Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy Graduation to Me!!

It's over! I'm done! Last treatment was today at 1:15pm! Despite the fact that this last week felt like several years all on it's own, I made it through....with flying colors (mostly red and purple!) And they gave me this certificate to prove it!

I know of no way better to get my endorphins flowing than to make people laugh and to give unexpected gifts. As hard as it was to voluntarily succumb to more beams when I was peeling and hurting worse than ever, I dressed up in all the pink stuff my friends sent over these past three months including the outrageous pink and orange wide brimmed hat, pink jewlery and bright pink hospital slippers with shiny bling for my one last treatment.

As hoped, I put a few smiles on their face when I walked in the door. The staff at St Peter's Radiation Oncology was wonderful - this picture is me with two of my nurses Patty and Sharon. I know how hard it was for them to keep sending me in there when my skin looks like it does but they were amazingly compassionate and caring every visit and took the time to look at it every time.
We also brought 3 dozen Golden Harvest Farms cider donuts for all those I interacted with and all those behind the scenes - the receptionists, physicists, the researchers, so many others - who came out to get a sample and say goodbye. And for the doctors, nurses and radiation techs David brought bottles of Hudson-Chatham winery's Pomme Bolle (hard cider made of the Hudson Valley's Northern Spy apples), directions to the winery, and free wine tasting coupons. If we get a few new customers out of this then maybe that's the reason I chose St. Peter's.

And then I got home to 33 of the most beautiful pink roses you have ever seen from my college buddies who always seem to have the most impeccable timing!

After an early dinner with our friends Jennifer and Berry in Hudson, David opened us up a lovely Querceto Chianti Classico to celebrate, the flavors of which are taking me back to the hills of Tuscany.

It has been a long 3 1/2 months. Thank you to all of you for helping me summon the courage to get through it all with your notes, facebook comments, phone calls, light and love. Now it's time to rest, heal and get back to the rest of our life without interruption. And plan that next trip to Tuscany among other things!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Celebrate every moment like White Dog does

With three treatments left I have a bigger smile on my face than my delicious dog does in this photo!

We can learn so much from our pets - most importantly how to live more fully in each and every moment. Islay Bear shows me this every single day. He loves to run at full tilt when we let him out - chasing the latest scents as if he'd never done it before, following new trails, happy as can be, greeting each visitor as if they are the most important thing in the world to him, handling each treat as special requiring inspection and careful consumption on his most favorite corner of the rug.

And he knows. Knows mom needs a little extra loving these days. He snugs a little longer in the morning, waits patiently for me to fully wake, gives me gentle kisses and then carefully guides me out beyond the bedroom where all the fun and food is.

Three more treatments! That's it! I'm going to follow my dog's lead in this time and enjoy every single moment in the now and not anticipate more beams or resulting effects. I am going to accept the warm smiles and positive comments the staff doles out each day. I am going to smile broadly as I walk into the treatment room knowing these will be the last times I experience it.

I wrote a haiku to try and capture this lesson:

White Dog shows the way
every moment of each day
much to celebrate

Monday, September 13, 2010

Anxiety sets in but I am armed!

Young woman making face, showing palm in studio, elevated view, close-up
Today, I completed my 28th radiation treatment, leaving just 5 more to go!! As one of my wonderful friends put it - I can count them on one hand now!!

It is getting harder and harder to drag myself in there every day with the Irish skin under my arm all blistered now with worsening sunburn effects. They keep telling me that my skin looks a lot better than some of their patients at this point in the treatment but that only makes it harder - knowing it can get worse! After a few pep talks from FB friends, sisters and other cancer survivors over the weekend and a discussion with my oncologist's nurse I am now armed with Ativan to help with any more pre-treatment anxiety. However, once I picked it up from the pharmacy, I felt so much better knowing it was available to me that I didn't need to take one today. The brain is a funny thing!

I made the mistake of telling the nurse who was checking my skin that I felt brave after picking up the Rx and didn't end up taking it today after all - and that's when she got mad. She sat down beside me and said stop feeling like you need to be brave. "It hurts and you are allowed to admit that! You've had cancer she said and that is a big, big thing for anyone. Staying positive is important but not to the point where you are keeping all this anxiety in."

Ok, ok! I get it!! So here is my blog post admitting that my skin hurts, I hate cancer, it's hard to stay positive at the tail end of all this, and that I can't wait for it all to be over!!

But not one to stay in bed and wallow over it, this "7" on the enneagram has her ammo:
  • My wonderful David is now driving me to treatments every day so that if I need the Ativan I can take it....and I don't have to go in alone
  • I've dusted off the oxycodone that I didn't need after surgery and am taking it before bed so that I get a full night's sleep.
  • During the day I'm taking "Vitamin I" (ibuprofen) to keep the swelling/pain down as well as using the saline packs my nurses gave me
  • I've got all of you in my court sending good vibes and notes and staying connected so I can ask for help.
  • I've got all my pink stuff out to make me laugh and remind me of all of you.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

10 Day Countdown!

I am all relaxed from a week of vacation, some fun events, and visits with good friends! I am rejuvenated and ready to dive back into work full of energy and renewed enthusiasm. It is amazing what time off does to the soul and the mind - and so important for all of us to indulge in every now and then.

23 down and 10 to go!! My 10 treatment countdown starts today and that fills me with joy and relief. The burn effects from the radiation are now somewhat painful for this pasty white irish girl's skin but the 10 day countdown posted on my fridge is how I'm going to get through it (that and a little extra aloe from the monster plants we have growing in our bathroom!) I have been exing off each day as I complete a treatment and took great delight in marking my last 10 treatment days with their number last week. Exing them out will be my own mini celebration and my big red sharpie pen is ready! I'm already planning my goodbye gifts for the wonderful St. Peter's Radiation Oncology staff. So far a mixed case of Blanc de Blanc (sparkling wine) and Pomme Bolle (hard cider) from Hudson-Chatham Winery tops the list.

I'll be mostly working from home these next two weeks and very appreciative of a boss and team that understands that this is necessary at this point in my treatments. We have all been remote workers at IBM for so long that it's not a big deal and we've all adjusted to it with tools like blackberries, instant messaging, conference calls, and webcast presentations. There is still nothing like face to face meetings to gel us as a team though and I look forward to September 21st when will have our next team get together.

Thanks for all the continued support and good wishes. I hope you all had a relaxing Labor Day Weekend and looking forward to the beautiful fall weather that is already starting here in the Northeast.