Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pre-radiation preparations

It's been one helluva week... I had several appointments with all of my doctors.

As I mentioned last Monday, I saw Dr. Nelson on Monday. He reiterated my good news. On Wednesday, I had an appointment to see McBoobie so that he could take my drain out and deflate frankenboob for my appointment with radiology.

The removal of the first drain was nothing. He snipped the suture and pulled it out. I really didn't feel anything. With this one, he pulled a good foot of drain tube out of my side. I could feel a gross gurgling/blowing bubbles in your milk sensation on the side of frankenboob. Soooo nasty. Total heebie jeebies after that one. He didn't think that I needed to be deflated. I mentioned a couple of times that they had specifically requested it but he said "You should be fine. If not, you can come back and I'll deflate you." Argh. I just knew where it was headed.

Thursday morning, we got to radiology. We met with Laura, the radiation oncology PA first. She asked a bevy of health questions and then had us watch a short video about what to expect with the process. There wasn't anything that I hadn't already been told, which was good. Shortly thereafter, we met Dr. Schlembach, who is my radiation oncologist. She indicated that she was very familiar with my case and had discussed it with her colleagues at two separate conferences. They agreed that, because of my young age (snicker) and the fact that I had triple negative breast cancer, the best course of action would be to proceed with six weeks of radiation - mostly as a preventative measure. This was in line with what I had been told all along and what I, too, believed was the right course of action for me.

She gave me a quick exam and then sent me off to see the tech, Tom, so that I could be mapped. We walked into the radiation room (or "vault" as they call it...). We chatted a bit about what I could expect and off we went. I was thrilled to find out that I was, in fact, getting tattoos for this. Nice.

The machine looks quite a bit like a CT scan machine. He laid a rectangular form (a "cradle") down and smoothed out what looked like styrofoam beanbag beads. He had me expose frankenboob and then I laid on the table.

Once I laid down, he had me put my right arm up with my hand to the side of my head. (Think - sprinkler move). my head was turned to the left. it wasn't a horrible position, all things considered. I was thankful that I could get my arm up that far. He then sucked the air out of the cradle so that it molded to my form.

He then pulled the "good" side of my gown taut and had me hook my left thumb into my waistband to hold it in place. He placed a warm towel across my chest and grabbed several indelible markers to get started. He fired up the machine and lined me up in the crosshairs. He drew all over the right side of my torso in blue and pink. Because I don't have any feeling in most of frankenboob, it wasn't any big deal.

After the markings, he told me that he was going to start the tattoos. I got four small dots to help them line up the machine. The first two were on frankenboob itself. I didn't feel them at all. The third one was on my upper chest. He said "this one may hurt a little". It was nothing. A teeny little poke and that was it. The fourth one was on my right side. He said "this one is going to hurt". Nope. It wasn't even as bad as the big pokes I've had when blood was drawn. He joked about adding "tattoo artist" to his resume. "My specialty is dots", he said. Haha.

Once I was sufficiently marked and molded, he started a dry run and told me that I couldn't move at all. He could do some of the mapping electronically. Just before we started, Dr. Schlembach came in, surveyed us work and gave the a-okay to proceed.

The process was basically a CT scan. It didn't seem to take more than 20 minutes or so.

When we were done, he gave me some rules such as - no deodorant, lotions, perfumes, etc. on the side to be radiated. I'll also have to stop shaving after the 2nd or 3rd week because my skin will be irritated. My appointments will be Monday - Friday at 3:30pm. I will be stinky and hairy. Oh, joy.

That afternoon, Dr. Schlembach called and told me that they weren't able to get readings because my expander was too full. Dammit. I knew it!! She had already talked to McBoobie, who apparently told her "I was afraid that might happen". (What the fuck?). I had to go back and see him later that afternoon to be deflated. Argh.

Once I got there, he took a little compass-like tool and waved it per frankenboob. My expander has two chambers - each with its own magnetic port. The first one was right where my nipple would be. He stuck in the needle attached to a syringe. Remember, I have no feeling there so I watched with complete fascination. He extracted blue liquid (yes, it's dyed). He pulled about 150cc from the bottom and 50cc from the top. It was wild. And nasty.

The next morning, I returned to see Tom. Fortunately, he only had to redo two of my many drawn-on markings and none of my tattoos. (Whew!) he reran the simulation and I was out of there 30 minutes later. He did tell me that I couldn't lose or gain any weight during this time because it would impact my markings. Good lord! I have officially been told to stay chunky for six weeks. That's crazy.

