Chemo Girl goes Radio-Active Bit By Targeted Bit

 So . . . good news! Radiation has a bunch fewer side effects than Chemo-Therapy. Okay, that’s a wrap, we’re done here . . . except we’re not. Oh (imagine head banging table here) we’re just not done.
   I know . . . I KNOW . . . we’d all be so happy to be done now. Here is the reality. By-Gone Chemo is now pretty much exactly 4 weeks ago. With the exception that Chemo isn’t REALLY done yet. I suspect you readers are all waiting for the day when there are no more notifications of this post, at which time we’ll all rock on. Thank you. Me too. But WAIT, THERE’S MORE.
   Let’s start with Chemo’s lingering stuff, shall we? Dang and tarnation. My finger nails (and toe nails) have a bone to pick with the not-so-honorable gentleman from Lab o’ Chemicals. And I’ll tell you what, if all my aforementioned nails (especially from the footed area) were in their previous Hobbit-weaponry-ready state, this would be a much more aggressive statement. As it is, all persons from the Lab o’ Chemo are snickering that “my puny Earth weapons are useless” against them. And they’re right.
   I’m on the utter brink of loosing 6 nails as I type this. And I say, “YAY” it’s not 20,” Yet . . . as far as I know. In case you are wondering about my preparedness for this event, allow me to just say that this was NOT mentioned in my extensive and annoying Chemo Class. So, no, I did not see this coming. WTF The nails situation is worsening a month later, and the “numbness-tingling” sensation is doubling down too. The bottoms of my feet are peeling like snakes shed skin. Neuropathy is a too clingy acquaintance.
   “So other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” Uh . . . too long? In short, I guess I’m not really done with Chemo. But that’s okay, because there’s so much fun to poke at RADIATION! If not quite welcome, it is still a solid distraction.
   The efficient staff in the radiology department are way too used to lining up patients for their equipment, and a little too unused to thinking about them after they leave. Well, it really IS much harder to connect when your actual contact is only for 5 minutes, and the relationship ends in a month or so. I mean, my chemo nurse was my chemo nurse for 4 months, and even though I only saw her every two weeks, she was in and out of my space for 3 to 5 hours at a time. There’s a commitment in that to an unavoidable degree.
   I miss her.
   But let’s get to the part where we poke fun at Radiation. Seriously. I have a good place to start. I was told by a previous patient (Roberta, I hope you don’t mind my mentioning you), that I’d be getting a couple of tiny little tattoos to mark where they needed to aim the Radiator (honestly, what is that equipment really called?). AND I thought, “TATTOOS?!” Nobody, but NOBODY mentioned permanent TATTOOING as part of this process!” I was in a total rant in my head. This is Bull-S–t I huffed repeatedly to the audience of my single brain.
   Today, I find that childish huffing quite amusing. IF ONLY they limited the marking up of my chest cavity to a couple of tiny tattoos, I would currently find this charming. Roberta, if you’re still reading, please feel free to quantify the extent to which they used to mark us up with additional pen art, and whether that may have been in addition to the tattoo marks. But for NOW . . .
   On this day, and note please that I am on my 3rd day of radiation, and note further that for almost two weeks now, I am cris-crossed with lines and diagrams and giant X’s (one of which actually looks like a swastika) to the point that I could be a poster-board for  the Cleveland Police Academy’s target training practice. Meaning, they recommend you shoot anywhere. Here . . . There . . . Here,  or Here, or oh, wherever.
   To begin with, two weeks ago, they used a green felt-tip marker which they covered over with clear stickers that stay attached through showers.  I asked on that first day if I were going to have these marks for the full duration of the 6 weeks of treatment, and they said, “Oh you don’t need to worry about that. We’ll see you everyday so if the marks fade, we’ll be able to draw them back in.” To which I said, “Well THAT’S a RELIEF!” I mean, thank G-d. Then 5 days ago, they alarmingly completed the diagram with a brilliant magenta marker.
   My abdomen, and, shall we call it my “Upper” abdomen look a lot like a toddler was given a couple of pens and asked to produce a family portrait–with their house in the background. Please remember that toddler’s favorite artistic styling is stick figures. Now you can picture it. From shoulder to navel to hips to clavicle.
   Nice. And I’m still bald, so it’s all working. Except I was still hoping my husband would be interested in intimacy occasionally. Lucky me!  . . .  he’s a really good sport. 🙂

Oh Goodness Gracious Me

 

