Saturday, June 30, 2012

Radiation & Chemo

Friday June 29

8:00 am - My recliner chair awaits. Today, I had Nurse Karen.  I mentioned that I didn't remember seeing her before and she said she remembered me and that she has been doing this for 24 years.  (wow, memory really is shot).  She took my vitals (BP 143/92).  Once the Herceptin drip was set up, I leaned back with my blanket that Jane made and another one that was heated .... ahhhhhh. Karen gave me a glass of orange juice and pillows. 

I'm spoiled

I hit twilight for the hour.  It was nice to just relax.  I feel as if I'm on the go all the time. Work, treatments, this-n-that.

Made it to work around 9:30.  Two of my co-worker's birthdays and a pot luck today.  Friday!!

4:00 pm - Left for radiation treatment.  I had a few messages on my phone. First one said to not report to radation today unless I hear back from them.  Second one, come on in.  Once I got there, the tech showed me the piece on the equipment that had broke.  So that was the problem..... hmmm, glad it was fixed. 

Round 20 = 4 weeks

Some how, the days seem to be flying by.  In other ways, it seems like I have been doing this for way too long.  Time is a funny thing.

My eyebrows are just about totally back.  They were the last hairs that I lost and the first hairs to grow back.  My head is full of soft fuzz.  My finger nails are growing, but 3 of them broke clear down (ouch).  Still not totally healthy looking, but they are getting there. 

I'm so grateful for the care that I'm receiving.  There are so many that are involved in my treatment and in saving my life.  None of this can be taken for granted.  Even though Herceptin still has unanswered questions, I'm glad that it is available.

Saturday June 30

Christie, mom & I went to Bob Evans for breakfast.  It was tough trying to get my butt out of bed, but I'm thankful to get to visit with them and have a wonderful meal.  Afterwards, I took a nap .... 3 hours!  Oh boy, hope I sleep tonight :)

Peace be with you ~

In the clouds - Blue Ridge Mountains

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Brain

I usually see Dr R on Wednesday's, so I was surprised when the tech said to wait for the nurse to take me back to see the doc.  It is good to touch base, especially since I'm pioneering the prone position and can give him feedback from a patient's point of view.  Today, we talked about the MRI and the headaches.

He did state that there was no cancer in the brain and, naturally, we are relieved.  I asked him if I've ever had TIAs .... none showed .... no strokes either.  My memory has been shot, my concentration just about nil, and trying to remember how to spell words can be frustrating.  Doc said that my grey matter looked like an older person's.  Wha???? He said that the veins were thick, like a smoker or someone with high cholesterol.  Well, I quit smoking about 11 years ago and I don't have high cholesterol.  Then he mentioned a condition that had three words, and I'm sorry that I didn't write them down.  First word was "cardiovascular". 

I will definately find out before too long

Doc thinks my headaches could be migrane related.  I use to have intense migranes a long time ago.  (a few head injuries in childhood)  Or, perhaps it is my blood pressure meds that need adjusted.

He said that he is sending the report to my primary care doctor and will let him decide the next step.... maybe a neurologist.

Well, I'm not sweating it.  Remaining calm.

No cancer on the brain is the silver lining

Doc also mentioned that not too long ago, people with my type of cancer didn't have much chance.  But now with the "smart chemo" = Herceptin, we have a much better chance than ever.  That perked me up, yet gave me pause ....

Funny when those reality checks come in 

Tomorrow morning, chemo.  Thank you brillant people who developed Herceptin and Thank you to patients who endured trials upon trials.

Springfield Lake

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

MRI Results

I arrived for my daily "glow" appointment and a nurse met me as the tech was taking me to the treatment room.  She said that Dr R was not in today, so he wanted her to give me a message.  He looked at the MRI results and "did not find any disease in my brain".  They aren't sure what is causing my headaches, but this is a BIG RELIEF.  I didn't realize how much I was stuffing my emotions until she gave me the news.

I gave her a hug and happy tears flowed

The techs were throwing out some possibilities .... perhaps my blood pressure meds need adjusting, or perhaps my glasses need adjusted.  Sound familiar?  Same things that I was thinking about.  My sister gave me her blood pressure device so I can get some daily readings.  Then, I'll make an appointment with my family doctor. 

