Saturday, April 25, 2020

I am a marked woman

So tiny.

There's nothing really like laying on a cold hard exam table with your boobs fully out for the arriving doctor to examine and draw all over while trying to make small talk.  Surely it happens all the time, but this was MY first experience with such and it was...something.

I have had two children and so am no stranger to folks feeling around the ol' bits and bobs; by hour 3 of pushing with Thing 1 I was ready to have the janitor get a good feel in case he/she could just Get The Baby Out Already, but this was different.  So casual.  So matter-of-fact.  So, normal.

And therefore I was comforted.

The doctor and my radiation tech were very appreciative of how well the lumpectomy scar is healing, which I'm sure they tell all the girls, so I called them out on it and they declared as to how I'm a veritable pro at healing up from things. 

Again, comforted.

Then the doctor went away and the tech put me through my paces in a CT scanner to have a good look at my guts (more like my thoracic cavity I guess), while I still was tits out to the world.  The procedure was interesting - I got to watch the spinny thing inside the scanner that was taking pictures of my innards, and that was cool.

Then, I went and got 4 new tattoos.  By way of celebration, as ye do.

HAHAHAHAHAHAA!  JK, the tatts were given to me by the radiation tech, who will use them to align me in the particle accelerator thing so that only those parts of my body that are meant to be blasted with radiation in fact ARE blasted, and nothing else.

I've had tattoos before, and so was ready for the gun.

No gun.

Instead, a drop of ink is placed on the spots marked by the doctor, and a single needle prick gets enough of the ink under the skin to be useful (see picture above for about-actual size).  Amazing.  Each tiny dot counts as a tattoo in my book, though I suppose they could be considered as 1 total work of art.  I like the sound of 'I got 4 tattoos today!' better.  Your mileage may vary.

Finally able to sheath the breasticles in bra and tee once more, I was released to the Covid-infested wild, only to have to return in a week or so to start the radiation process in earnest.

Every weekday for 6 weeks I will rely on my new tats and the expertise of the doctors and techs to administer the right amount of radiation to the right place so that, we all hope, the freaking cancer is chased from the premises for good.

Wish me luck.

Tiff out.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

In which I lose my fingernails

Writing about cancer and chemotherapy for the last few months has been largely for my own benefit, but I do hope that whomever might stumble across these entries looking for information finds some value in what I've written.

I have tried to be honest about my experience, but not too 'down' on the whole swath of Things That Have Happened, because it's just been something to live through and not something to let take over my life.

Until the last couple of infusions happened.  The last one (#6) especially tried very hard indeed to take over my life, but let's not get ahead of the story.

Generally, what I've described in these blog entries has been my experience in the short term; a few days to a week or so after chemo and what happened to me.  One person's journey, as it were, because if I tried to speak for everyone who has walked my path I'd be a fool and more than a little overbearing.  Not this gal.  Not now.

So, let's walk a little further down that path, and review what happened throughout the period of a couple of weeks after the 5th infusion.  I was feeling OK, but had noticed that the after-effects of the chemo had lingered a few days longer with that round (oh naps, how I love thee!) and the damnable bone pain was taking way too long to resolve.  I felt personally attacked, I'm telling you.

And then I noticed something weird was going on with my fingernails.  It seemed like the white part was getting longer, rapidly, and in the wrong direction.  Like, it was expending toward the nail bed, not away from it the way normal nails grow.  What the what?

Then the nails started to discolor, turning a gross-as-heck yellowish color, some nails even looked like they has some kind of brown smudge under the yellow.  It was hard to tell.  Unsightly, for sure, and in an evil turn of events, very painful if they were bumped or pressed on in any way.

You have no idea how many times a day a person bumps their fingernails.  It's a lot.

There was, of course, a visit with the nurse practitioner before infusion #6, at which I showed her my nails and she said 'oh yeah, that will happen.  Just keep them cut short and they'll grow out.  Is the same happening to your toenails?'  At the time the answer to that was 'no' (talk about your blatant foreshadowing...)

And so, over the past 3 weeks, ever since the last infusion, the nails have indeed been growing, I have been keeping them short, and now would like to share what they look like in case you see me out and about and think I'm turning into a fungus, because I am not, it's just that chemo killed my fingernails just about dead and this is what happens, sometimes.
Those lines in my thumbnails represent each time I got an infusion and the nails died a little.   They're called 'Beau's lines,' which I don't think is very funny.

ALL THE NAILS.  Not to be too gross, but they can be lifted off the finger surface all the way down to the pink part.
While it's not uncommon for people to experience some changes to the nails during/after chemotherapy, it is very uncommon to lose a whole nail.  It appears that once again I am a unicorn in the world of health care, being all rare with the side effects and in addition taking things to the limit of the possible overall experience.

Why, just to add insult to injury and possibly make me a liar to my care staff, even my toenails have decided to get in on the fun.  Nobody gets a break in MY body, oh no, everyone gets to experience some flavor of weird!  Good thing I don't have to wear fancy shoes very much, or ever, because that's not going to happen anytime soon (or, you know, ever). 

So that's been happening, along with daily afternoon dry heaves, which, apparently, can continue for WEEKS after chemo ends.  WEEKS, I tell you, and no surprise that the woman who didn't get nauseated for most of the chemo journey is now getting it because, obviously, my body misses being poisoned every few weeks.  Figures. 

2020 is proving to be an interesting year, and one in which I had better be learning a lot about myself because the lessons are there and I can't risk ignoring them.  Best to not tempt fate, right?

Tiff out.