Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: cancer treatment (page 2 of 2)

Following Final Chemo

This entry is part 27 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I’m glad I had only four cycles of chemo. I had it relatively easy and I know it. My friend JA Marlow‘s mother has a very invasive and aggressive form of brain tumor. Early last year, Mother Hen, as JAM’s mother is called, had surgery to remove the original tumor and radiation. She’s been receiving chemo in pill doses at home. Unfortunately, the tumor has regrown, and it’s in an area which is affecting her much more than the original tumor did.

By comparison? My experience with breast cancer is nothing.

It has been my hope that putting my experiences up online would inform and assist other people with breast cancer, if not other forms. With that in mind, I’ll expound a bit upon my last post-chemo experience.

The fatigue was as profound on Wednesday as on most other previous days. I spent most of the day in bed, but was able to get up, eat, and putter around a little bit, though I was never up long enough for a cup of tea with water properly boiled in a kettle. I drank orange juice most of Weds and Thurs, as that was quick, easy, and tasty—so tasty, in fact, I drank my first two gallons before my three-week cycle period ended. It’s probably what helped me avoid getting sick about a week or so later, as I felt the beginnings of symptoms of an illness my mother recovered from just prior to her visit the week after chemo week, to drop off homemade burrito makings and an apple pie.

On the Friday of chemo week, I went in to see my new official (and hopefully permanent) Oncologist, Dr. Colonna (not sure that’s the correct spelling, but will correct it in later posts if it’s wrong once I’ve seen her again), who is specializing in breast cancer up at the VA. She’s the one who sat and talked to me and Mom all those months ago, answering the many questions my mother and I had about various things to do with my cancer diagnosis. She was pleased with my progress and sent me on my way with encouraging words.

The next week wasn’t as bad, PottyTime wise as previous cycles. I think it may be because I entered a heightened mixed-state phase (my bipolar is mixed-state, meaning I have symptoms and presentations of both mania and depression at the same time) and spent two nights out of that week awake because I couldn’t sleep. I don’t suggest this as a method of shortening the duration of the diarrhea, though that’s what it seemed to do for me. By the end of the week, my PottyTime phase was pretty much over as well, but I was not in any kind of condition worthy of being called “human.” I wasn’t a raving lunatic, or abusive, or temperamental. I was Jell-O. And this despite my two sleepless nights not following one right after the other. There were one or two nights where I actually slept between them.

I finally got fed up and shaved my head of all the straggling hair leftover from chemo-balding. Now I have stubble and fuzz. I did this with my women’s fancy wire-wrapped razor in the shower (the wire wrapping is important. Would not have done this without it) since I don’t have an electric shaver I could have used dry as I generally don’t shave my legs, and that’s what I’d use it for if I had one.

Chemo mouth was more severe. The cycle previous, it had spread to throughout my mouth, and this last cycle, it did the same, only drier. For the first time, this part of post-chemo treatment annoyed me. Could not eat anything spicy, as I learned one night when I made French toast (I put pepper in scrambled eggs, and in my Ft egg mixture with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweetener, with a dash of salt and a few tablespoons of milk), because I think I exhaled flame after that meal. My mouth hurt for several minutes during and after eating that French toast. Hot temperatures were just as prominent, so drinking my tea while it was still very warm was out of the question; tepid was the hottest I could handle. Also, it felt as if my tongue had numerous cuts on the top, though I don’t think that was actually the case. I tell ya, between heat killing the top of my mouth and even the softest, blandest food torturing my tongue, I’m rather amazed I ate at all. LOL

Earlier this week, I went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for my radiation setup appointment; I’ll write about it sometime next week.

My Indie Publishing Career

It has long been my intent to go to college to gain skills for a good-paying job. Some few years ago (’09-’10 or thereabouts), I determined to go to community college for an Associate’s Degree in Accounting. That plan fell through one day because I couldn’t convince my mother, who’d driven me to the community college’s main campus to finish my applications process, to park where the parking lot attendant told her to. Upon hearing we couldn’t park in the cordoned-off area where students, staff, and faculty were permitted to park (provided they had the appropriate sticker or tag or whatever), Mom turned the car around the watch post with the declaration, “I’m not walking all that way to get to the building, and it’s too hot to sit in the car!”

