Part 5 – A Look Back on my Cancer Journey – Hello side effects!

Cancer port

(Adapted from journal entries/family email updates from May 2-7, 2006)

 I now have several radiation treatments under my belt — or more accurately, below my belt. It is a daily appointment and painless except for the exposure issue. I have to drop my scrub pants and lie uncovered on the table from my waist to my knees as the equipment rotates around me for four different angles of treatment and then zooming in for the lymph nodes. Nurses are bustling in and out of the room, taping various things to me and drawing on my body with Sharpie pens, marking and remarking spots. I look like a pre-school art project and it doesn’t wash off easily. It helps that they have a beautiful picture of a white sand beach with palm tree groves and rock formations on the ceiling to focus on while holding still. There’s also a perfect cross reflected onto the ceiling dry wall panel from the laser beams that come down onto the treatment table. Each time I look at it, I’m reminded that Jesus hung naked during his final hours on the cross, despite our more modest loin cloth depictions in art or movie form. If He can suffer that for me, I can endure some embarrassment at the hands of skilled health care workers who are truly angels of mercy.

The only side effect I’m feeling right now is fatigue. My head feels a bit foggy and I had a dull headache today with some difficulty concentrating at work. At the nurse’s suggestion, I went ahead and bought some Imodium tablets. She says I won’t have “normal” stools until weeks after treatment has ended. So, I stood there at Walgreen’s contemplating what size of anti-diarrheal tablets to buy. “Hmm, a summer of Hershey squirts…better go for the economy package…” Oh the joys of cancer treatment.   I’m eating normally and just need to sleep through the night to recharge my batteries.

Time for bed.  Thanks again for the beautiful cards, plant, and encouraging messages. It’s wonderful to stay connected in so many ways.

Love, mj


Sunday, May 07, 2006

I’m relieved that one week is “behind” me, but have some new things to deal with. My mouth is host to a canker sore convention, but the nausea from chemo has subsided. The pump of 5 FU was pulled on Friday and that was a huge relief. No more camera bag to haul around like a 3rd hip. The worst days for nausea were Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, probably because I was trying to work from 6 am -2:30 and then get to radiation by 3, home for a nap, fix dinner, go for a walk, have a restless night hooked up to tubes and a poison-squirting machine, blah, blah, blah. I had a surprisingly high-energy Friday, but probably due to cutting my work hours back to 6 hours instead of 8. 

Friday was my last day at work for a couple of months. I start my leave of absence tomorrow after a week of filling out paperwork and talking to Payroll, Human Resources, etc. I had hoped to work the first 3 weeks of treatment, but just felt worse each day and decided not to postpone the inevitable and be home to take better care of myself. I fly to Boise on Tuesday to get (daughter) Tess and we’ll drive back on Wednesday, a 12 hour drive — or more, depending on potty stops and how heavy we’re loaded with her stuff. Only 3 radiation treatments this week (M, Th, Fr). They draw blood from my port tomorrow to track my red and white blood cell count. Hope that’s as painless as the first access. I have a pretty mean scar from where they installed the port, so the next time you see me, ask for show and tell. Unlike Tootie the Toomah, it doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m open for suggestions.

It was a busy weekend with family and friends over for our “Guinea Pig” dinner occasion (everyone brings a couple new dishes they’ve never made before and we share recipes). Tim did all the shopping, setting the table and grilling; we split the house cleaning and clean-up and had a wonderful evening. Did some shopping with family, but “Chemo Kid” had to go to the parking lot and take a nap in the car after awhile. No more power shopping I guess.  My nights are more like naps between emptying my bladder and putting lubricating drops in my eyes and nose, rinsing my mouth, getting sips of water and applying lip balm. This chemo causes every mucus membrane to dry out, so the steam humidifier is going and I chug water 24/7.

Thanks again for all your emails, prayers and encouraging and funny cards. I’m really looking forward to being a home body, puttering around in the garden, working on some sewing projects and going for walks with Aspen. She’s a constant guard and protector but still goes ballistic at the sight of her leash.

Much love,


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