I asked the techs if radiation could be giving me the headaches and they said only if I was being treated on my head (which I'm not).

I don't want to live in constant fear of the "what if's". 

One day at a time. Right?

Friday morning will be another Herceptin drip.  If I see Doc Esther, I'll touch base with what has been going on.  Not scheduled to see her until August.

Enough about that ....

Praying for those surround by wild fires.  Keeping a close watch on Casey as the danger seems to be everywhere. Also for those affected by the hurricane.  Crazy, mixed up world.

My brain has been completely foggy.  I can't seem to write very well (maybe I never really have!)  Concentration is horrible too. 

Hopefully my blog isn't boring everyone to tears!  Quite honestly, writing this all down is good therapy for me and since I can't remember a lick of anything, it is a great way to keep track of events, symptoms, appointments, etc. 

Know what I mean jelly bean?

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Say "Cheese"

Monday ~ picture day.  Keeping visual track of my breast by the routine photo shoot before radiation treatment.  In the middle the shoot, I knew that my arm and neck were in a bad position.  I just had to hang on a little longer and get through the radiation. Oh my gosh, laying prone sucks. 

Still waiting on the MRI results.

Yep, my head hurts.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Beginning of a New Week

Saturday, the MRI went okay.  The nurse was as gentle as she could be with my veins.  She found one in my right hand (which seems to be the only one folks can find).  With the smallest needle, the vein rolled the first try and then she got it on the second try.  So very glad I was laying down. 

Very glad for the ear plugs as well.  The machine hit pitches like a jack hammer.  At one point, I was counting the patterns 1 2 3 4 5 .... 1 2 3 4 5 6 ..... 1 2 3 4 5 .... etc.  At times, it reminded me of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (just needed the noise to be music). 

Now for the waiting .... patiently waiting

Afterwards, I met up with Teri at our "half-way" point.  Panera, shopping, Applebee's, more shopping.  Got home and stayed up the latest in a long time (11:30).

Sunday ~ The Beginning of a New Week

We visited a church this morning.  It is very close to home and we liked the message and the preaching.  It was a different church than last Sunday .... just looking for our "home" church.  This one might be it.  Matt felt very comfortable there.

Christie visited this afternoon and brought over four more scarves that she made from the material I picked out.  They are SO beautiful!  Thank you Christie!

My hairs are growing back!  Little peach fuzz!!! HAHAHAHAHA

Enjoy this perfect day!

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Round 15

Friday - Completed #15 = 3 weeks

Radiation treatment seems to be going quickly.  The cream is helping to keep the redness under control (although it is staining my bra).  Tonight we went out to dinner and did some shopping at wally-world (aka Walmart) and I experienced a deep stabbing pain in my treated breast.  Haven't felt that before and I'm not sure if it is "normal".

Life is full of "new norms"

Traffic was really backed up and I made it there 10 minutes before closing.  Crazy construction.

The MRI is scheduled for Saturday at 10am.  They are going to use the contrast ... last time, it was accessed in my hand and it felt like the dye was exploding my veins.  Not looking forward to this.

After everything else, what's one more needle?

Have a blessed weekend.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Today is Wednesday ~ I see the radiation doctor every Wednesday.

I mentioned that I have been getting headaches daily for a couple of weeks and told him about the incident that happened Saturday.  I thought it could be my blood pressure.  I've been on my B.P. medication for at least 3 years now.  If anything, I can at least contact my family doctor and get checked out, or at least buy a pressure cup for home and monitor it.  He wants to do an MRI instead.

Just to make sure

I haven't considered that before (and I'm not even going to speak it out loud).

My blood pressure (taken from ankle vs arm):

Jun 20    159/95
Jun 8      146/85
May 22   138/74
May 7     128/78
Apr 27    140/69

So I mentioned, what about my vision changing and the need for new glasses? 

He said that could be it as well .... or possibly stress.  Let's do the MRI

Just to make sure

Okay, let's talk about that then. 

Once the radiation is done,
how do you know all the cancer is gone? 

