Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Tattoos!!

Sup. Life is finally about to settle into a routine once again and this brings me great peace. Times of limbo and funny and frustrating. So before I begin on how radiation prep has gone, I want to apologize to anyone who has felt snubbed recently because of my lack of contact. The past two months of recovery time from my surgery left me with nothing but time to begin to reflect on the past 9 months. I could not have gotten to where I am today without all of your love and support and I will not be able to finish this journey without you all. I'll be the first to admit that this experience has been what it was because I have never walked alone. I am forever thankful for this and owe my life. That being said, the time came/has come for me to be alone, to find some peace in my heart and head from all of this. Processing is important that it has been something I have needed to do on my own or with help that I seek out. Having loads of people offering to help with everything before was great but this is a part that I have really taken full control of and need to. I appreciate the space that has been given to me to do so and I hope no one has taken it personally.
A huge part of sorting through all of this has been help from the survivors that fought before me. There is an unexplainable comfort that comes from talking with someone who has faced a boulder similar to mine. Someone like Amber for example, has helped me prepare for each phase of treatment that was ahead and eased my mind on many things. I like to feel prepared going into situations and I have her to thank for this. I had Susie and Katie to help me get ready for surgery along with many other women that were eager to not only share their experience but also what the final outcome looks like. I have been blessed with examples from Stacy, Janine, and Karrie on how life will go on again after all of this, that there are normal days ahead. Time with others who have fought cancer have been sources of strength through my fight and peace for the future. One particular person, Ryan, has been one of my best examples yet. Another youngster like myself, Ryan kicked cancers ass, while raising an adorable little nugget, and has already returned to life as a badass fire fighter. He has always made himself available to talk to the strange stranger that I am and proved to motivate me on many days. Talk about someone who reminds you that you too can get out of bed today. Ryan, you have shaped my experience more than you probably know. All of these lovely people have. All of you lovely people have. Thank you. This is the difference between what leaves some people in black holes and others as warriors. Or functioning members of society after all is said and done at the very least.
This has become a tangent, but if you have a chance to talk with someone who has faced something life threatening, you should take it. There's a lot to learn there. Hearing about anyone's struggles and how they dealt with them is pretty powerful actually. We all face our own battles and demons and we can all help each other through them.
More on this tangent but it's worth sharing.. last bit.. promise. I was recently given the gift of hearing how a man reacted to getting the news that his chemo treatment had not worked and the cancer was aggressive, leaving him with just weeks to live. Without any fear in his voice, he shared how he believed that everything was going to be ok, that this was ok. For he had been blessed with raising two angels that had grown into young women that would make any father proud. And he had spent 21 happily married years with his best friend. He said he had owed much of his life to his wife. He had married her not because he was beautiful or could make him laugh, but because she gave him the gift of a "for worse" relationship. And ultimately, that is what we need in life. It's so easy to find someone to have fun with, to go dancing with, who will be there for every smile and laugh. Sharing your time with someone who will stick around for the good times, for the "for better" is easy. He said what we should look for is someone who will be there for the "for worse". We all face these times in life whether it be cancer, death, financial woes, job stress, whatever it may be. There's great value in those who will stand by you through these times. Find a "for worse" and keep them near. I think this is great advice for my age group, when most spend so much time obsessing over all different kinds of relationships. I'm sure this will touch the hearts of all ages though. It's something I plan to hang on to.
Just more comfort and advice for the road ahead. And while I don't plan on dying anytime soon, being able to reflect on my life journey and find inspiration for what's to come is where my head is currently at. Mostly because I don't want this time to have been a waste. For any of us! Which brings me to my next phase of treatment: radiation. I have 6 weeks of radiation starting in about a week and I plan on using that as a productive time out. I'm lucky enough to have this time to sort through and figure some things out. How can I use the cancer gift to make a positive impact? We shall find out. I've looked into some classes, organizations, and other things for this time. Hopefully big things are ahead!
I had my prep day for radiation today. I stumbled into the proton center around 8am, got into my lovely gown (btw Laurel I am still waiting for my tie dye gown..), took a couple necessary snapchats of me in it, and met some members of my radiation team. I have Rachel and Rachel as my techs (I think?) manning the machine. Today they made a mold of my body that I will be in during every treatment. I laid down on a styrofoam box and they cut away at it until my body fit inside. Then that base was placed in a plastic bag full of chemicals that bubbled and heated up as time went on. I went into this, laying in a very specific position of my chin up (so lymph nodes can be accessed), body to my right side (so left breast and side can be radiated), and my arm in a sassy hip pose (access to where my lymph nodes were). The bag hardened around me and in no time I was cocooned in a warm  mold of my body. Combine that with the hum of a CT scan and I fell into a deep sleep while little lasers danced around me taking measurements. Sadly, every treatment will not be like this. Thank goodness hospitals have heated blankets, because I plan on recreating this as closely as possible. So this is the mold that I will be in every day for 6 weeks, to hold me in place during radiation. It will last under 2 hours. Receiving proton therapy will allow for more precise radiation and spare as much healthy tissue as possible, and keep my heart and lungs from getting much radiation if any. I was apprehensive about this treatment at first, mostly because I was tired of waiting for it to begin and was happy to just get going with traditional radiation. After today I see the importance in the treatment I am receiving. Meeting my team made me feel great about it all to. So far, all is awesome!

This is what it was like:

I also got 5 little tattoos today. These are the spots that will help guide the radiologists where the beams should hit. I will get radiation on my neck, shoulder, and chest areas. They are not quite up to Mr. Owen's level of work but they will have to do.

Today left me pooped but in a good spot mentally. I'm ready to start and I'm excited to work with everyone at the proton center. And not just because they gave me a cool name badge with one of those snap back string thingys. So that's where I'm at now. Ready for radiation and hoping to be of use to others.
Stay warm! And enjoy that sunshine for the rest of us west coasters!

Oh and please send me some songs/playlist ideas! I need tunes for my treatment time since I can't have company!

Remember how bald I used to be?? Ha! Woah!!

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