Onward and Upward
So where do we start with this episode....
I finished the final radiation treatment!!! What a GLORIOUS feeling that is to conquer this mountain. I will tell you that radiation is nothing to sleep on. This was 10x worse than the surgery as far as pain goes.
I want to look back on the day of my last treatment. As happy as I was to finish my last treatment, as sick as it may sound, I was sad because I wouldn’t be visiting my care team every day. I know it sounds weird, but you create a special bond with the people that take care of you. So naturally, I was sad because those interactions wouldn’t be every day. For the last day, I ordered them these individual Bundt cakes with a little flag that said: “Thank You”. I wanted to show them that I appreciated all that they did to take care of me.
For me, this felt just like all the other days going to my radiation appointment. I really didn’t have any more emotion about this day other than not seeing my team every day. I went to my appointment with my radiation doctor first, that way my treatment would be the last appointment since Pamela, the kids, and Maurice came for the ringing of the bell. After I finished my radiation, I wanted to be able to leave and hang out with the family.
I went into the room for my radiation and the procedure went the same as it always had. The machine came to a stop and the team came to unstrap mini-me from the table one last time. I raised up and said "Well, this ride has come to its last stop, so I think this is my exit. It's been a fun 6 weeks for what it was, but let's get the healing started." I hoped they understood it all because they did laugh. I hopped off the bed and grabbed the parting gifts of my mouth stent and mini-me. I have been asked what I plan to do with mini-me and honestly I can't destroy it. I know a lot of people burn it, smash it, or whatever they feel is necessary. For me, this has been a journey that will always be with me no matter what I get rid of or keep. Keeping items like this for me is somewhat like when you win the championship and you get a ring, trophy, whatever it may be. You walk past it once in a while and you think "Man, we played hard and whooped some ass." That's what I want is to walk by mini-me and think "Man, I whooped cancer's ass."
We walked to the bell and I stood beside it. I pulled out my paper because I was at an awards show so I prepped my speech the night before. As I began to read, the amount of emotions that hit me were uncontrollable. I was completely fine before this moment so it caught me off guard. It was already hard to understand me because the radiation caused my tongue to swell again and trying to talk and cry doesn't really go together either. Once I made it through my thank you letter, I went to the other side of the bell and saw my family on the other side of the door, which made me become emotional again. Going through any kind of treatment is a HUGE mountain to climb and there are many obstacles that try to keep you down throughout the process. When you get to the top of this mountain there are a number of emotions that hit you and for me, this accomplishment was BIG. Really, there are so many side effects and pain that you endure and it can seem unbearable a lot or sometimes. Accomplishing 5 days a week for 6 weeks of radiation was a HUGE accomplishment for me. This brings us one step closer to that light at the end of the tunnel.
I am about a week and a half out from radiation. The mouth sores are still pretty dominant in my mouth. I am still on my pain medication because they hurt when I eat and drink, but there is improvement day by day. If I could get rid of the mouth sores, then I would feel like a new person. I was thinking the other day that I haven't had a meal that didn't hurt my mouth since before March of this year and I haven't been able to eat a regular size meal since July. That's quite a bit of time since I have been able to really enjoy a meal. Yes, a regular meal now will look a lot different, but I mean a plate of food that consists of meat, veggies, fruit, salad, or whatever you put on a plate for dinner. I haven't had just a simple sandwich since July (Weird fact). You have no idea how much I miss just the enjoyment of eating a regular meal. Yes, I get to eat some regular food, but it's not very enjoyable at this period I am at. I will get there, but I am ready to just enjoy food once again.
My neck started hurting me the week following radiation. I believe this is when it started to become the most sunburnt and it began to hurt. It started to peel like a regular sunburn and anytime clothing or anything for that matter would rub against it, then that would bring pain. My neck has become like a snake because of all of the skin I am shedding and there is a beautiful pinkish skin that is shining through. I continue to put Aquaphor on it, which helps tremendously.
The other piece that has really been hitting me hard is fatigue. I was able to combat this through most of the radiation, but now it's really starting to kick my butt. I feel that I get a good night's sleep, but when I wake up I feel that I need to go back to sleep. During the day, it will be mid-afternoon and to me, it feels like it's 1 am or 2 am and I can barely keep my eyes open. It's crazy the amount of fatigue that is hitting me post-radiation. I know it's because my body is trying to heal and it has been through a lot. Along with the fatigue, I have experienced a little bit of nausea as well. Nausea still creeps up on me when I am not doing anything or if I overexert myself. I didn't really experience the nausea that I have post-radiation. I mean for the most part, when people see me they probably think this is a breeze for me because I try to keep an upbeat mentality about this situation, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that's not too fun to deal with. Let's hope that the mouth sores and fatigue can make their exit as soon as possible.
They just set my next appointments up for my follow-ups. On November 20th, I will have two appointments which will be for blood work and a scan. Oh boy, the scan to see if there is any remaining cancer after the surgery and radiation. I have been pretty open throughout this whole journey, which has shown me how strong we are and how there isn't much that would scare me or keep us from pursuing something we want, but the thought of cancer still being there or that the chance of it returning is very terrifying. I have been down that road before and I definitely don't want to experience it a second time. I am praying that we will get the all-clear on the week of Thanksgiving.
On November 23rd, I have my follow up appointments with my radiation doctor and my head and neck surgeon. They will see how I am progressing and go over the scans with me. This will be a pretty big week for us with it being Thanksgiving and getting the results of the scans. Hopefully. by the time Thanksgiving comes, my mouth sores will be gone so I can officially have a celebratory drink. Granted the first year has the highest return rate for cancer, but there will be no better news to get than an all-clear going into the holiday season. We will have much to be thankful for this holiday season.
Keep Pushing Forward!