Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Radiation’

This is the Certificate of Merit that the hospital gave to patients upon finishing radiation:

The crude diploma impressed me that the doctors recognized our need for a proper pat on the back and something tangible to hold on to by way of closure. I wanted closure anyway. After 6 weeks of a work-a-day rhythm that involved visiting a bunch of lovely people whose job descriptions included saving my life, I had a groove in my weekdays. They say it takes 21 days to make a behavior, good or bad, a habit, and I’d been getting my breast blasted for 30. Seems silly, but I missed the routine a little, and so I met one of my radiation buddies for tea.

Marisa (pronounced ma ree sa) and I had struck up a comradery during an unusual delay in the waiting area. Self identified as a “high anxiety” type,  Marisa’s blood pressure spiked when the radiation tech explained the delay was due to equipment malfunctions. She reasoned that faulty equipment might also malfunction on her breast, panicked, and turned to me to talk her down. I was committed to trusting the process, so I probably said so, and, really, I have no idea what I said to soothe her, maybe it was simply that I listened and let her blow off steam. Whatever, she calmed down enough to wait out the delay and stick to her radiation regimen. I remember that I fancied myself her savior that day, but, I wonder now if tending to Marisa was a divine distraction for me. Given some free time, I was just as able to concoct a scary story.

As it happened, we both received our Certificates of Merit with our breasts intact and, so, arranged to celebrate by meeting for tea. As we shared our breast cancer stories over steaming mugs, I learned (what came as no surprise to me) that Marisa and I had very different approaches to our diagnoses. As I wrote at the start of this blog, when the doctor told me to line up a surgeon because the two lumps in my right breast were malignant, a calm washed over me as the still, small, quiet voice within me whispered “this is your walk with God.” Marisa reported that when the doctor told her she had cancer, she screamed. Yet, despite our different temperaments, we had similar approaches. Marisa determined at the start, like me, that it was futile to wallow in  “Why?” or “Why me?” and chose to focus instead on how to heal. And, now at the end of arduous healing journeys, we both shared greatly enhanced appreciations for life as we sipped our herbal teas.

We did not manage to keep in touch, but I have a keepsake from my radiation buddy that I have in a scrapbook right next to my Certificate of Merit. It’s an essay written in 1989 by Anonymous (a terminally ill person) that described how Marisa hoped to be in her post cancer life. It’s entitled I’d Pick More Daisies:

If I had my life to live over, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of very few things that I would take seriously. I would be crazier. I would be less hygienic. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers and watch more sunsets. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would have more active troubles and fewer imaginary ones. You see, I am one of those people that lives life prophylactically and sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I have had my moments, and if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I have been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had it to do over again, I would go places and do things and travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way until fall. I would play hooky more. I wouldn’t make such good grades except by accident. I would ride on more merry-go-rounds. I’d pick more daisies.

Thank you, friend and teacher Marisa, for the reminder as there are new daisy fields to ravage, there are new adventures just around the bend, as this epic healing journey is almost done.

to be cont…. one mo’ time.

Read Full Post »

I can’t count the number of times that people told me, “You look radiant,” during that autumn of radiation. Each time, the spokesperson would glow with genuine enthusiasm, or surprise that I looked so healthy while undergoing so much, and, although physically I did look and feel exceptionally well, I tended to think that their choice of words was part of a cosmic joke. Goddess knows that I was not a happy camper and, in fact, struggled with depression in the months following chemo as I shared in Post Chemo Stress Disorder. My daughter was pre-teen and rebelling at every turn which was healthy individuating for her and unbearable for me. Plus I was grieving for all the parts of me (beliefs, attitudes, cells) that had died during the previous cancer treatments.