   Final Chemo Treatment. Well, that’s done. Thank G-d. None of the Chemo’s were a picnic, and not one of them pleasant, but Oh My Heavens watch out for that last step, it’s a doozie.
   A little under 2 weeks before my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah I sat (4 hours) through my final Chemotherapeutic Infusion. Ha ha ha, “therapeutic,” as IF. Never before have I been struck so forcefully by the vast difference between the connotation of the word “therapy” (healing, restful, invigorating) and the results of this particular therapy, which is not so much those things. Think “opposite world.”
   Two days after the infusion my legs felt like I’d completed a 20 mile marathon, without any training, the day before. When I got out of bed (which I did as little as possible), my knee caps and ligaments seemed to be made of cardboard and yarn, which I was sure were about to collapse. My fingertips felt so bruised that it was a challenge to operate my phone. My muscle tissue was, again, tender to the touch. My mouth seemed to be entirely coated with a substance much like white Vaseline, both obliterating taste while creeping me out.  And, I was so tired. I spent the better part of 4 days in bed.
   Previously, the worst aspects of my symptoms had let up by the end of the weekend following an infusion, but not this time. I’d say I was back up to “operational” Wednesday evening — three days before Rebecca’s big day and three days after the norm. Fortunately I was neither entirely unprepared nor on my own. This is where “good stuff” got into full swing.
   Family, family, family. It’s precious and you should never cast it off, abuse it, or under appreciate it. If I could make a plea here, it would be to treat your family with the utmost care and respect available in your being, and see how it returns to you. By the way, my own observation would be that, disregard and neglect reap relatively equally negative rewards. Just sayin’.

   Honest to goodness, just like some fantastic Super-Hero, my sister Joan flew in from Philadelphia on Tuesday (the day before I was up to speed), and she jumped in to determine what still needed to be done and how best to accomplish the desired results. No kidding. I was at my  “Chemo-Brain” decision unworthy zenith, barely mobile, and, there she was.
   I had Old Lists, New Lists, Already Done Lists, and Out-Moded Lists, as I sat in a Confounded State of Inertia, and she helped me shift everything into a fresh “What To Do” list that was actually do-able. I should also reveal at this point that I had an otherwise sensitive husband who suddenly felt moved to add to our list (after all, we now had Joan to help). Here’s me . . . “Great idea! (you couldn’t have mentioned it a month ago?) Yes! we can do that too! (REALLY? NOW YOU ASK?!?!) Okay then! (How much will THAT cost?) & What-EVER.”
   And guess what? It all got done. Food was mostly desserts which had been arranged and accomplished by our party planner before my last down time, only requiring the adjustment of last minute added salty snacks for a cocktail half-hour while family portraits were being done after the ceremony. Decorations were largely covered by the same party planner, but I had already ordered, received and provided Eiffel Towers for center pieces on tables, and decals for general extra enhancement. New to – do, find flower petals for candle lighting table, set up and attend a rehearsal, make time for out-of-town family attending service.
   Shockingly, RSVP’s were still coming in those last few days. By which I mean, this is not shocking, but really standard. “Put them at table 5!” Joan helped with delivering “Welcome To The Event” bags to hotels, and finding the last minute, “we need socks for the dance floor, and frames for the photos, and items “For Your Convenience” in the bathrooms, and placing those pre-ordered decals on walls for decoration, and, her very existence prevented me from curling into a fetal position for the duration. She did everything she could to make me look good.
Things looked a little like this:
Joan, anxious for me. Me with eye brows (drawn in) and looking as good as one can bald.

IMG_0426

Joan, The Bat Mitzvah Girl, and Mom, one of whom needs professional help (ah, that would be me).

IMG_6237.JPG

The point of it all.

DSC_0169

Brunch buffet the day after, compliments of my husband’s catering skills, my Mother-In-Law’s Noodle Koogle, and my sister Betsy’s help setting it all up!

IMG_5804

Me and Betsy.

FullSizeRender (3)

   So you see, even under devastating constraints, you can make a celebration. Even if my own outlook were not as optimistic as it truly is, I would have planned this. I would have helped this moment happen. With my own family’s hands-on help, and my husband’s family help; please know they offered and provided continuous help as well — making time and reservations for us, schlepping me to appointments, financially . . . in short, in every way one could ask. I ask that you remember to ask for the help that is there and waiting.
   Now I have one full week to take a break and prepare myself for Round 2 — Radiation. For the next month and a half Chemo-Girl will be Radioactive-Chemo-Girl. And then, I will be regular old wife, mother and rider of Brody again. Which will suit me fine. Would that it were now. Until then, watch for Radio-Activity here at this site, be well, and keep your appointments!