Yvonne's last day of radiation was Thursday.  I've gotten to know Yvonne a bit since we both sit and wait for our turn to burn each day.  We sit in our flimsy hospital gowns and chat a few minutes before the attendant comes to take us into the radiation vault.  We didn't talk the first few days, but eventually we loosened up and started to get to know each other.

I clearly am one of the lucky ones.

Yvonne is probably in her mid-sixties and it was obvious that she had chemotherapy as her hair was just starting to come back in.  I could see the bright red burn from her chest as it crept up past the neckline of her gown.  She says it has gotten quite painful of late; blistering and peeling.  I'm almost in week 3 and have had zero burning so far - again, lucky.  She has had a double mastectomy. 

The first conversation we had was when she giggled and bubbled about how her family surprised her with a trip to Maui a month or two back.  She had just finished her chemotherapy and was on the mend when a sister offerred to travel with her to visit another sister somewhere in Idaho. Yvonne met her sister at the airport for the quick hop to Idaho and both sisters were there and ushered her to a different flight - to Maui.  They spent a week there basking in the tropical breezes, experienced a luau, and generally had a wonderfully relaxing time.  Yvonne had never had a trip like that before in her life.  I heard Yvonne tell others of her trip time and time again.  Clearly it was a highlight of the last few years of her life.

On Tuesday Yvonne came in, clearly down.  Her doctor has ordered another round of chemotherapy.  She had been so looking forward to being "done" with cancer treatment.  Yvonne is still fighting for her life.  They don't know if she'll be successful.  The cancer has spread to her bones.  The day she told me that, I pulled her out of her chair and hugged her.  I immediately prayed for her asking God to bless her, comfort her, and heal her.  I only had a few seconds because I was being beckoned to my radiation chamber. 

I can't stop thinking about Yvonne.  She doesn't have anyone close by to help her through this.  I need to figure out a way to be there for her.  I don't know how yet.  But I'll figure something out.  I don't even know her last name.

I need to help Yvonne.


Quirks & Phobias

I do not have an obsessive compulsive disorder, at least that I know of. However, I have noticed that I have two strange habits that, should I submit myself to a therapist, might likely put me in a borderline category. What are yours?

1. Public Restrooms - Even in very familiar surroundings, I find I check, check, and re-check the WOMEN/MEN restroom signs. I think I have a deep rooted fear of going into the wrong bathroom. I got thinking about this yesterday and decided it was due to being dragged into the boys bathroom in 6th grade. Several "girlfriends" couldn't figure out why I never got mad at anyone and decided to step up their efforts by dragging me into the boys bathroom. Needless to say it didn't work. I didn't get mad. I was very exasperated at them and didn't call them friends anymore; that's for sure. It was a stupid prank that I think has me obsessed about checking, double-checking, and triple-checking each and every time I need to use the girls room.

2.  Typing - a job I had in college was for Sears.  I worked 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. or so typing mail orders into the computer system: data entry.  We were "encouraged" to keep our keystrokes above 10,000 per hour (I think).  I remember each week we would crowd around the printout that showed our speed, errors, etc.  I remember feeling proud one week when I had really progressed and finally hit a 14K mark.  I literally typed in my sleep.  After that job, typing became second nature.  To this day I find myself mentally typing out things all day long: signs, things people speak to me, billboards, scriptures quoted in a sermon, you name it - I type it.  Thankfully I "type" pretty fast.  Things have gotten better over the years, but even now, almost 30 years later, I still "type".  It seems pretty stupid to be 50 years old and still typing out lots of the things I see and hear throughout a day. 

3.  Fear of heights - I cannot explain it.  But I literally have a panic attack when faced with things high up.  I'm OK if I drive over a bridge, but if I have to walk - ugh.  I panic.  I remember when James and I were in Germany by the Neuschwanstein castle, there was a hike and a bridge where one could get fabulous views of the valley and the famous castle.  The bridge was wide and very sturdy.  It could easily have held a car or three.  The problem was that it was steel girders with wooden boards.  The drop was easily several hundred feet down.  I could see between the tiny slats on the wooden boards.  No good.  I literally froze.  Knowing I'd kick myself for not traversing this famous bridge and likely miss the spectacular view, I walked.  I barely made it though.  I clung to James for dear life and couldn't even enjoy the view. Thankfully I did manage to get one or two camera shots when I made it to the other side. I remember that someone jostled me and I nearly climbed onto James in abject fear.  My heart was racing so fast I thought I'd have a heart attack.  Needless to say, I made it.  I survived.  Oh, and the picture turned out great.

What are your quirks?


Radiation Therapy

I've made it through 5 days of weekday radiation treatments so far.  Only 4 of them have actually been radiation treatments; the first being additional x-rays and positioning efforts.  I am going to be doing this every weekday for a minimum of six weeks.  My daily appointment is at 8:00 a.m. 

I see some of the same people here each day. I am feeling pretty lucky. The two ladies I see look like they have it much worse than I. One is probably doing chemotherapy in conjunction with the radiation therapy as she has very little hair. The other must be suffering from lung cancer as she is on heavy oxygen. Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer for women. They are both quite a bit older than I. While this has been scary, seeing them has made me actually thankful for the situation I am in. It could have been so very much worse. But for the grace of God, go I.

The women's waiting room has lockers, three changing rooms and probably 3 dozen wall cubes for our gowns. I was assigned a cube and given a gown that will be mine for the next 6 weeks. Each day I come in and change into my gown and lock my belongings into a locker. The keys are on elasticized bracelets we wear around. I then wait until they call for me. There are magazines and a table with a puzzle. I suspect a new one will be there by Monday. There were only a few pieces remaining as of 8:00 a.m. Friday. Becuase I have the early morning appointment, I don't have a long enough wait to start working the puzzle. I would imagine that those who have late afternoon appointments get the accumulated schedule issues and have time to tinker with the puzzle.

Once I'm called into my radation room (there are several) they have me lay down and then position me on the table. Both arms go high above my head, where I grasp handles. They take 2 x-rays each day and then proceed with about 15 minutes of other positioning of the machine and actually zap me with the radiation. I swear I can feel it tingle and heat up a little. I don't know if that is just in my head or real. Hard to tell. I've already developed a pinched nerve in my left arm and it hurts like heck to put my arm up there for 20 minutes straight. It's a killer. Hopefully a chiropractic appointment or two can help set that straight.

The doctors and technicians have warned me about the burn my skin is likely to get, so I have armed myself with aloe vera and apply it regularly to help keep my skin intact as best I can. I've also been warned to expect fatigue within another week or two. They don't know what causes the fatigue, but nearly everyone who goes through radiation experiences it. That side affect does bother me. I am concerned about my job. How will I be able to keep working at the break neck speed my job requires? Thankfully my bosses are aware and say they will work with me, but it doesn't assuage my own expectations of myself. I'm prayerfully hoping I can give my own self a break. I need to just take each day at a time.

Each day I try to do something to stay active and not just sit on my butt. So far I've been walking the mall every week day. I manage about 2 miles or so each time. I'm hopeful I can keep that up forever. Once weather gets good again, I can go back to walking my neighborhood or trails here in Sumner. Doctors say that being active means I'll have a 60% better chance of NOT having a recurrance of cancer. That's better than any pill I could take. It makes it VERY worthwhile. I have to do this.

I need to be cancer free. I will survive.