On Thursday afternoon through Friday morning My temp was around 99. I was worried about getting a fever so I laid low and slept a lot. Most of the day, Friday, in fact. I feel fine now but have been incredibly sore. I'm sure it's from being manhandled and contorted all week.

I start work tomorrow after nearly a month. I won't lie - I'm going back with some mixed emotions. I'm very glad to get some normalcy back, though.

Tuesday is Day 1 of radiation. I'll let you know how that goes!

One more thing.

** Not for the squeamish ***

THIS is the current state of frankenboob. No, you don't want this. No one does. This is what cancer does. This is what I will live with for the next 7 or so more months - at least.

Get. Your. Boobies. Checked.

That is all. Sorry for being all graphic and shit but it's my reality.

I love you. Xoxo.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'm free!

McBoobie removed my second drain today. No more testicles! Yay for me!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hello, friends!

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month!  I'm sure I'm driving my facebook friends absolutely nuts with my breast cancer stuff, but I'm all over it.  I've had a Boobie Fact of the Day, among other things.  Sample:

"While it's extremely rare, some men can actually lactate.  Admit it - you just thought of that scene from 'Meet the Parents', too..."

This has become a passion.  I want people to be aware and not have to go through something like this.  It sucks.  Sucks donkey asses.  With burs stuck in there.

This past Saturday, several friends and family and I drove down to Houston and participated in the 22nd Komen Race for the Cure with approximately 30k others.  A few ran the 5k and most walked.  I walked some of it.  I'm hoping to walk the whole thing next year.  It was empowering and humbling all at the same time.  As a brand-spankin' new survivor, I got to wear a special survivor shirt.  I got high-fives and thumbs up throughout the event.  Pretty damn cool.

Thank you to Sue, Donna, Sharon, Claudia, Criss, Rachael, Bethany, Emma, Hana, Katie and especially Jenny (my PIC), Jenny (my sister), Hannah and Maddie.  You've all rocked my world by coming out on Saturday.  I simply cannot thank you enough!

** Side note: When I got my shirt, all they had left were XLs or XXLs.  I took an XL and I was swimming in it. Couple that with my Stay-Puft Marshmallow status and I felt super cute.  I would have cropped myself out from the arm down BUT this guy's outfit was far too awesome not to include! 

I also had a follow up with my oncologist, Dr. Nelson, today.  This was the first time that I had seen him since my final chemo treatment in August.  He was giggly and all smiles when he came in.  (Yes, giggly...)  He reiterated the good news that Dr. Rourke had shared; that my pathology reports were really great.  He went on to tell me that with triple negative patients, only about 30% of them have labs as clean as mine.  Put this in perspective...  10-15% of those with breast cancer have triple negative. Of THOSE people, 30% have completely cancer-free reports after chemo/surgery.  These are the kind of odds I love. Chemo is a nasty dirty monster, but it saved my life.  

My blood work showed that I am slightly more anemic than I was last time.  He wasn't too concerned since I did just have major surgery a few weeks ago.  He believes that it should resolve itself as I heal.  Interestingly, when I had my vitals checked prior to the appointment, my body temperature was back up to 98.4, which is the closest to normal that it's been since I started chemo.  My body is slowly getting there.  I have my full sense of taste back and rarely have any effects from the neuropathy.  My chemo brain is still a factor and actually feels a little worse lately.  I hope that goes away in time, too.

My next appointment with Dr. Nelson will be in February - which is four months from now. I'm officially a follow up!  At that point, we'll schedule my regular annual mammogram, since I'll still have my good boob by then. 

My sister and her family came out this past weekend.  It was so wonderful to have them here.  They live about 7 1/2 hours away and are closer than any other family.  They gave me that little boost that I've needed.  They're good shit.

I've genuinely had a great few days. I'm glad to be on the uphill swing!  

More later...

Peace out.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Drain Update

I had an appointment with McBoobie a little while ago. He said that everything looks good and he removed one of my drains. I expected it to hurt and just be really gross when he removed it, but it was nothing. Whew! I should be able to have the other drain removed next week.

I have a consult with Radiology next week as well. In preparation, I'll have to have frankenboob deflated.I'm so excited for that loveliness.

My back has been pretty sore lately. I think it's most likely due to the fact that I've had to sleep all contorted. Frankenboob has been a little swollen, but I still have virtually no bruising, which is great. I'm thankful for my pain killers but really look forward to not needing them.

I may have been declared free and clear, but I still have a long way to go. Please continue to send that good juju! I still need all I can get!

More later...