Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Celebrate Good Time C'mon!

Yay radiation is complete! To start my day my Mother picked me up to bring me to my last appointment. My father called while we were en route so we could all  say "woohooo" together. One more morning in a pink johnnie. They got me all set up and I gleefully counted the 20 seconds of the radiation treatment. When I was done I met with the radiation RN who gave me my discharge instructions (Jean's cream 3 times a day for 2 more weeks at least) and my diploma. That's right I have a formal piece of paper that says I successfully completed radiation. Signed by the doctor, nurse and radiation tech. Let's just say it shall be framed.

Meanwhile,  my mother was busy getting a grand tour of the radiation suite. Everyone was excited that someone who worked there 34 years ago could see how it was all set up today. She was taken into every treatment room and they found the doctor that she worked with. He was really excited to see her. It was great.

How do I know that my no touch policy is forever gone? I hugged no less than 15 people today. 5 of them while I was wearing a pink johnnie. These are great strides people. There was much celebrating with my  colleagues throughout the hospital today. I hugged or high fived someone on every floor I went to. Also, the experience came full circle today when I was leaving the hospital my chemo infusion nurse was leaving too. She saw the pink flowers and pink frosted cupcakes I was carrying out and asked what the occasion was? I told her I was finished with radiation today and we both did a little celebration dance that looked like this:

Today I finally put the pink ribbon on my lab coat at work. My colleagues have been wearing one since August on theirs for me and my mother wore hers on every single outfit every single day though out treatment. After I was finished with treatment I felt now was the time to proudly wear mine.

Next steps: In two weeks I start tamoxifen (estrogen suppressor) which I will take for the next 5 years at least. Within the next month I will start the clinical trial for the breast cancer vaccine. At the end of March I will have a mamogram and follow up with the surgeon. In April I will follow up with the radiation oncologist and in May I will follow up with the medical oncologist. Watched closely much?

I will continue to post my experiences as a breast cancer survivor, but today is a day made for celebrating. And eating lobster and a lot of cake.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Un Mas!

Please don't correct my spanish. This was something when running intervals we would always say to each other. "Un mas" when we had only one more to go. We would also say, last does not mean fast, but that definitely does not apply in this case.

I followed up with the Radiaion Oncologist today. She was very happy and extremely surprised with how well my fair skin held up through this whole process. She really thought because my skin is more translucent than white that we would be using every cream ever created to keep it from burning/peeling off. Currently the location with whole breast radiation is pale pink with a very bright pink splotch where the boost radiation is. That's just so you know it is working!  She also told me that I will have one tan boob for the next 6 month to a year. I'm curious if this will be like Snooki tan (orange) or Irish tan (pink). Time will tell.

It has been a very interesting 7 months of active treatment and I am looking forward to 7:55 am (roughly) tomorrow, when they will hand me my XRT completion diploma (yay). I then plan on sprinting through the hospital handing out high fives like no ones business.

Less than 24 hours and get to join the 1 in 25 Americans who can say:

(sorry, I had too).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

3 more days

3 more boost radiation treatments! The rest of my skin is still pink, but not bright pink and has started to peel where the whole breast radiation was done. It is not flaking off yet, as I usually do with sunburns, which is nice; especially because yesterday was spent with friends trying on fancy bridesmaids dresses. It's generally frowned upon at any establishment to leave your skin on dresses-ewww. That sentence was a little uncalled for.  The boutique we were at had some fairly bright florescent lights and my major remaining baldish spot was already gleaming under the lights (I have a shiny scalp!) so glad I at least kept my skin intact [again big thanks to 3 times a day application of Jean's cream-invented by a two time breast cancer survivor]. 

Really getting back to normal now that it has been 55 days since having chemo in my system and down to just boost radiation. I was able to go out and play on Friday night and go see our favorite 80's cover band. I stayed out until 11:30 pm! : )
Look at all the hair (and of course my sweet headband). Luckily the lighting was less harsh and my scalp did not come shinning though. Also, last week my eyebrows filled back in. Frankly, I would have been ok with them staying thin, but I did get 5 months free of tweezing. I have lots of little tiny new eyelashes, which also thinned out during chemo, but are coming back strong now. This should help preventing the slightest breeze from depositing dirt in my eyes. Bonus, my nose hair has grown back in so I am a lot less sniffy (sorry Mom. She hates when I publicly discuss my nose hair). 

Still able to run every other day (well getting 3 runs in per week). I ran 4 miles in under 34 minutes today. I haven't run 4 miles in about 7 years, mostly because I hate mileage and usually refuse to do it. Also, made plans with my Coach and training partner to return to track practice March 14th. Oddly, after chemo I am finding it really hard to make myself feel that good muscle soreness. I know I'm getting stronger, but have yet to be sore. We decide in my office at work that Chemo officially made me indestructible. I have a feeling on March 15th I will remember what soreness feels like.