Then again, Mom was never exactly supportive of my goal.

I let that setback beat me back down to the point of not bothering, and it was compounded a couple days later when I went to the financial aid site anyway to apply . . . and had an anxiety attack. Not a severe one, but I could not for the life of me get past the first few boxes I had to fill in with my name and other pertinent information required. It did not abate until I closed the site and went to read to get my mind off the stress of preparing for school, which I’d previously determined I’d find a way to get into no matter what it cost.

It remained in the back of my mind, though. Over the intervening years since my failed attempt, I researched careers, doing a better job this time, and finally settled on Medical Coding and Billing as the career I’d enter. I found the community college’s page with the listing of the class requirements on it and bookmarked it to revisit every so often to inure myself to the idea of going to school. I set a goal: I’d start school in Fall Semester of 2013.

Then I was diagnosed with cancer in August of last year, and all the appointments required for everything from examinations to surgeries to consults for chemo treatment took up that time I needed to apply, prepare, and attend classes. So I set back my college goal to Fall Semester of 2014. I would go to college in 2014, no matter what.

This entire time, I had the plan to Indie Publish my writing. I had that “all” set up in my mind. I’d finish a set number of books, then release them as soon as I had a paying job with my new Medical Coding and Billing skill. This thinking, I have to admit, was carried over from my old, abandoned, Trad Pub goal days. That goal was born in the Nineties. I’d have/get a full time job, write in my off-time, and send my finished product on the rounds of agents. And become Published.

I should say, these were the days when I was much more mentally stable without medications than I am now. I could have handled the Trad Publishing route then. My Bipolar, which I’m certain I presented to some extent in the Nineties (and probably even before, possibly as young as my teens), was not severe. I could sleep nights without assistance from even over-the-counter sleep aids. I was able to hold down a full-time job, and I appreciated all the “free” time my manufacturing positions gave my mind to play with story scenes and ideas, because I’d spend second shift working preplanning one or more scenes in my head, running them through over and over again until they were very nearly edited to perfection in my mind, then go home to spend the hours between midnight and three in the morning actually typing them out on Kitchen Imp, the computer Mom bought, which we put on a desk in the kitchen. A Trad Pub career for me at that time, if I’d been able to launch myself into it, may well have been successful. I was driven, and I was dedicated, and I intended to set the world on fire with my fantasy stories.

And I clung to that dream. Desperately. Get off of Government support. Get an education. Get a good-paying job. Then launch my publishing career. I had other goals wrapped up in this. Namely transitioning as far as possible and buying my own home. And those are still my goals. However, they’ve never been as powerful as my goal to become Published. And, even when I switched my goal to becoming Indie Published, the strength of my desire to be Published never flagged.

But I had an epiphany last week. At some point. I’m not sure what day any more. Probably at some point during the all-nighter I pulled in an attempt to reset my circadian rhythm. Such epiphanies as this generally hit me when I’m exhausted. Being overtired frees my mind, and I make progress on writing if I’m lucky, or have epiphanies about other things to do with my writing or, sometimes, as this one was, regarding my Real Life.

It occurred to me I could launch my Indie Publishing Career any time I want. I could launch it tomorrow, though I’d be woefully unprepared, and my books wouldn’t have covers, and half a hundred other things which need doing and need time to be done, not the least of which is completing radiation treatments. But I could launch my Indie Publishing Career tomorrow if I wanted.

It took several days for this flash of realization to really sink in, though, and I spent those days totally amazed at it, stunned, unable to believe the audacity of the thought. Any time I want. It, frankly, terrified me at first, this thought. As much as going to school terrified me. And I had to let that terror fade before I could even consider the option without freezing and experiencing a deeper anxiety than trying to fill out the financial aid form years ago gave me.

Once it faded sufficiently—a few days ago—I drew J.A. Marlow, the resident Indie Publishing Expert at Forward Motion for Writers into an Instant Messaging chat to discuss what I needed to do to begin the process of establishing my Indie Publishing Career from my current financial status. She had much good advice, and it got me thinking about things I need to start thinking about now if I’m going to make my Indie Publishing Career fly.

