Final stage of treatment

On Thursday, I met with Dr. Howell, my radiation oncologist, and I’ve decided to proceed with radiation. As I mentioned before, it is my choice because there is no concrete data that unequivocally shows that someone in my shoes absolutely requires this treatment. I am electing to have the treatment because of the chance of recurrence — radiation has been shown to reduce it by 8 to 10%. And given that I’m 43 (for a few more days), I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me to remain cancer free. I want to look back and know that I gave it all I’ve got. So that’s settled.

As soon as I’m done getting the fills in my expanders, radiation can begin. I have another fill next Thursday (June 4). At that time, I’ll discuss with Dr. Bateman the details about how many fills I want/need to achieve the desired end result. Then pretty much as soon as that last fill is in, I can start radiation the next day. I just have to have a 30-minute planning appointment to get my temporary tattoos for the beams and get the alignment in the machine correct. I asked to see the machine while I was there, and it’s bigger than I expected, but it’s not enclosed. So my slight claustrophobia will not be an issue. Plus, after the initial planning, I’m under the beam for only about 2 minutes total for all three areas (chest wall, axillary nodes and subclavian nodes). I’ll have 25 treatments in all — 5 days a week for 5 weeks.

I really like Dr. Howell as well as her staff — they’re friendly and very helpful. I’ve been told that the most common side effects are sunburn like — redness, peeling, dryness and itching. Skin care is important, and I have a regimen to follow. Otherwise, some people have fatigue, but overall, the systemic symptoms are virtually non-existent.

I met with Butch yesterday to continue my treatment planning. I’ll resume acupuncture in June, going every other week. He gave me an herb supplement to begin to help with the night sweats and hot flashes. He also gave me a name of a product to use on my skin if I need it during radiation.

The amazing human body

Over these past several months I’ve thanked my body for its incredible healing power, and I continue to do so today. I’m continually amazed by the capacity of the body to mend. I’m thankful that I proceeded through chemotherapy treatment without major problems and that, in the end, it was successful in eradicating the cancer. It wasn’t easy but my body worked with the medication, and I’m grateful for the best result imaginable.

Next was my surgery. I’m only 2.5 weeks out from surgery, and I’m fully functioning with little pain, no swelling, and no complications. Things are sailing along. I’ll start physical therapy very soon to regain full range of motion.

I will ask my body to work gently and efficiently to work with the healing effects of the radiation treatment in this next phase. I am also confident that Dr. Bateman has the skills and expertise to provide me with the best possible cosmetic result ever produced! Whenever I say his name, in my head I think, “I’m Batman!” in the voice like Sheldon imitates. I know it’s BATE-man. But he’s kind of a superhero to me.

I’m also thankful for what my body has done for me over these past 43 years. I had two healthy, 8.5 pound babies that I was able to deliver with zero complications, and I successfully breast fed both. I’ve been active in running, yoga, biking, hiking, racquetball, horseback riding and just about anything else I’ve ever wanted to try. In the near future, I plan to learn to Stand Up Paddleboard. And I’ve currently still been able to go walking and tend to my garden. Given time and support, my body will allow me to return to all my activities and more. And for that I’m grateful and happy.

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