have a few months to go. We’re getting closer and closer to the finish line each day and that’s something to celebrate.

I say “we” because cancer affects everyone- the whole family. I can see the toll it has taken on my husband who is working so hard for us but is emotionally drained. The last surgery was the hardest, he said. It’s tough to see someone you love in so much pain, he told me. The kids seem fine and have been extremely helpful, but I know underneath their smiles they worry too.

This morning I met with the radiologist who checked my surgery scar (my 3rd since February) to see how it was healing. For those just joining, the first surgery was to remove the tumor, the second was to place the port for chemo and the third was for an abnormal lump they found post-chemo. Everything looked good, my doctor said, and I should begin 6 weeks of radiation, 30 treatments, in about 2 weeks. That means tomorrow I go in for “mapping.” The doctor explained that it will take about 2 hours. I’ll get tiny blue “X marks the spot” dots on my left breast so the technicians know where to shoot the radiation.

Radiation will be 5 days a week for 6 weeks. Appointments will last about 45 minutes. Thankfully I work from home and can schedule my work around my treatments. I tried to get a second part-time job recently to help with the doctor bills since the hubs already works 2 jobs, but I couldn’t keep up. I was just too exhausted all the time. I need to learn to listen to my body and rest when I feel tired. My doctor said my treatment will go better if I take naps and get plenty of rest.
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As far as the after effects of ACT chemo (Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol), I still have neuropathy in my fingers and toes. I’m still tired many times throughout the day and sadly, still hairless– no eyebrows, no eyelashes, and no fiery red crazy hair. But it’s a small price to pay for my health.
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Learning still to ignore silly comments has been a big test of my patience. While in line at a retail store the other day a woman who obviously had no filer loudly proclaimed, “You’re wearing fake eyelashes!” I said, “Yes!”  She continued, “Oh how fun!”
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While everyone in line stared at my fake lashes and penciled-in eyebrows, I thought to myself, Yes Ma’am, what fun it is to be told you have a rare and aggressive type of cancer with a very high rate of recurrence. What fun it is to go through 4 months of dense dose chemo, 3 surgeries, 2 E.R. visits and 6 weeks of radiation. Yes what fun indeed. But alas, I held my tongue and smiled.
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My “hair” now, A.K.A. “peachfuzz,” is currently in the crazy Brittney phase, and closely approaching the Pope bashing Sinead phase. I’m quite ready for the Demi-length GI Jane ‘do after 5 months of this ‘bald is beautiful’ nonsense, but for now I’m wearing the scarves and head wraps. The wigs were way too hot and itchy.
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As long as everything goes well I should be completely finished with treatment by the middle/end of October. My doctor says I can expect hair to be back by November- just in time for Thanksgiving. And boy is there a lot to be thankful for this year.
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After treatment is complete, I’ll need to be seen every 3 months for the first year for follow-up since Metaplastic and Triple Negative both have a very high rate of recurrence. Because I’m Triple Negative I can’t take the traditional preventative medicines they prescribe to “regular” cancer patients because my body won’t respond to them. My oncologist and radiologist both said that because the tumor was contained in one duct and it did not spread to my lymph nodes, that my prognosis was very good. But still, I need to be vigilant about follow-up and get the second opinion at Sloan Kettering.
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Life has been a whirlwind since first finding the lump in January, and I’ve had a lot of obstacles to overcome, but having a small army of supportive friends, family, bosses and co-workers makes my fight so much easier. Thank you.
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CLICK HERE to support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe.
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“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” ~Isa. 40:31
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#MyLeftBoob is #WinningTheBattle

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