Friday, January 7, 2011

Where's My Badge of Courage? Where's My Gold Star?

Today I finished the last of my regular radiation treatments.
Twenty eight over six weeks.
Check.
I was waiting for the balloons to drop from the ceiling and the POP of a bottle of sparkling and the clinking of crystal glasses, but it came and went without fanfare or lobster.

They shifted gear and got right into finding my sweet spot for the radiation boosts I'll receive next week.  Spin the table, drop my head, put the special gadget on the machine and try to get Flopsy to behave and stay in the exact position they want her.

Sit Flopsy.  Sit.  Stay.  Lay.  Good Girl.

It's a strange feeling to lay there, head turned away from all the activity, while the techs and Dr. Lotus and the dosimetrist all lightly poke and pat and stretch and pull Flopsy to get her just so, controlling the table with a remote control as they do.  The table shifts up and down, and slides back and forth so they can get me at the right angle and distance.  They mark dots with permanent marker on my skin.

They found the sweet spot; we're all set for Monday.  Five radiation boosts.  One each day.

After finishing, I waited around the Cancer Center since my appointment with the Good Witch was scheduled about half hour later.  It was so great to see Vonda and Krissy again, and then I saw Kitty in the hallway.  All my old chemo gang, my girls, my peeps, I've missed them so.  Life goes on.  They take care of other patients now.  They don't ever run out of patients with cancer to treat.

The Good Witch was flying through the halls, running late, and I could tell she was stressed.  She flew in the room, and we hit the ground running.  We talked about the next step, completely shutting down my hormones with Tamoxifen; my neuropathy; and the swelling that continues in my right arm.  Her hair had some blond highlights in it and I teased her about it, and showed her my medal that the Monsignor gave me.

I've missed her.

She examined me, and was focusing on my right arm.

"It's definitely swollen and puffy, and that's puzzling.  I can't put you on the Tamoxifen till I know for sure you don't have any blockages or clots that are causing this swelling in your right arm.  I think we need to do a CT scan with contrast of your chest and neck, just to make sure everything is ok there.  We'll get that done next week, and if everything looks good, you can start the Tamoxifen right away.  You'll need to get labs done before they do it, I'll give you the order and you can do that after you leave here.  I'll get back to you next Friday with the results, if all looks good you can start the Tamoxifen, and then I'll see you a month after that."

My meeting with her was quick; I was a little disappointed.  I understood, it's just that I missed her and hoped we could have a little more time to talk and laugh.

She reassures me.  It's been hard doing this phase of treatment without her.  I just realized that today.  I've really missed her.  My Good Witch.

Damn CT scan.  I hate when they have to shoot that dye into you. Remember when I got the one in Flopsy, and it turned her Avatar blue?  Let's not forget, the last time somebody tried to find a good vein on me was for my surgery, and the anesthesiologist ended up having to use my neck.  Aw geez.  I wasn't looking forward to getting poked today, but was happy I'd be seeing my lab lady.

I headed over there and she was surprised to see me.  I hadn't seen her since late September or early October.  We chatted and I told her she'd need to use my right arm; they don't want me using the left arm for blood or blood pressure anymore.  Not ever.  She got everything ready then gave my right arm her best effort, moving the needle around with no luck and an "ouch" on my part.

She started searching my hand, spanking it lightly, then putting a small hot pack on it to get my veins to cooperate.

"I don't know how I did this every week for so long" I said.

"You're almost done" she smiled.

She was able to find blood in my hand, and we were both relieved.  I hate giving blood now or getting poked.  I am dreading the CT scan next week.

I was tired when I got home, had a little lunch, and got back in bed.  I felt very melancholy.

I don't know what I expected would happen when I finished each stage of treatment, and especially the whole thing, but it's rather anti-climactic.

There are no ticker tape parades, no proclamations, no certificates or diplomas.  I will not be awarded a badge to sew on to my Girl Scout sash.

You give it your all, you go through more than you ever have in your life, months and months of treatment, and then you just finish, and they send you on your way.

Their job is done, and I can't help but feel the residual stuff I'm left with will be my problem to deal with.

I don't know what I expected.

I don't think I was prepared for this.

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