Saturday, February 16, 2008

Day of Decision



I almost cried "Uncle" yesterday. And I never had an uncle, or aunt for that matter.

It was a rough few hours, but no pain as tape was removed, balloons were changed, and the right side of my body began to shake sort of like the jaw does when dentist have been working in the mouth a while. I was tense, anticipating what, I had no idea. Mostly, this was my D-Day, the day of decision which would govern the rest of my life and give me the OK or No Go for the trek to Mt. Everest base camp in April/May. So much depended on the radiologist judgement if I could do the MammoSite-5 radiation treatment.

After surgery Tuesday, the only extreme activity I did was acupuncture. The aim was to bolster my immune system and keep energy flowing through my muscles. Sleeping with a chest taped up like a football player and cuts healing wasn’t easy. It was on the back buffered by lots of small pillows, (stomach sleepers would suffer) which was fine since I sleep on my back mostly and with bent knees at a right or left angle. Should be a good stretch. My bra which I wear all night as well during this experience had become a part of my skin. I recommend the Sassybax brand which are soft, comfortable and flexible. No wires or metal. About two sizes larger than you would normally wear.

I was early as usual to my surgeon’s office, parking my car at quite a distance closer to the radiation building. A brisk walk early in the morning helped raise my spirits. A prayer moment. My surgeon agreed I was OK and I was surprised he wasn’t going to deaden my boob. But he said, I wouldn’t need it, and I didn’t. He took out the temporary cavity filler balloon and installed the new fancy one which was inflated with some liquid to keep it in place. He took a few photographs vis a vis ultrasound and I became the deliverer of one to the radiologist. When I commented that I read lumpectomy was just as effective as a mastectomy, he patted me and said I was very lucky (blessed) that such progress has been made. A dozen years ago and I’d have had the entire breast removed. I thanked him and God for that. He also said after the radiology, he would recommend me to one of the oncologists at West Clinic.

I hiked across the parking lots to the radiation center. There I was attended to promptly. My nerves were bucking like a horse speared with spurs in his withers. Would he, wouldn’t he - what would the answer be? After undressing to the waist, and putting on the proverbial hospital robe, I waited by a large lady in a wheelchair wearing sky blue crocs. She looked extremely saddened by all this rigamarole. We were now in the same club and always would be but didn’t know each other’s names.

I was led to the MRI room. Well, it’s a version off. A large round cream colored cavity awaited me like a headboard on a bed. I laid on the strip provided and as I looked up had to laugh because the ceiling, normally dull panels of sound proofing material, was bright with a scene of azaleas, dogwood, and trees dripping with moss. I focused on the beauty of nature and tried to get my mind off the fact of what was happening and the final answer from the radiologist. The equipment was generously open so I wouldn’t get claustrophobic. Of course everyone leaves the room and you realize you are being zapped with all sorts of dangerous rays. But all in the name of cancer. After the cameras did a fast whirl around my chest area, it stopped. And I lay there waiting for the end of the world. I felt like Godot. I was waiting for something but didn’t know when it was going to get to me. It felt like a decade.

Finally the nurse came in and I asked her what was happening - she said there was some fluid in the balloon (of course, the surgeon and put fluid in to inflate the balloon, as is proper.) But I didn’t know that and I panicked. Then she quickly came back in and said the technician (I thought she said physicist, but I’m sure that’s wrong) said it was OK and all they needed was Dr. Lee’s OK, and he usually agreed with the technician. He stepped in and with no smile said OK. So whew. My instinct was to hug God, and remember all the people praying for me at this time.

They lifted me up (without my exercise, I’m getting stiff) and led me to the X-Ray room. More photos by an interesting contraption that rolls around while you lay on the table, once again looking up at lighted panels of azaleas. (I wondered if they change flowers each season.) Why they can’t let mammograms use this method? I know that I’ll see this X-Ray room twice a day for five days during treatment. It keeps track of what’s going on in the balloon in my breast. I could not help but think with all these X-rays, if I didn’t already have cancer, I’d surely get it. Hopefully they aren’t dangerous as they once were.

When I had to deal with re-dressing, I realized I had a complex of tubes hanging out under my arm. This is where the action of radiation will take place. I fold them up into my bra, pressing them against my left underarm, and I’m ready. I was a bit shaky as I walked to the car carrying my rather heavy purse on the opposite side. I had to pick up a prescription for a 100 dollar antibiotic to take twice a day while I have the balloon in me with the tubes hanging out. The prescription wasn’t ready - so I found a smoothie place since the idea of a cold fruit smoothie made of yellow fruits sounded comforting.

And finally I drove home accompanying Kate Campbell on the CD player with my own version of harmony. Rachael Ray was cooking with Kate Hudson on the TV. Valentine flowers needed watering. But the first thing I did was email my trek guide that we were a GO.

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