This whole experience in healing has been such a lesson in patience. And now has been no exception. I’m STILL waiting for radiation to start. On Aug 30th they said 7-10 days for my plan to be complete and treatment to start. I’ve called them at least once a week since then and they keep saying that my plan is not ready. So I wait. I don’t really want to start- mostly because I know it means I’ll be fatigued for so long. But I also want to start so that I can finish. This is the last of the big steps of treatment and I thought I’d be halfway done with it by now.
With this unexpected extra time of feeling halfway decent, I’ve been doing some painting around the house- the trim, the wood paneling, and the mantle. It’s keeping me busy, but it’s rewarding. More importantly, it helps me feel like I’m not “wasting time” waiting for something out of my control.
I’ll keep you all posted…
Today, since I left work, I’ve been strangely hung up on the biological side of cancer and what my body just went through. And it really is crazy. So I thought I’d share a quick biology lesson on cancer (and Jessica Hartman may need to clarify if it’s wrong.)
Everyone has some cancer-ish cells in their body (there’s discrepancy about how to describe and label these cells). The cells need some kind of “trigger” to start dividing and become malignant. Many different factors can act as triggers- chemicals, environmental factors, dietary contributors, etc. And sometimes a person’s genetics dictates whether cells become malignant or not. Once “triggered”, the cancer cells no longer have normal checks and balances in place that control and limit cell division. So they grow out of control and rapidly divide. Chemo is treatment that kills all rapidly dividing cells in your body. So it kills those cancer cells, but also kills normal cells that are naturally rapidly dividing (blood cells; cells in the mouth, stomach, and bowel; and hair follicles). This is why chemo patients have low blood counts, mouth sores, nausea, diarrhea, and hair loss.
A little more info about my chemo drugs: Adriamycin is considered an “antitumor antibiotic”. It’s made from natural products produced by species of a soil fungus (I know… soil fungus?!?). Cytoxan is a drug that interferes with the duplication of DNA and the creation of RNA. And Taxol is a plant alkaloid- made from plants, specifically the bark of the Pacific Yew Tree. Then there are additional chemo drugs that other cancer patients use that are derived from the periwinkle plant, the May Apple plant, and the Asian “Happy Tree”.
So we have this unfair genetic predisposition (some of us), some cancer-potential cells already in our bodies, then an exposure to something that triggers them to multiply out of control. And the only way to stop it is to administer poison- made from plants with pleasant-sounding names like the Yew Tree and the “Happy tree” for goodness sake… can it be any more ironic?
I had something in my body that was growing out of control and could kill me- and I treated it with drugs that kill. It’s like a battle of which can be most deadly. And thankfully the one I was hoping for won out in my body. But the extent to which that needed to happen means that the rest of my body is still trying to recover- even 3 months after my last treatment. It’s a long process that I’m still trying to be patient with. It’s not easy; but after all that time of destruction on a cellular level, I’m thankful to be “building back up” again.
“Grow through what you go through.”
Today I was able to participate in a 5K race for a wonderful organization. I walked it with the kids; and although I wish I could be in shape to run it, it was kind of nice to spend time walking the distance with loved ones. So representative of this experience for me- “walking the distance with loved ones”.
We did have a few of the athletes on our team running the race- which were impressive. Way to go Rob Vaughn, Alicia Hofmann, Sean Dawson, Larry Caldwell, Melanie Williams, Adam Staller!
I’m exhausted tonight. But you know what- I’m exhausted because of a 5K! I used to be exhausted from walking upstairs. So things are looking up. And I’m super thankful that Keely A Smith-Jividen captured this special photo of me during the race. Looks like I’ve got some heavenly help shining down… ❤️
A few random things:
I’m still waiting to hear from the radiation oncologist to set up my radiation schedule. I’m not looking forward to it, but I’m also anxious to get it over with.
I’m back to work full time; and so thankful that I work with amazing people who have made the transition as good as it can be.
This picture shows how happy I am to have my port out!! My arm is still just a little swollen and tender, but it’ll feel so good once it’s back to normal.
It’s been really nice outside so I’ve been soaking in the beautiful weather, knowing it won’t last much longer. If you’re reading this and it’s nice where you are- you should really get outside and enjoy it. Even just a walk around the block will be worth it. If you’re healthy enough to go do something- do it!
“Deportation Day”- it happened today and the port is OUT! I’m so happy that it’s out… and that they let me keep it! If you look at the picture- the purple part was in my arm where they injected needles for every chemo treatment (and any other time I would’ve otherwise needed an IV.) The white part is the catheter that was thread through my vein- up and around my arm then the tip rested next to my heart. The numbness from the procedure is wearing off and my arm is pretty painful so I’m done for the night. Thanks for sharing in my excitement to get this out today.
Great news- I am getting my port taken out on Friday!! This Friday! Two days from now!! I’m so excited (if you can’t tell). I had an appointment scheduled for later in the month, but they called today to bump it up earlier. I know that treatment really isn’t done until radiation. But this port was so symbolic of the beginning of treatment… and the removal of it is symbolic that the end is near. That thing was my lifeline- I hate it and I love it all at once. I’m so glad to get it out of my body. OUT!! GONE!! Along with the cancer!
(Oh- and my return to work went well today. I had an appointment in the morning so it was a shorter day than usual. It was a nice way to ease back into things. And it was really great seeing my co-workers. Seeing them meant getting hugs from friends- which was actually really energizing and uplifting. I am thankful.)
I am continuing to heal well from surgery while doing PT to help with range of motion of my arm and lymphatic massage (to prevent lymphedema). This last weekend was especially pleasant because I was feeling well and we were able to get out and do some activities that felt “summer-y”- a day at Hale Farm, Stow Summer festival, and a picnic with friends. I love being able to enjoy times like these and so thankful for beautiful weather to do it. Tomorrow is a big day- I return to work after being off during this medical leave. I worked through chemo, so this shouldn’t seem too bad. But for some reason, I’m feeling nervous about it. I’m going back to do work that I love and be around people who are very supportive… it’s really the best case scenario. I guess I’m just nervous about the unknown- how will I feel by the end of the day? will I have the energy to do my job well? how will my radiation schedule fit into my work/home life schedule? I guess it’s the same as every step I’ve taken so far- I don’t know what it will look like, but I know I’ll be ok. But if you feel like saying a prayer tonight it would be appreciated.