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April 10, 2011

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

or in my case, radiate, slather & stretch (x8-10), repeat.

Treatments started on Thursday, March 31, and tomorrow will be session 8.  While I would like to say it has been smooth sailing, I am not quite there yet. I freak out from the moment I wake up until about two hours later when I arrive at the hospital.  

I check in with my little blue card, get changed, wait in the waiting area and freak out even more.  By the time the tech arrives, I am close to a complete and utter mess.  I have two techs who alternate working with me and have them convinced I am 'just not a morning person'.  The reality is that just going in each day has me close to a nervous breakdown.

Should I be?  Probably not, but that's the way it is for me.  I am doing everything possible in order to prevent damage from the radiation, but still fret for the fun of it.  From the moment I finish each day's treatment (which lasts a whopping 5 minutes), I am doing yoga stretches and slathering on the calendula in the changing room.  Since I am still in training for the Couch to 5 K in order to run with Kelsey on May 15, I generally head to the gym immediately following a session.

Since it has been maybe 45 minutes since I left the hospital, I slather on more calendula, then either run or do a warm-up, followed by weights and stretches.  These activities are, of course, followed by a slathering of the calendula and more stretches.  I drive home, shower more carefully than I ever have in my life (lest a drop of hot water burn my already sensitive skin), pat my skin dry and (drum roll) stretch and slather on the calendula.  

My afternoon is then stretch, slather, play with Nicholas, stretch, slather, plan dinner, stretch, slather, help the girls after school, stretch, slather, drive to an activity, stretch, slather, make dinner, stretch, slather, help get kids to bed, stretch, slather, work around the house, stretch, slather, relax, stretch, slather, bed.

Now some of you might think, ahem, overkill?  Nope, not possible.  I am sure I will soon bleed calendula if I get a cut (which will instantly heal), but I am not giving the side effects of radiation one chance to rule my life.  I will NOT deal with fibrosis or massive burns simply because I didn't want to deal with a few extra minutes of skin care or stretching.  Given that most of the stretches are simple and can be done standing in line at the grocery store (don't worry, I do look first to ensure I don't smack anyone), it would be silly do not do them as much as possible.  

I do limit myself to 2-3x a day for the 'official' stretches that the doctor gave me, but only as they require the use of the yoga ball and I must be at home or the gym for them.  And the calendula?  I have one tube with me at all times and 3 or more at home and apply every 1-2 hours at a minimum. We won't know the extent of the power of the calendula until the end, but if I believe it is staving off extra burning, who is to say it isn't?  I have only had 7 treatments, so not really at a point where I will notice much of a difference (though I do like to freak out in bad lighting, seeing a bright pink that simply doesn't exist).

I now have a mere (ha) 18 treatments left and am already quite over them.  I had a bit of a fit on Friday and decided I was completely finished.  I've since realized I was just extremely exhausted (think lack of sleep and running) and stressed and decided to give it one more go tomorrow.  It's not an easy schedule, as it is extremely early in the morning and everything must run like clockwork for it to happen.  We all have to get up at the crack of dawn so Kelsey can go to a friend's house, Nicholas can get to early daycare and I can then drive 45 minutes while stressing about the reason behind it.  

Perhaps if I weren't training for the 5K, things would be a bit different.  Maybe I wouldn't worry about possibly being tired from the treatments.  If summer wasn't right around the corner, I wouldn't stress about my skin as much (trying not to think of the damage I am doing....).  Easter is also coming up and I realized I have few if any plans and feel once again like I am letting the kids down.  What else is new, right?

I'd really like to say that I am just going to take in one day at a time, but I can't yet.  I have been able to do that with regard to other concerns, but I'm having trouble with the treatments.  I don't know why, but I simply can't believe that in the end, it will all be okay and I will be no worse off than in the beginning.  If only I had that magic mirror that allowed me to see my skin 6 months from now or confirmation that the treatments were actually doing good...maybe then it would seem worthwhile.

With that, it is time for my last nightly stretching session before I slather again....before I wake up, get all the gears at home in motion and head to the hospital.  Before I check in, already sweating bullets and change into the awful gown and robe uniform.  Before I sit in the waiting area, nervously stressing over Words With Friends, praying the tech isn't there saying it's my turn...before I go in, nearly undress and lay down on the table so the tech(s) can align my body for ten minutes and then finally tell me to turn my head.  I know at that point, it is only moments before the radiation will shoot out into my breast and I start praying that it's doing more good than harm...and then try to take myself away, anywhere.  I spend the next 5-7 minutes trying to put myself on the beach at Assateague Island (covered up, of course), watching the kids play, hearing the waves crash on the sand and trying not to remember the 25 sessions of sunburn 101.

Then I get up, get changed, slather & stretch, go the the gym, go home and try not to think about how I get to do it all over again tomorrow.  May 5 will not be here soon enough.





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I think it's awesome that you're doing the absolute most and best you can for yourself - for your skin, your body and your mind. I think you are a model patient, and I certainly hope your doctors see you, and treat you, that way. I didn't realize you were playing WWF in the mornings! I only log on late at night when I'm in bed, but I'm going to start carrying it around with me in the morning and will try to engage you in the mornings so you have one more game going, to keep your mind as other-wise occupied as possible. In the meantime, keep on keeping on. AND - see you next Friday night for girls night out! WOOT!!!!

I second what Christy said! You are doing the best you can for yourself and it WILL make a difference. I was just like you--I was actually more scared of the radiation than chemotherapy, as weird as some people find that. I felt like I had a handle on how the drugs worked, but the rads were a mystery AND I didn't necessarily trust that the people running the machine understood the ins and outs of it either. I only felt that way 'til I met them and interrogated them about their QA procedures. :)

Anyway, as of April 15, I'll be 6 months from the end of my radiation. I'm having my final implant swap at the end of the month. My skin is in great shape. I don't notice any difference from before. I too slathered myself in aloe (though not as often as you!) and did stretching. I've got my full range of motion back, no problem.

Know that you will likely see some redness and irritation no matter what you do. I think my next to last week was when I saw the delayed effects of it. And look forward to the perfect rectangular boob tan! That took a while to fade.

You're doing great, you'll get through it, just keep on chugging.

Oh, no fun at all. Hang in there...

I love that you are doing everything possible to help your body! Hang in there!

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