I started my journey of radiation therapy this week, but first I had to undergo some initial preparations. Last week during a 4 hour appointment I met with Dr. Ingersoll so she could explain the treatment that would take place during the next 6 weeks. I was then taken into the radiation room, placed on the table and raised a few feet in the air. The radiation therapist placed a big rubber band around my feet and then jokingly told me it was so I wouldn't kick him. My arms were positioned above my head in a cradle type thing with my hands gripping some sort of post. Several laser beams were lined up across my chest making sure that everything was in position and then I received my 5 "tattoos". (The part I was dreading the most.) I have to admit it was probably a good thing that my feet were tied together so I couldn't kick him because OUCH it really did hurt! The worst part is that he did it by hand with a needle. A needle that was bored into my skin to make a hole. A hole that was filled in with ink to make it permanent. Because of this pain I have no intentions of ever getting a real tattoo...not that I ever did anyway. In reality they look nothing like a tattoo. Just 5 tiny little pin pricks with blue ink, as small as a freckle. Five little dots that will be with me forever, a constant reminder of the many challenges I have had to face during the last few months.
I was then taken down the hall to have a CT scan so they could map out the part of my body that needs to be radiated. This is how the doctor decides on a treatment plan. Since it does take some time to devise the plan, I had to wait about a week for my first actual treatment.
Everyday (M-F) for the next 6 weeks I will drive 35 minutes from Syracuse to McKay Dee Hospital. I have chosen to go early in the morning at 7:00 so my treatments don't interfere with my kids' daily activities after school. I think the morning drive will be good for me. It will give me time alone to reflect on how far I have come on my cancer journey. Each treatment takes about 15 minutes. It almost takes me longer to change into the hospital gown than it does to have the actual treatment. I'll have to learn to be quicker at changing. At least I don't have to worry about my hair getting messed up in the process. Once I am changed I am placed on the table, my body positioned, my tattoos lined up with the laser beam and then I receive radiation. The machine rotates into about 3 different positions to complete the treatment.
So many people have been concerned for me to start radiation. I get the constant questions, "How are you feeling, How are you managing the pain, Are you in pain?" Radiation doesn't hurt, it is more the uncomfortable feeling of lying on the table with my chest full of scars, completely exposed, having beams of radiation shot into my body. The first treatment I had tears rolling down my face because I was so scared. But I kept thinking about my 3 beautiful kids and my wonderful husband and how they are counting on me, how I need to be strong for them. I think more than anything it is an emotional pain of knowing radiation is entering my body and wondering what it really is doing. And of course anytime you are lying on a table and they tell you "Don't Move!" that is when you always have to sneeze or cough right?
With each treatment my skin will turn a little more pink, then turn a tan color and may eventually burn. So after each treatment I use 100% aloe vera. This will hopefully help my to not burn as badly. On my first appointment the therapist drew out the area that is being treated with a green marker. I was actually surprised at how broad the area really is. I am hoping that the burns won't be too intense because the radiation does go up onto my neck, around the side of my chest and up my arm. That could be painful. It also explains why people were looking at me strangely as I left the hospital. The therapist could have warned me that my neck was covered in green marker. I laughed when I got to my car and looked in the mirror. Good thing it wiped right off or I'd be wearing turtlenecks.
I am looking forward to having this next phase over with. I know that after radiation my family will have a well needed break since it has been recommended by my doctor to wait at least 6-8 months to start the reconstruction process. This will give us time to heal from the physical and emotional pain that cancer has brought to us these past 9 months. Time to be somewhat normal again and to not worry about cancer. I do realize how blessed I truly am. Tears fill my eyes each night as my 3 sweet children kneel and pray that mommy's cancer will be gone forever, that I will start to feel better again. It is so comforting when I am feeling sorry for myself to have my sweet husband wrap me in his arms and tell me it will be all right. I am lucky to have been given many priesthood blessings from Steve so that my body would be able to fight this cancer and to heal quickly. I am blessed to have SO many people that care about my well being.
I realize now that this journey has made me a stronger person. I never thought I could endure such a trial in my life. I think about the sacrifices that Christ made for us and realize my trial with cancer doesn't even compare to the pain and suffering he endured. And because of him these scars that are so apparent on my body now will someday be gone. That even with all the many tears and pain that I have encountered there is always someone that is going through something more challenging. I realize I have no reason to complain. This journey was a gift to me so that so many wonderful people could be brought into my life. I have been deeply and forever touched by these people.
Being a teacher I also get to touch so many lives each day. However, one of my students that I taught four years ago, and her family are an example of those that have deeply touched my life forever. They decided that because of the hardship my family has gone through these past few months they wanted to help us in some way. Without my knowledge, they came up with a plan to have a fundraiser for me. They created a flier with all the information and circulated it to all their neighbors, family, co-workers and friends.
All summer long that sweet family sold Tony's pizzas to earn money to donate to my family. In the end they sold around 225 pizzas. The tricky part was that all the pizzas had to be picked up at the pizza place the same time and then delivered on the same day to those who made a purchase. Seats had to be removed from their van, a shell had to be borrowed for a truck so that 220 pizzas could be loaded and then delivered. I can't image how long it must have taken to deliver all those pizzas. I still get a tear in my eye thinking of how they came to my house to give me their gift. I was handed 3 frozen pizzas and then told to make sure we liked the "toppings" they had picked. I was in shock and had tears rolling down my cheeks when I saw the pizza had been covered with 6 one hundred dollar bills. How this sweet family unselfishly gave time and love to help my family. How grateful I am for kind people in this world. I will never be able to repay all the wonderful things that have been done for me and my family. Yes I will continue to say it...I am blessed!
Love you all!