Final Radiation Treatment – Hooray!!

December 21, 2017 – Thursday

I just finished my last radiation treatment and we had a party – sort of.  As Sue and I walked into the building we could hear an alarm or something.  Sue said it sounded like a large piece of equipment backing up and it did.  As soon as we walked in, we were shocked at the loudness of the fire alarm and the brightness of the flashing lights!!  They told us someone had evidently burned popcorn in the staff room and they were waiting on the fire truck men to turn off the alarm.  They had followed procedures and checked all the rooms and put towels on the floor in front of the doors of the cleared rooms.  It was sort of strange looking to say the least.  However, business was carrying on pretty much as normal.  So I put on my hospital gown and away we went.

The treatment was like the other “boost” treatments and then it was over.  They gave me a certificate for finishing the treatment and let me ring the bell.  I heard shouts from other rooms in the building signifying they were happy I had finished also.  Then of course, we made photos.  It was a very nice finish.

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The area around and under my breast should continue to worsen for about a week and then the improvement should start.  She said most of the dead skin will be gone in about a month and in about a year the skin should no longer be discolored much at all.  Here is a photo of my underboob that shows how the skin is dying and discolored but it should be improving soon.

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My hair has really been growing – it looks almost normal now.  I actually went and had a haircut the other day – it was actually just a neck trim because it had become like a little duck tail in the back!!  I do like the way it is looking so I may be keeping it quite short next summer, but I’ll let it grow some before then!!

Both of my biggest toenails are still in the process of coming off.  I just hope they last a while longer so they don’t rip skin or tissue off when they come off!! Yikes!

My fingernails are growing out nicely and no more of those little white lines have formed so I expect they will grow out in time as my body returns to normal.

I have future appointments with all the doctors and I will be getting my port flushed out monthly – I really look forward to having that removed but they want to wait until June.  I wish they’d do it soon.

Other than those appointments, it looks like my life can now be a regular life again.  The process was rather intense, but overall it went much better and easier than I expected.  It did make me appreciate health in a whole new way!!!

25 treatments down; 5 to go!

December 14, 2017 Thursday

It’s been a very long time since I updated the blog but there has been little to report.  I am now 5/6 of the way through radiation and it’s gone pretty nicely so far.  I am getting some radiation burn and sometimes it’s quite painful.  Most of the time, it’s just an itch type of feeling.  I do have little energy and they say that’s a side effect – an afternoon nap has become more common than uncommon.  I do have a cough, a fairly dry cough, that is also a side effect, supposedly.  I do hope these things go away after radiation is finished.

This is a photo of one of the most colorful parts of my breast.  The color you see is not shadow – that’s the color of that section.  The curved line is the incision.  There are purples, pinks and some black.  Supposedly this is going to continue to worsen for the next week of treatments and probably the week after treatments are finished.  The doctor says that after that week, it will slowly begin to heal.  I wonder how slowly that will be??  Only time will tell.

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Tomorrow, I begin the “boost” treatments.  They said that studies show that if the cancer returns, it will probably return in the incision so they will do 5 treatments on just that section.  I will let them do whatever treatments they want to do as long as they can stop the cancer from returning.

This photo is of my fingernails but you can’t see the lines very well.  I have four definite white lines and then a large clear space near the cuticle where no new lines have appeared.  So I suppose I was correct in assuming that each of those lines was caused by a specific chemo treatment.  Now to get those nails grown out and the lines gone away.

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This last photo is of my purple toe nail.  It is still the only purple nail I have though there is a little purple spot on one other nail.  There is a nice white area near the cuticle and I suppose this is where healthy nail is growing out.  I expect that I will loose this purple toe nail probably during next summer and then a healthy new nail will be growing out.

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It sure is strange what chemo and radiation can do to your body but I certainly am glad that the researchers have figured out how to treat cancer as well as they have.  I’m sure that treatments and constantly are being refined and improved and I’m all for that.

Overall, I am very healthy and doing fine.  The adventure is not quite over but it is certainly winding down.  Thank you for going on this journey with me.

Radiation continues

November 20, 2017 Monday

I’ve now had eight radiation treatments and they are going just fine.  So far I’ve had no reactions to the treatments but I expect that as treatments progress, my breast will begin to redden and get sore.  We shall see.

I’ve been feeling fine in all ways as the side effects of the chemo have been going away.  I seldom get hot flashes and I have much less diarrhea but it has not gone completely away.  I have one toe nail that is quite dark and has started to grow out, just a tad.  One other toenail appears to be a much darker pink than the other nails, but it may recover without coming off.

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I do have four white curved lines on most of my fingernails and I do not think I will be getting any more.  My regular doctor agreed with me that I probably have one curved line for each chemo treatment even though the oncologist kind of laughed about it when I asked her about it.

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My hair has really started growing and now my hair is long enough that I can pinch hair all over my head.  I don’t know yet if I have more or less white hair than before chemo but I know I do have some of each.  I don’t have a good photo of my hair but I’ll try to post one next time.

