Doctors and Number 15

Yesterday as I was leaving the room where the big machine is that blasts me with rays designed to kill any sneaky cancer cells that might be lurking in my body, Zack said to me, “Tomorrow is your 15th treatment and that calls for a visit with the radiation oncology doctor.” Sure enough, after today’s treatment I was directed down the hall, and eventually taken to an exam room where a PA came in, introduced himself, and examined the skin on my chest wall where I had the mastectomy, and under my right arm where cancerous lymph nodes were removed.

“Your skin is perfect,” he said after a quick look. “What are you using?”

“100% Aloe Vera cream,” I told him.

“Well, I see absolutely no problems. We’ll check your radiation site again after your last treatment.”

Yes!

I was happy for this great report, although not surprised, for it is evident that my skin is holding up very well against these powerful rays.

In the afternoon, I had a follow-up visit with my surgeon, Dr. Victor. When Marge, the very sweet nurse in that unit, checked my blood pressure, it measured 130/70. She turned and looked squarely in my face. “You look so good. You are doing exceptionally well.” When Dr. Victor came in, checked my site, and my other breast, he said, “Everything looks wonderful.”

Yes!

We were all smiling. Jerry was with me, and for quite a time Dr. Victor lingered, talked of his family and the vacation they are planning to Newfoundland in the near future, of our common interest in photography, of the joys of family . . .

“I’ll be following you for 5 years,” he told me. “See you next in 3 or 4 months.”

What a good day this has been. Number 16 tomorrow.

 

Lessons in the Weeds

At Kaiser this morning, they took me in early for my 14th radiation treatment, so before noon we were back in Crestline, and since it was so early we decided to go to the lodge and have lunch with our senior friends there. We were more than half an hour early, so while Jerry signed us in and found seats, I would take a few pictures. I took my camera out of its bag. “I’ll snap a couple of pictures, then be right in,” I told Jerry.

I learned lessons during those few minutes this late morning and want to share them with you.

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I walked across a small field. Shaded by lofty oak trees, the land lay in shadowed darkness, so dense in some directions that I was unable to discern the objects that made up the short distance toward the creek bed. Then my eyes were drawn to a shinning pattern, for in the middle of the unlit, dusky regions glowed this round of glorious light.

This first lesson is obvious. In the midst of darkness, sorrow, and gloom, there always can be found a packet of light, a spot of joy, a round of glory. God is its source, and when we find ourselves frightened, surrounded by dreadful circumstances, unsure of anything, then is the moment to look about us . . .and find the light!

I sat down on a small bridge area and watched. Waited. Among the weeds little bugs were jumping, and as I looked closely, I saw they were lady bugs. I didn’t have a really fine lens with me, for this morning I had decided to take my oldest lens out of my camera bag, and use it for the day. So with my humble 18-55 Nikon kit lens, I photographed this fine lady. (Are there men lady bugs? Hmm . . . guess so or we wouldn’t have any baby lady bugs, would we?)

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The second lesson was also obvious to me, for as I stared, focussed, and refocussed on this tiny bug, I saw with comprehending eyes its struggle to reach the top of this drooping weed. She fell more than once as a small wind blew the plant back and forth. But she persevered, and when I left her she had neared the top.

So, as I walk my cancer detour, I too will persevere and will pick myself up if I fall. . .and if I do I will climb again.

And you? We’re all faced with disappointments, challenges we didn’t expect . . .but also with opportunity to fight more, seek the light, and climb higher. Onward!

 

Radiation and Celebrations

When I learned that Gentry’s high school graduation day would be toward the middle of my radiation treatments, I was not sure I would be able to attend, for the threat of side-effects, and especially of extreme fatigue was on my mind.

DSC_3559However, last Thursday came, the special day, and I was feeling wonderful. At 10:00 in the morning I had my 11th treatment. When it was finished Jerry headed our already loaded Jeep toward San Diego. We stopped for food then drove to Andrew and Shawnna’s home (Gentry’s parents) where we visited a couple of hours before it was time to leave. The graduation exercise were held in the open air theatre of San Diego State University. Beautiful. Very impressive. So very proud of Gentry. A meal for the family and friends at Lidos Italian restaurant followed. It was late when we plopped down on the comfy bed in Andrew’s home.

For breakfast Andrew took us to a charming place in La Jolla where we ate outside, the magnificent Pacific in our distant view.

Treatment number 12 was scheduled for early afternoon, so we said our good-byes and traveled again to Ontario Kaiser Permanente.

On Saturday, Mike and Melina drove over from Lake Havasu for Father’s Day. Jerry smoked scrumptious ribs, I added a few things, and on the back deck we four feasted.

Sunday morning: Father’s Day

We four joined Rebecca at her church in Rialto for a delightful service, then for lunch we met with Melina’s parents and others of her family at Martha Greene’s in Redlands.

