Happy To Be Alive

I may be kicking myself this time next week; of course, I won’t be able to kick anything given my feet will be in special hard-soled boots/shoes healing up from some much needed surgery. However, there was a method to my madness in scheduling my foot surgery so soon after the culmination of my radiation treatments. I figure that since I will not be very ambulatory, I will be forced to relax, sit on my tukas (yes, it’s a real word) and heal up, in every sense of the word. With two weeks off for the Christmas break, my natural tendency is to fill each day to the brim with post-Christmas shopping, chores, projects, and other things. I tend to return to work after the new year – exhausted. Well, not this year.

I haven’t written much these last several weeks mainly because I’m just trying to keep myself together by taking each day at a time. Wake up at 5:30 a.m., start work from my home office by 6:00 a.m. then take off at 7:30 for my radiation treatment session, then either head back home to work the remainder of the day or head in to the office (Tuesday’s and Thursday’s).

Most visits to the radiation oncology center are uneventful. I go in, change into my hospital gown and wait in the women’s waiting area with several others for my name to be called. I read magazines or occasionally stare at the puzzle table hoping to find the key piece before it’s my turn to burn. At some point, the technician comes and gets me, walking me into this vault-like room with a huge machine with a narrow table in the center. It takes several minutes to position me properly then proceed to take two x-rays (sometimes four). Then the technicians come back in to make some adjustments, then leave again. I lay there with my eyes closed and hear the slamming of the 2 foot thick door. Then comes the whine of the machine being moved into position, pause, and then the high-pitched sound that signifies the start of the radiation beam. After another pause, and the swoosh of the heavy door opening, the technicians enter again and switch a plate over the “eye” of the machine and then they march out again for another blast. I get two 30 second blasts of radiation each day. Once a week they take extra x-rays and a photo and I have a consult with the Radiation Oncologist (the doctor). The last five days were my “boost” days. They attach a special adapter onto the machine that gets the beam nearly right onto the scar area and concentrated right on that spot instead of the larger field of the previous weeks.

I’ve met some amazing women during my 6 ½ weeks there. Some are clearly dying, others, like me, going through a shorter and less invasive treatment plan. I feel very thankful every day that we caught this cancer in its early stages.

My last day of radiation treatment was Tuesday, December 15, 2009. It was to have been Monday the 14th, but on the previous Friday, the machine was broken and it meant I had to tack another day onto my treatment calendar. It was a bummer. I will say that I felt like a kid when I walked out of there on Tuesday. I almost danced a jig on my way out to the car. It felt like a huge weight had lifted off of my shoulders. The daily trips in were certainly a schedule nightmare, but the continual frying of the skin also took its toll. I’m happy to be done. I’m happy to finally be on the mend and hopefully getting my energy back. I’m happy to that my skin can finally heal and stop hurting. I’m happy to have finished before Christmas. I’m just plain happy to be alive.

A dear friend, Brenda Frank, gave me a helium-filled pink breast cancer balloon a few days before I started my treatments. I’ve had it flying from my upstairs banister from day 1. It had been my secret hope that it would remain aloft for the duration of my treatment, kind of like my secret hope to stay up and filled with hope throughout. I wasn’t so sure it would make it this last week as it began to sag and dip down lower and lower. But make it, it did. Even today, two days later, it still flies above my living room proudly. Now I’ve adjusted my goal to see if it will make it until Christmas. Hopeful, I know, but it just might make it; thank you Brenda, for the constant reminder to keep my head up, my hope up, and my chin up.