He said that "we don't".  There is no blood test that will confirm it is gone. Just monitoring me on a regular basis and running various "scans" (mammogram, ultrasound, c-scan, mri).  It is all based on statistics and patients before me as oncology is researched year after year. 

My nodes were tested and clear of cancer.  They also got "clear margins" when the lump of cancer was removed.  That is all good news.  He said I was actually in remission after surgery.  Hmmmm, I didn't realize that.

I haven't asked that question before.  Now, the question is foremost in my mind ~

Just to make sure

That word caught my attention .... remission.  He said that patients have told him what it was like after going into remission and how it felt like a dagger was hanging just over their head waiting for it to fall.  And after year one, year two, etc the feeling slowly lessened as remission continued. 

That is something cancer patients are always going to have. Fear of it coming back.  I know a lady who has had it FIVE times.  How do you cope with that?

Constant fear cannot control your life

These headaches? I probably need new glasses or it could be stress .....or it could be side effect from the Herceptin.  I could be part of the very few who might have side effects such as:

Well, I will wait on the MRI .... Just to make sure

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

By the way

The middle of last week, my eyebrows started growing back.  I had to get real close to the mirror to make sure I was really seeing them.  It seemed to happen when I was sleeping.  At first, I thought it was smudge and wondered how I got that in my sleep. 

Now I can express myself.

Getting some dark peach fuzz on my head as well.  Each day, just a little bit more.  Kinda habit forming to rub my hand over my scalp, lol.

I've been getting some massive headaches over the past two weeks or so.  Friday night, Matt almost took me into ER.  I could hear the blood flowing in my ears and my heart pounding in my head.  My lips were numb.  I think my blood pressure was in overdrive.  That's the first time I felt that.  I laid down with a cold washrag on my head.  Still getting headaches, but not to the intensity of this episode.

The heat of the summer has set in .... loved the rain we had, but it created high humidity. 

Yesterday, they took a series of photos before radiation.  Because of that, I had to lay in the prone position longer and that was hard.  It's like having your forehead pressed against a 2x4 board.  But, I can't complain too loudly.  This is just part of the deal I agreed to in order to save my life for a few more years.  At least that's the plan.

I'm looking forward to my strength coming back so I can dig into some projects. So much to do! 

Be a blessing to someone today ~ It feels so good!

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Sunday, June 17, 2012


The word "ignite" has been mentioned 3 separate times today. 

Once, when my husband was speaking of a church he went to last week that ignited the passion he once had .... the excitement of worship that drew him out of the wall of shyness.  That is saying a lot.

Once again when I got a text from my daughter who is developing a concept for her community and thought of "Ignite the Flame. Follow the passion that burns inside of you...."

The 3rd time was when she called me from her drive to Colorado Springs to tell me she just entered a wall of smoke.  We are hearing about all the wildfires out west and now a new one about 1/2 hour from her home and about 1/2 hour from Colorado Springs.  For this, we pray for all those who may loose their homes, schools and more as the flames draw near.  We pray for those who are fighting the fires and putting their lives in danger.  We pray for God's creatures and His beauty that are in peril.

I don't know the answers as to "why".  All I know is that we can pray and ask for God's protection.  This country needs it so very much.


ignite [ɪgˈnaɪt]
1. to catch fire or set fire to; burn or cause to burn
2. (Chemistry) (tr) Chem to heat strongly
3. (tr) to stimulate or provoke the case has ignited a nationwide debate
[from Latin ignīre to set alight, from ignis fire]

It is amazing how this word can have different meanings.  Right? It just dependents on your circumstances. 

Take this crazy canzer thingy

After you get over the shock of hearing that word, you then have to deal with it.  After you begin the process of learning about it, going through treatments, all kinds of things begin to happen.

Everyone has a different experience, so I am only speaking for myself.

I began looking at my priorities, my bucket list, myself.  Then I began the awareness, roused, stimulated, awake ~~~ ignited.  I didn't want to just walk through life.  I want to DO something that matters! And then,

A deep calm

So very peaceful

Such grace

No fear

Complete joy


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Friday, June 15, 2012

Round 10

Two weeks down!!!