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Rebecca and Michael hugged up with their daddy.

This morning I completed my 13th treatment. I feel wonderful! Onward!

 

The Day of My Ninth Radiation Treatment

It’s been a good day. Good to think that I’m a third of the way through these treatments. The irradiated parts of my skin are in great condition, and I still feel very well. As one of the nurses bent over me today adjusting my body on the table, I told her how terrible I felt with chemo, and how great I’m feeling now. She smiled, and with a touch of warning in her voice said, “The radiation effects can sneak up on you.” I told her I was aware of it, and that I have myself mentally prepared–just in case.

Early this afternoon here at our home, one of our Crestline friends (whom you may have met here) called and asked if I was up for a short visit.

Of course I was, and Jerry snapped a picture as this delightful 86 year-old charmer and I sat together in our living room.

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She came bearing a gift.

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The flower is a wild iris that she picked from along the road as she took her morning walk. (She walks a mile a day, sometimes two!) The bottle is recycled, she told me, and I could see it was. During these days of my cancer detour I’ve received lots of gifts, and extraordinarily beautiful floral arrangements. None surpass this beautiful, elegant, humble gift.

DSC_3534And so…….my day–the 9th of radiation–has been a very good one. Trust yours has been as well.

Radiation Continues

The machine is huge, and of course I wanted to take a picture of it, but I was denied permission to do so. . .except that one of the male attendants let me know he might find a way that I could do so. I had seen him messing around with a nice camera . . .

I did grab this link so that you can have an idea of the scope and formation of the radiation machine. Pictured is the exact machine that is treating me.

Today I had my 8th treatment, and I am happy to tell you that I have felt no ill effects at all. I am so thankful. While I continue to think in a positive way, I do understand the radiation treatments are cumulative and that during later treatments I could have some negative reactions. For now–I’m perfect! I feel strong and full of faith!

Radiation Oncology

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I followed the protocol of the Ontario Radiation Oncology unit by checking in with my Kaiser card and my driver’s license. The receptionist smiled, consulted with her computer screen, and handed back my material along with a buzzer unit–the kind that some restaurants use when you’re waiting to be seated for a meal. When the radiation staff were ready for me, the buzzer would sound, and I was just to walk through the designated door. Rebecca had walked in with me and after I  registered  we returned to the lovely outside area where Jerry waited.

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The weather was magnificent. We were calm.

DSC_3341I walked about snapping photos of the beautiful area. Jerry had a copy of the Los Angeles Times with him, and quickly delved into it. Rebecca really didn’t want me to take any  shots of her, although she was snapping away with her phone, but she let me take one. Wouldn’t you know–her eyes were closed. (Off subject: The excellence of phone photography amazes me. Rebecca captured the first two shots here with her IPhone–a 4, I believe.)

“This seat is getting a bit hard,” Jerry said at one point, so we moved to the indoor waiting area where the seats are padded.

My buzzer sounded. I laid down the magazine I was flicking through, said to my family, “I’ll be fine,” and walked through the door that led to the radiation chambers.

The buzzer kept buzzing, and when I passed a lady in the hall, I asked. “Is there a button you’re supposed to turn off?”

She smiled sweetly. “I did the same thing the first time. You’re to turn in the unit to the receptionist.”

I did.

In one of the dressing rooms, I stripped to my waist, removed my wig and hat, placed them in a bag, along with my clothes, donned a blue hospital gown, and walked out to find my place. I passed two or three other women and noted their gowns were tied in the back. I had tied mine with a lovely bow in the front. Rats! Here it was my first day, and I seemed to have failed the fashion segment of the deal.

After sitting in a chair a short time in the waiting room where I had been directed, Mary came for me. “We’re ready.” Her demeanor was happy and upbeat. I followed her in.

 

Prayer, the Ultimate Treatment

DSC_3265Since the first days of my knowing I had cancer, my family, my friends, and multiple church bodies have prayed for me. I am the first to acknowledge the sterling medical care I have had, but nothing compares to being touched by the Great Physician.

I’ve had hands laid on me in prayer in my home, in other’s homes, and in several different churches. On Monday when Jerry and I were ready to leave Rohr Park in San Diego after a great Memorial Day picnic, a group of ministers and others gathered about me and prayed for my healing.

How blessed. How very blessed I am.

Tomorrow morning I begin my radiation therapy. It comforts me to know many, many people will be covering Jerry and me in prayer.

No Chemo Curl

“You will lose your hair,” Dr. Victor said to me early on as we discussed side effects of chemotherapy. “But it will grow back,” he said with that kind, infectious smile of his.

