On my last day of radiation treatment, I said good-bye to Thor, my trusty companion for seven weeks. The big lug! I can’t say that I’ll miss him, but I know he did give me everything he could give in this relationship. His treatment will reduce the likelihood of the breast cancer returning in Ole Leftie by sixty percent so I do appreciate it even though it was uncomfortable as hell both physically and mentally, left my skin permanently scarred and drained every ounce of energy from me.
It has been three weeks since my last treatment. My radiation oncologist said that the fatigue could continue for up to two months and that my skin would be back to normal in two weeks. He’s a nice guy, but also a LIAR. Okay, kind of a liar. My skin is better, but not back to normal (hence, the liar comment). However, he speaks the truth about the fatigue.
My ordeal is not quite over. I’m having surgery in October (girlie stuff). Needless to say, I will be grateful to put 2013 behind me.
It’s been strange being on this end of a serious illness. Strange and Educational.
Strange because I’m the healthy one. I don’t get sick. I don’t have ongoing health issues. That’s for other people, not me.
Okay, maybe I was the sick one this time (I’m actually still trying to come to grips with this statement).
Thank goodness for my close friends and family because I did need help and they forced it on me.
Friends: Why don’t we set up a meal train?
Me: Oh, okay. Let’s do it. I don’t think I’ll need it, but why not?
Dad: I have all of your appointments on my calendar. I’ll drive you every day.
Me: Oh, okay. That’ll be great.
I agreed because when you are going through something serious (no matter what it is), the people in your life want to do something. I really didn’t think I would need the meals and felt a little guilty about it. But, I will tell you that they were truly a gift. I honestly did not have the energy to meal plan and grocery shop. Those lovingly prepared meals allowed me to erase the images from my mind of my family dumpster-diving for food.
Also, even though I could drive, I let others (mostly my dad) drive me to my appointments. Making that trek by myself every stinkin’ morning for seven weeks would have been terrible. Thanks, dad!
When you’re having radiation treatment for breast cancer, it’s not obvious to others that you are ill or dealing with something serious. They can’t see the pain you’re experiencing (both external and internal) and they can’t see the fatigue. You’re not losing your hair, experiencing extreme nausea, or looking ill, but you’re still feeling badly (physically and emotionally) and you still need help. Let those in your life that want to be there for you help you. It’s a gift for both of you.
Educational because I learned what not to say to someone that’s received a breast cancer diagnosis:
- Don’t say, “At least they caught it early.” The person that has received the breast cancer diagnosis, regardless of the stage, never wanted the diagnosis in the first place. Just say, “I’m sorry to hear that. What can I do?”
- Don’t say, “My sister’s best friend just went through that and blah, blah, blah….” The recently diagnosed person doesn’t want to hear every story about every person you know that has had breast cancer. She may not want to hear those stories right now or ever. If she wants to hear about the experience, she will ask you for more information. You should say something like, “My aunt had breast cancer and is a survivor. If and when you’re ready to hear about it, let me know,” OR “My sister had the same diagnosis and I can put you in touch with her if you want to talk to someone about it.”
- Don’t say, “My friend had radiation therapy and it’s nothing.” I grant you, that compared to chemotherapy I’m sure that radiation is nothing. But, to the person going through it, it is something.
- Don’t say, “Gosh, my friend went to work every day during her radiation therapy.” That statement makes the person going through radiation and not going to office every day feel like shit. I’m sure that’s not what you meant, right?
- Don’t say, “Wow, I would just remove both of those girls.” Well, that might be appropriate in some cases, but not all. And, until you know the whole story, don’t make the person experiencing this diagnosis question that fact that breast conservation surgery is the correct solution for her.
- Don’t say, “I will do any of those breast cancer runs or walks with you.” This is obviously a well-meaning comment if the person diagnosed with breast cancer is one of those people who participates in running events on a regular basis. If the person you are consoling is NOT a regular runner/walker, then don’t offer that up. If the recently diagnosed person wants to join one of these events, they will ask you for help. Are you supposed to be all athletic and fund-raising now that you have been diagnosed with cancer? That seems like an added pressure.
Thank you to all of you that were thinking of me, driving me to my appointments, sending me notes and emails of encouragement, making me meals, calling me and just being there. I had no idea how many people cared. I know that sounds blubber and rubbish, but I mean it. It has not gone unnoticed and has truly given me strength through this rough time in my life.