No, I’m not scrapping my college goals. They’re being set aside for the nonce, but not forgotten. First things I need to do are talk with Social Security about my SSDI and the VA about my Pension to determine what’s going to happen with my income. This is of prime importance. I need to know what to expect so I can plan for losing at least a part of this income once I start earning any money from sales of books, even if it’s only one or two sales a month. I can’t do this until after my radiation treatments are done, because it’s going to take at least half a day for five days a week anywhere from three to six and a half weeks to get this done—I won’t know until my contract to join the research study is signed and processed and the arm of the study I’m to go in has been randomly selected. Once I’m done radiation treatments, I’ll have the time I need to visit with representatives of Social Security and the VA to discuss this with them.

So, for the next several weeks, I’m going to create a list of questions to ask. I’m going to formulate a tentative Indie Publishing Career Plan, which I will set into motion before I’m certain of anything, because my goal to Indie Publish will remain no matter what, and no date is carved in stone at this point.

I will say this, however: My instinct is to scrap the school-and-paying-job goal and run with the Indie Publishing Career goal. I feel more strongly about this than about any other goal I’ve ever set or claimed to have. Even transitioning. Yes, I want to transition. I’d also very much like to buy my own place to live. But I don’t want either of those things with the same burning fire in the pit of my belly as I want my Indie Publishing Career. As terrifying (and, yes, I’m still deeply terrified of my Indie Publishing Career goal), as it is to think I may be able to get my Indie Publishing Career off the ground from where I’m at right now, it’s also exciting to think about. I feel more anticipation about this than about any other personal goal I’ve ever had. I want to go out and get it done right this minute and have felt this way, in some small way, from the moment I realized I could have my Indie Publishing Career any time I want.

It’s a big risk, an even greater challenge, but I feel better over this possibility than I’ve ever felt over my school-and-paying-job goal. That never excited me; I felt more dread over it, and trapped, and quailed at the thought of forcing myself to endure an uninspiring job. Starting my Indie Publishing Career absolutely thrills me, and the thought I could live my dream of sharing my words with people within two or three years instead of four or six fills me with such joy I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling.

But I’m not going to leap without looking, and I’m not going to do it without knowing what I can expect when I start publishing. I have plenty of time to research things and make a well-thought-out decision about this. It’s just that I feel far, far more certain about my Indie Publishing Career goal than I ever did about my school-and-a-paying-job goal.

Side Effects Update 3

This entry is part 26 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I had my third chemo treatment on the 31st of December. Yes, New Year’s Eve. Then I proceeded to sit up past midnight (not really celebrating, but just zoning, fiddling with different things, and generally being a nuisance to myself).

Oops, I forgot to take my prep-antinausea meds the evening before and the morning of my treatment before leaving home. Nurse who did my chemo was displeased. I felt baaaaaad for forgetting my meds. I’m usually very good about taking them. It’s a good thing they provided about 20mg of the antinausea medication as part of chemo at the hospital, or I may not have been able to eat lunch. There was no appreciable difference in my administration-condition regarding stomach upset, though I did feel just vaguely uncomfortable in a very distant way.

Otherwise, my chemo treatment went pretty well. Had a little fun once I realized I could adjust the foot of the bed as well as the head, and had myself quite comfortable once treatment started. I read about halfway through a paperback by a favorite author while I was getting treatment, which was nice.

The next day? I was out most of it. Though I was up between seven and nine that night; there’s an entry on one of my writing logsheets for me starting a new project on that day. I’m not going to say much on it in this post, however, though I will admit it’s my Casi/Vel story.

On Thursday, I had an appointment with my Oncologist, and I was fairly alert for that. Was still draggy due to chemo fatigue, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the second day after the first treatment, even if it wasn’t as good as it was after my second treatment. Apparently, the severity of side effects fluctuates.

Like the diarrhea. That started the Monday after treatment, and lasted most of the week. Was uncomfortable by the end of last week, but not as tortured as I was after the first treatment’s experience with that week of PottyTime.

Chemo mouth wasn’t as pronounced this time around, either. The most I had was a slight sensitivity to spices and temperature, not nearly as much as after previous treatments. Tongue felt only a little dry, and for a shorter period of time, and I didn’t get any spots on my gums which felt particularly dry. It was more an all-over condition on the roof of my mouth, and not as severe as the spots were.

