Midlife necessities

Midlife necessities
Midlife necessities

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Use the Good Mascara

Things are moving right along. I am healing nicely from my surgery, but need to add some stretching and strength exercises to my left arm as it feels like I'm pulling a tendon when I lift my arm over my head (found that out during the CT scan). All my appointments and procedures are scheduled, including a field trip to some wig shops JUST TO SEE.

Yesterday was my CT scan. Ew. I had some greek yogurt and green tea before my 8:30 deadline, then could only drink 32 ounces of water until my 10:30 appointment. I was so surprised and happy to see my dad sitting in the waiting room when I arrived! So kind of him! Didn't get to say more than hello when I was taken back for my first of two injections. They placed an IV into my arm and flushed the vein with a saline solution. I waited 20 minutes and then got some contrast material in the IV. The actual CT scan was no big deal but the reason for it IS a big deal. "Often the best method for detecting many different cancers, such as lymphoma and cancers of the lung, liver, kidney, ovary and pancreas, since the image allows a physician to confirm the presence of a tumor and measure its size, precise location and the extent of the tumor's involvement with other nearby tissue." (from www.radiologyinfo.org) My doctor said it's not likely that the cancer has spread beyond the two lymph nodes but we need to be sure.

I didn't feel claustrophobic (I know it's quite a bit different from an MRI machine) and it didn't hurt. But when the technician "pushed" the iodine things got ugly. She had warned me about most of the weird sensations I'd be feeling. "You will likely have a warm, flushed sensation during the injection of the contrast materials and a metallic taste in your mouth that lasts for at most a minute or two. You may experience a sensation like you have to urinate; however, this is actually a contrast effect and subsides quickly." (from www.imaginis.com) Yeah, it was a creepy feeling and I didn't like it. And I did not know about the nausea. I kept telling myself that I didn't want to have to start all over so I just prayed and breathed and then the procedure was finished. I told the technician that I needed a pan. She said, "No you don't. You're fine, take some deep breaths." Well I knew otherwise and wanted to save her some trouble cleaning up but she actually talked me out of it very quickly and I was on my way.

Dad and I went to breakfast (I love breakfast!) and then to Costco. I no longer have a Costco card so that was fun and I enjoyed my dad time. He bought me a few things (thank you dad!) and then dropped me off at Kaiser for my Muga scan. That one was easy.  Just one injection of the radioactive tracer, placement of the electrodes, and ten minutes of gamma rays above my chest. My chemo oncologist needs to know what my heart looks like before I start chemo because one of my chemo drugs may damage the heart. Apparently I will be having all of the scans every few months while undergoing treatment to monitor all of my body parts. Kaiser is fast becoming my second home.

Today I met my radiation oncologist. I will have radiation at the Ontario Kaiser, which is about 25 minutes from home. The place was packed! I didn't have anyone go with me, thinking what could I possibly hear where I would need moral support or additional ears? My doctor was very nice, and very thorough, explaining my pathology report (again), and the radiation treatment I will be having when I'm finished with chemo. She drew pictures of body parts and where the radiation will be focused. She showed me where the radiation would enter and where it will exit. Exit? It has to exit? I guess I never understood radiation. She told me about typical side effects, like fatigue and sunburn at the points of entry and exit (exit again!). She also told me about lasting side effects, like leathery skin, brittle bones and burnt lungs. Burnt lungs? Just a little bit on the side. They cover up as much of the lung as they can during the treatment, but a little bit of lung will still get burned (what?). Since I'm not a smoker, it shouldn't affect my breathing ability (WHAT?). Well, this is the first time in a medical appointment or procedure that I almost cried (besides during the biopsy results appointment when I was telling my surgeon about my dear friend Traci). My eyes started watering but I held back the tears. Not time to cry just yet.

I will call to schedule my radiation treatment when I'm on my last cycle of chemo, which should be in late February or early March. That is so weird to say. I'm a planner by nature but I don't like planning this. It's feeling more "real". I still don't know how I feel about wigs, but want to try some on just in case. Last night I watched a video of a young woman who documented her hair growing back in after chemo, and the first real tears fell down my face while imagining myself. 

Today the doctor said something about my cancer and treatment having only a 5% chance of the cancer coming back, which is very good. A 95% success rate is great! And then she said something very honest. "Hopefully you will not be in the 5%." Up until now I haven't really considered that I'm fighting cancer, or in a life or death battle. Everyone has been so positive, sharing stories of people they know who beat cancer. But so many of us also know people who haven't. I  was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, and it's a fact that my life will never be the same. I have more processing to do with this new knowledge.

There's a philosophy about eating dessert first, and not saving the fine china for holidays only. I was saving some expensive mascara I got as a bonus when I bought some perfume. Saving it for what? Not anymore. I'm using the good mascara.

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