Monday, September 10, 2018

Day 1 of Radiation

Today was day 1 of radiation.  1/30 done now.  I had 2 appointments leading up to day 1, both of which included lots of positioning, x-rays, and sharpie marks.  Today was the first day of actual radiation, though.

I arrived and went back to the radiation waiting room, and changed into my robe.  They provide hospital gowns, but I wanted to bring something pretty to wear since I'll be spending the next 6 weeks there.  The silk robe my friend Jennifer sent me from Thailand fit the bill nicely.



The radiation team is fantastic.  They're all really friendly.  They had me get comfortable on my mold on the radiation table (the one we made last week) and started with some xrays, which will be standard procedure to make sure I'm lined up correctly each time before beginning.  The appointment took about 30 minutes, with the radiation done in 4-5 zones with breath holds, 20-25 seconds each, needed for each one.  They're using both photon and electron radiation on me, though I'm not sure what that means.  I didn't feel anything besides some positional discomfort during the session, but had a bit of a surprise at the end.  I was told that for the first two weeks of the six, they would be adding a bolus to the sessions (every other day).  The bolus acts like skin and brings the radiation closer to the surface, which apparently is where I need it.  Unfortunately that changed the team's tune from "some people hardly burn" to "you'll burn."

There's nothing I can do to prevent burning, but I do need to take care of my skin as best I can.  Radiation dries it out, so I'll be applying cream twice a day until I burn.  Miaderm is my cream of choice, though I used Aquaphor tonight in a pinch.  Miaderm has a lotion/cream consistency, while Aquaphor is more of an oily ointment; I definitely prefer the Miaderm.  When I start burning, I'll add in some pure Aloe gel and Calendula cream in the middle of the day.  Oronine cream was also recommended, so I may use that at night.  I'll be showering every morning so that I have nothing on my skin when I arrive for my daily radiation.  I have a bunch of mens undershirts to wear 24/7 for the next 6 weeks to keep all of my creams and Sharpie lines from transferring to other things.

Since I have 30 radiation appointments to look forward to (29 now!), I did something fun - I bought 30 scratch-off lottery tickets.  I'll have something to look forward to at the end of the day besides burnt skin and incredible fatigue.


1/30 done!


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Thursday, August 30, 2018

If You're Having a Mastectomy...

If you're going to have a mastectomy, there are some things you can do to prepare.

I'm not talking about mental and emotional preparation; that's all very personal.  There's only so much you can do to prepare yourself (and your spouse and children, if you have them) to lose a body part or two.

I'm talking about practical preparation, which can help you feel better - at least you'll be doing something while you wait for your breast amputation to happen.

While everyone's experience differs, these are some of the items that I found the most helpful for my surgery and recovery:

One of things I couldn't have lived without for the first couple of weeks was my mastectomy pillow.  I found a pattern online, Gisèle picked out the fabric, and my mom sewed it for me.  It's fluffy and soft, with flannel on both sides.  After surgery I used it to protect my chest from my arms or anything else that wanted to rest on it, and also used it as a seatbelt protector.

My lovely mom, showing the shape of the pillow, with cutouts for the arms.
Here's the other side of the pillow, doing its job protecting my chest from a cuddly kitty.

Button-up pajamas.  I wore nothing but these for the first week.  My favorites are the super-soft knit shorts and short-sleeved shirt sets from Gilligan & O'Malley at Target, like the ones below.  I preferred shorts and short-sleeves because they were the easiest to get on and off, and I could always cover up if I got cold.




Button-up shirts and soft joggers/yoga pants.  When you do want to get dressed, you're still not going to be able to pull anything on over your head, so you'll need button-up shirts.  Buy a size or two larger than you'd normally wear.  Even though you'll be missing breasts, you'll have drains to contend with, and the extra room will be more comfortable.  I found soft, comfy shirts at Target and Old Navy, and pants at Old Navy and Kohl's.  I also wore soft zip-up hoodies as shirts when I didn't want to do up all the buttons.  Old Navy was a favorite for those, too.

Drain pouches.  I wore one 24/7 until the drains were all out.  I actually had 2, handed down from a friend & fellow survivor. One was solid black material, and the other was mesh and had longer strings.  The mesh one was meant to be used as a shower drain bag, but I ended up using it all the time.  It zipped shut, so I could keep the drain tubes corralled, and the strings were long enough that I could wrap them around and tie them in front.  Since I was spending so much time sitting or laying down, it was nice not to have a knot in the middle of my back.  I used a lanyard to pin the drain pouch(es) to when I showered so I could keep the drain pouch dry.  The pouch I used looked similar to this:



A wedge pillow.  This was recommended by ladies on the YSC (Young Survival Coalition) Facebook page, and came in handy when I transitioned from sleeping in the recliner to sleeping in the bed.  I wasn't able to lay completely on my back, so I spent about a week laying on the wedge pillow, instead.  I bought mine from Amazon:



I would also recommend a good neck pillow.  If you spend time sleeping in a recliner, like I did, this comes in handy.  The one I bought stayed nice and cool, which helped with my hot flashes.


Silicone scar strips.  These were recommended by my physical therapist to help better the appearance of my scars.  I ordered long ones (7in) from Amazon, and each strip is just long enough for one of my scars.


I'm sure there are other things, but... chemo brain.

I had my radiation simulation today, but that is for another post.
 


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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Gisèle, Age 11







1. What is your favorite color? "Purple.  Lavender purple."

2. What is your favorite toy? "I don't know.  I don't really... what do you mean by toy?  Like, actual toy?  I like books and drawing."

3. What is your favorite fruit?  "I enjoy mango and raspberries."
      
4. What is your favorite tv show?  "K.C. Undercover.  And I also like Bizaardvark." 

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?  "I like leftover casserole."
     
6. What is your favorite outfit?  "Ooh... I don't know.  I like all my outfits!  I like my new Harry Potter one {shirt}that I got the best."

7. What is your favorite game?  "I like Cover Your Assets."

8. What is your favorite snack?  "I like apples and cheddar."

9. What is your favorite animal?  "Baby elephant."
   
10. What is your favorite song?  "I'm not sure if it's Overcomer {Mandisa} anymore.  I think it might be Popular from Wicked.  I like singing along to any song from Wicked."
    
11. What is your favorite book? "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

12. Who is your best friend?  "It's weird 'cause I just started school and I don't see Hannah that much.  I'd probably still say Hannah.  And Andrianna, Sabrina, and Melanie."

13. What is your favorite breakfast? "I really like waffles still.  And bacon.  Waffles and bacon." 

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?  "I like playing disc golf.  I also like playing roof ball with Miles."

15. What is your favorite drink?  "I like the blackberry lemonade from Mod {Pizza}."
   
16. What is your favorite holiday?  "Christmas."

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?  "A book."
  
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for dessert?  "Ooh - that's a hard one right there.  I'll take any dessert."

19. What is your favorite dinner?  "I like carnitas, and tacos, and anything Mexican."
  
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?  "Actress!"

Happy 11th birthday, Gisèle!  I'm so blessed to be your mom, and can't wait to see what this year has in store for you!  










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