I’ve said it before. . and I’ll say it again; Attitude Is Everything.
I’ve been going in, every day, for radiation treatments. This is a simple, non-invasive procedure that takes about 10 minutes.
When I first started, they dropped some ink on me, poked me with a needle to make a “tattoo” and did some 3d scans to map out my body. . and more specifically the left breast (which decided to raise a mutiny against the rest of my body.) They then take all those scans and use the tattoos to plan out how they will subject me to radiation without burning my lungs and heart, yet making sure they hit any breast cells which may be lurking.
**just a side note, that I found extremely interesting**
The Dr. said that usually, if cancer comes back after surgery, it appears just along the incision line. Apparently, as they pull all the breast tissue out, occasionally, a few cells get caught in the incision and just get sewn back up. Weird, right?
Ok. . so, back to the story. .
Every day, I go in to the dressing room, remove everything from the waist up and put on a very high-fashion hospital gown. (not really fashionable, but if I think it’s beautiful, maybe I’ll walk taller and with more confidence.) I then wait to be called in. Once I enter the radiation room, which I like to refer to as the “glow chamber”, I lay on a table that resembles a CT scanner. They pull the table up under the machine, as if I’m getting an x-ray. There are laser lights shooting all around the room and they use those lights to make sure I’m in proper position for the treatment. They line up the red laser lines to the tattoos on my chest and sides and then make sure the radiation arm is also lined up.
The radiation arm can rotate all the way around the table. They start with it at the “2 o’clock” position, move it below me to a 7-8 o’clock position, then right above me for two exposures. It’s really quite fascinating and feels sort of “Star Trekish.” It makes all sorts of mechanical clicking, humming, and whirring sounds and I keep thinking. . who figured this stuff out? Who designed such a machine or decided, “hey, let’s throw radiation at her and see what happens.”
Anyways. . .it’s an easy procedure with few side effects. . Y E T.
I’m told to expect radiation burns on my breast and arm pit and some pretty serious fatigue after the 12-15th treatments. OK. . .I’ve already fought through chemo, this can’t be that bad right?
So, I gave you all that background information to tell you this story. . .
There’s another patient that goes in just before me, every day. I’ll call her “L” so she doesn’t find this and sue me. I met her as she was coming out of her 2nd treatment and I was going in for #4. She came out of the “glow chamber” complaining already about being nauseous and feeling horrible. Seriously, the first couple of treatments are like getting an xray. Have you EVER been sick from getting an xray? I figured, she’s gotten herself all worked up, not knowing what to expect and she’s feeling a little overwhelmed. Well, I was wrong.
I see her every. single. day. and she complains. complains. complains. I keep trying to answer her with a smile and a positive statement and she just lashes out with some negative craziness. One day I tried the ol’ “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” She just looked at me and said, “Well, this pretty much killed me.”
Today, she asked me what kind of cancer I had. I told her, left breast “invasive ductile carcinoma, grade 3, stage 3A.” She says, “no, I mean, what KIND was it?” What? I kept trying to answer her and she finally let me know what she was talking about. Her cancer was responsive to HER2 (hormone responsive) so, I told her mine wasn’t responsive to hormones. She says, “so, they don’t know what kind it is?” Finally, after a few minutes of trying to figure out what she was talking about, I said, “My kind is called Triple Negative, because it’s not responsive to hormones. . ANY hormones.” That seemed to satisfy her.
But, then she went on with how sick this is making her and how horrible she feels. . and how are you feeling? I told her my skin was starting to get a little pink around the incision, I was starting to be a little tired, but it’s really too soon for me to have any symptoms. The Dr. said I should start feeling REALLY tired by the end of the week.
They she let me in on her real pain. . .”I’m just so tired of this whole thing. Usually when you get sick, it’s over in a matter of weeks. This is taking forever.” Yes, dear, it is. I was diagnosed in March of this year and it looks like I’ll be returning to work at the end of February; one whole year later. It reminded me of something my friend/boss keeps reminding me of: This is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you know you’re only going to running 1 mile, it’s pretty easy to stay excited and motivated. The gun goes off and you tear off as fast your legs will carry you, and before you know it, it’s over. This, however, is more like a marathon. What’s worse. . its a marathon that you didn’t know you would be running, and certainly never trained for. So, now you’re standing at the starting line, having no idea what to expect and all you know is you’ve got to finish. I don’t know about you, but even when I was at my BEST physical condition, I would never attempt such a feat, let alone now.
I have several friends that do run marathons and triathlons. They have ALL said that running a marathon is harder on you mentally than physically. The focus and inner drive required is amazing.
So, in honor of “L” I want to say that this is tough. I don’t always have the best attitude either. Even the best trained runners question their abilities around mile 19. We’re in the home stretch “L”, you’ve just hit your wall. . dig deep and find the strength to finish this race. Even if you hate it, you’ll look back and think. . look what I accomplished that year. I saved my life. This isn’t the end of the road, just a turn. . but that finish line is just up ahead and it’s got YOUR name on it. Let’s do this!