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  • Writer's pictureKate

It's the Little Things

So, I got to thinking, creeping charlie, the ever persistent weed, is like lobular breast cancer. Unless you get every last tentacle, it will come back. That is why I am throwing every last treatment at this devil weed. To make sure it doesn't come back.

I find myself grateful for the little things that may have seemed too small or insignificant before cancer. Little things like being able to sleep on my side, after many weeks of being unable to do so after surgery. Little things like being able to reach for an automated parking garage ticket out my car window with my left hand, something that was very difficult and painful when I had cording where my lymph nodes were removed under my arm. Little things like walking into the chemo infusion center for a shot, and walking out 10 minutes later feeling myself, being able to drive myself home because I'm not all drugged up, and not having to have chemo and all the side effects that go along with it. Little things like being able to think more clearly and not being in a constant chemo fog. Little things like having the strength to finish an entire Vinyasa Yoga class and keeping up the entire time. And little things like being able to walk both of my dogs and not have to worry about them pulling if they see a squirrel or rabbit, because my upper body is healed and strong enough to hold them back now.

Maybe it's the sunshine and beautiful spring weather lately. Or, maybe it was the SomaYoga class I took the other night that helped reawaken my mind/body connections. Maybe it was the radiation technician stating, "I can't believe how long you can hold your breath. I am so impressed!" But, today I am noticing and relishing in all the little things that are better today, than they were not too long ago.

I have been trying to do a lot of visualization exercises lately because I've heard of the power behind the mind/body connection (hence me taking my first SomaYoga class last night- AMAZING by the way). Today during radiation, I had this image flash into my head of creeping charlie (the little devil weed in my garden) and my brain made a connection with it and cancer. If you don't know what creeping charlie is, it is a vine type weed that is VERY hard to get rid of. It grows extremely fast, and has all these tentacles that if you don't pull up every last one, it will come back. You can't even put it in the compost because if you use that dirt in your garden some day, it will come back! This stuff is relentless. Anyway, I found that pulling it up last year was really therapeutic. When I could barely do anything else, I would sit out in the garden on a cushion and pull that stuff until I was tired and went back in the house for a nap. It was almost like a daily meditation. So, I got to thinking, creeping charlie, the ever persistent weed, is like lobular breast cancer. Unless you get every last tentacle, it will come back. That is why I am throwing every last treatment at this devil weed. To make sure it doesn't come back.This is the type of stuff I visualize while I am having a scan, or lying still during radiation. I picture the radiation killing each vine of cancer the way I pull creeping charlie in my garden. I figure the radiation has to be working better if I am visualizing it doing so, right?!

So, I finished radiation treatment number 26 of 33 today. I am getting pretty crispy under my arm, under my breast, and right along my clavicle. Let me tell you, the itching/burning feeling is the worst part. Especially when I am getting radiation because you aren't allowed to move at all. I am trying my best to keep everything moisturized and covered so my skin doesn't get any more irritated than it already is. The amount of ointments and lotions in my "radiation corner" has grown substantially. It is getting a little ridiculous actually. But, I am finally starting to find what works for me and my skin. When my burn itches, I have a cream for that, when it feels painful, I have a cream for that, when it feels hot, yup, I've got one for that too. When I am all finished, I will have to write a post of what worked and what didn't, that way if anyone is reading this that is going through something similar, they can see my recommendations and maybe they won't have to have so much trial and error. My doctor was concerned with how red and painful my skin was getting at my weekly visit, so she recommended starting my "boost" sessions early. What is a "boost" session you ask? Well, because statistically cancer is more likely to come back along the mastectomy scar line, they do extra sessions of radiation just focusing on that area. So, instead of my whole breast, lymph node regions, and chest wall being targeted, the radiation is directed at my scar only for 5 sessions. This started today, with the hope that the irritated skin elsewhere will have a little time (7 days) to recover before I finish up my 3 more whole breast and lymph node regions radiation treatments. Here's to hoping!

Oh, and if I have never mentioned how much I hate the medical pain scale, let me mention it now. Every time I see the doctor, this is asked. So, since my diagnosis I have probably been asked A LOT of times. Anyway, my radiation oncologist asked me what I would rate my pain, referring to my radiation burns, and I said, "I don't know, it depends on what I'm maybe a 1?" She looked at me with an astonished look on her face and said, "A 1?! That looks pretty painful, so I am going to give you something for that just in case you need it." Geez, why even ask me then? Just another thing I am learning about myself, is either I have a high pain tolerance or I am just incapable of accurately quantifying numbers on an irrelevant scale with weird faces on it. I digress.

My master's thesis was approved. I submitted the finalized paper to my program advisor, and yesterday I presented my thesis to a small group of professors and program staff. That means I am officially done with all requirements for my master's degree! Hooray! I am already feeling a tremendous weight off my shoulders, but I still have that nagging feeling I have something to do. I guess it will probably take a little while until that goes away since I have been worrying about grad school since I started in January of 2016. Next step, walk in commencement and never look back!

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