Thursday, October 6, 2011

Through The Fire

Well, I've successfully finished chemo AND radiation and for that I am more grateful than you could ever know. I have almost completed my journey and ecstatic doesn't even begin to  describe the feeling I have!! If you have followed my blog then you know there were some days I didn't think I'd make it and others I felt on top of the world. It has definitely been a roller coaster ride that I only plan on taking ONCE.

After chemo was over I was ready to party (mentally anyway) because physically the symptoms lingered for quite a while. I tried to rush radiation because I knew the sooner it began, the sooner it would end. Unfortunately, my oncologist made me wait three and a half weeks before my first session. Radiation was a breeze compared to everything else I had been through. What WAS overwhelming about radiation is that I had to do it everyday (Monday-Friday) for six and a half weeks. That's thirty three treatments to be exact. I attended every treatment with my kids in tow and never missed one because I was not going delay my 'happy ending' under any circumstances.

Each week I met with my radiation oncologist and he asked the same questions about how my skin was holding up. Wondering if I experienced any rashes, irritations, soreness, burning, etc. But luckily, I didn't. Further along in my treatment the doctor showed up in the radiation room to check my skin because he couldn't believe I hadn't had any adverse reactions yet. He was pleasantly surprised and I was convinced I would make it through this with flying colors. After all, nothing could be worse than chemotherapy right? RIGHT?!

At that point I only had five treatments left. Each day for a week leading up to that I would tear up each day while laying in the machine thinking of how much I'd been through and how the worst was about to be over and some days I couldn't keep the tears of joy from flowing down my cheeks. Then, with four treatments left, my skin gave out on me. It turned dark in the treatment area, became raw, and then the skin began to peel. This was the demise my doctor kept talking about.

So here I am, it's been three weeks since my last treatment and I never knew it would be like this. I have second and third degree burns under my left arm, on my left side, and now creeping around to my stomach. My flesh is exposed and much of the burn area is still oozing. I can't even begin to think about wearing a bra and the pain is unbearable. The only time I am not in pain is while I am laying still taking shallow breaths and vicadin has become my new best friend. It hurts to laugh, to walk, and especially when I sit down or get up, basically it hurts to move at all. I can't even stand completely upright because as the burns begin to heal the skin tightens and any sudden movements make me crack the skin all over again. Most days I don't even want to get out of bed and I feel as though I am always holding back tears from the pain.

Last night I was talking to one of my friends and she was crying just listening to my story. She said she couldn't believe how strong I was and at that point I couldn't either because right now I'd love nothing more than to just break down. What I have learned, from experience, is that you truly NEVER know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have. So right now I will hold back my tears and continue to be thankful that I've made it through this journey with flying colors and plenty of colorful scars. I have challenged myself to do as much as I can to educate others and have agreed to do my first speaking engagement in two weeks.

If you have been moved by this and want to know if there is anything you can do to help me...ladies, FEEL YOUR BOOBIES. Gentlemen...FEEL SOMEONE ELSE'S But seriously men, talk to the women you care about and make sure they do self exams and have mammograms regularly.