I wrote in my journal in September 2009:

Grief and disgruntlement continue. More and more grief over the changes and maturity occurring in my daughter who is fighting with me at every turn. I find myself braced for contention from the moment she opens her eyes in the AM, and my heart feels so heavy from the fight. Sometimes, I’m tempted to pull the “cancer card.” I want to say, “hey, you can’t separate from me yet, I’m not strong enough to fight.” But, the truth is that separation just plain hurts. Her process and my pain have nothing to do with cancer. Maybe? Or maybe her subconscious fear of losing me makes her need to individuate more imperative. I don’t know. I do know that I am physically strong enough to take the heat from a t’ween, and I’d feel downright lowdown and ornery if I tried to heap on the guilt to prevent her from growing up.

The other part of grief for me is that aspects of my identity are gone and I’m not sure who I am or what’s next for me. My hair is a 1/10th of an inch long and speckled – primarily light – which maybe my born blond now slightly peppered, or it maybe silver. Yikes! Silver hair is way too much change for me in one year.

So, despite being grateful for being alive and in relatively good health, I was an emotional wreck. Thus, when people exclaimed, “you look radiant,” I questioned their veracity while, at the same time, I hoped their message was verifying that my radiation support practices were working.

I had three health-boosting practices that made radiation therapy worry-free for me.

1.) Power Meditation. Power meaning quick, as in a power nap.  It took longer to change out of my street clothes and into a coral-colored robe than it took for me to get my breast zapped each day. Ten minutes, tops, and most of those minutes were devoted to matching up the guide rays with the tiny black-dots that they had tattooed on my sides and back as markers. The radiation blasts themselves were done in seconds. And, while those ten minutes strapped to Dr. Frankenstein’s table did not permit  transcendentally deep meditation; I did tend to zip in and out of quick visions and most of the visions involved lions. In particular there was a full-maned male that acted as my Radiation Power Totem. This glorious king would take me on his back across sun-baked savannas, or to the tops of plateaus to survey the plains. In each of these journeys, the sun was featured as a sun god – enormous, all powerful, omnipresent – and we were golden, the lion and I, golden and eternally sun-glazed, as we were meant to be. It seemed we were meant to live in the love and warmth of the sun, rather than to shield from the UV rays with SPF 50. At least, that’s how I felt in these visions – fearless. Radiation would only help me.

And there were also a few instant visions in which, as the tech flicked the switch, I saw my entire being and body radiating white light which translated to me as a great prognosis. Once, I flashed on a fearful image of a radiant light body with one charred breast; but, I quickly replaced that idea with a whole light body radiating perfect health which is why the compliment, “you look radiant” tickled me.

2.) Miso soup. I learned that iodine rich seaweed was great for cleansing the body of toxic radiation and that Miso has several protective ingredients. So, after each treatment, I high-tailed on over to a nearby Asian restaurant for a pint of Miso soup. Ordinarily, I’m not fond of marine plants floating in salty broth, but my belief in this magic potion was so strong that the first spoonful of soup each day made my taste buds sing. And, after 25 radiation blasts plus 5 boosters, in conjunction with 30 plus a few extra pints of Miso for good measure, I had none of the fatigue associated with radiation treatments.

3.) Aloe. Dr. Torrey warned during my first consultation that radiation can burn skin. I went out that very day, a couple weeks before the first blast, and purchased 99% Aloe – Lily of the Desert from the health food store and  gelled up my boobies. I gelled up the girls (not wanting to play favoritism) every day leading up to the first treatment, and immediately following each blast, (No lotions or gels allowed during) and I stayed gooey every moment that I could. My breasts were like little flubbers for the better part of that autumn, and wow did that pay off – I was barely tinted in the end. My right breast was a light pink as if I had attempted to go topless on my first day at the beach but covered up as soon as my nipples got hot. Dr. Torrey was amazed by my perpetually fair skin as the weeks progressed, and I sang praises for the aloe plant. Although, I also believe that my ardent belief in the plant’s protective powers enhanced its effectiveness. While I slathered on the succulent goo, I envisioned health or chanted health and consciously held the belief that the skin of my zapped breast would remain lily white while any remaining cancer cells were blasted away for good.

