Radiation Starts Tomorrow . . .

9 Nov

Tomorrow is my first radiation treatment. I have gone to what they called a “simulation” (this past Friday). But, I still do not really know what tomorrow will be like. Friday I was put on a table underneath the device that will deliver the radiation beams – – at least that is what I think it was. I am not really sure. In any case, they (the staff) took pictures and made sure “everything lined up properly”. They also brought out that darn black permanent marker and made marks all over the place (on me). And, yes, I do mean one of those permanent markers you would get at the office supply store. It is not the first time I’ve been marked up. But, this went all the way up my neck and was quite visible.

I was originally told that I would get tattoos on Friday, but, that will happen tomorrow instead. The tattoos will be freckle size I am told and I have even seen one on a woman (a woman at the cancer center showed me one of hers). It was tiny. But, these tiny tattoos will be markers for where the external beam radiation is to go. Their goal is to radiate my chest wall and my remaining breast tissue (on my right side – as in my right side – not over or through my heart which is what would occur if it were on my left side – so I am grateful for that – I do not want to radiate my heart). 

Anyway, the staff in the radiation oncology department at Hoag Hosptial are all very nice and I am glad to be getting treatment there. I have a lot of confidence in the staff and in my radiation oncologist, Dr. Cox. He is very personable and he actually reads my file! I know this because I watched him do it. Halelujah . . . a doctor who can and will read! (if you are joining or just starting to read this blog now, well, you would have to go back a few months to read about how I feel about my oncologist – he would never read my file and in general seemed completely uninformed about my personal case. I will have the joy of meeting with him this week. The key with meeting with him is to not let him bring me down. He is an odd individual to say the least. But, I digress – I like my radiation oncologist and he will be seeing me every week while I am going through radiation. A nurse will also see me/my skin every week. And, the weekend of my birthday I get to have two days off of radiation due to the Thanksgiving holiday. That will almost be the halfway point in treatment and a probably welcomed break.

This weekend was relaxing. But, I was very, very disappointed that I was unable to attend the wedding of a really good friend of mind. Unbeknownst to me,I am more at risk now for getting an infection than I was during chemo. So I am supposed to avoid anyone who has been sick or near anyone sick recently and I have to avoid large gatherings. I had no idea. But, it probably explains the two infections that landed me in the hospital since my surgery. What I didn’t realize was that my white blood count has dropped and is below normal. It has been below normal ever since I stopped getting the Neulasta shots (which were given during chemo to boost production by my bone marrow. Well, it worked really well. But, after my last shot, it eventually wore off and my white blood count has been below normal. 

Just as a comparison, my white blood count was never below normal during the chemo. Neulasta works well. But, you can’t just keep taking it. So, I have to wait until my bone marrow starts producing it. The same is the case with my red blood count. I was never anemic really during the chemo, but after surgery (some blood loss) and not having an appetite (so anemia from lack of iron in my diet) my red blood count dropped down to an all time low. It has come back up considerably, but is still lower than it ever was during my actual chemo (and just for some perspective – my last chemo was July 16th).

During chemo I checked my blood results weekly, I always had the office fax the results to me. But, after surgery I was less concerned about my blood counts because I thought (and no one told me anything different) that my bone marrow – no longer under the attack by the chemo – would just start doing it’s job again. But, I was wrong.I am actually more at risk now for catching something than I was during chemo. So, after just getting off of the IV antibiotics for my second infection that required hospitalization, I am finally told that I should avoid crowds, limit my contact to a few people at a time. So, the wedding and the reception were out. I am so disappointed to have missed out on my friends’ very special day. I hope they will understand. I was actually planning on at last making it to their wedding. But, I woke up in too much pain this am to be able to disobey doctor’s orders.

The pain seems to lessen now quite a bit by the afternoon. So that is a big improvement. Of course, who knows what the radiation treatment will bring. But, I am optimisitic (trying to be anyway) about it. everyone reacts differently – some have more burning than of others and more discomfort and pain. But, hopefully my experience will not involve a lot of pain etc. But, in any case, it will pass. And, I will get through it.

Please continue the prayers and positive thoughts – keep sending these my way. I greatly appreciate it.

Much love,

Lisa

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