Nature’s Aid, readjusting, and looking forward.

So it’s been awhile since I last blogged. I know this, and have thought about it often. Sat down at my computer and came up with several earth-shattering ideas for the next blog, but some things just need to get worked out in the somewhat sacred private world of home, and in my head.

That said, there are a few blog-worthy moments I have had over the past few weeks. The burns I ended up with a week post-radiation were pretty intense, and likely compounded by some of the locations (it’s hard to ignore a burn under your arm). I had my favourite nurse and her various companions coming to my house on a regular basis, coating me with Flamazine (still ‘flamazing’) and experimenting with mesh wraps, trying (with minimal success) to convince me to wear them based on their resemblance to some 80’s throw-back lingerie. It did help, but only as long as the cream was on in a thick, very messy layer. As for the lingerie appeal, it was a big of a stretch.

I was in a lovely little shop downtown, looking for a little something to bring a friend who had just had her thyroid removed when I came across this product.

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I bought some for her, some for me, and took it home and slathered some on, covering my burns back up with bandages and getting on with my day. The next morning, I asked for re-bandaging help from someone who knows how, and as I was removing the old bandage with very little discomfort, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had apparently slathered on a little magic, because my burn had literally healed itself at least 50% overnight. Aloe vera, Vitamin E, Witch hazel, Rosemary and Tea Tree are the ingredients. Apparently you can eat this stuff if you want to, it’s that natural. That works for me. I abandoned the Flamazine in favour of this little wonder, and my burns healed so quickly that I was able to go and get ‘re-adjusted’ with no concern for the state of my skin this past week in Winnipeg.

Speaking of Winnipeg, what a surreal trip that was. I don’t know how many of you have ever been boob-shopping, but it’s a very strange experience, to say the least. To have the surgeon’s right-hand-nurse cheerfully stride into the room and hand you these, announcing ‘So now we get to play with some boobies!’ is a little out there, even for someone with my lack of filters.

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My surgery is just over six weeks away, so they tell me, and anyone who’s ever had to have tissue expanders in their bodies for almost 8 months knows just how much I’m looking forward to getting rid of them. Without the ability to properly demonstrate their nature, I will simply say that I could probably knock on my wooden door and get more give from it than from these expanders. They are definitely doing their job, expanding muscle and tissue, a fact to which my massage therapist would attest. The muscles between my shoulder blades are tense enough these days to warrant the press-up-against-the-door-frame self-administered pressure point massage technique several times a day, although he assures me that’s a bad idea. I go with whatever works, and am thankful to be connected with people who give great back-cracks and massages.

In the meantime, I am trying to re-train my body to sleep, which is proving to be no small task. Melatonin seems to help a little bit, or at least my body feels somewhat more relaxed after having taken it. Apparently radiation can have an effect on the body’s ability to produce Melatonin, which it normally does quite naturally. This could explain my almost complete inability to sleep for any length of time at night. Armed with some of this, I am charging myself with the task of detoxing my body in time for surgery and learning to sleep again.

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With radiation burns a thing of the past and my days free for healing, I am starting to get outside again. Winter is coming. It’s going to be a good one.

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Done! (Or, why Marvin Gaye was the perfect music for my last spa date)

And so it was.

Mammogram. Breast ultrasound. Wait.

Breast MRI. Wait.

Biopsy. Wait.

Panic. No more waiting. Bone scan-heart scan-chest x-ray-abdominal ultrasound-Transvaginal ultrasound (as fun as it sounds). Bilateral mastectomy-removal-of-17-lymph-nodes-partial-reconstruction. Heal. Plan chemo. PICC line insertion. Chest x-ray. 8 infusions of push-me-to-my-limit toxic chemicals over 16 weeks. Plan radiation. Walkwalkwalkwalk. 6 weeks and 28 radiation treatments.

#28 was today.

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There is a crispy square on my shoulder, hard to see in the above photo but one of the lesser-affected areas of treatment.

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The hardest-hit is under the arm, thus the frequent  ‘Cleopatra’ pose, giving it some air. This too shall pass.

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(Today, laughing with a good friend who assured me that ‘of course it looks weird’ when I inquired.)

Never again will I hear ‘Chin distance….17.7? Good. Vertical shift….5.5?  Okay. Horizontal shift…..8.7 left?  Yep. Sup tattoo…9.9?  Good.

Never, I pray to the gods, will I hear the whining and whirring and clanging of that radiation machine.

As scary the end of treatment is, I am so looking forward to this next phase, wherein I heal and let my body forget all of which it is all too conscious right now.

I am starting to recognize the person I see when I look in the mirror. I am getting used to comments such as ‘Hey! Your hair is getting…taller?’.

A few days ago there was a video circulated around of a woman facing a double mastectomy who chose to spend the ten minutes prior to her surgery having a dance party in the operating room with the operating staff. It has left me with dancing on my mind since. When I dance I can shake just about any worry off. Dancing connects us with our bodies in a primal way, communicates sorrow, joy, sex, longing, humour, rage, all of it, if we let it. In my mind there is no such thing as a bad dancer.

Today while waiting for my final treatment to begin, a friend who came down to provide support along with my mother informed me that there was a dancehall for sale close to the city, something I found fascinating and totally appealing. I went into treatment with dreams of opening a fabulous restaurant in the woods where people would come to eat good food, drink good wine and dance and sauna. Those who know me know I love to dance.

I actually laughed out loud when the girls in the radiation department cranked the music up for me, as they do at my request, and the song filling the room for my last treatment was none other than Sexual Healing, which is always a great go-to dance tune. And so, with a grin on my face, I closed my eyes and imagined myself lifting out of my body for that last punishing treatment and dancing around that room with wild, albeit somewhat-crispy, abandon.

I am done. 8 months later, this part of the journey is complete.

Bring on the healing.