Monday, May 23, 2016

Mutant's Imminent Demise

I've been working on another "random thoughts" blog post, tentatively entitled "Daily Diarrhea, My New Normal," or possibly "How Cancer turned Me into a Potty Mouth." Fortunately for us all, I received a call from my oncologist, the lovely Dr. Bradford. She informed me that Mutant has shrunk considerably, even more than she had anticipated. Yay! I felt positively giddy as I thanked her profusely, kind of almost listened to what she was saying about the next step of my treatment, and then rushed about telling everyone my good news. It was a happy day.

I'm still excited. I really am. Reality has a way of moving in and turning a happy dance into a not-as-much-fun-but-totally-necessary march forward, though.  Some serious battles have been won but the war continues. Last week Brian and I met with my radiologist, Dr. Moni, to discuss step two, internal radiation. 

While surgery is still an option, it looks like it may not be necessary, at least not now.  Because my cancer had spread outside of my uterus, surgery would have to be more extensive than a regular hysterectomy. The risks of damage and poor healing from surgery on a previously radiated area are higher than normal, and includes the increased possibility of fistulas forming. Don't know what a fistula is? Neither did I. Google it.


The internal radiation is not for that faint of heart, either.  It will require two hospital stays of a night and two days each. I'll arrive early in the morning and head into an operating room where I will be given general anesthetic. Bless.  Once out, a foley catheter will be inserted into my bladder, my cervix will be dilated, and a three pronged tube will be placed inside me, with the center tube going into my uterus, and the two outer tubes resting on either side of my cervix.  The opening to the tube will be left hanging outside of my body. This is the radiation deliver system.  Once I am awake and ready to go, I will have an MRI to make sure that everything is in the right place, and then I'll have the first treatment.  Radiation will be applied through the tubes directly to the cancerous area. This is a simple twenty minute procedure. The actual treatment is not supposed to be painful but the whole tube/catheter thing will require pain meds, which will be in the form of a pump that I will be able to control. Again, bless. 

I'll have three treatments, one on day one, two the next day. Then once everything is working again, I'll go home to recover. I'll start the whole thing again a week later. Between treatments, in the hospital, I won't be allowed to get up, hence the foley catheter. My head will be raised a bit and I can bend my knees, but I have to remain fairly still so that the tubes don't change position too much.  We don't want to accidentally deliver a large dose of radiation to the wrong bits now, do we? 

Hearing the details of this new step had a sobering effect on me.  This is going to be hard.  Brian has arranged to be there with me as much as he's allowed, and I completely trust my doctors. Happily, Dr. Moni's nurse, Chris, is going to be my nurse during both my stays.  She is a wonderful lady, and such a momma.  There are certain times in our lives when we feel the need for a momma, and these past months have been like that for me.  Between Brian, my friends Sandy and Cathy and my daughter, Grace, I feel so taken care of.  The last time I saw Dr. Moni, Chris hugged me, kissed the top of my head and called me kiddo. I melted. It's that added bit of "I got this" that mommas have when taking care of their kids. I'm not going to over think it, I just know I need that and am grateful that during my treatments, she'll be there.

I've spent a lot of time lately, thinking about how to describe the role that God has played in all this. I am falling deeper and deeper in love with Him every day, because of His care for me.  Kind of like I am with Brian, as he cares for me. Of course there are questions. God could heal me. Brian can't, although if ice cream healed cancer, he'd have me all better months ago.  I don't know why, or even if there is a why. Stuff happens. Hard stuff.

I do know that because of God, when my outer life gets really difficult, my inner life, my ability to love, to be patient, to empathize with others, to trust, to open myself, to simply be, gets sweeter.  Easier. More natural.  Every day for years now I've prayed for more love, to love with Jesus' love.  Passionately.  Extravagantly. Unconditionally. Dangerously. Is this my answer? And if it is, is that okay? For me, right now, I think it is. There was a time in my life where my emotional life was much more wrecked than it is now, over much less. I suffered more from lesser difficulties. It's not unusual for someone who has been diagnosed with cancer to be asking God why. I asked Him a few times myself. And then, reality hit. I was asking the Almighty God, who's Spirit dwells within me, in this earthen vessel.  Emmanuel. God with us. This is a thought that I find delightfully distracting.  Why does this body have cancer? How about, how does the God of the Universe make His home in this body, this mind, this spirit?

There is so much that I don't know. Why I have cancer is one of those things.  And when these treatments suddenly bring on menopause, I may have more questions and less patience.  For now, though, God is my shelter, my helper, my counselor, my friend, my Savior and my hope.  And I'm okay.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Last Thursday was my final external radiation treatment. Brian and I celebrated by going out to supper on Saturday night. It had been a while since we had gone on a date together, just to relax and be together.  I even put make up on.  We ate and drank and talked about things other than our kids and my cancer.  We even flirted, which, to be honest, isn't that much of a surprise since we flirt a lot. Brian actually came on to me the day we met my oncologist for the first time.  In her office. While I waited under a sheet, to be examined. And I flirted back. It's what we do.