Sue went with me to my treatment today and she was able to see the big, thick door to the room close (I didn’t even know there was a door there!) and to watch what was happening during the treatment.  She took a few photos during that time.  One photo is of the screen with different areas shown on it.  She was also able to see the x-rays they make to make sure the machine is lined up with my body correctly.  She said it was interesting and enjoyed it.

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In the second photo of the treatment, you can sort of see how the machine turns.  It moves into quite a few positions during the treatment. The people who provide the treatments are all very nice people who seem to have a really good attitude about everything.

I really don’t have anything else to tell about what’s been going on so I’ll wait to post next time until I do have something to say.  Have a nice Thanksgiving!!!!

A new start – radiation

November 9, 2017 Thursday

Today was the beginning of my radiation treatments but first I had an appointment with the surgeon.  It was a short, sweet meeting and he looked at the incisions and said everything looked great.  He asked about mammograms and said I need to change the current appointment I have for February that the oncologist had scheduled.  He said to tell her that he and the radiation oncologist are now in charge of mammogram scheduling and that I should not have a mammogram until six months after I finish radiation.  So I called the oncologist and left a message on her nurse’s phone about the change but I have not heard back from the nurse.  Maybe tomorrow.

When it was almost time to leave for radiation, diarrhea struck.  I had cashews and plums for lunch and I expect one of those did not agree with my digestive track and this almost made me late.  I made it barely on time but then had to use the restroom as soon as I got there.  Wouldn’t you know a lady walked into the restroom about 3 feet ahead of me!!!  So I went in the men’s restroom.  It looked just like the women’s and was nice and clean so there was no problem.

Then I went and got undressed/dressed in the open back gown and sat down to wait for someone to come get me.  I had previously dealt with a petite little lady but the person who came to get me was a tall, good looking young man – I was a little surprised.  He took me to a fairly large room with a huge machine in the middle and there was another tall, good looking young man and the petite little lady.  It was kind of strange, but they all knew what they were doing and proceeded to get down to business.  I had to stretch out on a narrow bed with my body in a very specific position and it took them several minutes of moving me around to get that position.  The first thing they did was put a strap about my toes to keep my feet and legs very still and the second thing was to have me extend my arms way above my head, grabbing some handle bar type of thing.  Then they moved my body until I was just where they wanted me.  During all this time, my breasts are in full view – I guess I’ve gotten used to people looking at them because it was no big deal to me at all.  It didn’t used to be that way!!!

The problem was that I had to stay in that position for about 30 minutes.  I was comfortable but it was hard to not move for that long.  At one point, I had to say loudly (since they were no longer in the same room, but behind protective walls) that I needed a warm blanket for my right foot and leg since I could feel a cramp trying to develop.   At another time I needed to scratch my right elbow SO badly but knew that I could not move.  I managed to not scratch until I was given permission but it was difficult to resist scratching.  I wonder what would have happened if I’d had to sneeze violently like I sometimes do.

I had mentioned that I might have to rush to the bathroom at some point and the fella said that I could of course go take care of business whenever I had to do so, but that they would have to take time to start over if I got up!!!  At that point, I had used the restroom twice while I was there and luckily I was able to wait until they finished before I had to go again.

Turns out they were positioning me and taking X-Rays which the doctor had to approve before they could start the radiation.  I think I mentioned the marks on my chest after my CT simulation and those marks did last the week so that they could use them to position me as they needed to.

We decided that instead of me getting more marks on a regular basis, that they would tattoo four little marks on me instead. So now I have four tattoos!!!  They are tiny little purple dots that no one will ever see but I still have tattoos.  Actually, right now I have purple lines all over my chest and I’ve been told not to SCRUB them away but to let them gently wash away over time.  Should be interesting.

Finally they were able to start the radiation and it took perhaps five minutes with parts of the machine moving around me and making different noises.  Sometimes the machine moved me!!  That is a very versatile machine and I bet it cost a few bucks!!!

When it was over, they helped me to sit up again which was difficult since I had been stretched out for so long.  On the way to get dressed again, we discussed the times I will have treatments for the next six weeks.  We decided that I will start at 4:30 until the 3:00 slot comes open in a few weeks.  I suppose my life will pretty much revolve around the treatments until about December 20 or so.

Today, I did not feel anything at all from the radiation but I am going to take some good advice I got and start applying Miaderm lotion to my breast area for the duration of treatments.  It was developed just for this purpose and I expect they know what they are doing and recommending.

I’ll let you know how tomorrow’s treatment goes.

Beginning the third stage of treatment

November 2, 2017 Thursday

It’s been a while since my last post but life has been sailing along just fine.  I spent a week in Destin, Florida with some of my travel buddies and we had a great time there.  The water was a little too rough for my taste so I didn’t spend as much time on the beach as I would have liked, but I read four very good books.  I really enjoyed the whole week there – it was wonderful.