In the end, I had a happy radiation story just like my friend that learned to meditate while undergoing treatments for prostate cancer. What’s more, my rebel t’ween sweetened up by the last blast too. In gratitude for their kindness and expertise, my beautiful daughter baked a batch of her special chocolate chunk cookies for me to take to the hospital for my radiation team. And, with that leg of the journey behind me, my lump lessons were almost done.

Read Full Post »

People told me an array of stories as I entered the next phase of treatment most of which featured radiation as a villain that distorted cell structure, fried skin, and enervated the spirit, so I didn’t want to proceed and challenged my doctors’ protocol.

“If the chemo killed all those fast splitting systemic cells, why do I have to have radiation?” I begged.

Their responses didn’t satisfy me. They may have thoroughly explained the scientific or biological or statistical yada yada; but all I heard was a familiar “because I said so, that’s why, kid.” So my inner teenager slammed her bedroom door shut which terrified my inner child and, in turn, sent my fairly healthy inner parent into a tizzy.

As I’ve repeated throughout this blog, I needed to believe in the course of action I was taking in order to feel confident of success. I have not and I do not endorse a particular medical or alternative healing modality. To me, belief is key. I feel that I, and anyone making important choices, need to aline head, heart, and gut/soul; and that the process of alinement or at-one-ment is the way to true healing from this and probably all dis-ease. Which is to say that I wanted my belligerent inner teenager, quivering inner child, and flustered inner parent to reconcile on this matter of radiation.

My inner parent stood outside the locked bedroom door and reasoned with my inner teen, “the doctors must know what they’re talking about: they’re experts, all they do is treat breast cancer, they’ve seen thousands of women, they’ve been doing this for years.”

My inner teen ‘s response was to turn up the volume and shriek “Killing in the Name”.

My inner child clutched her blankey and sucked her thumb.

Inner parent threw up her hands, “Well, we have an appointment to meet the radiation oncologist today and we’re going whether you like it or not.” I told my selves to calm down – breathe – we didn’t need to make a decision today. Just for today, we were merely gathering information.

“Whatever.” The lock on the bedroom door clicked open and inner teenager, tight-lipped and still fuming, took inner child by the hand to the hospital to meet a new doctor.

Dr. Margaret Torrey, the radiation oncologist at Nyack Hospital, a branch of Columbia Presbyterian that is closer to my home, impressed me as very smart and very nice. She was patient with my questions and gave thorough explanations about why she believed radiation would be the optimum course for me, described the process, and the side effects. The primary message I took from that visit was that the road I had traveled thus far – surgeries, tests, chemo – statistically proves to be the most effective, that my care had been superb, and that the prognosis for no recurrence was great. In her educated opinion, radiation would seal that happy fate.

Inner teenager pumped a fist in the air, “YEAH,” inner child’s thumb popped out of her mouth and she jumped for joy, inner parent glowed with pride, and my whole self integrated in that moment. I determined that I would continue along the prescribed medical path. Of course, I intended to customize my experience though.

There was one story among the scary stories told me about radiation that did not have the same negative point of view. This story came from a friend who was grateful for radiation therapy not only for deleting his prostate cancer, but also because he learned how to meditate while undergoing treatment. He said that his Higher Power, whom he chose to call God, forced him to learn how to meditate by having him sit still for twenty minutes at the radiation clinic each day.

My life style had returned to busy as soon as I had recouped my energy after the summer of chemo, so the idea of a mandatory stillness in which I could meditate excited me. I decided to adopt this man’s attitude of gratitude, and to make the most of the two months of 5 blasts a week of radiation.

And, I intended to get creative in order to minimize and even eradicate those potential side effects.

(to be cont.) L.

Read Full Post »

Life & Love Abroad

Adventures in the pacific and coping with life as an Air Force wife

Journey2Peace

By Joslin I. Roderick

Misifusa's Blog

The Presents of Presence

40 is the new 13

These are my 40s... what happened?

bottledworder

easy reading is damn hard writing

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

Wondered Out Loud

wisdom=bliss