And now it's time for Ray...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Getting there!

Boost radiation is much nicer than whole breast radiation. Some of my skin has already started to heal. Yay! I get to lay on my side (which my inflexible shoulders appreciate) and today between getting changed and getting set up for the radiation (which involves the overhead projector film as a guide) was a grand total of 5 minutes. Moving right along.

The XRT machine currently has an attachment that has an outline of my tumor bed attached to it. It looks like this: 

That is my very scientific microsoft paint drawing. For a 2.5 cm mass the bed itself was pretty large. I would say it is is about 10 cm across. Microwaving everything to make sure nothing comes back. I am game.

There are some benefits from radiation. Half of my right armpit will never grow hair again and some of the sweat ducts have been decreased. I have learned that Lush cosmetics makes a great smelling deodorant that is all natural. During XRT you are not allowed to wear aluminum containing deodorant as it messes with the radiation. I am looking forward to using aluminum based deodorant again. 

Four more treatments. People have asked what I am going to do after. My immediate reaction is to run around the hospital like my name was just called on this;

Monday, February 18, 2013

Coming up 7s!

Guess who is 77% done with XRT and only has 7 treatments left and will be done with cancer treatment February 27th! Me!

Turns out that I have been getting more (200 units) radiation per session than what most people who have larger than size A boobs get(180 units). The radiation oncologist told me this was done because I don't have a lot of mass and she expected the side effects to be minimal (which they have been). This means I only need 23 whole breast radiation treatments (versus 25), which means I finished that part of treatment on Friday (4600 units complete). Today I started the boost. The boost means I get to lay on my side and the length of radiation treatment is an entire 20 seconds. Wild. 7 more of those and my risk of reoccurance is greatly decreased. Also, now that the entire area isn't being treated I can start healing my hot pink skin.

7 total more treatments. A week from Wednesday I will be done. Excluding weekends it just one week of treatments left.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I found out today that I was accepted into the clinical trial for the breast cancer vaccine to prevent reoccurance! Yay! My immune markers (HLAs) were the ones the study was using so I officially have been accepted. Below is more information about the study from a CBS Boston piece (featuring my oncologist).  I'll start after radiation is done.

66% done with microwaving! I met with the radiation oncologist on Wednesday and when she saw that the entire radiated area was pink she said "Good. Now we know it is working." My thoughts exactly. In the Valentines day spirit the area has turned more red and is kinda heart shaped. The red area is from under my clavicle to the bottom of my rib cage with a rounding underneath my armpit and a couple of inches onto my back. Added hydrocortisone cream to the Jean's cream regimen to relieve the little bit of itch. It's like having a mild sunburn.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Just Keep Shoveling?

Well added a little cross training to operation regain fitness. It's called 3.5 hours of shoveling snow. Blizzard Nemo dumped 2ft of snow at my apartment. I live on the corner of the street which means double the sidewalks and snow banks. I tried to convince my upstairs neighbor who split shoveling duties with me that we should just build steps up and over one of the snowbanks (mostly because we kept getting plowed back in after we had made exits to the street).  He didn't like that idea, but I almost sold him on building an igloo.  I know my strength is getting better because a) I only took one break compared to the 3 my neighbor needed b) I was able to push through the 4 foot snow drift against my front door and shoveled myself out (at 6 am).

That is not to say that shoveling did not kick my ass. After my 6 am round of shoveling I came back in to warm up (wind was still whipping as the blizzard was still gusting 30 mph) and made myself chocolate chip muffins, and proceeded to eat two of them. After round two of shoveling I took a shower and ate three muffins. I then curled up on the couch for 4 hours to regain enough energy to do a little more baking. Well, lets just say my coordination might have been a little off at this point. I knocked a can of condensed milk out of my pantry, into my sink which launched a bowl I had used to eat yogurt out of onto my floor and it shattered. I spent the rest of my time baking and...

I then followed this up by not quite being aware of my spacial relations and lit my oven mitt on fire while taking a pan out of the oven (apparently got a little too close to the heating element). Luckily, it was easily extinguished by blowing on it. Oops. I think fire roasted oven mitts really adds a certain something to pumpkin cranberry muffins, no?

XRT is 54% done and I noticed this morning while the entire radiation area is splotchy pink I now have some hot pink larger splotches. It looks like I was outside in the sun without my SPF 85 for a couple of hours- lobsterified Irish skin. It's getting a little itchy too. But, over halfway there and only 2 more weeks of whole breast XRT before I get the boost (which will cover a much much smaller area and not the areas that seem to be reacting the most).

Still have bald spots, but the hair is growing fast and furious. Everyone is convinced my hair is growing at warp speed compared to the rate their hair grows at, but I remind them I am just a very graphic demonstration of the rate of hair growth.

