Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Radiation #14 of 33, or Cancer Holiday

This week went pretty well overall with the radiation.  One day they said the skin was looking a bit red, then, today, they said that it was looking great.  Either way, Today (Monday), they decided to begin what is called, a “bolus” treatment around the scar of the mastectomy.  If I understand correctly this is a higher dose specifically around the scar.  Not sure why exactly. Maybe because it’s the closest thing to breast tissue that I have left so they treat it extra.  Anyway, they marked the area all up with red marker and six little stickers and proceeded to radiate the thing.  The Radiation Oncologist said that it will make the tissue around the scar very red/irritated, but that is what “we” want.    I found out today, though, that I get Memorial day off of treatment.  I believe that cancer doesn’t work on Holidays, so it’s cool.

One thing that was different about this week was that I actually spoke to one of the other patients.  Or really, she spoke to me, but I did respond.  In all this time, I’ve pretty much kept to myself, because, after the “old lady on her second round of breast cancer incident” (see earlier post Round II, I believe) I’ve had post-traumatic stress about speaking much to other cancer patients who are currently in treatment.  It’s a self-protection method that has worked for me up to this point.  This day, I felt I made several breakthroughs.  The first, as I mentioned, was actually speaking to someone else.  The second, was that having this conversation with her, did give an opportunity to reflect on my treatment and how I was doing.  The woman had approached me and said, “I noticed that you are doing very well, can I ask what kind of cancer you have?”  I told her about the breast cancer Stage III A and my course of treatment which began with Chemo (Adriamycin – Cytoxin 4 rounds) then 10 weeks of Taxol – Herceptin), then Mastectomy, now radiation.  She said she also had breast cancer, that hers was between Stage II and III (which confused me) and her treatment began with Mastectomy, then Chemo, now Radiation.  As she was speaking, she was rubbing her feet and saying how badly her feet hurt and how much difficulty she is still having walking due to foot pain and weakness, and dressing her 3 year old! with her limited fine motor control.  Because we are existing in Groundhog Day, I, of course, had noticed her dragging herself in on her flip flops just before me, every day for the past 13 days.  I had wondered how old she was, and how close she was to her Chemo.  I was thinking she likely was somehow still in Chemo and doing radiation at the same time based on the very little amount of hair she had.  Trying to give her hope, I mentioned that I had only taken 10 weeks of the Taxol and that I was sure I was further out from chemo than she was.  After further discussion, it turned out that I had discontinued the chemo only a few weeks before her.  She had however, completed all 12 rounds of the Taxol.  I mentioned also, that I had exercised pretty much throughout the whole thing. She mentioned that she too had exercised with raking her yard, etc.  I told her that my neuropathy used to be much worse, and that it has continued to improve with time. 
This conversation reminded me how thankful I am that we did discontinue the Taxol after 10 treatments instead of going ahead to complete the (very random in my opinion) usual 12 doses, due to the progression of neuropathy in my hands and legs.  According to the Doctor, I was in Stage II neuropathy, and once you get to stage III, the recovery is more difficult, or less complete.  I am also glad that I did attempt to continue exercising throughout.   While I am considerably weaker than I used to be, compared to my pre-cancer heyday, my current low is likely a bit higher than many.  Maybe, since Memorial Day is a Cancer Holiday, or  “A Wrinkle in Time” if you will.  Maybe I’ll go out and see if I can run a ten miler or something.  :)

Here i am in my homemade radiation skin protection shirt. Haven't made it much past the parking lot yet.  I wonder if the sun will still irritate my skin on Memorial Day.  Surely not.


  1. I love your home-made skin protection shirt! I made a nerve-protection sleeve that was very similar. Oh, we cancer patients are so resourceful!

    Go Emily Go! You're practically halfway done with radiation!

  2. PowerHowell- Keep on POWERING up that HILL! YOU GOT THIS, YOU GOT THIS!!! Cowbells are ringing, COWBELLS are ringing!!!!