I had my first visit with Dr. Sanders, a Radiation Oncologist, on Thursday. James and I spent over an hour with him peppering him with questions about the risks of radiation, the methods, and whether or not I would see enough benefit to even undertake the schedule-defying therapy. I had read pros and cons of radiation therapy and had concerns. I really was interested in this new method where they implant a device and set one up with doses over about a week, and then you're done. That sounded like a better option to me compared with daily trips over 6 to 7 weeks. Dr. Sanders was patient and answered every question we had. Unfortunately, the implant device was not suitable for me since the placement of the device would be too close to the surface of my skin and could risk seriously damaging it. If he lowered the dose so keep the skin safe, then the benefits of radiation would be almost nil - not even worth doing.
Radiation therapy reduces my risk of cancer recurrence from residual cells that may be lurking - down to about 5%. Without radiation therapy my risk of some rogue cells that may be lingering, goes up to around 20%. We weren't willing to take a 20% chance of recurrence, so we are opting to go ahead with radiation. My next step was a CT scan of the site so they can properly map out the location. I got marked with ink and taped with little bee-bee's, dotted with two tiny tattoo's, and then scanned. The doctor then prepares a radiation dosage plan which I will start on Monday October 26Th. I go every single day with the exception of weekends and holidays, for 33 sessions. I should finish around mid-December.
This is going to be troublesome with my work schedule. Thankfully my manager will work with me. On the days I work from home, I am freer in when I can go. The days I work in Renton (Tues & Thurs) are much trickier. Turns out they offer radiation only from 7:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) I did launch my complaint that they should be open longer hours to help accommodate those of us who need to continue to work through the therapy. Ah well. I'll just have to do the best I can.
I have been fully warned of what to expect: sunburn-like symptoms on the site, and fatigue. I would imagine I'll also become exasperated with the schedule as well.
Since just a few days after my last surgery, September 30Th, I've managed to let this cancer thing be waaaay in the background. I have felt great, my energy level has been good, and my job is keeping me very, very busy, and occupied. I've almost forgotten about the cancer. However, these daily trips will likely be an ugly reminder of this ugly disease.
One other really good report here though; my genetic test did come back negative for the two DNA markers that have been found. Yeah! Now my sisters and daughter don't have to worry so much. However, the doctors were quick to point out that those are only two of potentially many markers that are still left to be discovered. I am going to remain an evangelist to the women in my family to check themselves and to have regular mammograms. There is a lot of cancer in our family and I want to make sure we are ALL survivors!
For the last six weeks I have put considerable effort into changing my overall lifestyle: eating, sleeping, activity-level, and more. I want to do everything in my power to keep cancer away from me for the rest of my life. I've been reading book after book on health, exercise, and cancer-fighting foods. Whew, there is a lot to learn. That said, I know I have to be realistic. I know if I did everything I've read, all put together, I'd hardly be able to eat a thing. Assuredly I'd be a vegan, with no dairy, no meats, zero sugar, and mostly just whole fruits and vegetables.
That is not realistic for me. I'd never be able to follow something that strict. I'd be off the wagon in mere days. However, I think I'm getting closer to a general understanding of how I can live a much healthier life. Oh, I didn't do too badly before, but in retrospect, it wasn't too good either. Sure, I tried to stay active, didn't do much red meat, and ate lots of salads, but it wasn't enough. I've had a diet high in processed foods (they're so convenient), and had a secret love of fast food for years. I also love eating out in general.
I've put into practice several key things that I hope I can stick to. I'll admit I'm nervous about being able to stay the course.
1. Regular walking - I've been walking my neighborhood, the river paths, and friends neighborhoods of late. I'll begin walking the SuperMall here as the weather turns. That's one thing friends can do for me: walk me.
2. Juicing - I've been juicing fresh vegetables that are high in antioxidants,
3. Natural herbs and supplements - I've been working with a naturopathic oncologist and have several supplements that are fairly inexpensive that I've added to my daily routing: high dosages of Vitamin D3, green tea powder (add to my juice), Turmeric, among others.
4. General eating - I'm going to turn to whole grains, nuts, and legumes and hormone free chicken and fish. I want to learn to cook fabulous foods, full of flavor, that help me love this new plan.
5. Reduce Sugars - I allow myself a treat every couple of days, not every day. I will also regulate my portion size so I don't over indulge.
6. Fast Food - I made a pact with James that I would only do fast food once a month. Two months down. So far, so good!
7. Push Away - When I do eat out, I'm going to save part of every meal for later as portion sizes are usually way more than I need.
So can I hold to this life-long plan? Can I stay the course. I sure hope so.
I love fall; the cooler temperatures, the colors, the early morning fog and the crisp nights. Oh, I love summer, but there's something refreshing about fall too. This fall is no different. I'm through my end-of-summer anxiety of my breast cancer discovery and multiple surgeries and am soon to embark on my final leg of this journey: radiation.
I'm counting my blessings.
1. My emotions have settled down considerably and I'm taking each day as it comes. I find myself looking forward to the holiday season as I should be done with radiation by then too.
2. I'm coming up to being in my lovely home for nearly a year too. I love this neighborhood, my house, being just doors away from my family has been a real blessing as well.
3. My new job is going well. I've been given almost a carte blanche to get the team together and running smoothly. It currently is a non-cohesive team with little to no standard processes regarding their projects as a whole. I am good at setting up standard processes and getting teams working together. This should be good.
4. My grandchildren are so adorable. I love seeing them often. I have toys, a bed for them, and lots of hugs. I am excited to be a part of their lives and not having my kids spread out elsewhere country like so many of my friends. I can't imagine not being an integral part of their lives.
5. My Husband. I can't even comprehend these last few months with out the encouragement and support of James. I am beyond grateful for his love, compassion, and care. He is the best. Thank you Lord for hooking me up with James!
6. My Friends. Friends I haven't talked to in years have rallied around me in support, prayer, and comfort like I never would have expected. I am truly blessed to have so many fabulous friends.
7. My Family. My parents, my siblings, my aunts, cousins, and more have been unbelievably wonderful. I love the cards, the flowers, the calls and emails. Thank you so much.
I'm saving the best for last: Jesus. I can't even articulate what He is in my life: my rock, my salvation, my peace, my joy, my everything. I can't imagine going through this with out Him by my side. People can be great, but having someone way bigger than I in charge and watching over me during my journey is an unspeakable blessing.
There are so many other blessings I haven't written of here. There are only a few (and not in order). But I couldn't let this day pass without listing out a few.
God is good.