Lots has happened since we last spoke. I'm sorry I disappeared for a bit there. I needed a break.
There's too much to write in 1 post so I'm gonna do a few recaps and back date them.
The short, short recap is: finished radiation, got married, finished filling expanders, waiting to schedule final implant surgery.
Radiation itself wasn't that bad, but adjusting to the schedule was difficult and the change in my sleep schedule was giving me migraines about 3-4 days a week.
I was going in the mornings before work 5 days a week for 5 weeks. The worst part was the tattoos. I'm sure if I had read the stack of paperwork they gave me, I would have known it was coming, but I didn't. So, on the day I went in for mapping when the tech said, "Okay. We just have to do your tattoos and then you can go," I was too confused and taken aback to argue. She saw my confusion and was concerned no one had told me about them. But, here's the amazing part, she had one on her hand and showed me, so I'd see how small it was. That is such dedication to your job. I was so touched by that small gesture that I let them do it without arguing. So, I now have 4 small permanent black dots. One front and center on my chest, one about 6" below at the base of my sternum and 1 on each of my sides on my ribs. And, I hate them.
I understand why they were important. In order for the radiation to be effective, it has to be in the exact same spot every time. When they mapped out where the beams would hit, they positioned me on a giant inflatable pillow. They took a bunch of X-rays, adjusting my position a little bit between each one and the doctor signed off on the last one. Once they nailed the correct spots, they used a vacuum to suck the air out of the pillow, which left a perfect Faith-shaped imprint. Every morning, I climbed onto the table and into the mold to make sure I was in the correct position. Then, they used the tattoos and a set of perpendicular laser beams to move my body and the table around so that I was in the exact same place every time.
The radiation machine wasn't scary at all. It's open so, no claustrophobia issues. I laid on the table in the middle of the room. It rotates on a giant arm that moved around me, blasting any little stragglers from different angles. It whirs and clicks the whole time because it's using these little metal bars that change the shape of the beam so that it matches the shape of the tumor or precise area it wants to hit at each angle. Here's a little 50 second video, if you're interested.
I had the same team pretty much every day. There were 4 "regulars" and 2 subs. 2-3 of them were there every morning. Always at least one familiar face. They were a really good crew. They treated me like a person. I started to look forward to seeing them. (Stockholm Syndrome?) I actually kind of miss them. On my last day they said, "Good luck! We hope we never see you again!"
But, I still hate the dots, especially the one on my chest. It's so visible. I feel like damaged goods.
I had a fun week after the plastic surgeon removed the air from my expanders and replaced it with saline (which we had to do to make sure they stayed the same size during radiation) There was still some air in there and until it dissipated, every time I moved, jumped, walked fast, etc., you could hear a strange sloshing sound. It sounded like someone was shaking a carton of milk. I recorded it for posterity. I also spent the entire week "shaking it" for anyone who would pay attention to me. ("Hey! Listen to THIS!")
All in all, it wasn't that bad. I was tired and the migraines were rough. But, I enjoyed the one mile walk from the hospital to work every morning. It was a nice way to start the day. That and there's an Au Bon Pain in the lobby so I treated myself to a pastry a few days a week. There was also a chapel with a meditation room. So, every morning after treatment and before the walk to work, I stopped in there and took 5 mins to close my eyes, breathe, and be grateful.
I took a weekend to visit Sara. She moved to Philly which is very close to where we grew up. It's so nice to have her "home." Settling in isn't really her forte. Since we left high school, she's lived in North Carolina, North Jersey, San Francisco/Oakland/Bay area, NYC (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Astoria- some of that time with me. We lived together for FIVE years and are still best friends. I think that says a lot about us.), Massachusetts, South Jersey, Indiana, Atlanta, Doylestown, and now Philly. I may have missed one. I'll update that if I have to.
After radiation ended, I dove head first and did everything I could to look "normal" by my wedding day. My skin was so ridiculously dry. I went to a dermatologist, got a dermaplane facial, bought all kinds of creams and serums and oils. It was crazy expensive but I actually got some life back in my skin.
I went to Make Up For Ever where a super chatty 18 year old woman taught me how to camouflage my dot and tone down the red and blue on my port. She had a ton of questions, which was really cute. She thought my port was a body modification implant, like on purpose for aesthetics. And, she said my tattoos were "rad," and didn't quite understand why I wanted to cover everything up. Ah youth. Adorable. I loved her.
I went to Sephora and got a tutorial on how to fill my eyebrows in. It took some practice but I think I got it. She also talked me out of the really dark colors. I want my old brows back so badly, but she explained that since my hair is lighter now, super dark brows would dominate my face. I'll get you back one day, my bushy, unruly caterpillar friends...
I went to the Giorgio Armani counter at Bloomingdales and had my skin matched to get the perfect foundation for my wedding day. None of my old stuff worked anymore. My face has changed so much since chemo. I wanted something more opaque that could cover my freckles which I'm still getting used to. Madelaine, who did my makeup for the pre-wedding-wedding pictures and was also doing my makeup for the wedding suggested GA. Specifically, a woman named Melissa at the GA counter who was so great. She even offered to come out and do my makeup for free. I love how Madelaine does my face so I didn't want to switch but it was really sweet of her.
I TRIED to get eyelash extensions but 2 different women said my eyelashes are too short, sparse, and weak and they'd just fall off, probably taking whatever natural lashes I do have with them. So, I had to stick with false strips.
I was hoping for a manicure and pedicure but my fingernails just aren't growing and if they do get a bit long, they tear or split. So, I waited until the morning of the wedding and pretty much just had them painted. There wasn't much to file or shape. My toenails have started coming loose again (I know. I know. It's so hot. It's such a shame I'm off the market now) so a pedicure was out of the question. I had bandaids on my toes for the wedding, but who cares. My dress went to the floor. :)
I had no idea what to do about my hair which was getting past the crew cut stage and into need-to-do-something stage. I thought I'd just go to a barber shop, but Sara who's had short hair for most of her life said I should find someone who could both style with scissors and use a razor. I started keeping an eye out for short cuts I liked so I could ask people where they got their hair done. Turns out, the first cut I liked was on the head of a woman who happened to be a barber at a kickass shop called Fellow Barber in Soho. PERFECT. I made an appointment with her and she nailed it. (I didn't know what to ask for, so she pointed out different dudes in the shop and was like, "that or that or that?"). I got a natural fade. It feels pretty spiffy.
Ok, so here's the deal. I could keep typing, but I keep remembering things I want to tell you. And, if I keep doing that, I will never get any posts up. It's been too long. I've learned my lesson. I won't let it go this long ever again.
SO, I'm throwing this one up. I'll keep posting mini-posts until you're all caught up. Stories to tell: The journey of the boar's skull; My picnic bachelorette party; The wedding(!!); a body painting/photo session with a bunch of other cancer killers to raise money for research at my hospital. Somewhere in there, I celebrated 4 years of sobriety. And, how fun/scary/comforting it's been to be back at work full time like a "normal" person. OH and SO many pictures! Here are three of my favorite sneak peek pics from the photographer:
A prior version of this post incorrectly stated that Sara lived in Indianapolis. While she did reside in the state of Indiana, the town was called Bloomington. (That was for you, Ms. Sara!)