Back to business Monday. The kids were a little sad to see their Christmas vacation end. I was too. I'm in the middle of taking down all those Christmas decorations that we so joyfully put up. I'm reminding myself and the kids that we'll be hauling it all out again in about 11 months. I told Isabelle that we'd put up some springtime decorations in a few months.
I started my new routine this morning. Drop Isabelle off at school when they open the gates at 8:15, then head over to Escondido to the radiation oncologists office. Mom meets me in the parking lot and hangs out with Jean-Marc while I go in for my daily dose of radiation.
Today was just a test. Tomorrow will be the real thing. They told me today would be the longest session. Even at that, I was out in 30 minutes.
First they took my weight. Ugh! Really? Sigh. Needless to say, I like my scale at home better. Or maybe I wouldn't. (I usually weigh in on Friday.) The Monday after New Year's is a harsh time to make a girl step on a scale! Anyway, I was assigned "cubby 11" for my robe. There is a small changing room with about 12-18 cubbies with gowns in them. I am to strip from the waist up and put on the robe each day. On Monday, they will swap out a clean robe.
After I was changed, I was taken into the room where they will be doing the radiation. I climbed up onto a "bed" (slab might be a better word). It was similar to the one we did the mapping on last month. They had me hold onto the bars above my head and I was told that my only job was to lay still. They moved me around a bit and started to get me into position. There was a large glass paneled machine about 6 inches above me in which I could see the reflection of my body. I could see intersecting red lines projected onto my skin. I think they were lining these up with the tattoos they gave me last month. There were several technicians involved, all women. Not that it would matter. After 3 births, a miscarriage, breast cancer you lose all sense of modesty, especially up on top. They took several measurements to get everything "just right." Then they took a few X-Rays.
I was told to keep lying still. The doctor was looking at the films. Then they came back, made some adjustments and took more X-rays. Then I was to wait. Then they did it again. Whatever. I'd rather they take their time to get it exactly right than to zap me in the wrong place. I know a small piece of my left lung is going to be in the way, but they need to avoid my heart. So do what you have to do, gals.
The ceiling reminded me of the tile floor in our old house on Poppy. Large neutral squares with black diamond tiles in every other corner. I wonder if they would mind if I snapped a picture of the ceiling?
When it was all over and I was dressed again, a nurse talked to me about skin care. I'm not supposed to wear deodorant on my left side. No problem. When I do worry about that, I've been using a crystal stick. I'm supposed to moisturize the upper left quadrant of my body from the collarbone down to the rib, from the centerline to underneath my arm at least 3-4 times a day. The doctor had mentioned calendula cream. This nurse also mentioned aloe vera and they gave me some samples of cream that is very much like petroleum jelly. The only thing is that I'm not supposed to use anything on the area 3-4 hours before treatment.
So I'm ready to go. My hand and arm are looking very good. A little puffy on the fingers and hand, but not bad. Last night, I just bandaged my hand. It actually feels good to be bandaged on my hand. I can do my fingers and hand myself. I don't know if its the feeling of the fluid being pushed out, or if its just mental knowing that I'm doing something proactive about it. I've started reading this book called "Voices of Lymphedema." I'm learning a lot from other people who have lived with this disease, some of them for their entire lives. At least now, there is recognition about the problem. I am grateful that Kaiser referred me to physical therapy right after surgery. Others have had to fight for referrals with doctors who didn't even know what lymphedema was. The books are encouraging, though. The people in there do not let the disease take over their lives. They learn to accommodate it and treat it on their own, but they still are able to participate in their hobbies and travel. I hope to be the same.
About this blog
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.