The good news is I am alive, the cancer is gone, I am back at the office, I have lots of hair on my head, and I'm still marrying the man of my dreams in September. The bad news is I do have to go through radiation. The doctor said that while they are sure it's gone now and no longer a threat at this moment, there's no way to test for microscopic cells which would cause the cancer to come back later. While nothing is 100%, radiation is the best chance of complete remission. It will be five days a week for five weeks.
Weirdly, the news hit me pretty hard. It put me in one of those moods where everything upsets me and normal, everyday, small annoyances were day-ruining crises. Three days of rain? I can't bear to go outside. Out of bananas? Tears. Slow subway? Rage. Difficult-to-answer email at work? I'm stupid and I don't know how to do my job anymore. I didn't want to get out of bed all week.
You'd think after everything, this would be a walk in the park. And, comparatively, I guess it is. I think I got my hopes up a little too high and I was just settling back into "normal." The week I found out was my first full week back at work. (It should have been the week before but I came down with some kind of cold/flu/fever and missed two days.) It was so gratifying to feel useful; have a routine; see all my favorite faces. It felt like I was in the home stretch with only reconstruction ahead of me. In my head, it felt over. I was out of the woods and in the rebuilding phase.
Radiation feels like another monster, and while not nearly as daunting as chemo, it still comes with side effects and setbacks. I'm back to having that small "what if" hanging around in the back of my mind. I'm back to (stupidly) googling all the side effects and looking at scary pictures- this time of lymphedema and radiation burns- and getting myself worked up. It feels familiar. I know how to get my head out of it. I focus on all the things I am grateful for. I turn my thoughts to other people and see who I can help. I googled "cancer brides" and read articles about women who got married in their hospital beds, and women who were terminal and married anyway knowing they only had a few months left. So boo hoo, I can't have my final surgery until after the wedding. And wah, that means my port will still be in. And, poor me will probably have burns on my chest and neck on my wedding day. So what? I'm alive. I beat cancer. I still get to marry David.
But, sometimes I'm tired of looking for the bright side. Sometimes, I just want a couple of days to be sad and scared and let those feelings run through me. Things aren't working out the way I'd hoped. There are some risks ahead and unknowns coming up. I thought I made it to other side of the river safely, but there are a few more slippery rocks to climb over. It's okay. It's still okay.
The drains were in for 3 weeks. The last one took so long, I got antsy and went back to work with it still in. The first time I went for my post-op check up, he took out 2 of 4. I asked when I could go back to the office and he said we'd discuss it when the other drains were out. The second time I went in, he took out 1 more. That time, I didn't ask and he never actually said no. So, technically I did not go against doctor's orders.
My chest is under construction. I've been going back to my plastic surgeon every week to get a "fill." The expanders have metal ports. He uses a little magnet to find the port, draws a small X and then sticks a giant needle in (thank God I can't feel anything!) to fill it with more air. It just kinda blows up like a balloon. It's. So. Weird.
Next week, I'll go in for 1 last fill and he'll switch out the air for saline. The radiation is so precise it requires that nothing moves or changes. The air expander actually deflates a little throughout the week so we have to fill it with liquid to make sure they stay exactly the same for the next five weeks. After he puts in the saline, I'll go directly to the radiation oncologist for simulation which is where they map out the treatment plan. I'll start the next week.
The surgery for my final implants has to be 4-6 weeks after the last radiation treatment. That would put us at mid to end of August. I don't want recovering from surgery to stop me from dancing and I don't want to worry about popping a stitch while throwing the bouquet so we're going to wait until after the wedding. The radiation oncologist did give me the option to do a trial treatment over three weeks instead of five, where they accelerate the radiation a little more each time. But since it's still in trial, she can't predict cosmetic results, which means it could severely burn me and/or create a lot of scar tissue. Scar tissue build up can cause lymphedema and affect implants. Sooooo that's a hard pass. I'm going with the standard 5 x 5.
In the meantime, I'm getting an echocardiogram on Tuesday, and assuming my heart is in good shape (it is), I'll be starting up with the Herceptin shot this coming week. They said not to expect any side effects from that. So, other than getting stuck and infused for 30 minutes once every three weeks until November, I'm not really sweating it.
David brought up that one of the good things about believing we were in the clear for a little was that we really got to relax for three weeks. I went to a sober-seminar and got some new books and speaker tapes. The author of one of the books was there presenting so I got to meet him and he signed my book. I went to the wedding shower of a close friend. We went to the send-off party of Anthony and Anne-Margaret. (They are currently traveling around the US on their Raise the Vibration Tour. We'll see them again when they fly back to NYC to officiate for us.) We met with our wedding planner at the venue and made some progress with the planning. I went back to work. I went to a bachelorette party I and had an amazing time- it was a Chakra healing workshop followed by a burlesque show. (Mom, cover your ears...I did all that with my drains still in!) Post-drain removal, we went up to Hudson to visit family Memorial Day weekend. We went hiking in the Catskills. And last weekend, we got all dressed up and celebrated our friends' marriage at Liberty State Park. The point is we really enjoyed life. No worries. No what ifs. Just a lot of joy and celebrating. So yes, it sucks a little that I'm back in it. And yes, I'm still a little bummed and worried. But that was a really nice three-week break from all the drama, and I'm really grateful for it.
Aaaaaand you're all caught up. It's a gorgeous weekend- feels like summer. As much as I'd love to stay and tell you more stories, I'm going to get outside, get some sun, and not let the prospect of radiation ruin my day. It's going to be fine. God's got me. Faith walks through fear. (pun intended)
Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure.