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Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Treatment

Doctors have determined that I will benefit from radiation therapy. They have determined there will be a benefit primarily because although I had clear margins, the deep margin (or area next to the chest wall) was immeasurable. There was just a fraction of a millimeter of clear tissue. Because of that, there remains a high possibility that invisible cancer cells were left behind (roots, tentacles, etc. of the tumor). This was a factor that I found highly alarming. I am glad that doctors are concerned about it too.

We prayed that as I went into the appointment, the decision would be clear whether or not to proceed with the radiation treatment. When we met with the chemo doctor, he presented his findings, concerns and opinions. Then he left us to come to our own conclusions about doing chemotherapy or not. We chose not to even though I was still concerned about three things.

The radiation addresses one of those things. The other two things that are concerning to me are the lung nodules and the fact that this cancer was high grade or very aggressive. Doctors will “watch the lungs very carefully at each scan,” their words. High grade just means we watch it and don’t wait to check out symptoms.

When I met with the radiation doctor, there really wasn’t a choice given or a question asked. He explained what would happen, asked me if I had any questions and we set the appointments. I did ask for a little leeway so that I can pack and do the bulk of my treatments after I move to Conroe. He said he thought that was a reasonable request.

Doctors and medical personnel still act amazed when I tell them my date of diagnosis, surgery and treatments. They all say things like how long it has been and that the start of my treatment is still forever away… It begins May 3. Two weeks.

May 3 will be a simulation. May 5 will begin the first of my thirty treatments. Typing that makes my heart beat fast, my palms sweat and my stomach turn.

My last treatment is June 15. Our family will find a way to celebrate. Even if it’s a small way, it will be a big celebration! I’m ready to put it behind me. I’m ready to have my first set of clean scans.

I can’t wait to tell you about my weekend but processing it all may take a couple of days… or longer. This weekend was different than others. The Lord really addressed some things that are lingering in my heart, things He knows about, cares about and wants to take from me. Things like weariness, grief and sadness. These emotions are present and real and even in times of great rejoicing and thanksgiving, they linger. In cancer, even the good news can overshadowed by unpredictable emotions and sometimes even the good wears you down physically and emotionally. I spent a bulk of my time sleeping this weekend. I usually don’t do that. I like to visit with people. Talking fills me up but this weekend I went empty and I am coming home empty. Good empty. Waiting for God to fill empty. Ready to be filled with new things empty.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about my empty heart but tonight you have your chance. I want to know more about radiation from your perspective. I've heard mainly that's it's "easy" and "a piece of cake." I'm honestly concerned about long term effects. I want to know what I'll look like and the things I can and can't do during treatment. Tell me what you know about radiation. The good. The bad. Everything. Why you did it. Why you didn’t. Anything I should know before, during and after. Articles you think I should read. Long term effects. What my skin will look like when I’m done. I’m a need to know person. I need to know from people like me, what do I expect?

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Psalm 23:5

18 comments:

Jennifer said...

I'm sorry, I've not had radiation nor do I know anyone close to me that's had it. But, I do know that I'll be praying for you and asking God to pour out his comfort & peace as you face the days of your treatment. Thank for sharing what is on your heart as it uplifting to me tonight.

Anonymous said...

My dear friend and prayer partner, Kay McWhorter, was diagnosed with breast cancer 8 years ago, eight years ago, and is cancer free right now! She is a beacon of light and hope for me and I wish she "did" computer things because she could tell you about her cancer and her treatment; however, suffice it to say that OUR GOD IS GREAT BIG!! Love you tons, melshell

Denise said...

I love you so much sis, praying never ends for you. God is in total control of all of this, everything is going to be fine.

Bernie said...

Lisa as I have told you I did not find radiation that bad, I wouldn't call it a piece of cake though unless comparing it to chemo.
Anyway my skin turn a light pink (like a mild sunburn) and I put baby powder on it......in less than a month after my 30 treatments my skin was normal. I did get a bit tired but I am not sure if this was from the radiation treament or a residual of the previous chemo.
I am not sure you should use the arm the lymp nodes were extracted from, just check with your doctor. I found the more I used that arm it would ache quite a bit, again it is fine now, only lasted a few months. Remember I had 8 nodes removed. Good Luck sweetie, I know all will be fine.....always in my heart and prayers........:-) Hugs

Alleluiabelle said...

Precious Friend,

I love you and continue to pray fervently for you. I don't know anything about radiation treatment. I wish I could help you out there.

My sister goes in tomorrow morning for her 3rd Chemo treatment. She, assuming all goes well, will be done at the end of October. I wish she didn't have to go through the Chemo, but like you she has a very rare form of cancer. She is handling it the best she can and like you said, "In cancer, even the good news can be overshadowed by unpredictable emotions and sometimes even the good wears you down physically and emotionally. I spent a bulk of my time sleeping this weekend." She has her moments, but she has been going in to work on the off weeks when she feels half way decent enough to go...she pushes herself and you both remind me so much of each other...very active, hard working, energetic, like to keep going, etc.

You continue to encourage me through your walk with Him through this "cancer" thing that I hate so much.

I look so forward in hearing each time what God is doing in your life through all of this and how He holds you up so strongly. He is my love, your love...the One who we all can depend on and put our complete faith, hope and trust in. Stand tall, stand firm my friend...that is exactly what you are doing now. We are all standing with you side-by-side holding hands in deep prayer for you.

Again, I love you my friend and my prayers are wrapped tightly around you and your family.

Kisses,
Alleluiabelle

Anonymous said...

