Sunday, May 15, 2011

Treatment this is Lisa, Lisa this is treatment.

    The first six weeks of treatment were very…real, to say the least. I was soon officially diagnosed as a Stage 3 with a T3-T4 size tumor; (T4’s are the biggest tumor size you can have) to put it into perspective, my surgeon said that my tumor was the size of a goose-egg and was covering 90% of my rectum; go big or go home right?! I very quickly realized that you can watch as many movies or read as many books with characters who have cancer, but until you (unfortunately) - in some form - experience it yourself, you really have no clue, and I hope you never do.
    For five days a week I, very stylishly might I add, carried around a fanny pack that held my 24-hour continuous flow of Fluorocail chemo or 5FU as it is most commonly called; wherever I went, the fanny pack went - to the store, to dance practice, to dinner, to visit friends, to the doctor - it was always & literally, attached to my hips. It took some time to get over the whole vanity aspect of wearing a 1980's fanny pack 5 days a week, 24/7 in the year 2010, but at times - I’m not going to lie - I kind of felt like a badass & I’m pretty sure that someday, sooner or later, the fanny pack will make it’s way back into mainstream & when it does Hulk Hogan & I can say “we brought fanny back”.
    There’s more to the story of the first 6 week cycle of 5FU, but I’ll save that for later when it makes more sense. For now though, I had the most common side effects from chemo: crazy nausea, crazy fatigue, and the beginning of crazy nerve damage/pain in my hands in feet; I did, however, luck out a bit though - only a few hairs on my head fell out throughout the entire treatment process. I’m still not exactly sure how I managed that one, but I did and, for me, it was one less thing to have to worry about; it was almost satisfying, like finally I was able to beat some sort of odds.
    Along with the chemotherapy came the radiation therapy which was also 5 days a week  (it actually ended up being 28 treatments all together because of holidays) & it was more than real, it was…well, it was an experience. I remember my entire body physically shaking for my first treatment because I was so nervous; this made everything seem so real; there was no more pretending nothing was wrong or that it was no big deal - it was a big deal and the time had finally come to start facing it head on. 
    After the nurses get your body aligned to your slide stats ala radiation tattoos, they then leave the room and suddenly you find yourself laying on a hard table, pants down (with a paper sheet for “privacy” of course) arms above your head, staring at the ceiling and realizing, at that very moment, you are completely & utterly alone. I remember wondering how many people had looked at the same ceiling tile that I was now looking at - I wondered what they may have looked like, how old they were, and what their story may be. I wondered if they were mothers or fathers, daughters or sons, sisters or brothers. I wondered who had lived & who had died & I wondered which category I would ultimately find myself in at the end of my battle. Dramatic, I know.
    The radiation itself only took about 5-6 minutes each treatment - I was hit from 4 angles: underneath, left side, right side, and then directly above my pelvis and yes, it was in that exact order. It didn’t take long to build a relationship with the radiation techs (both named Heather) who I saw more frequently then most of my friends. At first, they asked about my story and I got the same “but you’re so young, you’re only 26!” reaction from each of them, but I don’t blame them, I would have said the same thing. Soon enough, the conversations switched from cancer to life and everyday things; they would ask me about dance team or we would gab about what different TV shows we all were addicted to; I would ask how their children were spending their summers and they would ask questions about Chad & I - how we had met (at work), how long we had been together (six years at the time), and how he was handling my diagnosis (“he's my rock”). We often joked about my sexy fanny pack and how every Friday, I would be “fanny-free” because I would be “de-accessed” before radiation.
    At first, I didn’t experience any harsh side effects from radiation but soon enough, they caught up with me and rocked my world. Wow is really the only word that can truly sum it up. About 3 weeks into treatment my “bottom” started turning various colors of the rainbow - from blue to purple to red to orange - they were all in the mix at some point. Of course my precarious mind was positive I was the only person in the entire world this was happening to; it had to be another sure-sign that my tumor was continuously ever-growing and that I was some freak of cancer nature; turns out, I wasn’t…my side-effects were completely normal and were had by most who receive pelvic radiation, but in my mind, who would have thought?!
    There are some more intrusive side effects, but I think even I have to draw the privacy line somewhere…I mean, I think you need to at least take me to dinner and buy me a drink first; or seeing as I don’t drink, definitely dinner. Stay tuned. ;)

1 comment:

  1. I remember staring at the ceiling too! I had a pretty beach scene to stare at, as if that somehow made it better. My tattoos are still there, kind of a reminder of what I have over come and what I'm still fighting. I hate the "youre so young" yes I know that but cancer doesn't discriminate, there are kids far younger than we are who are fighting cancer too, that to me isn't fair, they should be out running around eating ice cream, not cooped up in a hospital. I had 2 nuns that would come and sit in the radiation waiting room. they were so funny and always looked forward to seeing me and Aiden, they would watch Aiden for me while I received radiation if Cody wasn't with. On my last day of radiation they put me in a graduation cap and gown because I had graduated from radiation therapy. lol they even gave me a certificate :) My skin never turned any color but red like a might have freaked me out!