Just before my 5th chemo treatment (out of 6), I was sent for a consult with the radiation specialist. This is where he outlined what was going to happen and the possible dangers attached to radiation. A few that stand out: it will make my bones fragile and I could break a rib just by coughing; it could also give me lung cancer; heart problems, but those are more common when breast cancer is on the left; and of course I could wind up with the ever popular frozen shoulder. Having been through the frozen shoulder twice (once for each shoulder) I was really determined to not have that happen again - particularly as my right shoulder still didn't have full mobility!
Alright, so now he has scared me enough that I am beginning to have second thoughts about this whole treatment course. Of course, I managed to wise up and use my little brain and realized that he was giving me the worst case scenario. Then I went through the whole, yes, well, the last several years of my life have been worst case scenarios - if it weren't for bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all! Then I figured, well, what's the worst that could happen? I could die? I am not afraid of dying, I have no kids, I have done a lot, I could do more, but, if it is my time, so be it. Besides I felt that somehow, my luck was due to change.
The next step, was to tattoo marks on my torso so that they could position me exactly the same every time. Three little dots, very boring for a first tattoo! They ran me through the machine to make sure I wouldn't get stuck or panic or something. No, really it was to figure out the positioning needed and trajectories and other technical stuff, so that they put the radiation where it was needed.
I was then (finally) sent off to Physio Therapy. (I say finally, because I had started to have signs of Lymphoedema which will be another post.) Then I had my last chemo treatment and a wait of 5 weeks before they would start the radiation.
The wait is so that your blood has had a chance to recover from the chemo before they start bombarding you with radiation. Treatments for the radiation were every day Monday through Friday for 5 weeks, 25 in total. During this time, I was also being wrapped for the lymphoedema every day as well.
The treatments themselves are easy, you take longer to change out of your street clothes into a gown and getting settled in the exact position than the actual treatment. Then of course, getting dressed again.
For breast cancer, you lay on your back with your arms over your head, holding on to little handles. Then the techs shift you around until they think you are in the right spot (and boy, did they get a workout shifting me). They then leave the room and the machine whirs and clicks, then it moves to the second position and whirs and clicks some more and you are done. The staff comes in to move the bed and help you get your fat body upright and you leave. Only once did they have to add a couple of seconds to the treatment and that is really all it was, they moved the machine back to the first position and dosed me again. It had been too short the first time.
I mentioned earlier that my right shoulder was still not completely mobile. Well, this position is the least comfortable position for an arm that has restricted nerves and blood flow. I had to use my left hand to pull my right arm from over my head.
My skin is very, very fair - pasty you might say. So, I now have a perm-a-tan over my breast. Yes, just the one and under my arm too. In fact it is darker under my arm. As that area so rarely ever sees the light of day, it tanned first and of course went to burn first and peeled first. Of course, being winter, it looked like the negative of a picture of someone that had been in a bikini for the summer.
The staff told me to shower everyday, but avoid soaping the area that was being toasted and of course don't wash off the marks around my tattoos. I was to then put cornstarch on the felt marker so that it would not rub away. They renewed the felt marks everyday, so I put cornstarch into an empty spice jar and would shake some out onto the marks before I got dressed. However, I hadn't rinsed the bottle well enough, so I spent the 5 weeks of radiation smelling like rosemary. Better than onion I suppose.
Once I started to peel (at about three weeks) they told me what kind of lotion to buy and I started to apply that daily as well. I was very lucky again, as I didn't get the oozing blisters that can happen with radiation. It was just a burn that then peeled and became a tan once all was over with. I was a bit tired during the treatment phase, but it wasn't until after I was done that the exhaustion caught up with me.
Fortunately for me, the Cross Cancer Institute has a volunteer driver program, as last year was the first time in forever that we had snow before Halloween and lots of it. This year, our snow has only just begun a couple of days ago. As an asthmatic, winter and walking do not mix, throw cancer treatments on top of that and well, lets just say, it was a wretched winter for me. Not to mention that I was cold, I couldn't seem to get enough hats and scarves to keep my head warm. Normally during winter, I can get by most days with just earmuffs, but this winter too I can't seem to keep my head warm in spite of having my hair back. Oh well, I guess I will just have hat hair all winter long!
Those are the only photos I have that show the tan and peeling without showing too much else.
It was summer. One of those days so bright the sun hurts the eyes and you can smell the dust on the streets. It might have been a Sunday as I don't remember a lot of traffic, but then again, that road was not a busy one at that time anyway.