I began my breast cancer journey nearly two years ago. It is a journey that never ends. I have done well since my chemo; did not have radiation due to having a bi-lateral mastectomy. I can tell you about chemo, about how I felt and many other things if you would like to e-mail me. I am a believer, too....I have been following your blog for months. Found you on the Andrew/Mell blog. You can respond to me at jlakes@neo.rr.com and I can tell you more about my breast cancer and treatment, if you are interested. I am a 'need to know' type person, too.
Blessings,
D.

Christie said...

Lisa,

I did 4 months of chemo and a month and a half of radiation. Compared to chemo, you're right, radiation is a piece of cake! I had radiation to my upper chest and neck and have not suffered in real long-term side effects (7 years later). But, they do say that my thyroid may be impacted at some point. Most of my long-term affects will be from the chemo I took...if I ever have any!

I was growing my hair back from chemo at that point and the radiation took a little patch of hair at my neck. Nothing that has any real affects now!

When I sit in the sun, which I don't do a lot of, that area of my chest is a little more blotchy when "tan" but other than that, you would never know.

God is so good...you know that! He has it all under control even when we feel like the world is falling apart around us...He holds us together!

Praying for you!

Love,
Christie

Angel Muly said...

I love how you pour your heart out. I am so praying for you!! Love you, Angel

Donna said...

Thank you Lisa for sharing your heart with us. Please know that you remain in all of our prayers. My dad went through radiation. It did make him tired afterwards though. Being tired is the only thing I can remember about it. I am currently reading a book about Psalm 23. The verse you quoted - God prepard a feast - that means you were expected at the feast. How awesome is that! Nothing catches Him off guard and He is right there with you every step of the way! May peace and strength continue to fill your life.

Blessings to you and your family!

Angie Love said...

sitting and thinking about you...praying...feeling an empty heart too...but rejoicing for the blessings that continue to be poured out...love you...

B His Girl said...

I do not have any info to add. I think we should have a bloggy celebration when you are finished also!!!! love to u , b

~ Being Woven said...

Know that you are in my prayers, lifted on wings of angels to our God. Anything is possible with God and to those who believe. He sends His legions of angels to surround and protect you.
loving you, ~ linda

Ceekay- Thinkin of Home said...

I had 6 weeks of radiation. I have ovarian cancer so the area is different. It is every day except the weekend...takes about 10 minutes and doesn't hurt. I got more fatigued as the time went on, but NOTHING like chemo, which I am back on now. You will get a dryness of the skin...they can give you a cream for that. I know everyone is different, but please don't worry excessively over the radiation. You tiredness now is probably all the stress and still getting over your surgery.
I have to always be reminded by my husband....cancer patients still get tired, get a cold, have an ache, feel blah....and none of it has anything to do with the cancer.
I have written you before, but to remind you I have been under treatment of some sort for almost 4 years. It is a blessing to be still here and fairly well...and it is difficult to think that I am still battling.
Let yourself go through all the emotions. The Lord will walk through them with you. I KNOW this.
Hang in there....and sometimes, that means when the fingers are numb!!! but you can do it.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

Lisa - my friend Robert, who had radiation/chemo at MDA for throat cancer just gave his testimony Sunday of clear scans - complete healing - Praise God! He said that after radiation, the "hit" on your body comes 90 days later - that's when you feel the fatigue and the weakness. So the worst of it comes later but God will be there and will be strengthening you!

I am praying for you sweet one. God is on the Throne and I am lifting you up to Him daily!!

Love you - Beth

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Hello, Lisa...I introduced myself in a comment on your Pray for Lisa post...I found you through several mutual friends...I'm so sorry...I never had radiation...just chemo...But I will pray for you!! You are such a bright light...I pray that He gives you many opportunities to shine, and that radiation will be that "cake walk" you've heard it is...and that God wraps you and your family tight in His loving arms throughout!! Love, Janine XO

Sonja said...

Lisa:
I've just read through these comments after reading your posting. How wonderfully encouraging people are, and it's so good to hear so many comments that say radiation is not that bad. Our dil had chemo and radiation for Hodgkins. She is completely well now, 3 years of good reports. Radiation sure sounds preferable, more than chemo, and this seemed to be the decision of all of your doctors. I also have a cousin who just finished 30 radiation treatments and we just saw him and he's doing really great. The only real complaint he had was being somewhat tired and even that is diminishing.

Your honesty in every area of this journey is speaking to all of our hearts. God has given you a real voice and a beautiful gift of expression.

Long comment... just know we are all with you, praying daily for each step.

Love you,

Sonja

Beth Reinke said...

Hi Lisa,
Boy this is a great way to get info. Wish I would have thought of it while going through my treatment. My situation sounds very similar to yours, so here's my advice.

Take an iPod or CD player with you to the simulation. You will have to lie completely still for a long time, mine was about 45 minutes, and the music is a great distraction.

The actual treatments truly were easy. You get there, change into a gown, wait a few minutes, get on the table for the treatment for a few moments, change back into your clothes and off you go. On good days I would be in and out in 15 minutes.

You will get redness, almost like sunburn, to the area. I think it started about two weeks into treatment for me. Ask the docs to recommend a cream. I got an over-the-counter kind that worked fine.

I had no tiredness at all, although some people do. As far as long term side effects, I do have mild chronic pain in my rib cage under the area. Apparently the scatter from the radiation can cause that, although you may have trouble getting a radiologist to admit it. ;o)

I wish you well as you begin your treatments, Lisa. You will get through this and come out on the other side stronger.

Blessings and prayers as you begin,
Beth

Sing4joy said...

Well Miss Lisa - isn't it the sweetest thing that you have person after person here saying, "I am sorry I have not had radiation." Out of context it seems odd, but this a testament to the God you serve and the absolutely beautiful way you point us all to Him that these women would have a genuine desire to be able to give you first-hand tips about something so very earth shattering. It is my absolute privilege to know you and an honor to be allowed to speak to God on your behalf.