Last Radiation!!

Yesterday was my last radiation!!  I have some mixed emotions about this part of the journey coming to an end.   I am at the same time very happy that this treatment is over and a bit apprehensive that this treatment is over.  While actively treating the cancer, it is comforting to know that something is being done to kill all those nasties. When the treatments end, you just have to tell yourself over and over that one nasty cell is not hiding in a corner waiting to pop out and yell “I’m Back!”.


I want to give a HUGE shout out to the radiation techs at SCCA.  They are the best. Here are some members of a great team of people.  I am so thankful and lucky to have had them on my side for the last seven weeks.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  You all helped to make the process as easy and enjoyable as possible.

I know some of you are wondering about Jody.  She finished radiation on Thursday and I finished on Friday.  Wednesday was actually a teary day for both of us.  We discussed our fear of radiation coming to an end.  Once again, it was nice to talk to someone who was feeling what I was feeling and understood what I am going through.  We have each other’s phone numbers and will keep in touch.

What comes next you ask?  Well for the near future, I will take a bit of time and concentrate on getting the rest of the house put together. Starting in January, I will add back more clients to my work schedule, which has been very minimal, to say the least.  I want to go on some trips in 2014, particularly a belated 30th anniversary trip with Scott.

I will have regular visits with the oncologist and the radiation oncologist.  I start hormone therapy soon and will continue that for a minimum of five years.  I also need to plan some “renovations” that are not associated with the house.  I will continue this blog as this journey is not over.  If you know of someone going through a journey of their own and they would like to talk,  I can be contacted via this blog or Facebook.  I am happy to help in any way I can.

Scott, David, Rachel and I went to a great restaurant to celebrate.  When Scott and I got home, this lovely surprise was waiting for me.  Thanks Diana and the Posts!  See the post Cheetos, Snickers and Peach Fuzz for back ground info.


Week Seven!


This is the start of week seven of radiation.  The final week!  I will have my last radiation treatment on Friday, Nov. 15.  The original date was Thursday, Nov 14 but I got Veterans day off as a holiday.  There are four bracelets left.

The first 28 days of radiation focused on lymph nodes that drain the breast:  the  axillary nodes in the armpit, the internal mammary lymph nodes behind the breast bone, and the medial supraclavicular nodes located just above the collar bone. There are three levels of axillary nodes:

Level I is the bottom level, below the lower edge of the pectoralis minor muscle. Level II is lying underneath the pectoralis minor muscle.  Level III is above the pectoralis minor muscle.

Since I had a Level II axillary dissection,  those level III nodes still needed some attention.  The last five days of radiation are known as the “Boost.”  Basically the boost is radiation concentrated in the area where the tumor was located.  I get that site radiated from four different angles.  Not everybody has the same radiation protocol so if you expect to have or are having radiation treatments, your protocol may be different than mine.

I get the “Do you have burns?” question a lot.  Yes I do.  My collar bone is pretty affected.  I have skin peeling on my rib cage where a bra strap would be and my under arm is very tender.  I have a picture of my collar bone but thought that might be TMI!  Those area should start to feel better in another week or so.

Hair update photos below:



I think this last one is weird.  You can see that my bedroom is still a construction zone.

Hair! and 13 to go


My hair is growing like a weed.  These eyebrows are mine, all mine!!  No enhancements necessary.  I have lashes that are now long enough for mascara. People like to rub my head, like Buddha’s stomach.  I hope all their wishes come true.

I have 13 radiation treatments left.  20 completed.  Every fifth day of radiation I have x-rays.  These are taken and then reviewed by the radiation oncologist to be sure that what is being radiated should be radiated and what should not be radiated isn’t.  After the second set of x-rays I had an 8 mm adjustment.  I really don’t like x-ray day.  The position that I need to be put into for treatment is extraordinarily uncomfortable.  I have to stay in that position longer on x-ray day.  My arms ache like mad and my hands fall asleep.  Did I say how much I dislike x-ray day?  But, better safe than sorry.

I have become quite friendly with the woman who has radiation therapy before me. Her name is Jody and it is good to be able to talk to someone who is going through what I am going through.  We started radiation on the same day and we will finish on the same day.  The radiation techs think it is great when patients get to know each other and support each other.  Actually, the techs are pretty darn great themselves.

