Tomorrow I begin week 5 out of 6 weeks of radiation therapy. This is the last week of the "full range" radiation, then next week, it's just a "boost"--where the beam is less penetrating and supposedly less damaging. I'm not sure why they call it a "boost", you would expect something called "boost" would be more intense, not less.
Maybe it is more intense. These doctors have a habit of playing up the best qualities of a therapy like it's no big deal--even fun. Like the fact that my right breast is swollen and larger. Someone at some point apparently joked about how great it was and wanted the other boob to get zapped too.
If they feel it like I feel it, those words would never leave their mouth.
So it's swollen, larger--meaning bras fit tighter on the already-less-comfortable side. And, like a really bad sunburn, it's blistering up and oozing.
Uncomfortable yet drugged up as all hell, I slept topless last night hoping the blisters would dry out some from the open air. I do have a cream --Aquapor-- to apply, although no patient seems to believe it actually works as well as the doctors want it to. I think the doctors like it because it has the least amount of reactive chemicals. But the cream is greasy and makes the skin moist which is the opposite to what I am working toward.
I was also given a couple different kinds of this foamy material called Mepalex, which sticks to my skin as a protective layer without adhesive--much like a window cling. It's good for when I wear a bra to prevent abrasion, etc., but it also doesn't let the skin dry out, so I'm oozing away and padding myself with gauze to catch the excess.
Occasionally I think of the plastic surgeon who wanted after-pictures. I haven't got back to him, but I haven't forgotten. It's just that I'm covered with ink of assorted colors and now red and oozy and crusty. Neither one of us really thought this through when we both got all a-flutter a few weeks ago. My skin doesn't like the ink anymore either, or maybe it's the ink reacting with the radiation---or the laser used to square me up on the table. So I'm not just blistering in general, I'm blistering mostly along the ink lines needed for the techs to line me up properly.
Having a blast.
Then I have this old/new dynamic at work that I'm just not ready for right now. Some folks just don't understand I'm really not the same person I was pre-diagnosis. "I don't look like myself," I've said to a gentleman who was checking in with me about my new -do. Hair is the easiest thing for some people to talk about. Much easier then appointments, treatments, pain and oozing. No one really wants to hear how my day is, or if I'm doing OK. they just want the reassurance that yes, I'm fine. Don't worry about me.
But that gentleman isn't part of the dynamic, just part of my new fan base. The dynamic is with this other tall drink of water with a mop of silver hair, born the same year as my dad. He was sweet on me and things were escalating out-of-hand so I told him he needed to cool it for the sake of office protocol--then a month later I was diagnosed. He gave me space I needed if the occasional pat on the shoulder when the opportunity afforded him. He just couldn't handle it, poor dear. He just didn't know what to say. And that's ok. I appreciate honest space more than those who gush about how much they're praying for me.
Well, now that my hair is growing back, so are his overtures. I need to tell him to cut it out. But I don't want him to cut it out. Or maybe I just don't want to tell him to cut it out.
At least I don't report to this fellow. That's another story entirely.
In January, along with my diagnosis, coincidently there came an opportunity for professional advancement, directly below the finance manager. But I was in no position to be learning anything new when I hadn't yet learned my prognosis or the schedule of events to come. I knew my department could cover me better where I was, but I didn't want to be "stuck" for another three years working in a position I had outgrown. I needed his perspective.
He told me that one of the ladies currently in the position I was set to move into was moving out of state at the end of the year, and if I focus on myself and get well, I wouldn't be sorry. I had reassurances that I was not going to be stuck. The Company certainly didn't want to waste my talent on an unfulfilling position if it didn't have to.
I had to take him at his word, which wasn't difficult. He and my supervisor jumped through all sorts of hoops to be accommodating to my appointments and they would have done more than they had if I needed them to.
Now the time has arrived when I need his perspective again. Is the game plan still in play? Is there anything new I should know about? I guess I am looking to plan my next steps. I don't like not knowing what's around the corner.
Because finally --finally-- one year as a cancer patient has transformed into two weeks. Ten more sessions in the machine. Countdown to normalcy, but impending normalcy is a strange transition. You look normal again. But you don't feel normal again. The people around you start to relax while you're still popping pain meds. The tall drink of water is at ease because he knows you'll be OK. He starts acting silly again and you have to tell him to cool it again. The old dynamic returns but it's newly irritating. You look forward to new opportunities and challenges of the non-medical variety and for some reason they seem less of a challenge than expected. A lot has happened in the last 11 months. The last 11 months has happened. Don't they see that?
They don't see that.
You don't look like yourself anymore.
They don't see that either.