A week ago, I met the radiation oncologist and I was a little put off by her “bedside manner” but she does seem to know her stuff.  We talked about the process and scheduled my CT imitation scan – at least I think that’s what it’s called.  I had the scan yesterday.  I now have many purple marks on my chest and they are covered by small plastic pieces to protect the marks until my first treatment.  Evidently, the technicians use those marks to place the machine that does the radiation.  The radiation oncologist and the treatment team will use the results of the CT scan to plan my treatments which will begin within 10 days to 2 weeks.  They will call me and let me know when the treatments will begin.  I do know there will be 30 treatments – 5 days a week for 6 weeks.  The first five weeks will be covering the entire area of my breast and the last week will focus on a much smaller area with more intensity.  I expect I will be staying in Dalton during the week and visiting Roswell only on the weekends – that will be different.

On the first day of treatment, I will be getting tattooed – small, probably purple dots on specific spots (instead of the current purple marks) to help with treatments.  I’ve sort of been wanting to get a tattoo, so I guess now I will.  This is certainly not what I expected I would get tattooed with!!

I’m not too concerned about the radiation though the oncologist said that it could cause my rib bones to be a little weaker in that area and there is a slight chance of heart damage.  I also expect my skin will have some burns on it, probably toward the end of the treatments when they focus on the smaller area.  I guess time will tell how it will really go.

As far as side effects go, I seldom have hot flashes or diarrhea anymore.  I’m so glad those two things have really slowed down a great deal. My hair has begun to grow again and that is so exciting.  I went through a phase where I looked like a minion with just a few hairs sticking up but now I resemble half a Q-Tip since I have lots of little white hairs all over my head.  There may be less dark grey hairs and all white hairs but it’s still a little early to say for sure.  I’ll post a photo sometime to show what’s happening.  Sadly, my eyebrows are not showing any sign of new hair – I really want them to come back but I expect those hairs will be a little more slow to grow in than my head hair.  My leg and chin hair have really started coming back – bummer!!!!!

There is one new development that has just started to develop and I must say that I am surprised about it.  I am pretty sure that I am in the process of losing at least three toenails – it may be more or less than three but those three toenails are behaving differently to how they normally are.  My left big toenail seems to be lifting up off the nail bed and is very sensitive to touch.  My right large toenail is also quite sensitive to touch but is not lifting up, at least not yet.  The middle toe on my right foot is not sensitive to touch but seems to be lifting up off the nail bed.  I’m not sure this is exactly what is happening but it seems to happen to some chemo patients about 2 months after the end of chemo and that’s about where I am in the process.  I called my oncologist about this and she said I should contact my regular doctor about this.  She was not available so I saw another PA and he didn’t even know that chemo causes this type of problem in cancer patients so that was a waste of time.  He just said to keep a bandaid on the toes to prevent them accidentally ripped off!!!  YIKES!!!!  What a horrible thought – that makes me cringe whenever I think about it, so I choose not to think about it!!!!  I’ll just watch my toes and nails carefully and see what happens.  None of my nails have turned black but a couple of them are darker than they usually are.

So that’s what has been happening with me.  I will begin posting daily again once the radiation treatments begin whenever that is!!

A fun week

October 20, 2017 Friday

It has been about a week since I last wrote in this blog, but there have been a few little changes so I thought I’d write about them. Nothing bad has happened which is very good news for me.

One of the changes has been how my fingernails have changed. I know many people who go through chemo have their nails turn black and mine have not done that, at least not yet. My nails have several half moons that have shown up and radiated out from the cuticle. I kind of expect there to be four of them before it’s over – one for each chemo treatment, I think. Here’s a photo of how my nails look now. They might even Turn black at some point but I sure hope not.

Another change has to do with that durn diarrhea that has plagued me so badly during and after chemo!!  It has STOPPED!!!  Hooray. I guess getting the chemo out of my system and taking probiotics has helped. It sure is nice to no longer be bothered with that.

The other somewhat major change is that my hair has really started to grow!!  People keep telling me that my hair is getting much longer which is really funny considering how very, very short it still is!!!  But it is much longer than it was!  Problem is that I don’t have nearly as many hairs as I used to have but I’m hoping that within a few months or years, it will be back to how it used to be.  I know many times, the hair comes back quite different than how it used to be but mine is still too short to really tell. Some people think it may be more areas of just white than it was before chemo. Time will tell.  I’ve tried to get a decent photo of the hair but it is quite difficult to do.  The top of my head is (funnily) quite shiny!!

Those are the only changes I can think of right now except for my weight!  Right now I’m in the midst of spending a week at the beach in Destin with some of my travel buddies. Let’s just say I’ve really enjoyed lots of good food, coconut ice cream and coconut donuts. If you’ve never eaten at the Donut Hole, you need to try it. For sure.

The worst thing about being at the beach is missing Zoë and Coen. However, Rachel does send me photos of them and that’s always good news.

We will be driving back to Dalton on Monday, then I will see the oncologist on Wednesday for a regular checkup, and then I get to meet the radiation oncologist on Friday. I suppose then I’ll find out for sure how many radiation treatments I’ll have, when they start and what time of day they will occur. Should be interesting.