For the last four weeks, only one of  the two linear accelerators (radiation machine) has been in use as they are being updated.  This has resulted in extended hours at radiation oncology.   Starting Nov 6, both machines will be in use which will result in a different appointment time.  When the radiation techs redid the treatment schedule, they made sure that Jody and I have appointments adjacent to each other. It is their thoughtfulness (and their humor) that makes having to go to treatment every day that much easier.

Mile 12

I am mile 12.  When I found out I was mile 12 I cried.  I was humbled to be asked to be mile 12. Being mile 12 was suppose to help my friend Nicki but instead I think it helped me even more than it helped her.

Last week Nicki sent an e-mail out to ask for some help from her friends. Nicki was going to run a 1/2 marathon in Victoria, BC on Sunday, October 13.  She has been dealing with some very serious health problems over the last year as well as other life issues.  As Nicki wrote in her e-mail :

” …I have stubbornly continued to run. It’s felt important to me to run and race because I’ve told myself that, if I can run, I can’t be “that” sick. And, even though my health has been challenging and frustrating, it hasn’t gotten the best of me.”

She was telling her coach how she thought  that she might not be able to complete that race. This is what her coach said:

“So this is what you need to do: Use this as a race to focus on the good in your life. Pick 13 positive things or people and dedicate a mile to each of them. Use the energy they will send or give you to get through that mile. Don’t worry or focus on the time, it is not important this time around. You are doing the race because you love running and the race atmosphere. It is a freedom different from other things in your life and brings out your strength and determination. You win by getting to the finish line. So clear your thoughts, focus on you and your loved ones. Make me one of your miles and I will send so much energy you will float to the next miles before you know it. Draw in energy from the greenery around you and there will be plenty of it along this beautiful route. Keep up, not down and know there are a lot of us supporting you.”

That is what Nicki did and she chose me as mile 12:

“Mile 12. Loretta. Because you are one of the strongest, most determined, bad-asses I know. When I need to feel strong, I think of you because you inspire me.”

Why you ask, am I writing about this?  I think this is a wonderful idea for anyone going through chemo and/or radiation.   A many of you know, before I started treatment I was given a beautiful gift of bracelets, flowers and words of encouragement. I have one bracelet for each week I was having chemo (20) and each radiation session (33).

53 bracelets to remind me of everyone sending me positive thoughts.  Well wishes written on slips of colorful paper helping me get through these difficult months.  I put the bracelets in a basket that also contains all the words of encouragement.  I like to randomly pull one out and read it.  The words and the bracelets give me strength.

Nicki completed her 1/2 marathon.  I am on the way to completing my treatment. Never underestimate the power of positive energy and the love of friends and family.  Never hesitate to ask for their help.



Snickers, Cheetos and Peach Fuzz

The last three weeks have been mentally and emotionally difficult.   I am not sure why. They just were.  I obsessed over the amount of lung being radiated.  I cried after the radiation simulation.  I had to come up with a couple of “Plan B”s for the house renovation.  I was talking with a friend and told her that I sometimes just felt like crying and eating Snickers and Cheetos.

On Monday, I had radiation simulation.  This is where they position you on the table using the mold that was made a couple of weeks ago.  I had to lay in the mold with my arms over my head and not move for about 30 minutes.  It was not a pleasant experience.  I got another tattoo (this was a surprise as I wasn’t told that it was even a possibility) and the entire area to be radiated was outlined in ink.  They really like to draw on you in radiation oncology.   X-rays were taken to be sure everything lined up correctly and to double check that the radiation plan was good to go.

After the simulation was finished, I was told to look in the mirror at the outlined area so I would know where to put the aloe vera type gel given help with radiation burns.  I stood in the dressing room and the reality of my situation got the best of me.  I cried.  It seemed like an awfully large area.  It is a quarter of my torso.  There was ink everywhere.

On Tuesday I had my first radiation treatment.  I was able to sit down with the radiation oncologist and discuss my lung obsession.  She patiently showed me the cat scan films and we went over each picture.  She showed me what was being radiated and the dosage.  Yes, a good portion of my lung will be exposed to radiation but only a very small bit will get a large dose of radiation.  I am not so much obsessed now.  Just mildly concerned.  My daughter-in-law, Rachel, was able to go with me.  Today I went for the second radiation treatment (only 31 more to go!)  My sister, Christine is visiting for a week so she will be my radiation buddy for a while.

The house renovation “Plan B”‘s turned out just fine.  Sometimes a “Plan B’ is better then the “Plan A.”  We now have a toilet in the master bathroom and the tub is almost ready to be moved from our bedroom into it’s proper place in the bathroom.  The tile and paint are finished and the vanity top will be installed tomorrow.