Ahhhh, Friday.  End of the week and I'm sleeping in tomorrow! Everything is fine and dandy. 

The tech gave me a picture of me on the table with the mesh on my back and he also gave me the link to a model doing the same thing.

Trust me, you can't move when it's locked down tight

You are looking at the MODEL!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Round 8

Route 8 backed up (again), ugh ~

I asked how many sessions I had left and the tech checked the computer screen.  I looked at the figures and quickly added in my head *tongue-in-cheek* (I feel brain dead)

25 standard
  7 boost

Now, that's 32 and I thought it was 33! 

I told him he just made my day!!!!

Well, he said, it depends on if the doctor wants to change some of the radiation "type" .... it might add to or subtract to the total count.

~ Sigh ~

Wednesdays, I meet with the doctor.  Dr. R was not in today, so I saw the lady doctor from the "photo" session.  I opened my ball gown, she took a quick peek and didn't even touch me.  All done.

The nurse said that samples of cream (XClair) were still not in and they don't know when they will get some.  So, I asked for a script and I would be charged $50 through insurance for 1 tube.  Nurse said that I could get 2 tubes for $65 through a mail order vendor they use and it would be delivered to my home the NEXT DAY.

Love it ~
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Today's Thought

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

2 Corinthians 4:7-9
I usually put all my devotions on my tab "Inspiration".  Today, it is right out front.
The White Farm

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Round 7

This morning, I broke another blood vessel.  This one is on my foot from the base of my little toe, wrapped around the side to the back on the "padded" part of the foot.  Ouch.  I just stepped on the plastic matt under the office chair.  My body seems so fragile.

The day went by slowly. 

I made it to radiation and was taken right in.  It is getting faster to line everything up and blast me.  I asked them when the fatigue is suppose to hit and they said about two weeks into treatment. 

But I'm tired now!

They just smiled and said it's because this is like a part time job (having to report in every day) plus working my full time job, effects of chemo, yada-yada-yada.

Then they said, just wait for the phase "I don't want to do this anymore!"

I said, I'm already there!

~ 26 remaining ~

Dad's dock & boat

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Round 6

Monday ~ the beginning of a new week. 

Not too much wit and humor today, just don't feel like it.  My sister and her husband just received a call that his life long friend just died.  So sudden .... they just saw him yesterday.  It is times like these that make you pause and wonder.  Life can change in a second.  My prayers go out to Bonnie and her family.  May Don find peace in the beauty of Heaven.

Staying focused, staying positive, just tired.

~ 27 remaining ~

Praying for you too, Judy, as you continue on your journey.
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Saturday, June 9, 2012


I worked 5-1/2 hours today to make up all the time missed for treatments.  Sure got a lot done in the quiet. 

Afterwards, I went to Clinique. Just love meeting women who "get it".  A beautiful lady seemed to remember me and it was awesome chatting with her.

Calling all women! Get your mammogram!!!
Walk thru your fear ~
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Friday, June 8, 2012

Round 5 + Herceptin

This morning I was due for my Herceptin drip.  My appointment was 8:30am and it was about 9:15 when the IV was administered.  They were really busy and had 70 patients that would be coming through today.  Canzer is everywhere.  I was in a private room and Nurse Bev took great care of me.

L-O-V-E the heated blankets!

I tried to relax my body and quiet my mind enough to take advantage of the moments of stillness. I am so very tired, but couldn't fade into sleep (too much activity outside the opened door). 

Got my blood test done for the Coumadine and found it to be 3.3 (should be between 2 - 4).  Doc Esther's office called me at work with the results and now I am back down to just 1 pill a day.

I asked Nurse Bev if I had been on Taxol or Taxotere.  A friend of mine is getting ready for Taxol and I couldn't remember what I had.  To my "shock", I was on Taxol.  I say this because the paper I received during orientation on the 3 drugs wasn't Taxol, it was Taxotere.

Any reference of Taxotere in my blog is wrong!

Explains my confusion whenever I heard references about my chemo drugs all those months.  I just started to  believe that it was the same drug (namebrand and generic).  Oh, brother!

