Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Radiation side effects: the sequel
19 treatments down, 14 to go. In just the last few days I've begun experiencing a couple of new side effects - one expected, one not. The one I expected is increased pink/red color of the radiated skin. Thankfully it's coming on gradually but it is much more noticeable now and slightly uncomfortable - mainly the strip of skin just below the breast is where it's become sensitive. Dr.Z looked at it today and said that my skin is actually doing better than most do at this stage so that's great. Hopefully that will continue to be the case. The effect I was not expecting is nausea. Certainly not the level that I had with a couple of the final chemo cycles. The other digestive issues I was having earlier (which have since quieted thankfully) was bad enough. For the last three days I've been unable to consume much more than toast, crackers, fruit and hot tea. Of course, the chemo brain I'm sporting these days has led me to completely forget that I have plenty of anti-nausea pills in my medicine cabinet that I could have been using - I didn't even think of it til just now while composing this blog post. Anyway, I've been so hungry so I go into the kitchen to make a meal and find not much I can make that won't make me want to hurl. Even when I find something that I think I can handle I prepare it and then stare at it, push it aside, and then drop another piece of bread in the toaster while I boil water for tea. The thought, sight and smell of vegetables and meat makes me want to vomit. Bob has been a ginger ale pusher for a couple days and while I loathe the idea of consuming the sugar, I have found taking several sips at night time has helped calm my belly just enough to be able to ignore it for a bit. I sure am glad he is home right now while this is happening because when a wave of it hits me it forces me to sit down and clear my mind of food related thoughts, odors and images and the last two days it's hit me when I was about to prepare food for Cooper and had to have Bob take over. In the plus column, I've lost 5 lbs since last week and am now below my wedding day weight. haha! I'm sure once I start taking those anti-nausea pills tomorrow I'll get those 5 lbs right back. Fine by me. I need to get back to my warrior diet packed with veggies asap. I mentioned the nausea to Dr.Z today and he isn't convinced it's from the radiation but he wouldn't rule it out either since it's a known side effect of the treatment. He said that usually when someone has radiation nausea it starts from the beginning. I told him I'm not "usual" :) in any way. He agreed (because I've been charming him and the rest of the staff from day one with my fun and silly gifts and fantabulous sense of humor haha). Another plus column item is that the physical therapy and lymph drainage massage is working on my arm. Most of the arm has returned to normal - just a small section above and below the elbow is still swollen but has also come down. My therapist, Richelle, felt that the progress is sufficient to allow me to stop wearing the stiff padded compression garment around the clock - woohoo! I have to wear it at night but during the day I can swap it for the class 2 compression sleeve and guantlet. Richelle is fantastic, by the way (if you know anyone in southern CA that needs a great lymphedema specialist/therapist contact me and I'll send you her info). She is extremely knowledgeable, professional and personable and is sought out by physicians and patients from all over. We chat through every treatment session and have come up with a couple of ideas on how to increase awareness and education of the risks of lymphedema in breast cancer patients which is needed because most of the surgeons and oncologists don't educate patients about it enough to help them properly avoid it and/or recognize the early signs of it developing. I'm incredibly blessed and grateful for all the wonderful caregivers and tools in my cancer ass kicking posse and the friendship and support of so many. They all make such a difference in my life (and so many others') each and every day. Thank you, God, for these amazing blessings.