I have one more chemo treatment, and that’s supposed to happen on the 21st. Following that, I’ll be going in for my radiation setup appointment and then begin radiation. I’ve decided to join the research study they’re performing, so I’m not sure how long I’ll be going in—could be anywhere from three to six and a half weeks. I’ll discuss it more once I know what’s going to happen.

Side Effects Update

This entry is part 23 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I’ve had my second chemo treatment, and things have been happening a little differently this time. The side effects don’t seem as severe, and there have been some minor changes in them.

I’ve gotten what I’ll call “chemo mouth” both times. In the written materials I’ve received and according to what I was verbally told by my Oncologists, I was told to expect this to happen. Severe cases include sores in the mouth, and may also include either an inability to taste food or a change in how food tastes, including a metallic flavor. I think it largely depends on your chemo drugs. I did not get sores, but I did get dry spots, especially near my teeth. My chemo mouth includes a dry, cracked sensation on my tongue and dry patches in my mouth, I guess as the cells on my tongue and gums are those which are frequently replaced. This begins on about Friday or Saturday following the chemo treatment, and lasts for about five days to a week. I’m at the tail end of it right now. Food’s flavor does not fail or change for me, but my mouth does become more sensitive to hot temperatures and spices in foods. This I imagine is because of the way the cells are sloughing off, leaving my tongue and gums somewhat raw.

My fatigue was not as profound this time. Though I did spend much of Wednesday in bed, I did not sleep the entire time and was actually able get a bit of writing done. Thursday, I had to go to the VA Hosp, and though I wanted a nap, I was able to stay awake and alert the entire time I was there. I went to bed extremely early both nights—before eight o’clock.

This time, I didn’t get the incredible multiple-day headache I got last time. I got a little minor headache pain, which was taken care of by hydrating on Wednesday. No unusual headache pain the following days.

I had a little bit of constipation on Wednesday and Thursday, but did not have to go to the ER over it, and it was gone by Friday. While I have a bit of diarrhea now, it doesn’t seem as frequent as it was last time, and it’s started yesterday instead of on the weekend. There have also been no bouts of incredible abdominal pain which couldn’t be relieved as I experienced last time, which I’m very happy about.

There is a dry patch of flaky skin on the back of my right hand, above the index and middle finger knuckles. This appeared after my first chemo treatment, so I suspect it’s one of the minor side effects.

I have some small bit of hair left, but I expect it to fall out within the next week. My scalp is also very dry and flaky; I’m not actually sure this is a side effect of the chemotherapy, but I thought I should mention it in case it is. In addition to the dry flakiness, I also have some sharp pain in the skin. This isn’t very pronounced unless I’m touching or brushing my head for some reason, so I try not to do it too often despite the itching. I suspect this sharp pain is a side effect of the chemo, because I had none before treatment, and it seemed to begin at about the same time I started losing my hair.

My Chemo Medication Regimen

This entry is part 22 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I’ve been wanting to write up an accurate post about this since my first chemo treatment, just didn’t record anything about the process/procedure at the time. Today I did, with the help of a very accommodating nurse named Allen.

I’m required to take two dexamethasone (Decadron) tablets, with food, twice on the day prior to my chemo treatment to prevent nausea.

Day of treatment, I undergo, in the order written, the following medication administration procedure:

1. Dexamethasone x 5 and odansetron (Zofran) x 2. This latter medication is also to prevent nausea. If they come in liquid form, they are administered over half an hour; after swallowing them with orange juice today, I had to wait half an hour for them to be digested.

2. The nurse then flushed my porta-cath with saline solution to ensure there was proper flow for the administration of my chemo medications.

3. He then administered Taxotere (docetaxel), the first of my chemo drugs, running it through a regulator on an IV stand to ensure it didn’t flood my system. This takes about an hour or so.

4. When the regulator stopped beeping, Allen came back in and did another saline flush.

5. Then he proceeded to hook up the Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), the second medication of my chemo regimen, also running its IV tube through a regulator. Approximately another hour or so. I received my lunch near the end of this and was able to eat all of it without any adverse effects.