I made it back to work finally and tried to get my mind focused.  By 1:00, I was incredibly tired and just wanted to go home and sleep.

At 4:00, I clocked out to make it to radiation treatment by 4:30.  They were running behind and I got in a little after 5:00.  I met a lady while waiting and we exchanged stories.  She began a week before me.

One tech this time and I got in & out quickly. 

It was a long week.  I need 5-1/2 hours of make up time and will work Saturday to catch up.  I think I might sleep the weekend away after that.

One week DONE!


 28 LEFT!

All Aboard!

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Round 4

The numbers are counting down fast. Tomorrow will be a week in to the radiation treatment.  Set up is going a lot faster too.  Today, I was in & out really fast.

The best news is that the 4:30 appointment slot became available and I now have it starting tomorrow.  Instead of leaving work at 3:30, I can leave at 4:00.  Really good news.

Getting thru the muck and mire and seeing the finish line

Marsh land in Florida

29 left!

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Round 3

So, round 3 on Wednesday was SO much better.  I saw Dr R first and he was certain that I did not have an infection.  He did say that it was the beginning of the redness and tenderness that usually starts two weeks into treatment.  My skin is sensitive and I did warn them about that.   We discussed various creams and he said that they try to give out as many samples as possible (pricey) but they were all out.  The one packet I got the day before will have to due until more comes in.

Dr R also showed me  (my) photos of how the laser beam is hitting the treated areas and my lung is being totally by-passed.  To actually see it for myself makes it all worthwhile.  He was very polite and quizzed me on my physical health and the treatment itself.  I let him know some of the hard spots laying in that position.

Holly & Tim helped me get in position and this time, Tim didn't lock down the right side of my head.  I promised not to move and it was A LOT better.

It put me in a happy place of blue skies and green trees. 

Florida - Best boat ride EVER!

30 remaining!

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

No Pain No Gain?

I woke up this morning with redness a little bigger than half a dollar.  Feels just like a sunburn ... tight, itchy, hot.  I try to be proactive. I thought by calling the doctor's office this afternoon to get a prescription (or at least a sample) of cream ordered, I could get it after my treatment.  The nurse said that it couldn't be the radiation treatment because it takes at least two weeks  before side effects occur. She actually said

It has to be from something else


That threw me for a loop ~ trust me, I haven't been slapped on the boob nor suntanning with my top off.   She said that Dr R would have to see me on Wednesday (he wasn't in today) and I said "I need help with this now, do you have a sample that you can give me?"  Nope, she was all out.  She did agree to have the other doctor in the group see me before my 2nd treatment began.

I made it to the appointment (again with 2 minutes to spare because of new construction that just popped up) and went thru the motions of getting my ball gown on.  This time, I had my spring jacket to zip up the front.  Gave me a bright idea ~ I'm taking my summer robe tomorrow.

The doc examined the situation and seemed perplexed.  She mentioned the word "infection" and I thought "how?"  Doc decided to go ahead and get my treatment (sectioning off the burned area). I agreed to have a photograph taken so Dr R could see if today's treatment made it any worse or not.

It's amazing how all shyness disappears

Two technicians, Holly & Scott (have to double-check that) got me set up.  This time they placed linen all over the arm area to soften it.  I tried to explain the pressure on my forehead, but will have to try (yell) harder tomorrow.  Once that mesh was locked in, the stabbing pain hit.  It didn't take quite as long today, and I was relieved to get my head released from the jaws of death .... (too dramatic?)

Note to self: Remember to remove dangly earrings

Totally forgot to take them off and one got tangled in the mesh.  Holly was quick to help.

So, they did find a sample of cream to try out.  Doc said it cost $75.  I will be finding out how much insurance is going to pay for it.

Tomorrow Dr R and

31 more to go!

Florida where the gators are

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Monday, June 4, 2012

First Radiation Treatment & Lessons Learned

I made it to the radiation oncology with 2 minutes to spare (accident on the freeway to get around).  There are only 6 parking spaces in a narrow parking lot, which were all taken.

Valet parking! (am I suppose to tip them?)