Hair that grows back after chemo is sometimes a different color than before, and a formerly straight-haired girl may be blessed with what is called chemo curl. That curly hair that sprouts from her balded head usually doesn’t stay curly, I’m told, but eventually reverts to its former texture. Well, since I would be going through this little hair transition, I thought I would just order up a beautiful configuration for my head.

My paternal grandmother had glowing red hair. My dad had black curly hair. My husband has beautiful, curly wavy hair that looks better uncombed than mine does when I’ve just arranged it. You see, I have straight, stringy hair . . .well, that’s what I used to have . . .so I put in my order for red, curly hair. Sounds like a good choice, wouldn’t you say!DSC_2899I’ve mentioned before that most of my hair came out two weeks after my first chemo treatment, with a few hardy little bits hanging on these many weeks later. A few days ago, they all surrendered, and after a shampoo job, I no longer had any long hair. But already, my head is covered with new hair. Alas, I see no curls, nor any red sections. I have patches of white and what looks to be black. Guess I’ll resemble a skunk when it all arranges itself.

But check this out: Doesn’t that look like a little wave coming off in the back there!

My Tattoos

I have never secretly desired to have any part of my body tattooed, and certainly I have never voiced a hankering for such an intrusion onto this aging body of mine–actually I think the process is a bit on the silly side. Now, though I must tell you, that I have six tattoos! Five are on my chest area. One is on my neck. They are tiny little things, and if you look closely here you will see the black dot on my neck.

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Happened this way. Yesterday was my second visit to the Oncology Radiation Department at Kaiser Permanente in Ontario. After I had checked in and waited a very short time to be called, I was introduced to a darling young lady named Zac, who introduced me to two other women who will be involved with my treatments. After I had stripped to my waist and had donned a beautiful hospital gown, I climbed onto the table where overhead were machines that would photograph once again the area that is to be radiated. Both my arms were stretched over my head and I was asked not to move at all. They positioned my body a few times, and the picture taking began. A doctor analyzed and approved the film. The technicians then removed the red temporary markings on my body and began the tattoo job.

“May I choose butterflies or flowers or something like that?” I asked.

“No, afraid not. We only do one style here,” one of the techs replied.

There was little pain involved in the scenario. The worst part was not moving for a half hour or so, and besides I’m of the curious type and wanted to look around and see everything that was going on, but I could not. I did see a few reflections in one of the camera lenses. My face itched and I wanted desperately to scratch it, but I muttered to myself that I shouldn’t be a sissy . . .and I thought of persons who are paralyzed . . .

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Zac gave me a printed treatment schedule, along with guidelines to help me through the process. Beginning June 2, I will travel to Ontario (about an hour from our home) 25 times for radiation treatment. July 7th will be the grand finale. A party will be in order . . .and you’re all invited.

Radiation Treatments

I was able to report during my follow-up visit with Dr. Chan a few weeks after my last chemo treatment that I was feeling well, very well, in fact. I had regained all my strength. My energy level was high, and my spirits were soaring. Dr. Chan smiled, and I could tell that my words pleased him.

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He spoke again of my needing to be on a five-year regimen of hormone blockers, and as he spoke, he typed an order into the computer. On our way out I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up the first of what will be many bottles over such a long time. More on this segment of my treatment later.

Dr. Chan surprised me during this visit by saying he wanted to refer me to a radiation oncologist. Although he explained that his reasoning for this reference was that he wanted me to have access to every possible treatment, I gathered he might be leaning toward thinking I would not need to have radiation. So, on the day that Jerry and I drove to the Ontario Kaiser facility where such treatments are done in this area, I was feeling well and rather carefree, for I did not expect to hear what I did.

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His name is Dr. Ro, the radiation oncologist, to whom I was assigned. Kind and generous with his information, he spoke to us at length about this line of cancer treatment, and of my particular case. Should I have such radiation? The decision was mine, of course, but when Jerry pressed Dr. Ro, he offered his opinion that I should. And so I will.

There will be 25 of them, daily five days a week, for five weeks. Last Tuesday I had my first visit in the unit, where multiple pictures and X-rays were taken. My chest area is covered widely with red marks that will be used to guide the technician. On Monday, I go there again for further studies, permanent markings, and a full schedule of my treatments.

I’m not happy about this development, and at one point last week had the thought that I would call and cancel, but I quickly discarded that idea, for my thinking is that I want to do all I can to cure and/or prevent the return of this hateful disease. I’m feeling extremely well, and honestly don’t anticipate another round of weakness and other side effects. (Dr. Ro said the fatigue that comes with radiation treatments is not as severe as that I suffered from chemo.)

Anyway, I am up to it. Have God’s mighty hand holding my feeble one. Can do it. Am strong.. .besides that I’ve been working in my gardens, and they are beautiful. I’m sharing with you. Hope they bless your day.

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