6. When the Cytoxan finished, Allen returned and disconnected its administration tube from the starter-IV tube, flushed my port with saline again to clean it out, then injected a dose of Heprin to ensure blood doesn’t clot in my port. He then removed the IV-starter tube from my port and patched me up with a bandage.

After this, I was free to pack up and go, which I did.

Tomorrow, I’m to take another two-pills-twice of dexamethasone. In addition, I’m free to decide if I’m willing to take the other two medications prescribed for nausea: odansetron and prochlorperazine maleate. Suggested dose of the Odansetron is one tablet by mouth every four hours if needed, and suggested dose for the prochlorperazine maleate is one tablet by mouth every six hours if needed, not to exceed 40 MG per day. If needed, I’m to take these two other pills on Thursday as well.

Then, that evening, I’m to inject myself with Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) to stimulate production of white blood cells. This must be administered at least 24 hours following chemo treatment, but not before then, and since I finished with chemo at around 1 pm today, tomorrow evening is an acceptable range of time for me to administer the injection.

This is the most accurate explanation of my medication regimen I have access to.

After today’s chemo appointment, I had to make an unexpected appointment with my head Oncologist, Dr. Weis (correct spelling of his name, I hope) for Thursday at 2:30 pm. My mom will be accompanying me since she has some questions to ask, and we intend to get what information we can regarding my PET scan’s results from him at this time.

After I got home today, I received a call from the VA to arrange another appointment with Dr. Weis, this one slated for the 9th of January at noon. I’m to go to the Lab for this so blood can be taken, and I half expect to be called to arrange another echocardiogram. This is prior to any further chemo appointments I may be making, and my mom clearly believes this indicates I won’t be getting any more. I am, needless to say, not quite so confident of this. I think this is simply an interim checkup and I’ll be doing at least one if not two more chemo treatments following this January 9 appointment with Dr. Weis.

Yesterday, I received a call from the genetic counselor, and she was able to tell me I don’t have any known breast cancer gene mutation. This does not rule out a genetic connection, but as they don’t know all the genes which affect this particular cancer, she was unable to tell me what I might expect in future. She told me she’d send me the information she had, but it hasn’t come in yet, so I’ll post more on it after it arrives.


This entry is part 18 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I swear I still have the flavor of the barium sulfate suspension at the top of my throat.

I had to drink 900ML (approx. 30.4 oz.) of it for my PET/CT scan today. My appointment was at ten, but I arrived about half an hour early (’cause I could, since Mom wasn’t with me to complain about arriving too early and having to, oh, dear, wait), and they got me in for the scan a good fifteen or twenty minutes early (because they could since I was there early and the room was available—this is why I choose to arrive early, especially to cancer treatment stuff—earlier in, earlier through whatever procedure it is, earlier on my way HOME End rant).

I told the nurses/techs/not-quite-sure-what-they-were I’d brought a pair of sweat pants because the paperwork I received yesterday stated specifically I should wear loose-fitting clothing without metal. I don’t wear sweats during the day (unless under jeans for warmth in winter), because it’s an important mood boost to dress in day clothes, and sweats make me feel depressed. The techs nodded, saying they understood completely, and led me to a locker room with a single chair in it with further instruction on how I should dress. So, after removing my bra and putting my tee shirt back on, I pulled on my sweats, totally ignoring the hospital pants draped on the chair—which I knew wouldn’t fit, so didn’t even bother trying them on.

When I stepped out, they showed me to a little room with one of our VA’s unattractive recliner chairs. This one happened to be teal, and it had little oblong tables attached to the arms, one of which was covered in what looked like a puppy piddle pad. They laughed when I called it that, and one of the girls said, “yeah, they do look like that.” I sat, the one who I guess must have been a nurse despite her everyday attire covered me up, and the other set out the various accoutrements of an IV line on the right hand (the covered) armrest table. I let Nurse get as far as wrapping the band around my arm before making a comment about it being the arm with the neuropathy, and the one who’d covered me up (who I’ll call Tech) said, “Yeah, that’s the arm she had the surgery on, maybe you want to do the IV in the other one.” So she did, thank goodness.

