Thursday, August 27, 2009

Done With Radiation!

Yesterday was my last radiation treatment! Hooray! I really tolerated the treatments very well up until this last week. I told my friend, Nancy, it was like my skin finally held up the white flag and said enough is enough. I'm really sore, especially all along my incision area. The muscles underneath are very tight and sore, too. Dr. Kuske explained to me that the sun's radiation only effects the skin on the surface resulting in a sunburn. The radiation they used for my treatments penetrates all the way in to my muscle. He said my muscle probably looks like a medium rare steak right now. It sure feels like it. But, the treatments are done and healing can begin!

Joe got home from work early so he could go with me to the last treatment. Then, when we arrived home, Janaya had prepared a special dinner in celebration; lemon-herb chicken and watermelon and arugula salad. It was yummy! When we were done eating, she presented me with a peace bracelet from Brighton's. It is beautiful and I love it. She is such an amazing young woman!

Joe and I went up to Tucson on Monday to meet with Dr. Livingston. We didn't really recieve any new news. He just went over the plan he had discussed with us after my surgery. In about three weeks, I will start on a new chemo called Navelbine. It will be given once a week through my port for a total of twelve treatments. I will continue on the oral chemo, Xeloda, that I've been taking since my surgery, just at a higher dose. Dr. Livingston is also going to try and get my insurance to approve a drug called Zometa which in a study done in Europe has been shown to reduce the occurance of bone metastasis - one of breast cancer's favorite places to reemerge.

Dr. Livingston will continue to plan and coordinate my care, but I will be seeing a new oncologist, Dr. Wendt, here in Phoenix. This will allow me to get my weekly chemo and still continue to work without having to take a day off every week. I have an appointment to meet Dr. Wendt in two weeks. We've heard really wonderful things about him and he did some of his training with Dr. Livingston.

Going up to the cancer center this week hit me hard emotionally. I have been trying really hard to get on with living my life in a positive way and minimize the role cancer plays. It is very easy each day when I am at school with my students and friends. Each night, however, when I get home and am feeling exhausted, and the wig comes off and the prosthetic bra comes off and it's just me and the mirror, it is hard to escape. It is really hard to not let thoughts of recurrence consume me. When we arrived at the cancer center the fact that I am a cancer patient hit me full force. Seeing all the patients in various stages of disease is scary. It may be my imagination, but Dr. Livingston has seemed to be more serious to me since my surgery. He didn't say anything this time about being optimistic. I know this doesn't really mean anything: he probably didn't even realize it meant so much to me each time he's said it in the past. One good piece of news. I asked him when they talked about survival rates, when they started counting and he said from time of diagnosis. This means that I am already a nine month survivor! I was afraid it was from time of surgery which hasn't been that long.

So, that's it for now. Not much new; just continuing with the treatment plan and continually hoping for the best. School is going wonderfully and I absolutely love my students.

Till next time,
Love you all!


Cheela said...

And I know they love you, Martha, as do all of us!!

velvet brick said...

I am reminded of how much I love you for your sharing of your heart and your candor. I knew you finished up with radiation on Wednesday, but I didn't realize that you and Joe and gone down to Tucson, either. I am amazed by how you have handled going through chemo, AND radiation, AND have taught full-time these last few weeks, Martha! I've been exhausted at the end of these first few weeks of school and haven't gone through all that you have. You have done so well, and really need to acknowledge what you've accomplished these past weeks.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. You look amazing. And I'm not just talking about your wig or prostetic boobs. You glow with joy and your smile just beams! (and no, I don't believe that it's a side effect of radiation!) Seeing you around school seems so normal and I'm always grateful when we happen to pass each other in the workroom or something - you brighten my day.

I can try to imagine what it must feel like as you describe coming home and being reminded of being a cancer patient. You've done an amazing job of keeping 'cancer' in its place, so to speak. It is not who you are nor does it define you. You've made a very conscietious effort to not let it dominate you or your life and we are all in awe of how well you have achieved this. Such strength from such a graceful woman.

Martha, I can appreciate your thoughts about what Dr. Livingston didn't say, but I agree not to read much into that at all. What I am thinking is how much healthier you are today than 9 months ago. Had you not been proactive, had you not researched, had you not insisted...well... things would be different. The fact that you did insist, you did research, you are proactive - all of these things lead to the fact that today, you stand healthier than you were 9 months ago. Your muscles and skin are now healing and your body has the upper hand. I know there are scars, but try to rememeber that all that you've been through (and it is alot, dear woman) allows you to look in the mirror at the most beautiful woman of all and state 'I am healthier today that I was 9 months ago!'

I love you in so many ways, dear friend. So. Many. Ways. Hug your hubby and be extra special to yourself this weekend. : ))

Dottie said...

Look at what all you have accomplished in this relatively short period of time, Martha!! You're absolutely AMAZING!! It's SO good to see you be-bopping around campus with a smile on your face!! You make ME tired just watching all that you do!!

By the way, I think we should start planning the one-year huge celebration event!! This is BIG!!!As fast as time flies, it's going to be time to plan the ten-year and twenty-year celebration before we even know it!!

I am so impressed by how aggressively you have kicked this monster in the shins, Martha!! You continue to absolutely AMAZE me!! You're AWESOME!!

We're all still right there by your side, Martha, cheering you on!!

Lots of love,

Mary Monica said...

Dear Martha,
Congratulations on finishing your radiation!!! Thank you for sharing with us your fears and your courage. I remember at the end of each of my phases of treatment, I was nervous about what was to come. I would think...what now? It was easier to be optimistic and determined in the thick of it. You are tired physically, mentally and emotionally from all you have gone through...and it is a lot. I agree that you have researched, asked questions, insisted, and been a huge advocate for yourself. You have kicked this thing in the behind! Give yourself a break and a hug...and when you can, a nap. We are all still here with you, at your side as you walk this path. Love to you and the family,
Mary Monica