It is more important to know where you are going, than how long it takes to get there.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Heat, Hurricanes and Radiation...

There are several reasons why I have not written in a many days: 1. I am in a holding pattern between chemotherapy and radiation, so I don't have anything medically exciting to report. 2. I normally write after midnight, and I have been sleeping instead. (It is 1:25 a.m. right now -my post time doesn't match the actual time. If I were a real writer, I know that I would become truly nocturnal, and only see my family at dinnertime.) 3. My mood experienced a dip, and I had to wait for it to rebound.

I was warned that sometime I will hit an emotional wall. Fortunately, my wall bashing lasted only one late afternoon/evening last week. I just could not stop crying. The more I tried to gather my composure, the more I cried. (It was like the more you try not to scratch the mosquito bite, the more it itches.) I felt bad for the girls because it is very disconcerting to see a parent cry. They came in and tried to read me a book to cheer me up, but I was non-responsive. Riley confessed to me later that she was upset by my crying, but she worked very hard to "hold it together." Molly hasn't said anything about it. I wasn't going to write about this episode in my blog because I am embarrassed by it, and felt that it makes me look weak. After some thought, I realized that crying one night after major surgery to remove cancerous tumors, recovering from having my entire mid-section cut open for reconstruction, and then going through eight weeks of chemotherapy, is probably humanly normal. Normal is okay, I think.

Hot flashes are my battle du jour. They are a great combination with the heat wave we are experiencing in Massachusetts. Like Oregon, not all homes have air conditioning. (I know you Californians and New Mexicans are thinking we are uncivilized, but we have great heating systems!) Our home has only one small air conditioning unit for the master bedroom. Guess where everyone is sleeping? The only good thing about the heat is that I don't feel that hot flashes because my entire day is one continuous hot flash. The only time I feel them is in air conditioning, making air conditioning a mixed blessing. When I have a hot flash my entire face gets flushed red. Strangely, my white, bald scalp doesn't get red during a flash, only red, mask-like face.

I met with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Dad, this week. He referred to me as the "Californian." We must be rare in this part of the world because many of the doctors refer to me as the "Californian." I wonder if they put it next to my name in the Mass General records. He asked me a lot of questions about my chemotherapy, wanting to know what was the worst part about it. I responded that the a worst part was the extreme exhaustion after the third cycle, but that actually chemotherapy wasn't that bad. Throughout our appointment he said to me, "I like you easy going Californians." (To all of you out west, I am doing my best to represent my birth state well.) We set a date of September 14 to get mapped. If I understand correctly, on the 14th Dr. Dad will make a grid of the left side of my chest, and map out exactly where they want to target the radiation. I will get a couple of tattoos - little dots, that will designate the exact locations for for radiation. (I can confidently say that these will be the only tattoos that I will ever get. I know, no fun.) Radiation will begin around September 21st. I will have radiation every day, Monday through Friday, for six and a half weeks. After the mapping which can take up to two hours, and the initial radiation that is a double check on the mapping, each radiation appointment will take no more than an hour. I will be in the radiation room for about 20 minutes, and the actually radiating takes only about 4 minutes. Most of the time is dedicated to set-up of the machine and me. The main side affect of radiation is feeling tired. After a couple of weeks, my skin will also feel sunburned. Someone, I don't remember who, told me about a cream called Jean's Cream, that works wonders for the skin during radiation. I found it at the cancer boutique at Mass General, and bought a tube of the $45 cream. It was highly recommended by the staff too. It is helps radiated skin, I wonder what it would do for non-radiated skin, like my face?!

It is 2:14 a.m. and Earl if finally arriving. In the four years we have lived on the east coast, this was our first hurricane warning! Yep, we were pretty excited. However, it looks like it might just ended up being a tropical storm. The rain is coming down hard, but the wind hasn't picked up yet. Everyone around here was fairly nonchalant about the whole thing - kind of like native Californians and earthquakes.

Whacky thought for the day...
What would your rather earthquake or a hurricane?


  1. I remember hitting that wall... That was a dark day for me and for Paul. I was a wreck for hours. My onc said it's often the steroids plus the stress too. Umm, whatever, could you have please WARNED me that profound sadness and hopelessness is a possible side effect??? It went away, tho, and I am as relentlessly chirpy as ever.

    On a different note... I think I went back in time and stole your 80's perm!