The IV was quickly placed while Tech went to fetch the radioactive tracer. Nurse injected the tracer, then went around the back of the chair to fetch the two tall bottles of barium sulfate suspension they wanted me to drink (so my digestive tract could be seen better in the scan later), then Tech asked if I was comfortable and told me they’d be back in about an hour and fifteen minutes to take me to the scan.

They left me alone in a dim room, facing a clock which the one recessed light left on illuminated perfectly. I spent the time swallowing the barium sulfate solution, which had a prominent citrusy scent but rather bland flavor either watching the minutes passed or simply sitting still with my eyes closed. At one point, I heard an tone sound, then a male voice declared, “Building One. First Floor. Zone C.” This was repeated over about ten minutes, with the tone then the three announcements. At one point, a guy poked his head in and said, “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about, just a fire alarm in another section. It’s probably a mistaken pull or something.” I asked where Zone C was, and he told me down the hall a ways and if it was necessary for me to leave, they’d be by to tell me so, then he left. Not long after that (about a quarter after eleven), Nurse and Tech fetched me to go to the PET/CT machine.

This machine (unlike an MRI machine), has two open ends, and Nurse and Tech had me climb onto the table extended from the “bottom” end, placing my head at the end closest to machine. While Nurse connected my IV to the contrast dye injector, Tech tucked me under more blankets, making sure to snug my feet well. Nurse hooked the tube to the injector around my thumb, then told me to raise my arms over my head. She stepped aside, and the table slid into the machine up to about the point of my neck. A male voice told me to breathe in and hold my breath, so I did, and it was followed by a scan, my body moving deeper into the PET/CT scanner tube. It stopped, moved me back out, and told me to take another deep breath and hold it.

After this second arms-above-my-head scan, The table moved all the way out and Nurse asked if I was wearing a necklace. I was. We got it off my neck, and the scan continued.

The remainder of the scan involved me laying very still, with my arms held to my sides by a large wrap which was connected to the table. It crossed from right to left and was held by Velcro on the left side; the IV tube from the dye injector was still hooked around my thumb, and exited out the “bottom” edge of the wrap, which covered me from abdomen to hips.

Before they injected the contrast dye, Nurse warned me I’d feel a hot flash and have a funny taste in my mouth. “Hot flash” was an understatement. It felt uncomfortably hot, as if I’d been out in the sun on the hottest day, dressed all in black, with a humidity of 100%, only I wasn’t sweaty after. It lasted perhaps five seconds. I didn’t get the funny taste, but the injection of the dye did cause a liquid-at-the-top-of-the-throat sensation and made it feel like as if I’d wet my pants, though I hadn’t. It was the only time I did not feel slightly chilled in that room, because they had fans going to keep the machine cool.

Then they did more scans. At one point, they stopped the table so my head was just at the other end of the tube, and I spent the five minutes my head was right there trying to read the stickers beside each of the three black rectangles—one on either side of my head, one right above me. Since I’m horribly nearsighted, and the print was small, it took me almost the entire time my head was there to puzzle out, “Laser Aperture. Do not stare into the beam,” at which point it made me very glad they hadn’t turned those lasers on. Then again, if those had been on like the ones at the other end, I wouldn’t have left my eyes open (LOL).

Not long after that, they completed the scan and the table ejected me from the “bottom” of the PET/CT scanner. Nurse removed my IV and bandaged me up, and they took me back to the locker room—they had to show me because I was very disoriented after my experience. Tech told me she got confused, too when she first started working. Back in my proper day clothing, I returned to the corridor and Tech showed me the way out, complimenting me on my cooperation.

After the PET/CT scan, I had a quick lunch and went to visit Nyna so she could write out my Chemo calendar; my first Chemo appointment is set for the 19th at nine in the morning after an eight o’clock visit to the lab to draw blood.