My dad, myself and Dr. Q, the dentist that shared a waiting room with my dad, were walking down the street heading east. I think we were coming from having just looked at the new offices of another dentist in town, at least that is the only thing I can think of that would put us in that location.
What I don't remember, is why I was the only one with them. Dr. Q had five children, the oldest being about my age and I have three siblings. I very rarely went anywhere with just my dad, usually my sister would be there too. Maybe she was, memory is a funny thing.
My dad and Dr. Q were about the same height, around 6 feet even. This put their hands at eye level to me as I was walking between them, so I would have been what, less than 8 years old, probably around 6. Maybe it was because I didn't have any siblings with me, maybe it was just the extent of my shyness at the time, but, I wanted to hold dad's hand.
I couldn't look up to see which one was my dad, just in case Dr. Q saw me looking at him! I looked left, I looked right, well, the hands looked the same! I looked left, then right again. The jackets were very similar tweedy jackets! I looked again and again! At that age, I didn't pay attention to what colour or type of clothes people were wearing, I didn't notice jewellery (I made up for that later), so I was in a dither. I mustered up my courage and slipped my little hand into the big hand on my right, I was sure that one was dad's.
Imagine my horror and terror when two or three steps later, I mustered the courage to look up! It was Dr. Q! Oh no! I can't just yank my hand back, I know that that is rude and it would give me away. I am a big girl, I can behave better than that! What to do?
I slipped my left hand into dad's and made them swing me!
I didn't tell anyone about this mistake until years after the fact and we all had a good laugh. I am nowhere near that shy any more.
Good afternoon all.
A couple of years ago, I was going through a hard time and was broke enough that I had to call on the services of the food bank here in Edmonton. I called the food bank and was told where and when I could pick up my food and was told that if I refused anything they gave me, I would not be allowed to access the food bank again for three months. Okay, I get that beggars can't be choosers.
I informed the person on the phone that I had food allergies and what they were and could they not include things I was allergic to. She said they would do their best, but, they were very busy and she couldn't guarantee anything. Fine, I get that. Will there be flour? Well, sometimes we get flour, but, we don't know.
Now, as long as I have flour, powdered milk & oil, I can make bread (well yeast & baking powder & sugar, but you get the idea). I can live on pasta and peanut butter sandwiches - I have done it. All I needed was the flour, to make bread, I had everything else still. It is amazing how much you can do on a bread and water diet, but, that is not the point of this post.
So, I make my way to the pick up point and it's a good thing I had a friend drive me, because they gave me so much food, I would never have been able to carry it on the bus. In fact, it took the two of us to carry it all and he was not a weak man. there was enough food there that it would have lasted me a good three months! I was astounded.
Of course, when we were bagging the food, I did notice that there was a lot there I could not eat. I didn't realize the extent of it until I got home. They had managed to give me everything on my food allergies list! There were four or five huge green peppers, even if I were not allergic to them, they would not have lasted long enough for one person to eat. What a waste. There were cans of foods preserved with MSG, mushroom soup, pasta & sauce packages with MSG - none of which I can eat. Now, remember I said I couldn't give any of this back, or I would not be able to use the food bank. I hate to see food go to waste, so, I gave all the things I was allergic to to the friend that drove me and in turn, they gave me stuff I could eat that were staples and would last longer than a few days.
Included in the stuff from the food bank were boxes of cookies, yeah, great nutritional value there and gum, not just one package, but a whole sleeve, five packages of Juicy Fruit! They had bagged salad that was to expire the next day and a whole head of cauliflower that looked like it was ready to expire as well. The cereal box was damaged outside, but, the bag inside kept it dry. They did have tins of tuna and a jar of no-name peanut butter, but that was the only protein that wasn't loaded with MSG. I think there was some fruit, like grapes, but it was awhile ago, so I don't exactly remember everything they gave me. They did manage to give me two cups each of flour, powdered milk and minute rice. These had all been bagged by their staff from larger bags. It kind of creeps me out, I know in my head that they would have followed proper procedures and been gloved and whatnot, but still, these are volunteers.
Needless to say, I was rather disappointed over all. One would think for a food bank that has been around as long as this one has, that they would have been able to avoid at least one of my allergies. My allergies are thankfully mild, others could have fatal reactions.
The fact that there were no staples is in part due I suppose to not having any donated, but as Leah points out in her post, do people even know what to do with these things anymore. The bean/lentil/chickpea mix I was given was canned (with MSG), but, even so, would most people even consider this to be a meal? I wonder if the bulk staples (like dried beans) that are donated wind up at the many soup kitchens, I certainly hope so, because there maybe someone knows what to do with them.