Swiped my "I'm here!" card and made my way to the dressing room.  I didn't have long to wait.  I was taken back by Tim & Holly to get things rolling.  Apparently, the film they took before the power went out Friday didn't transfer over in the system.  So, new photos were necessary before the treatment began.  I asked Holly to cushion my forearms a little to help the pressure of holding myself up.  It worked for the most part (although my arms were still shaking by the time they were done).  This time, though, the intense pain came from the hard Styrofoam that my forehead rested on.  When that mesh is clamped down tight, nothing moves and my body & head are PRESSED down hard.


I was in that position for almost 30 minutes.  I'm so glad that one was done.   I need to figure out how to ease that pressure from my forehead.  Have you ever eaten something really cold and you get that  brain freeze?  To me, that's intense and that's how it felt.

Once I got down from the table and "situated", I asked Tim if I needed the cream that everyone was talking about.  He said that the cream treats the symptoms and if you use the cream before the symptoms appear, then you make it worse.  So, wait until then.

Anybody disagree?

Then I asked him how the radiation beam was hitting me .... from the back down to the front? That's what I assumed since the 3 tats were on my back.  Nope, that was just to position and line me up.  From the sides ~ That's all I'm giving you.

Just have to use your imagination

I'm thinking about taking my camera in .... I can't find a photo on the net showing you what the mesh looks like.  Perhaps the tech can take a picture.  After I see it, then you can see it.  Perhaps.

I was explaining to Debbie some more details from when the lights went out and she thought it was really funny. I can't seem to remember everything when I'm writing posts.  So, here is the "addendum".

When the power went out and they decided to let me go home, the table was high off the ground.  Plus, the round part of the machine was just inches above my head.  If you can picture yourself (or me) sliding towards the end of the table

like GI Jane under barb wire

to clear the machine above me; then sitting up just to realize that the table was very high up when the power went out.  Again, I must say, I even surprised myself at how agile I was at clutching my gown closed and balancing off the table onto a 3-4 step ladder.


32 more to go!

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Radiation Begins

Today, I went in again for the final adjustments with the mesh that was moulded last week. They also wanted to take films. 

This time, only 3 men
(and a woman came in to replace 2 of them)

I'm a pioneer woman! Not like this awesome Pioneer Woman .... no, just the first patient at Akron General to lay "prone" instead of on my back.  That's pretty exciting, right?  I googled this a bit and read (parts) of Journal of Clinical Oncology, which talks about the "prone position to spare the heart & lung".
My forehead and chin rest on the grey

My "generous" breast is getting blasted from the back to the front. 


So, after pulling and tugging my legs and torso to line my body up to the measurements taken the first time, they left the room to take the film.  After hearing a few hums from the machine,  the power went out EVERYWHERE.  I laid there for a bit with them asking if I was alright and that if it didn't come back on soon, they would let me up and out of the position.  One thing you should know, since the right side of my upper torso is suspended in air (no board underneath that area), my right arm soon became numb.  

Like doing one arm push ups

I was praying for the tingling sensation to go away .... then Kevin said that he was concerned about the two children in the other radiation rooms because they were under anesthesia for their treatment.  It's hard to keep children still during something like this.  Children.  My mind immediately went to them, off of me.

And I began to pray for them instead

~ Canzer is not fair ~

What seemed like eternity, they released me.  Still no power.

As I was being lead back to the dressing room, the power came back on.  Kevin said that I can either come back Monday to finish the simulation & treatment planning or give it a try again.  I decided to stay and wait the 15 minutes for the machine to power up.
Back up on the table (they were impressed by my agility), lining up again became quicker.  They left the room and finally got all the shots they needed.

Right before I was going to loose all strength, we were done.

6-1/2 weeks = 33 days, Monday - Friday @ 4:00pm

June 4 - July 18

I will miss 1-1/2 hours of work each day (plus time every 3 weeks for chemo).  My boss is allowing me to change my work schedule to include Saturday.  I should be able to put in 40 hours.

I'm tired now .... just wait for totally fatigued!!

A friend told me that I "kicked chemo's butt and I will kick radiation's butt too".  So, that's the plan

grit & determination

Thinking of you Marily ~ rest now and I will see you soon.
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