Thursday, January 28, 2016

My radiation ritual

My hair 13 weeks post final chemo
I've come to realize that I like rituals. I always sit in the same place at the places I frequent, Michael and I have certain things we say to each other at certain times, etc. Having the rituals during chemo really helped me get through it--we'd take a pic in the morning with the race bibs he made me, get breakfast on the way there, always had our bag of snacks and entertainment packed, lunch on the way home, and then cut off the loop from my daisy chain. Oh, and I got a new charm for my bracelet each time. It helped to make things feel a little normal, I think, and gave me a mini celebration to keep me positive.

So when I was struggling with my feelings last week, someone suggested I do a ritual for each radiation treatment. I agreed it was a good idea, and several of you gave me some good thoughts on what to do. I combined a couple of them with an idea I had found to make a keepsake of the chemo loops.

I went to Michael's (the craft store) and got a cute square jar with a lid. I shredded the chemo loops and put them in. Each day when I get home from radiation, I get to eat a Dove chocolate and put the wrapper in the jar. If I like the sentiment on the inside of the wrapper, I fold it inside out so it can easily be read. Otherwise, I've folded them into different shapes or into balls. I also got some little origami papers, and after each treatment I write one thing I'm grateful for on the white side of the paper, then fold it into a little Japanese lantern (don't be impressed. My origami skills are...not) and put that in the jar, too. So I have this jar of memories and positive thoughts and blessings. I like it!

Today was treatment #6. I get tired after every single one, and most days I don't even feel like getting on the computer or doing much of anything once I get home. I'm already turning pink and feeling tender. I ended up seeing all three of my doctors yesterday for follow ups, and they were all surprised. Apparently I'm "lucky" in this regard and will not have an easy time of radiation. Joy. /sarcasm

The funny thing was that the radiation oncologist said he wished he could publish me because I line up on the table perfectly every time and all of my xrays and whatnot always come out right. I did not realize this was so difficult....I knew I was good at lying down, but not this good! (ha) Anyway, he said I turned pink faster than he expected and that we might end up having to take a break at some point to let me heal before they continue if it gets too bad too fast. This is just sounding better and better! I hope it doesn't get dragged out too long. I want it over with, and I want to heal before we leave on our cruise May 1!

During my follow up with the medical oncologist, he told me my stiff joints are related to chemo-induced menopause. Apparently, joints like estrogen, and when there's a sudden deficit, they stiffen up. This is not an issue with normal menopause, because the body slowly adjusts over a period of years. Mine should improve with time when my body adjusts, but there's no way to know if I'll stay in menopause or pop back into my normal cycle.

The surgeon I ended up with when my original one had to go on leave is hilarious. During my appointment with him, he said, "Well, your path report was clear so I basically did nothing." I said, "You disfigured me, so there's that. I'd like to thank you for saving my life, but...well, you didn't. So, thanks a lot." It was pretty funny. Sometimes you just have to laugh at this stuff.

I don't need to see either the MO or the surgeon again until June or July, and I don't need another mammogram until then, either. So, I'll have a nice little break from cancer crap after radiation is finally over. Looking forward to that!


  1. Thanks for sharing about your radiation treatment. Sounds really tough but as usual, you're facing it with humour and courage. I've gotten so much out of following your whole cancer treatment journey on your blog these past months. You are a brave and strong lady. Thanks for sharing and educating us. That is wonderful about your cruise to look forward to in May. You definitely deserve it. All the best.

  2. I like your jar of positive thoughts. I might think about something similar for myself, since I find myself getting down once in a while. So far I've been lucky. . Just had to have bits cut off. Sounds like you have had a much harder time of it.

    I admire your humor in the face of everything.