Invisible beams of waves that eradicate cells, both good and bad.
I rely on this technology to save my life. As the machine moves around my head I close my eyes and imagine a white light and soft hands rested upon my neck, healing it with love.
There’s a beep that begins the moment that the machine starts to work. It’s loud and obnoxious and oddly soothing. It’s so loud that the music playing in the background gets masked which can sometimes be a blessing depending on the song of the day.
My head and shoulders sit inside a green mask that is bolted to the table. My left hand holds a large ring to keep my shoulders comfortably in place. In my right hand I hold a special rock, it’s painted with my three children against a night sky. It fits perfectly in the palm of my hand and is a constant reminder why I endure this painful treatment. Most times I keep my eyes closed to meditate but sometimes I open them and watch the machine circle around my head. I can see my reflection in the glass screen and where the green laser lines set against the mask and my skin.
Above the machine in the ceiling of the room, they have replaced the light covers with a scene of a blue sky with clouds and cherry blossom branches. It’s interesting because it’s near identical to the original theme for Our Only Time. It gives me comfort to look at that view.
And just in time to complete one or two songs, another beep is heard and the machine slowly moves back to its original position. I can hear my team walking back in the room, they usually tell me “nice job” so I know they’re there beside me, because I can’t turn my head and look. I like to give them a thumbs up, letting them know I’m ok. They unbolt my mask and remind me not to move as I’m about 4 feet in the air. The table gets lowered, they help me sit up and I stop to catch my breath before stepping to the ground
Physically, I feel the same leaving radiation as I do walking in. But most days walking in, I have an enormous burn on my tongue or on the inside of my cheek or the back of my throat. Not to mention the condition of my entire neck skin which is red, thick and already peeling. But, I’ve already started my day with pain meds, anti-nausea, antacid and laxatives-gotta keep things moving! So when I get off that table, my heart is racing upwards of 130 bpm. (I know this because they take my vitals daily.) And even though I won’t immediately feel different, my brain knows what I just did, and it sets my anxiety through the roof. I breathe through it and by the time I arrive at my second appt for the day, I’m usually calm again.
About 5-6 hours after radiation, I can usually tell where I’ve been burned the most. Today, it’s my tongue, the roof of my mouth and my cheek near my top molars. That should make eating interesting. Two days ago I went back to a liquid diet because the burn sores prevented me from chewing comfortably. I hate a liquid diet. My salivary glands have been affected from radiation and my mouth is now a constant combination of dry, mucousy saliva. It’s nasty. So add in a thick shake and my gag reflex is continuously ready to go. Oftentimes in the morning, I’m racing to rinse my mouth before I vomit upon waking.
But TODAY, today I completed my 30th and FINAL radiation treatment and I can finally look towards the next few weeks. But before I get too excited I have learned that radiation is like a microwave that keeps cooking once the timer has beeped. You know those directions that say, “let food sit before consuming” that’s because it’s still cooking. And for the next few weeks, I’m still cooking. So my throat, my mouth and neck will continue to feel the effects of the radiation doing it’s job-killing both good and bad cells. I don’t know what to expect from my body in particular, but they did tell me what NOT to expect.
“Don’t expect to wake up and feel better. The height of the pain will come this weekend and should plateau for about 2-3 weeks. Then, you will start healing.”
So I wait. First I wait until Monday for my final round of chemo. Then I’ll wait for the 5-6 days that chemo wreaks havoc on my body. Then another week or two for the healing process to begin. It’s ok. I’m used to waiting by now.
It’s been a LONG road so far. Months, really. But we’re nearing the third leg of the race; healing and recovery. I’m so close I can taste it-well, I could taste it if radiation hadn’t seared my taste buds!! But I can ALMOST taste it!!
And along this road, I’m so grateful for you. You, who read what I write for the better understanding of what my daily experience is. You, who want to be informed so you can support me. You, who love me every step of the way. You, who sent me love, well wishes, a surprises on this final day of treatment-knowing what an enormous day today is. I am SO grateful for you. Your encouragement gives me the strength to get through each obstacle to healing. One step at a time.
Today, I’m done with radiation!!!!
I’ve been cleared for tomorrow’s chemo. I should feel excited or grateful or something, but I just feel pretty anxious. This is the final round. PHEW. I feel anxious knowing what I’m walking into, yet trying to remind myself that the meds they gave me last time worked wonders and I have no reason to think that that won't also be true tomorrow too. During Round 1 I thought I was “great” and it wasn’t til I was done taking the meds did I realize I couldn’t remember anything from the week. Except for ordering thinly sliced ham at the deli counter at Whole Foods?? I was really craving a ham sandwich...
So let this be a warning, don’t hold me accountable for anything for the next 7 days. If we talk, I probably won’t remember. If I don’t text back, don’t take it personal. If I overzealously commit to anything, chances are you’ll need to ask me again next week😂Maybe next Monday, we can recap the week prior and you can tell me how it went?!
But seriously, please hold hope alongside me that the week goes as seamless as the Round 1 when I really only had a terrible day 6. I keep reminding myself that this is the last time and when I’m 3 weeks out of Round 2 (like today), I’ll be done!!
My largest hesitation next week is my diet. I successfully maintained my weight this week entirely on liquids. It’s was HARD. But, I think I found a groove and am hoping to maintain weight as long as possible. But with chemo in the mix and my mind not as clear, that will mean lots of planning and help at home. Fingers crossed. My goal is to not lose more than 10 pounds during treatment. So far, I’ve only lost 2. I’m proud of me. That’s pretty darn good. And I keep envisioning all the delicious meals next month...or the month after when I’m able to eat normally again.
Fun fact: radiation affects my salivary glands (amongst other things) and sipping water all day is mandatory. My mouth is dry....and mucous-y gross and the mouth sores make most anything difficult. But today when my cousin opened her salad, the pepperoncinis made my mouth WATER...so much so that Chris may or may not have caught me smelling a jar to get the juices rolling! Whatever works!! I can’t wait to eat again...
Separate from what’s to come, after my blood draw today my girlfriend took me to meet the boys at a pumpkin patch and I was able to watch them play for a short while. It’s moments like those that keep me focused and moving forward. The sweet breaks from counting calories, blending foods, checking mouth sores and keeping track of medications. I can’t wait to watch them trick or treat at Halloween and by then, this treatment will be a memory. Not a distant one yet, but completed at least on Friday, October 26th. I have been told the recovery is more brutal than the treatment itself but at least the days will be clicking ahead...
One day at a time.
And today was a good day.
Here’s to tomorrow. Let’s get Round 2 done, too!!
There are so many events and experiences that make up your being. Some good, some bad. Some are result of your upbringing and out of your control, others are exact results of decisions you make in life. But each regardless of their origination build you, your character, your resilience, your compassion and empathy or lack thereof.
I have survived experiences in life that I wouldn’t wish on ANYBODY. But each experience and decision have made me who I am. All of me. I have had to rise from the ashes before and I will do so again.
I AM ALREADY DOING IT.
When Ruthie Lou died, I had a choice; have her death ruin my life or be the opportunity to build the life I always wanted. I chose the latter. I chose life and love. I chose to honor her, to be the mother I have always wanted. And I have done those things. I am proud of me.
Living with cancer is reminding me who I am at the core of my being. What I am capable of, who I want to be, the life I want to live, the love in which I want to be surrounded.
And, life is (still) good.
And I am a fighter.
A warrior, in fact.
I got this.
I know who I am.
To raise your vibration, follow my Spotify playlist created by my tribe or send me your favorite warrior song in the comments!
To follow my medical progress and the needs of my family:
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.