Last February 12 when I was told that I had something suspicious that could be cancer, I told myself, "No big deal I will get through this." I was like "The Little Engine That Could." Over these past many months I kept telling myself, "I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. I know I can." I thought that chemotherapy was the top of the mountain for this little train. When I reached the top without too much fuss, I coasted down to radiation. What I didn't realize, was that at Radiation Valley I could derail, which is exactly what happened.
The last two weeks I was a complete train wreck. I had so much discomfort and pain from burnt skin, that all I wanted to do was get through the day without tears. Having any type of fabric touch my skin was unbearable. I tried several types of radiation cream, but discovered that Mother Nature provided the best comfort - pure aloe - without any dye or perfume. This worked for a while until my burned skin began to turn a strange color and became even more painful. At this point Dr. Dad prescribed a cream that helped somewhat when I put a telfa pad (non stick gauze pad - similar to the middle pad of a band-aid) between the burnt skin and my clothing. This new color looked like the results of children mixing all their paint colors together - a grayish green color. I guess this is the color of dead flesh, and what a real zombie looks like. I had this zombie skin under my arm, a patch on my chest, and the bottom front of my bra line. These three areas were the most sensitive and caused the most discomfort. I slept with a pillow under my left arm to keep my armpit open. I couldn't wait until the end of the day when I could remove my bra. I put this prescription cream on twice a day, and was grossed out every time I had to apply it to the zombie areas, especially the armpit. It was disgusting looking. I am happy to report that as of Sunday night, during my regular cream application before bed, the pain subsided, and most of the zombie skin had fallen off. Are you grossed out yet? Should I have written this a couple of days earlier - on Halloween?
On top of my pain, I also had a couple of meltdowns over the past few weeks. I felt bad for everyone in this house, even the cats, because I was a wreck. It is not fair for me to take my discomfort out on others. When I crashed, I crashed hard. I guess this train was travelling faster than I realized.
Over the past 3-4 weeks Riley told me several times that she is worried about me dying. She hasn't said this to me since last February. She said that she doesn't believe me when I tell her that I am okay because she has seen me with so much discomfort. This worry is compounded by the fact that she doesn't have a good friend to talk to about her feelings. A girl that she thought was her closest friend turned on her recently, and in a hard way. (Not like there is an easy way for your best friend to turn on you.) She talked to a guidance counselor, but it didn't seem to help. She really wants a peer who understands what it is like to have a sick parent. I e-mailed her guidance counselor to ask if there are any other students at school that have walked this rocky road, but she didn't know anyone. Then...at the same time, one of the counselors and I realized that she has a soccer teammate, in the same grade, who's mom went through this four years ago! I even talked to her mom many times at games about the trials and tribulations of breast cancer, and we share the same radiation oncologist and medical oncologist. Why is it when something is so obvious, and right in your face, that you don't see it? Riley has talked to her recently, but she hasn't said if this is what she was looking for in a peer. She always has me, and fortunately, she is comfortable telling me all her feelings and worries. I just need to keep it together for her.
Molly is also having a difficult time with my cancer, but coming from a different angle. Last year she had support at school, and knew that if she was having a "tough" day, her teacher would support her, encourage her to take a break, and send her to the school nurse for a hug. Her teacher also treated her with "kids gloves" while instilling the normal parameters of the classroom. Molly does not have this same situation this year. She hates school and wants to stay with me. She was not late for school one single day last year because she was fanatical about getting to school on time. The past two days she didn't care if she was late or on time. One day last week, she would not go to school until after I got home from radiation. Last year she missed one spelling word the entire year, and you would have thought the world was coming to an end because of this one misspelled word. Now she could care less about her spelling tests. She does not care about school because she feels that they do not care about her. School is no longer a safety zone or a break from my cancer. Her nerves are raw, and school is constantly pushing on these nerves. She feels that she has no support at school. I am beyond words to desciribe my shock and anger at the insensitivty toward a 10 year old who wonders if her mom is going to live or die. The situation has become so bad that we are considering changing schools.
Both Riley and Molly have held it together so well, and for so long. It is natural for them to unravel at some point. We are at that point. Hugs seem to be the best remedy. If happen you see Riley or Molly, give them a hug.
All this pain, tears and meltdowns is the primary reason I have not written. I fear that I sound like a whiner. I was warned by my surgeon, oncologist and social workers that hitting a wall might happen.
One of my doctors, can't remember which one, told me that often cancer patients have a difficult time after they are finished with all their treatments and no longer see doctors on a regular basis. He/she said patients can feel uncomfortable "being on their own," and without the weekly or daily support of a medical professional. I don't see myself going through his doctor withdrawal. I will be thrilled when I don't have daily or weekly appointments where I have to undress and talk about cancer. However, I am wondering if the girls are scared that I won't have a doctor looking over me weekly or daily.
I finish my radiation in three days! - Hooray!!!
On a lighter note.....
And I mean lighter as in color - my hair is beginning to grow. My front and sideburns are looking very light, and I don't mean blonde. The majority of my hair is dark which makes the light hair look very light. Yikes! Gray is not my color.
All of a sudden my eyelashes are very short. I wonder if I never lost them because I held onto them with such conviction; and then when new eyelashes began to grow, they pushed out the old, long, dead eyelashes. It is difficult to apply mascara to little stubbles. I think I look tired without long eyelashes. Or, maybe I just look how I feel.
Whacky thought for the day...
The San Francisco Giants won the World Series!!!!!
I became a huge Giants fan when I was a road rep and regularly listened to the games on the radio. (I was listening to the 1989 World Series game on my way to Chico when the big earthquake hit, and the radio signal went silent.) At one time I could tell you who played what position, plus their back up. I even knew the batting line up and pitching rotation. I could recite a few batting averages, but was not big on stats. I know, sounds crazy.
October 27th - Happy Birthday Molly - 10 years old!
October 24th - Happy Anniversary Chubba - hard to believe that anyone could stay married to me for 23 years!