Saturday, July 28, 2012

Grateful Warrior

It's hard to imagine being happy about going for radiation therapy treatment for Stage O Breast cancer but really what is the alternative?  Thankfully, I've not had to even think about chemotherapy.  My Surgeon decided the best course of action after the lumpectomy surgery would be radiation therapy and taking Tamoxifen but I've not started the latter yet.

Truth be told, once I received the recommended course of action, I just about fell off the planet in a moment of fear, panic, depression, and again let me say fear.  Radiation and I are still not the warm and fuzziest of friends.  I haven't yet said "Woo hoo can't wait to go."  It's one the scariest thing I've ever had to consider besides divorcing my husband (which I still have not done).  We are separated and eventually we will sever our legal ties but for now we're still sharing our home and our lives somewhat.  News of this disease has changed things as you can imagine.  Just kind of slowed that steam train down.  It's all good though.  You find out quickly who your real friends are when you become someone who needs.

What do I need?  Well nothing really.  What I needed and received was wise and sound support to help me make one of the hardest decisions subject my body to radiation therapy to preserve my life and prevent Stage 0 cancer from developing further.  Once I calmed down and felt the prayers and love and support of family and friends it became clearer what I needed to do.

I still didn't commit right away.  I slept on it a bit.  Interesting to note, I didn't lose a single night's sleep thinking and praying about this decision.  I felt a peace about it deep down inside although my head was screaming with concern and my heart was broken, my Spirit was firm.  I reached out to the medical community.  My Surgeon suggested that I forget about the Tamoxifen for awhile.  She knew I was feeling too overwhelmed by all of it.  I told her I may need more support and she gladly provided a few phone numbers for counseling if and when I needed them. 

I reached out to my spiritual friends, to family and mostly God, and after all that, I still had to make the decision for myself.  No one could tell me what to do, after all, I'm the one who has to show up for 30 treatments so I best be able to make a decision I can live with and feel good about.

I called and made the appointment to start therapy asap, and began I did.

I have approximately 17 treatments left, out of a total of 30.  I am having some discomfort but nothing so far that I can't deal with.  The side effects, they say, are temporary (i.e., redness, soreness, burning, itching, discoloration or darkening of the treated area, sensitivity and I pretty much have all of that but not that bad).

It's a strange thing, radiation therapy.  It's not like an x-ray at all.  It's a lot more intimidating than that.  I have to lie down bare breasted and this massive machine with an extended arm and huge circular disk at the end is manipulated around you, once the nurses put you in position that is.  I have had more sharpee marker lines drawn on my skin to make sure that the radiation is targeting a very specific area.  That's after I was marked with permanent ink via the tip of a needle.  A total of 7 small dots were placed all around my breast marking where the laser lights would need to be focusing on so as to radiate only the cancerous tissue.  This is all very technical but once you've gone through the procedure a few times it becomes pretty routine.  You get undressed from the waist up, you put your arms into the 'mold' that they make for you.  This is to keep you again in the exact same spot so as to only treat the specified area.  Once you're in the mold and the lasers are matched up to the your marker dots and tattoo's on your skin, the nurses leave the room and then you have a second to brace yourself.

For me, I use that second to evoke all the Archangels to come and assist me.  I pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary as many times as I possibly can during the treatment and just prior.  The circular disk that's focused it's attention on your breast makes some hissing noises, opens it's radiation portal and then the radiation begins with a sound that I can barely describe but won't soon forget.  It's kind of like a low vibrating, toxic, somethings really happening here sound.  Every time the sound starts I get a sensation of my entire body lowering it's vibration and then it settles as it progresses and then it's over.  At least the first part of the treatment.  The nurses come back into the room, keep in mind they've locked me behind a vault like door with tremendous locks so as to prevent any radiation from escaping the room or some unsuspecting person from entering by mistake.  They realign the huge radiation arm disk monster, check the alignment again and they leave once again to start the second part of the treatment.  Basically, they focus the radiation one way and then the other.  They get both sides of the breast and some of your underarm as well as that's the beginning of breast tissue.

So now, in addition to two inch scars on each breast, I now have one breast that looks like I kept it on the roof during a solar flare storm.  It's definitely being radiated.  Hopefully, I will be able to deal with what it looks like after the treatment is over and it's had some time to heal.  The next few weeks are going to be interesting and probably more of an uphill climb.  Not making any assumptions or projecting negativity into the future, just preparing myself.  My prayer is that the side effects going forward would be minimal and the treatments would continue without a hitch.  The nurses at Holy Name Hospital are and always have been angelic.  They are selfless and always at the ready to assist me with whatever concerns I have, as are my Doctors.  I am in good hands, spiritually and medically and I know that all of this is necessary and will be exactly what I was supposed to do to prevent something much more horrific.

Cancer seems to be rampant these days.  I hear of more and more people becoming sick and some have even died.  My best friends Dad, Joseph Gaspari passed away recently succumbing to his terminal brain cancer after valiantly fighting for more than two years. 

Joe, you are such an inspiration to me.  I am so proud of the fight that you fought and you remind me every day that what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger.  Your legacy will live on in your children and their children, one day.  Your Spirit lives on, this I know, and I pray for you and your family constantly.  You are greatly missed my friend and I know we will meet again to discuss our war against this disease and our love for one another and all that we share mutually.  I will never forget you and I'm so lucky to have known you.  God speed Joseph.