Little overdue again but thankful that y’all check on me, check the blog (even if there’s nothing new for 2 weeks!), and send the love. This week’s update is The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.
The best news I have to report is a big answer to prayer! In the last post, I explained that I was praying about participating in a trial for a cancer vaccine against recurrence that has been in development for a long time and the oncology community is real excited about it. I am too! Except for the Houston part. I was emailing with the research coordinator at MD Anderson last week to ask again how much time I had before I needed to make a decision (I need to have a platelets test done before I finish radiation) and she wrote back to tell me the super awesome and exciting news that UT Southwestern (less than 10 miles from our house instead of 4 hours!) is now up and running as a new research site. I’m thrilled. And so thankful! I didn’t want further disruptions to Lincoln’s world and yet really wanted to participate – for benefit of others and possibly myself (50% chance of receiving drug in blinded study). And now I can! There are some tests and scheduling things left to confirm and coordinate but the biggest hurdle of all is no longer an issue. After having prayed a ton about it over the weekend before last, I marveled at God’s kindness to me to hear this fun news early the next week.
In other fun news, Linc officially loves corny dogs and the State Fair. Smart kid huh? What’s not to love about this fried goodness?! It may be years before he knows about the benefits of mustard but, for now, he’s quite happy without the yellow. I didn’t think to give him a bite of mine (some might call it selfish …) but one of Gigi’s boys, Juan, offered him a bite of his and the rest is corn-dog-greatness-history. He also liked the Tornado Tators (my personal favorite) and the fried s’more. Keepin’ it fried and raisin’ him right.
And, for my last note about good things that have made me smile in the last couple of weeks, I first need to give you a little backstory. 2 of my dear college roommates were Mel and Gulley. Mel and I lived together for 2 years in college. Gulley did an extra stint in on-campus housing our sophomore year but since she wasn’t too happy to be living in the dorm when many of us had moved off-campus, it officially became named “the D” and she pretty much unofficially moved in with us. These 2 friends have love me and each other and Aggie football in big and real ways. They were none too pleased with me in college when I would tell them I was gonna skip a game to study because the libraries were so quiet during games. And I understand if you’re also thinking that’s especially lame when you go to a school like A&M where football games are practically sacred religious events. Scott is quite unimpressed with this truth about me as well. And, I admit it’s a little fact I’m not too proud of either. But, Mel and Gulley will also be quick to admit that their grades weren’t something they were always proud of either and that maybe they should have spent more time in the library (though never on game days) while I should have spent more time at football games!? Let’s just say they had more fun than I did – and everything I did was more fun with them. The same is true today. Even breast cancer is more fun with them. And definitely Aggie football. As it turns out, Scott has gone fishing for 2011 and 2012 Aggie season opening games and I’ve been quite happy to take Linc to see the girls and watch the games with them. And, they came up to take care of me and Linc during my first round of really tough chemo (which, thankfully, turned out not to be as tough as we expected so I had more time with them than I did in bed!). And, since they’re great Ags who love this Ag but hate the cancer, it was only fitting that Gulley’s mom would buy us all “BTHO Breast Cancer” shirts. I got a text with this picture and a couple days later my one-and-only breast cancer shirt arrived. Y’all are GOOD to me. And I love you.
I’m not really “bad” but I’m not great either. I’m holding up ok but definitely feel the effects of the last 9 months. As I overheard Scott telling a friend last night, the cumulative effect of treatment, doctor’s appointments, side effects, hot flashes, and sleep issues add up. I’m not “beat down” but feel a bit “beat up.” I’ve always had an easy time falling asleep and sleeping soundly through the night (maybe too good as I’ve mentioned before that I’m one to oversleep for significant events like college exams and flights) but I’m now awake multiple times a night- I’m either hot (and throwing off covers) or cold (because I’ve thrown off all the covers) or having to go to the bathroom. And these are all new and unwanted issues. And, it doesn’t help that I have to be at Baylor by a little after 7 every morning. Thankfully, we are in the home stretch for radiation. Today, I completed 23 of 33 treatments so I’m just over 2/3 done with radiation treatment. I would finish the standard treatment protocol this week but both our radiation oncologist at Baylor and MD Anderson recommended adding a “boost” (their technical term, not mine) of 8 more treatments targeted at the tumor site. So, tomorrow, they’ll reconfigure the machines for this last course of radiation treatment.
This is my chest as of this morning prior to treatment. As the nurse put it, I’m a “crispy critter” (not sure if that was a technical term or not?). And, yes, it’s painful. And quite ugly. I have radiation treatment (essentially x-rays) in 4 different areas: the breast, breastbone (pictured), under my arm, and around my collarbone. I lay on my back the whole time with the laser above or at an angle (to avoid direct penetration to my heart) and yet the back of my right shoulder is burned. The x-rays go through my body and burn my shoulder. Fascinating huh?! Thankfully, the other areas are red and sensitive but nothing like the burn on my chest. I’ve learned that the internal mammary lymph nodes aren’t very deep under the skin so the treatment in this area is much more targeted near the surface. Or, maybe I misunderstood and they’reburning the top layer of my skin off so they can access them directly? In any event, this will be over soon. I look forward to sleeping in and ending the daily scorching. Ive been known to do some really dumb stuff relative to the sun and sunbathing but this is taking it to another level – it’s as if I lay out and get sunburned every day and then I’ve gone back and laid out again the next day. For 23 days. Thankfully only 10 more days of burning.
Let the rest and recovery begin and the ugly end.
Thanks to y’all, the good has been sweeter and the bad has been bearable. And hopefully the ugly is only temporary.