After my last chemo on October 1st, my doctors gave me a month of rest. I decided that part of this rest period also involved me putting the blog away for awhile. Taking a step back…pretending to not be a full time patient for a bit.
I went home to Philadelphia for a couple of weeks. Caught up with friends and family. It was wonderful and refreshing and great to see everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed the autumn weather – the changing leaves, the fall ‘snap’ in the air in the morning. My Grandmother’s ravioli and meatballs. The Wawa’s and the cheesesteaks and watching the Phillies in the World Series. The homemade pecan pie – my favorite food in the entire world. The ‘I’m So Glad This Isn’t Los Angeles And I Don’t Have To Figure Out How To Keep Myself Busy All Day’ feeling.
I also went to Pittsburgh for a few days to see a really good friend of mine who is going through some difficult times. This friend has always been a leader in our lives – the kind of person that brings people together, motivates all of us to make snowboarding trips happen and is always on top of the newest art show or best bar in town. Even though we talk all the time, I still didn’t know what to expect when I saw him (and he didn’t know what to expect when he saw me).
Instead of it being a week of sadness or frustration at our situations, it was a week of celebration and looking ahead. We made tracks around Pittsburgh – saw great exhibits and ate good food (I still have mixed dreams/nightmares about the Primanti Brother’s Sandwich) and we talked a lot about the future. What it holds for us, what we can and cannot control and what changes we’re going to make when we stop being cancer patients and instead become cancer survivors. My friend is – in one word – inspirational.
Yes, those are french fries inside the sandwich. Crazy Yinzers.
The month of October was a good break from the intensity of the chemotherapy and it was a nice way to say goodbye to The Longest Summer of My Life. But I couldn’t stay hidden away in Pennsylvania forever.
I started radiation on November 2nd. It’s weird.
Just like chemo, the routineness of the whole process is somewhat unnerving. The radiation therapists must take about 30-50 people/day on each machine – and they have 4 machines in UCLA. That’s a lot of people getting a lot of radiation in just one hospital. It boggles the mind.
In the beginning of October they ran a ‘simulation’ on me to get me ready for radiation treatment. They created a very specific ‘radiation field’ for my chest – zapping the tumor and as little of the surrounding area as possible. I’m getting a low dose of radiation (according to the doctor) and they don’t expect any long term side effects. But still, it’s generally not good to be getting intensive radiation treatment on your body. Hell, we’re not even supposed to sleep too close to our alarm clocks or put cheap plastic in the microwave…I walk to the hospital every day at 10:10 am. Breeze through reception and straight back to the radiation waiting room, full of magazines and puzzles and a fish tank. They run a tight ship in the basement of UCLA and they make a real effort to take each patient on time – so it really becomes routine after only a couple of days.
Did I mention the tatoos and lasers? During my simulation, they put 4 tiny tatoos on me – one on each arm and two on my chest. There are lasers placed around the room and in the machine which allows them to line me up the same way under the machine each time. I’m hoping I can turn the two tiny dots on my chest into a tatoo of a battleship or a soaring American Eagle one day.
With enough radiation and bit of work, one day I could look like Bluto.
I lay perfectly still and the technicians ominously leave the room. The machine zaps me once from the bottom and once from the top. The whole process takes about 10 minutes. And off I go.
If you want to see a photo of what the radiation treatment looks like, follow the links. I’m not posting photos here for everybody in case some of you find it disturbing to see a photo of me lying on a table with my shirt off:
The treatments have made me tired and given me a wicked bad sore throat. The radiation dries out my throat and esophagus, making it difficult to swallow and eat. Lozenges help and I now chew my food the recommended minimum of 20 times which makes it easier to swallow. Once again, mom was right.
So, that’s where I’ve been the past few weeks. And how are you?