I wrote the following poem on March 30th. 15 days after my bilateral mastectomy and 42 days before my first day of radiation.
Let the Warrior do Her Job
The battle begins with a diagnosis.
Decisions are based on Worrier versus Warrior.
Sometimes there are no decisions to make. You do what you are told.
The Worrier says whew.
The Warrior stands alert. Greedy for a decision to make.
Always deep within, sometimes surfacing, I know I am going to live.
And I don't just mean with a beating heart.
The Worrier says is this false hope? How long?
The Warrior blows up her hope balloon and protects it from the poison-dart arrows full of nope.
Shouts forever as her war cry.
To radiate or not to radiate.
The Warrior says Radiate. Shine. Illuminate.
The Worrier says that's not the kind of radiate I'm talking about here.
I visualize the war paint covering my worry lines.
I am Colorful. Fierce. Unafraid.
Let that painted girl make the decisions.
Let the Warrior do her job.
2 weeks ago today was a day of celebration. I rang the bell to celebrate my last radiation treatment. It began on May 11th and I had been going every morning (Monday through Friday) for 5 weeks. A total of 25 treatments.
2 weeks ago today I felt elated. Like I could fly! FREEDOM.
Some super sweet ladies right here - they were with me for 5 weeks. It's an intimate situation and these ladies made me feel comfortable and like was a friend. Is it weird to say that I miss them?
And TODAY? Today I feel so light and bright! I got my little bit of hair highlighted this morning and I cannot stop smiling! I can't wait to pick up Tanner from camp today so that he can see that Mommy's hair is no longer "black" and back to "golden."
The amazing Nicole ... hairstylist and friend. I've missed her these past few months!
Lightened up hair and soul
I want to address why I got radiation. I've had friends/family/acquaintances ask me over the last couple of months, why radiation? You've done so much: chemo, mastectomy. Do you have to do this?
The standard recommendation for me (Stage III, HER-2 positive breast cancer) was to complete a minimum of 5 weeks (I was originally told 6 weeks but was told 5 would be enough as I was doing so well) of radiation therapy. The only way for me to really avoid this was to agree to a clinical trial in which I would have a 50/50 chance of either not getting radiation or proceed with radiation and be monitored for a minimum of 10 years. This is a relatively new study with no results yet. Obviously, what is being researched is are they doing too much? Can someone like me have the same results of no recurrence of cancer if they do not get radiation? I think this is a wonderful trial and I wish so so so much love and respect and positive results to the brave souls who have agreed to the trial. Not to say that I'm not brave or that those of us who chose not to do the trial aren't brave. Because, we totally are. To face radiation and the short term and possible long term side effects .. takes many deep breaths (literally) and faith and bravery.
I chose not to be a part of the trial and the chance of avoiding radiation because if cancer were to show back up in my lymph nodes someday, it is difficult at this time to treat with chemotherapy. And, I had to go back to my mantra of the goal being to live as long as possible. For me, in my mind, radiation was a fit to help me reach that goal.
Ok, so ... how am I doing? Good. My radiation oncologist says I did GREAT. She was very pleased. I was so red. Oh my gosh ... it was like a super bad sunburn in the areas where I was given treatment. I couldn't stand to have a bra on up until this week and didn't even feel comfortable having my right arm down by my side for awhile. I was a little itchy which I noticed most at night when I was trying to sleep (I know right?!) It was no fun but it could have been worse. Before I started, my oncologist warned me that she thought because of my fair skin and the skin sensitivities I have developed because of chemo that I would have some problems. Like really bad burns and/or blistering. She said it would most likely happen to me and that she would be able to give me 1 or 2 days off (still have to make those up though). But guess what people? That didn't happen to me! Yay me!
Mentally, I am well today. You notice how I put in there "today." Today is great day because radiation is over, my hair is highlighted, I'm going on vacation! I had a pretty emotional week during the last week of radiation. For the first time since it had begun I was in my head a lot while laying on the table for treatment. That week I felt like I could crumple on the floor and cry for awhile. I guess all of that emotion is because I knew the end was near? There's a lot that psychologically goes on for cancer patients and obviously everyone deals with it in their own way. I haven't even delved into what all of this means for me yet. My radiation oncologist is an amazing woman and she talked to Steve and I a bit more on this topic when we saw her for the last time. I'll save that for another blog topic at a later date.
What now? Now, I get to go away on vacation for 11 days. Do you know what this means?!? I get to have 11 days IN.A.ROW. with no doctor appointments or treatments of any kind. I have not had this kind of freedom for 9 months. To say I am excited is an understatement!! (The day after I get back I have infusion and a boob pump up .. so, nothing like reality when we get back BUT .. did I mention I get 11 days off in a row?!?!) LOL.
I will continue to get my Herceptin chemo treatments every 3 weeks until the end of October. (Yes, another bell ringing in my future). I will get my breast implants sometime between October - December and then finally I will have my surgery to have my port removed sometime not long after Herceptin ends. Can anyone say HELLO 2018????
In the meantime, I am healing. Focused on health in all forms. Focused on my boy, my Steve, my family, my friends ... LIFE.
I'm going out in the world and radiating -- love.