The punchline to today’s post is I do not need to go through chemotherapy.
This is an enormous blessing and answer to prayer. So many of my breast cancer warrior friends had to face chemo for months.
I am very grateful.
But today was hard in its own way. And I’m very tired.
I spent the afternoon at the main MD Anderson campus (I’ve been able to go to the smaller west campus for radiation).
I received the great news that my genomic testing assigned a very low number to my cancer which means chemotherapy would not help recurrence at all. Thrilled for that last piece I’d been waiting on.
My oncologist also gave me news about my menopause status (which I won’t get into), but now I know what medicine I will start at the end of radiation. When radiation ends this month, I start tamoxifen. Then, a couple of years later, I will likely switch to a different type of medicine. In all, I take the pills every day for five years.
This, combined with my lumpectomy and radiation, puts me at no greater risk of more breast cancer than anyone else.
I’ll have another mammogram in 6 months when I do follow ups with my oncologist and radiologist. Those will permanently be moved to MD Anderson which gives me great comfort.
But then, the rest of the day was rough. I had to go through a second radiation simulation. I had a young student who was pretty rough with me on the machine. They have to compress your breast under a plastic board which is fairly painful when your breast is burned from radiation. Then they mark all over your breast, more, to depict where the “booster” radiation will go, starting in 10 days.
If you are going through cancer, this is just another time you have to advocate for yourself. They were going to tape right over my central breast where the burns and pain are the worst. I said NO. I let the techs know I would take it up with my doctor, but I absolutely could not have tape over an area in pain and in desperate need of regular moisture.
It worked. I got out of there without more tape all over my burns. (There’s markers and tape all over the rest of my chest.)
In my meeting with the radiologist, she said, “you are pinker than most patients at this stage of radiation.” This means my burns have hit earlier. I had been praying the reverse would be true. It becomes super important to protect my skin so it stays on. She gave me Mepilex sheets for daytime and magic cool sheets for nighttime. I really like her and her team and am thankful they are being proactive to get me over the finish line.
She also noted that because my breasts are so dense (this is the struggle that has caused so many ultrasounds over the years), the compression may not help for the booster. The seed area they are trying to “super radiate” is deep and my breasts are dense. It could mean I have a little wider area of radiation than we’d hoped just to get to it.
Between the rough simulation and less than happy news coming from radiology, I left near tears again. I’ve decided end of week is really hard for me. I should have left overjoyed at the answer to prayer about chemo, and I am so so thankful, but I felt overwhelmed all over again.
Then last night, I read a post from Jen Hatmaker who has recently gone through a very painful divorce: Dear ones, some of you are sad right now, because you should be. You are feeling appropriate feelings about devastating things, because you are a normal, good person with a normal good heart. There is nothing wrong with you. You should be more concerned if you were skipping right into your next season with nary a care or tear. We feel it now, or it will come roaring out later, ruining every good thing in its path. Grief requires our attention, and we should give it with great care…
She’s right. This is advice I would give any one of my friends. So I gave myself permission to grieve. You can have joy and sadness together. That’s life.
So if you are in the middle of good and hard right now, you are allowed to celebrate the good while grieving the hard. It doesn’t make you ungrateful. It makes you human.
Happy weekend friends.