Good Afternoon all.
She is 21 months older than I am. I was mom's largest baby (9 lbs - 22" long or something), so, by the time I was walking, I was pretty much the same size as Sis. Mom made a lot of our clothes and to be cost effective, they were made from the same bolt of cloth and the same pattern, or sometimes we would get different colours of the same material. We were both blonde, with ringlets that mom would have painstakingly formed into our freshly washed hair. In short, people sometimes thought we were twins.
An aside about the ringlets: We used to sit on the floor in front of mom and she would comb the hair around her fingers to form them. I remember one time mom was putting them into my hair and they weren't working. She was getting frustrated so she turned my head around to see my face and said "well that explains it" turned my head back and re-did the curls with no problem. It turns out that my hair curls one way and sisters the other. Sis is a Southpaw, but I don't know if there is any correlation between the two things.
Well, I started to go dark long before she did and that put an end to the twin theory - mostly.
We did a lot of things together, we were both very shy kids and while sis was eager (well, it seemed that way to me) to go to dance and belong to Jobies etc, I had to be coaxed/dragged into these things. I am still not a joiner in spite of all that. We were in choirs and Scottish dance and ballet together to name a few.
She taught me how to tie my shoes! Mom & dad had tried and it wouldn't take, after sis taught me, mom said that now I tie them like a southpaw! She also taught me how to smoke - too bad she can't teach me how to quit now.
We've had fights, but, they never last longer than a few hours, we are not the type of people that can stay mad, or can not talk to someone for days. Well, that part, now that we no longer live in the same city, but as we can't stay mad, it doesn't matter that we are not talking because we are not talking because it is expensive to call long distance. Clear as mud eh?
I can honestly say that if it weren't for my sister, I would not be here to post a blog about anything let alone about her. Throughout my cancer, she helped financially as well as physically & emotionally and for that I will ever be grateful.
That doesn't mean that we won't still fight and piss each other off and yell and call names and all those things sisters do, but hey, what are sisters for if not for those things?
Damn, I can't find the picture I wanted to use, oh well probably for the best, she would have killed me.
Good Afternoon all!
p.s. she is the Bag Lady, for those that don't know
The fellow that does our maintenance, is very nice, but, being from England, he doesn't have a lot of experience with stuff here and sort of fell into the job anyway. He will sometimes ask me how to do some things (I have owned houses and have done my own fixing before) or will ask for a hand.
For example the last suite I cleaned was after the trades had been in, he was there changing a light fixture and I was tidying up the stove. I realized the previous tenant hadn't cleaned it properly, so took the oven door off to get to the back. My fingers weren't strong enough to undo the hooks after I put the door back on, so I asked him to give me a hand.
Well, I should never have let him know that I knew how to get oven doors off & on! One of the tenants is an IDIOT and decided (after having been told by the manager to clean) that he needed to take the door off the oven. Firstly no-one should need to be told to clean! Secondly why would you not just use the self-clean feature?
Well, he managed somehow to pull the left side of the oven door off, then couldn't get the right side out and couldn't get the left back in. He had failed to engage the clips (or his brain) on the hinges and once the left side was out, the door was no longer square, so it wasn't going anywhere! He called for maintenance.
Now, I have no idea how long he worked at it before calling for help, nor do I know how long our maintenance guy & manager were there before I was brought in. I do know that it took about 40 minutes for the two of us to get the door off completely, check to make sure the frelling idiot hadn't damaged or twisted the hinges and put it back on. He then wanted to take it off to clean - that is when I left. I figured our maintenance fellow could try to explain - in small words of less than two syllables - that he shouldn't do that.
The reason I had to leave was I don't deal well with the incompetent! He stood there and watched us struggle with the door and oven, didn't even try to help (not a really bad thing). When I asked him to hold the oven so it would stop sliding as I pulled on it, I had to explain, that I was pulling hard, the idea was to stop the oven from moving! Still didn't help. We wound up contorting ourselves to brace against the oven while pulling on the door.
So, I can watch gross movies without batting an eye, I can sit through a loop-de-loop in a small airplane, if they let me I could have been awake during my surgery and been fine, actually fascinated. The one and only thing that turns my stomach and will make me want to vomit is smell!
I almost lost it when I entered this guys apartment! It took all of my willpower to keep my stomach where it belonged. Then of course, actually having to touch anything in the suite - well, I think I will go have another shower. I almost want the kind of scrub down that Meryl Streep had in Silkwood!