In all the excitement of Sabrina’s wedding, I’ve not had the time (or inclination) to pay any attention to my cancer situation. It has been an interesting few months. A time of highs and lows, of ups and downs, of peaks and valleys. The surgery and chemotherapy were hard on my body, but I have persevered by looking forward. I choose life!
Tuesday, July 5th was a date that we had circled on our calendars. It was scheduled to be the date of my sixth and final chemo for breast cancer. I was beyond excited to celebrate this milestone, and to return to living life with as much normalcy as possible. Unfortunately, my hemoglobin and platelet counts were too low for me to tolerate chemo. Dr. Robson wrote up orders for me to have a blood transfusion instead — to boost up my counts — and asked me to return to the hospital for chemo on Friday, July 8th. Alas, it was not to be. Despite two units of blood, my counts were still pretty low and the doctor decided to cancel the final chemo. His rationale was that my body was taking longer and longer to recover after each chemo, and he couldn’t, in good faith, put my body through yet another gruelling chemo. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I felt cheated because I did not complete the full treatment; it felt like unfinished business. On the other hand, I felt a sense of relief that I wouldn’t have to go through the horrible side-effects. It took me a couple of days to re-adjust my thinking and accept that I was not meant to have that final chemo and that was okay.
Around that time, my trusted PICC line got dislodged and the surrounding area on my arm got infected. The PICC line was used to administer the chemo and the plan was to use it for the herceptin infusions I need to get, every 3 weeks, until March 2017. I shed a few tears and then reframed the situation. Not having the PICC line meant that I could start working out again and so I promptly rejoined Goodlife Fitness!
Three weeks ago, on August 8th, after enjoying all the wedding festivities, I started radiation treatments at the Odette Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital. The plan is for daily treatments to take place 5 days a week (with weekends off), for a total of 25 treatments over 5 weeks. This is the first time in my cancer history that I am undergoing radiation and it is quite an experience. The first planning session was long and I had to lie very still while the technicians determined where exactly they would radiate. There was a lot of math and numbers and calculations as the technicians moved me, first this way, than another, to make sure that they had the coordinates just right.
The difference between chemotherapy and radiation is like night and day. Chemotherapy is not very intelligent. While it destroys cancer cells, it also harms perfectly healthy fast moving cells because it just does not know the difference. Radiation, on the other hand, is about exactness and targeting only the specific areas where cancerous cells were seen (in my right breast and lymph nodes under my arm). I am now more than half-way through my radiation treatments and I have not noticed any side-effects. I have heard from patients that the side-effects will come later and I will experience skin irritation, burning, itching, soreness and fatigue. I have been prescribed a cream to apply to the area a few times a day and I am doing this diligently.
Overall, I am feeling pretty awesome! Yet again I see the benefit of focusing on all that is great in my life – family, love, celebration. Cancer does not stand a chance!