On Friday I got some of the nicest feedback from one of my colleagues. This nurse wanted to let me know she had joined a 60 day challenge and was working out with a personal trainer to rebuild her fitness. She said that if I could still get out there and run while going though chemo and radiation she really felt she had no more excuses not to work out. Now that's what I call a win! It was also motivating in return. Friday was a year ago that I was able to break 60 seconds in a 400m and I am looking forward to being able to at least get back to doing intervals on the track soon (maybe March?).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Half Way Done

I am officially 51.5% through radiation. Yay! I also found out earlier in this week I am not supposed to be putting the cream on before radiation. Oops don't really want to messing around with cancer treatment. I didn't get a chance to ask the reason why, because lets be real the photons can make it through the cream (as noted by my reddened skin) and science. I can only assume that because when they do their calculations for how much radiation to dose for tissue mass they don't take into account the cream altering the surface. No one seemed to worried about it (or aware I had the cream on because my skin had already absorbed it). It's most like wearing SPF 5 and then sitting in a tanning bed. Maybe 2 seconds of protection. Either way, I stopped putting it on before the treatment.

As I checked number 17 off my countdown sheet I was singing this song (and substituted done for gone)

I also sang this when the treadmill read 1.5 miles today. Got another 3 miles done and 8:45 min/mile pace for the first 2 miles and 8:30 for the last mile. Getting there.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The comedic stylings of Shania Twain

Today was an eventful morning. In an hour and 15 minutes I had my radiation treatment, simulation for radiation boost treatment, appointment with the radiation oncologist and my blood drawn to see if I can enroll in a clinical trial. Then I went to work.

XRT treatment
Today was treatment #14 (42% done!). I chatted with the radiation techs about the superbowl and our favorite commercials (my vote is for the budwieser brotherhood ad). Very uneventful. Today the music was too low to hear it, but after 2 straight treatments of Bon Jovi it was hard to ask for anything better.

Simulation for the XRT Boost
The first 25 XRT treatments are whole breast radiation treatments. As the radiation tech told me today this means that the photons currently go all the way through my body. This is why I will see the starship enterprise looking thing and there are panels in the back. I am surrounded by photons! Anyways, the boost radiation was developed in the last 20 years and decreases the chance of reoccurance by 30-40%. The radiation tech and I discussed this. The boost involves different strength of radiation which goes a certain distance through the skin directed right at the tumor bed. The boost treatment involves a much more comfortable position. I get to lay on my left side almost in a fetal position. A new beanbag form was created today and instead of tattoos to mark where the radiation goes for this treatment they create a hand drawn bullseye on a piece of overhead projector film and a sharpie. During the simulation they glued wires to my lumpectomy scar and then run a CT scan. After the CT they use this information and my scar (and other markers drawn on me in sharpie) to make the bullseye. Super awesome patient moment, the radiation tech is cleaning off some of the sharpie with alcohol wipes and because I am ticklish it makes me giggle and squirm. Thankfully, she finds this hilarious as well. 

During the simulation they played music as well. The most appropriate song came on (and got stuck in my head for the rest of the day):

Why thank you Shania. While having radiation treatment on my boob I most certainly do feel like a woman.

 Meeting with the XRT Oncologist
The doctor is happy with the little skin reaction that I am having at this point. She says it's a real benefit that I don't have a lot of mass to deal with. Also, she told me that it's a good thing they leave metal markers in after surgery marking where the tumor was because otherwise with my super dense tissue they wouldn't know where to beam the radiation!

Out of bounds Blood Draw
To cap off my morning as Patient Sara before I get to be Dietitian Sara I need to have my blood drawn to see if I could enter a clinical trial. I figure what is one more place testing my blood? I brought the tubes to the blood lab and they let me skip the line and a tech, who seemed harmless enough, brought me into the room to draw my blood. After confirming name and date of birth, she asked, "Do you have Cancer?". Now, my hair is growing in well, but you can still tell that it is growing in (still a little bald up front). Also, the paper that went along with the tubes states for a Cancer clinical trial. I probably should have said "No" and this would have ended what became one of the most inappropriate conversations to date. Now, remember this all occurred in the same time span to have two tubes of blood drawn. We started off with her family cancer history, first breast cancer, a story about her friend who had a double mastectomy, and then about her sister who has end stage rectal cancer. I offer my apologies. She then wants to know if I have children, "no" and then follows it up with the ever inappropriate "Does this mean you can't have children?". Wow. I was unaware the my fertility status affected which arm the blood should be drawn out of? Thankfully my blood draw was complete. Otherwise I may have been asked about my political affiliations, salary, mothers maiden name, where I do my banking....  Damn this irish face and people feeling like they already know you.