I'd love to say that I've been healing and gaining energy since my last treatment, but that's not the way radiation works. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Which sucks for me, but it also sucks for Mutant so I'm okay with it. I am grateful to have tolerated the treatments well.  I didn't have any skin damage, and my IC (interstitial cystitis )  symptoms have been mild. The radiation caused bladder irritation and diarrhea which is now the new normal until things start healing in there, the fatigue is a force to be reckoned with, and there was a bit of emotional upheaval while my family adapted to my being out of commission and I learned to take care of myself.  Grace was a God-send. When I was moaning about how I was going to be able to do everything once I became really ill, she calmly reminded me that I wasn't going to be able to do everything. When anyone else is sick, they don't do anything, she said. So when you are sick, you don't do anything you can't do.  Which led to a very proud momma moment. When did she become so grown up?

Mutant has shrunk quite a bit, which is a good thing.  I had a MRI this week to see exactly what is happening in there.  The next step is internal radiation.  I meet with my radiologist next week to discuss how we are going to proceed.  I am hoping that we will be able to do five treatments in two days with a night spent in the hospital.  Apparently the internal radiation for uterine cancer will be easier on the  bladder and bowels, but murder on the lady bits. In any case, I am hoping that it will spell the end for Mutant.  If not, surgery is the third step, but I'd really like to avoid that.  Because the cancer had spread to my cervix, it wouldn't be a simple hysterectomy, and surgery in a radiated area can cause all kinds of miserable side effects. Like fistulas. Google it. Yikes!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Some random thoughts on the last month...

Ahhhh, I finally have my laptop back from the shop, where it went to be de-buggified.  Stupid viruses. So much has happened, I'm just four treatments away from the end of the external radiation. It's been a rough ride, but also a learning experience and a time of great blessings. I wasn't really sure how to sum it all up, or even if I should try to sum it up at all.  What I've decided to do is to just record, at random, the things that come to mind when I think of the last three weeks.  It has been an eventful time, even if it does feel like I've spent most of it in bed, wanting to be in bed, daydreaming about being in bed, mournfully leaving my bed, longing for my bed, or crawling back into my bed.

So here we go.

Grace was here. Yay! Grace spent two weeks here in March, and I loved every minute of it.  She was visiting from England, and it was her first visit in a year, which we both decided was too long to go between visits. It was amazing to be with her, we spent every spare moment together. She even sat in bed with me, reading while I took naps.  She was such a help, doing many of the little jobs that tend to fall by the wayside when I get sick.  Like my laundry. It was sweet to see little things done without having to ask, like the cat litter cleaned, things picked up and put away, the kitchen tidied, etc.

We also spent hours talking. The wonderful thing is that, thanks to the internet, there was really no need for "catch up" time.  We talk so often that there really weren't any surprises.  It was the small details of our lives that we needed to share. We checked out each others wardrobes and stuff, sharing all the stories - she got this at a boot sale, this was gorgeous and a steal, this was a Christmas present, these are my new batman jammies, a 1$ Walmart treat, check out this new skirt, I'm using this face cream now, she bought a new toothbrush, I love your make up bag, see how my plants are doing? I was hungry to know the small things, what perfume does she wear now? Where did she get the gorgeous boots? Does she still drink herbal tea? It's really in these seemingly mundane details, the places where we live our daily lives, that we are ourselves. I miss these things, I want to KNOW my child, and to learn what might have changed or evolved in her life, in her self. Through Skype chats and messages I continue to know her heart and mind, her spirit, her loves and dislikes, her successes and failures, her victories and struggles. But how does she take her tea? Does she still love my biscuits? What does her hair smell like?

 It was wonderful to draw closer to her in these ways, and achingly painful to say good bye to her at the end of her visit. Grace suggested that it would be easier on all of us when she left if we had the next visit nailed down, and so the tentative plan is that she and hopefully Darren will come here in the fall, and I will go to England to stay at Poppyland with them for a visit in the Spring. 

I admit that I struggled with her departure.  I felt dull, empty.  Maybe it was the fatigue from the radiation treatments, maybe it was the pain, I felt so sad that I couldn't cry. It was too big. This is our life now, though, isn't it? The joy and anticipation of visits, the deep pain of saying good bye and the constant missing, longing. The bit of me that is not there. The bit of me that is living, thriving, growing, blooming, shining across the pond.

 Needless to say I have informed the other children that under no circumstances is ANYONE allowed to move too far away.  They'll just have to bloom where they're planted and they're going to have to plant themselves close by.  At least, that's the plan, until someone feels the urge to fly and we have to bite our lips, wipe our eyes and wrap them in love for the journey. 

We'll continue this list of randomness next time as well, since I've only just begun.  So much to share, so little time.

My Zimbio