Radiation Consult

This entry is part 16 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

This morning, I rose at 5:30 AM for my appointment at the radiation clinic up at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I missed the train I could have caught if it hadn’t taken me twenty-five minutes to walk up to the commuter train, but had left two hours ahead of the time they told me to be there—8:30AM—so I still had plenty of time to get up there before I’d be considered late. I actually arrived about five after eight, and they had me fill out a bunch of forms relating to my health history, emergency contacts, and whether or not I had a Do Not Resuscitate order somewhere. I did this standing at the counter, because sitting and trying to fill out a form with my hand falling asleep would have taken longer because sitting would have put the clipboard in my lap and required my wrist be slightly bent. The secretaries were quite willing to let me do as I wanted to fill out the forms because I did so at an out-of-the way spot.

I didn’t have long to wait after I finished the forms, and was taken back for vitals and to be shown to the room where my radiation therapy doctor would see me. At the Huntsman, they have seven doctors, and eight little swinging pointers connected to the wall beside the outside of the clinic doorways to indicate which doctor should visit which patient (the eighth is to indicate the room should be straightened up, iirc). I was told to undress the upper half of my body, don the nice plus-size hospital gown (the VA has a severe lack of these, so I’m always happy when another doctor/clinic I go to has them), and wait for the doc. I sat in one of the extra-wide chairs instead of the exam bed and read a new book.

I didn’t see my attending physician right away. A Resident physician and a Student doctor came in. I say it this way because the Resident was very much in charge as he went over my history and the forms I’d filled out with me, and the Student Doctor was very quiet until he prompted her to ask any questions she had. She was apparently very new to clinic visits like this.

Resident Doc (I’ve forgotten his name, sorry, and his business card has not been included in the paperwork I received as I was told it would be) had me hop up on the exam table. It’s couth in breast cancer care like this to put on any hospital gown they give you backwards, so the opening is in the front, and I had done this. Resident Doc performed a typical physical (not using a hammer to test my knee reflexes, for which I was glad—his finger-tap was just hard enough to elicit the proper response without causing pain), then had me lay back for yet another full breast exam.

You get a lot of full breast exams when you’re in breast cancer treatment, because all the doctors you come into contact with want to “see” for themselves the condition of your breasts.

He started with the left breast, pressing hard. Then he palpated my armpit with equal force, which tickled and made me laugh. When he was done, he moved to the right side as the Student Doc did an exam on my left breast for learning purposes. When Resident Doc got to my right armpit, he pressed hard enough to tickle, and I laughed again. Student Doc followed his example, her touch a little firmer than before, but still not hard enough to tickle me.

This done, Resident Doc had me hop off the exam bed and sit, and he and Student Doc departed to fetch my attending physician, Dr. Poppe (pron. poppy). I find it interesting that he turned out to be growing a beard. Mostly because his first name is the same as my Psych Doc and my Psych Doc also grows a beard in winter. However, the two could not possibly look more different.

Dr. Poppe had me hop onto the exam bed again and I got another breast exam. He pressed as hard as Resident Doc had, which made me laugh, and, at one point when he was on my right side, said “You’re funny.” Then, he palpated my abdomen, which made me laugh harder, and he asked Resident Doc and Student Doc if they’d gone through this too, which they of course verified, which induced Dr. Poppe to once more tell me I was funny. (I’m still chuckling over this whole thing.) I think I must have been Dr. Poppe’s first patient ever to be ticklish.

After this breast exam, I once again hopped down and returned to my seat so Dr. Poppe and I could chat. He said Chemo is done first, for anywhere from three to four months, then the patient comes in for Radiation Therapy for six and a half weeks, 20-30min a day weekdays. However, there’s a national clinical study being done with breast cancer Radiation Therapy, which, if I decide to participate in, will have me going in either three weeks or four and a half weeks. They’re trying to test the efficacy of shorter treatment periods. I’m not sure if that means I’ll be getting stronger doses of radiation or not.

At the end of this chat, Dr. Poppe gave me an information packet on Radiation Therapy, including a calendar of events happening at the Huntsman, and told me he’d fetch the paperwork regarding the clinical trials for me since I’d asked for it. Then he, Resident Doc, and Student Doc departed. I read a bit more while I waited, and the head of the clinical trials at the Huntsman came to give me the paperwork promised. She was kind enough to show me out as we chatted about breast cancer treatment in general.

I haven’t gone through the Radiation Therapy information packet yet, or even the clinical trial paperwork. I plan to do so by this weekend at the latest and will post about it once I have read the information.

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