As to the Snickers and Cheetos…  While I did have Cheetos at a dinner party some weeks ago, I have not eaten them since.  Also, no Snickers have been purchased or consumed.   So that brings us to the peach fuzz.  Below is a picture of my current hair style and you can see the fuzz for yourself.


Molds, Scans and Tattoos

Before I get to molds, scans and tattoos, I will bring you up to date since my last post. I had the post op with the surgeon on Sept 5th.  Since I already knew the pathology results, we mainly talked about when I would see her next (March 2014), when I would have another mammogram (March 2014) and a little about plastic/reconstructive surgery.  I had great plans to have EVERYTHING completed by the end of 2013.  But, that is not to be.   I will need at least 4-6 months of healing after radiation before I can have any reconstructive surgery.  Best laid plans …

On Sept 10,  I had a consult with the radiologist.  We mainly went over things that were discussed at our first meeting way, way, way back in February.  When I mentioned that Scott and I were going out of town for Thanksgiving, she assured us that I could start radiation on Sept 30.  Since there will be 34 sessions (the first one being the practice and information session and the subsequent 33 being actual radiation) I should finish on Nov 14.

Before the meeting, I thought that the area being radiated was the tumor site.  Goes to show you what I know.  I will have the entire breast, armpit, supraclavicular lymph nodes (nodes above the collarbone) and internal mammary lymph nodes (nodes beneath the breast bone in the center of the chest) radiated.  The effects will be fatigue and burns.  This is a lot of area to be radiated.  The burns will start about half way through treatment.

Another side effect to radiation will be scarring of my right lung.  I was originally told a small bit of lung would be in the radiation field.  Well today I found out it will be about 30% of my lung.  I don’t consider this a small bit.  To me a small bit is 1%.

Today, I had the prep work done for the radiation sessions – molds, scans, and tattoos.  The mold was made so I will lay down in the same position every session. It was made from material in a big blue envelop that was filled with s substance that must be like the spray foam used for insulation.  The blue envelop grew around my head, neck, arms, etc like a mutant pillow.

Once that was done, the radiologist placed tape of some kind on various parts of my body that will receive radiation.  Since my head was turned and tilted, I couldn’t see them.  Then it was into the CT scan and out of the scan.  Tape adjustments were made.  Back into the scan and then out of the scan.  Then back into the scan for a few minutes.  Then out out of the scan.

After the last scan was completed and the radiologist okayed everything, I got my tattoos.  They will be used to help aim the radiation to the treatment area.   Yes, they are permanent.  Yes, they are very small.  Mine are blue.

This has been some kind of journey!   I will always have the tattoos to remind me of this year.  I don’t know how I feel about that.  I already have scars from the three breast surgeries, the axillary node dissection and the port.  I believe I will start looking at the scars and tattoos and instead of thinking of everything I have gone through, I will think of everyone who has been with me on this journey.

Pathology Report and Renovations

The pathology report came back yesterday and there is no further evidence of either DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) or IDC (invasive ductal carcinoma.)  Hooray!  This means that no further margin surgery is needed.  I still have to have radiation.  I will meet with the radiologist on Sept 10 to formulate the plan for that treatment. As of now, I expect to start radiation around the third week of September. This means that I should finish radiation by the end of the first week of November.

The house renovations are coming along.  The counter tops were installed yesterday.  Unfortunately, there are some issues there that I hope to have resolved today.  There is always something…  The master bath has been demolished and partially rebuilt and the tiling starts tomorrow.  The electricians are here now installing new ceiling lights.  By tonight we should be able to use our new stove and oven!  Pumpkin muffins anyone?

Some day the renovations on my house and my body will be complete.  I will have to come up with something really good to do with all that spare time. Perhaps I can grow some eyebrows?  I have completely lost the right side while the left is pretty sparse.  Anyway, I am sure I will think of something.


This is the partially finished kitchen island.  The chairs are in place to keep me from eviscerating myself on the brackets.  The bar height counter had to go back to the shop for some reworking. Kinda like me, last week.

Home From Surgery – Check that one off!

We finally got home (the ferry was very late of course but the one that we just missed was on time) and Loretta is resting on the chair (we have two, actually) and eating a snack.


All is good.  We need a good report from the pathologist (Monday or Tuesday next week) to be sure that the surgery was successful but the surgeon was very optimistic.