Radiation, The Final Chapter. Sort Of.
As I sifted through my Sock In the City memories for my last post, I started thinking about what to say regarding radiation.
The truth is, when I think about those five weeks, I'm filled with gratefulness.
If I wanted to dwell on the discomfort or inconvenience of it all, there's fuel for that.
Sure, my arms ached for my husband. For London and Quinn and Eli. Every day I missed their sweet smiles. Every. Single. Day.
I had FaceTime.
...Insurance covering state of the art treatment--the best in the nation. Perhaps the world.
...Dad staying with me the entire time. Radiation twice a day. Multiple checkups each week. Long waits in the lab. He was there for all of it.
...My aunt and uncle opening their home to us. They made us feel like we belonged there.
...Staying only a few miles from MDAnderson. Each trip took mere minutes.
...A beautiful neighborhood. Dream mansions juxtaposed with original pre-war craftsman's and tudors. It was an ideal for walking, building up my strength and stamina.
...Perfect weather. I realize it's Houston. But seriously...Sunny. Somewhere around 70 degrees everyday. If you're going to visit Houston, do it in November!
...Spending weekends with one of my nearest and dearest friends. We haven't lived in the same state since college.
...Visits from people I love...my in-laws, my friend Cyndi, Jason and my Mom with the kids.
...Dad cooking my meals, filling them with the healthy foods I needed to stay strong and heal.
...Napping whenever I wanted. Going to be early when I needed to.
...Good books to read.
...Care packages from friends at home reminding me I wasn't forgotten...that everyone was rooting for me.
...An new city to explore. We were a stone's throw from the neighborhoods with the hippest restaurants, the nicest shops. We walked parks. I visited the art museum. Antique stores. We took the kids to the Zoo and the Children's Museum of Houston.
...A full season of Outlander on my iPad.
...Getting to know my cousins again.
...Much better Christmas shopping then I would have had in Moses Lake (although getting it all home proved to be problematic...).
...And FaceTime. So thankful for FaceTime.
Even after procrastinating my decision for surgery by a week, I still managed to finish radiation just in time. I rang the bell in the radiation hallway the afternoon of December 22nd.
Complete. Going home.
Holiday travel was at its finest on the 23rd. Our first flight was delayed. We had to rebook everything. We waited five hours in the Houston airport, and another five in Minneapolis. The airline couldn't even seat Dad and I together. After 19 hours, we finally made it home to my parents' house around 11:30 that night (1:30 Houston time!). But the morning of Christmas Eve, my arms were once again full.
When I completed radiation, I didn't feel the ticker-tape-parade level of enthusiasm everyone expected. I didn't rush out for an "I fought like a girl and won" tattoo. I'll always have maintenance therapy (my herceptin and perjeta) every three weeks. A shot to put (and keep) me in menopause. Every night I take a pill to reduce the estrogen available to any residual cancer in my body. I take Effexor (an antidepressant) to address the anxiety and hot flashes caused by that medication. There is a palpable daily dose of reality with those pills.
The weeks following radiation were the hardest of all. I was in more pain than I expected. The burns got worse before they got better. My re-entry into motherhood included tantrums and poop accidents and meal time tears.
I couldn't meet my expectations of myself.
There is a certain feeling of accomplishment, though. Everyone knows cancer treatment can (often) be awful. So bad that some patients opt out all together, choosing a shorter, but hopefully more quality, life over one with side effects.
I faced it and lived through it all. Chemotherapy. A huge surgery. Radiation. I know if it happens again, I can do it.
And maybe that's the real reason we're called Survivors.
With Eli, my first week home in Moses Lake
Ring this bell Three times well Its toll to clearly say,
My treatment's done This course is run And I am on my way!
— Irve Le Moyne