Arm Spanx

Sexy Compression SleeveMy latest look?  A compression sleeve.

After a week of radiation, my left arm is swelling and the cords - nearly gone a week ago – are prominent again.

According to the wonderful therapists at Turning Point, wearing a sleeve at the first sign of lymphedema lowers the risk of it becoming a chronic condition.  I’ll wear it morning to bedtime, every day, at least through the end of treatment.  If my hand swells, I get to add a fingerless glove.

Assuming it’s temporary makes it less of a big deal (although I’m not nearly as happy about it as I look in this photo).

Dr. Torres confirmed 25 treatments.  So, 20 more to go.

Nicole

What’s In Your Wallet?

To make check-in easier, radiation oncology patients at Emory have a card to scan when we arrive each day for treatment.

Funnier, though, is the “Device Identification Card” that I also carry in my wallet.  It says that my tissue expanders “may be detected by security screening devices.”  Thankfully, I didn’t have any trouble at the airport going to and from Virginia!

RadiationRadiation pillow
My first treatment was yesterday.  4o-minute drive each way, and I was there for an hour (subsequent treatments should be quicker).  A foam pillow that was shaped at my simulation appointment helps with positioning.  It hangs on a wall waiting for me.

I check in, undress from the waist up, put in my Pandora request and lay on my pillow with my left arm in an awkward position above my head.  Once a week I’ll get x-rays first, also for positioning.  Actual treatment is less than 10 minutes – they “turn the beam on” and, for me, it moves to 3 different angles.

I’ll do this every day at 11am, except Saturdays, Sundays, and Christmas Day, at least through December.  Wednesdays, I’ll also meet with Dr. Torres and she’ll check my skin.

Happy to be on a bike againThanksgiving
Last week was all about family.

Thank you to those who treated us to good food, our favorite outdoor activities and, as always, lots of love.  Several of our cousins made special trips to see us and we loved it!  Our thoughts continue to be with other family members who are facing extraordinary challenges.

Also, thank you to my sister-n-law for hosting a birthday celebration for me, and to all of our friends and family for the tremendous support the past year.  I’m happy to be 42!

Nicole

Warpaint

The markings that will guide my radiation treatment really were made with Sharpies!  I’ve always suspected Sharpie markers are good for everything.

The image to the left is a small bit of what is all over my chest and under arms.  The clear tape helps the marker stay on.  Glad it’s not summertime!  And that I wasn’t permanently tattooed, as some people are.

I was told to expect fatigue, tightening of the skin and muscles in the target area, and burning that can range from pinkness to open blisters.  No shaving on the left, or anything that might injure that side, as it will be prone to infection.  Only aluminium-free deoderant, like Tom’s or Crystal.  There’s also a chance of sore throat and cough since my supraclavicular lymph nodes (above the clavicle) are being treated.

Treatment will be every day for 5 weeks, with a possible boost the sixth week to the surgical site.

While I was at Emory Wednesday, Joey enjoyed school cafeteria turkey with Sara at her Thanksgiving Feast.  I was able to feast with Sam, and then I brought in a craft and game for his class “Turkey Day” on Thursday.  So grateful that I get to do that kind of stuff during my downtime!

I’ve also been fitting in as many physical therapy appointments as possible.  My range of motion is almost 100%!  Thank you, Turning Point!

The kids and I fly to Virginia Monday and Joey will join us on Thanksgiving.  Radiation starts November 26th.

Enjoy your loved ones this week.  Hug them tight!

Nicole
Sara's Thanksgiving FeastSam's Thanksgiving Feast

All ages can Roll-A-Turkey!

Here’s an easy, fun activity for Thanksgiving get-togethers.  And there’s no prep for the hostess!
Roll-A-Turkey

Today I played it with 25 first graders during their “Turkey Day” centers.  They used black Sharpies with feathers taped on the ends to draw with.
Thanksgiving party activity

A paper copy has been floating around my family for years, so I googled it and found a free, printable PDF at littlegiraffes.com.  Kudos to whomever thought this up!  If you send me a message, I would love to credit you.

Check Target’s Dollar Spot or Dollar Tree for dice.

Thankful for choices

My dad visited from Florida this weekend.

And I decided to go ahead with radiation treatment at Emory with Dr. Torres.

But if you’re looking for a radiation oncologist in Atlanta, consider Dr. Adam Nowlan.  Joey and I are so grateful to have his thoughtful, thorough second opinion.  He talked to my breast surgeon, pulled the relevant research and spent an hour with us on short notice.  And he emailed us this weekend with new data, the day it was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In short, radiation now seems like a no-brainer.  It attacks microscopic cancer cells left by chemo and surgery (and undetectable on scans) and reduces the chance of recurrence by 2/3.  No one knows exactly what my chance of recurrence is, but given that I had residual cancer at the time of surgery, after neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, it’s certainly higher than we’d like it to be.

Radiation can have quite a negative impact on reconstruction.  Oh, well.  As you can imagine, I’m pretty much over breasts, anyway.

This Wednesday, I’ll spend a few hours at Emory for a planning session.  Dr. Torres and her team will mark the areas that will receive radiation – my chest wall, the skin covering the tissue expanders (now deflated) and the remaining lymph nodes.  She suggested scarves or turtlenecks if I want to cover the markings (Sharpie marker and tape?).  I start radiation November 26.

Also on Wednesday, my cousin Kurt tackles a far more difficult treatment for melanoma.  I wish he had even half of the options I do – we are thinking of him and his family.

Nicole