life

Even Valkyries Have Doctor Appointments

My radiation appointments are the same time every day, which means I see the same people in the waiting area every day. Three of us have the 8:10/8:20/8:30 time slots.

Today the dude after me said “the other day you were a Norwegian Goddess*” and went on to talk about how he recently discovered Norwegian (Norse) mythology and oh my goodness they had a lot of gods and goddesses. I am amused. Tomorrow I’ll recommend Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology book for him. It’s a nice introduction to the tales.

*He was not hitting on me. Friday I wore a “my mother raised me to be a Valkyrie” t-shirt. Today I wore my Arya Stark shirt that reads “What do we say to the God of Death? NOT TODAY” which I think is absolutely appropriate for all cancer-related appointments. He didn’t get the reference.

As of tomorrow I’m 1/2 way through radiation. For those interested, here’s what happens every morning.

  • Arrive at MN Radiation Oncology office.
  • Sit in waiting area (do not check in at the desk)
  • At appointment time, the tech comes out, shoots me in the forehead with a thermometer gun. If under 98.6 I go straight back to the changing room. If higher than 98.6 I get a normal thermometer (which calls into question the accuracy of the thermo-gun, if you ask me).
  • Change out of shirt/bra into a gown.
  • Give my bday to the tech as walking into the room with a 1 foot thick door.
  • Lie on a table under the radiation machine:
    • This is important. The machine has one arm with a disk on the end. The disk has teeth (behind plexiglass), and pivots to point the targeted radiation where it’s supposed to go. The steel teeth create the appropriate opening. The arm moves this disk, which can swivel on the end to always face you, from underneath me on the right to over me on the left, always pointing the teeth toward Frankenboob. Yes it’s creepy.
    • The OTHER arm of this machine is the x-ray panel, which unfolds EXACTLY like the xenomorph in Aliens coming out of a wall. The techs laughed when I told them that.
  • I have to put my arms in the special pillow created in one of my pre-treatment appointments. It’s like a beanbag pillow but all the air was sucked out so it never changes shape, and creates a mold where I put my head and arms (arms above the head, holding one wrist, which keeps them out of the way for the beam).
  • Sometimes the techs futz and fuss with the positioning, but usually that’s it. They leave the room, I hear a buzz for 30-40 seconds, then the alien arm moves from the first position (usually we start with it facing me from the right) to the second (over my left side). A second 30-40 second buzz.
  • That’s it.
  • Seriously, that’s it.
  • It takes longer to change into/out of the gown than the actual radiation takes, and I’m back in my car 10 minutes after entering the building.
Ragnar doesn’t interrupt his morning nap when I get home from my morning appointment.

So far, the only side effects I have is pink skin (which again, so far, hasn’t hurt. I just aloe and lotion as though I have a mild sunburn) and a little tiredness. As of this morning I have 11 sessions left.

Unrelated: I still have some super weird side effects from chemo. Example: my big toe nail came off. THE WHOLE FUCKING THING. Didn’t hurt (not like in a horror movie): taxil fucked up my nails and nail beds and some of them are pulling away a little, but that one just came right off after a shower. WTAF cancer. Wtaf.

I also discovered the other day that some of those high notes I couldn’t do while singing along to Pat Benatar or Loreena McKinnitt? Yeah, I can hit those now. No, I don’t know why, although I have a couple guesses (chemo did weird things to my lungs/sinuses the last few months, when spring allergies would normally hit, and I suspect that has something to do with it).

No, this can never be verified because I never sing in front of people. But it’s happening, and it’s weird.

In less awesome news, Monday I start the long-term treatment, tamoxifen. Feel free to look it up: it’s pretty standard for breast cancer, and the side effects range from OH SO FUN to scary. I thought I’d have the rest of summer to recover before I start, but my Oncologist wants me to do it now, so here we go.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried when I found out I can’t have grapefruit* while I’m on these stupid hormone blocking pills. Yes I recognize it’s really REALLY stupid comparatively, but I did anyway, mostly because it’s a symbol of not having any “get back to normal” time before I go on pills for the next 5 years. Guess who’s overloading on ALL the grapefruit and grapefruit juice this week?

*Yep, I’m aware grapefruit is one of those polarizing foods that people either love or absolutely loathe. I don’t care if you don’t like it: I love it best unsweetened, because the bitter/sour of it feeds my snarky soul. This does not mean I’ll be any less snarky without it, only that I’ll miss it more.

Anyway, I’ll have a couple weeks to get settled into taking the “how fast can meds bring on menopause” pills, then radiation ends on the 24th, and I can get my port removed anytime after my week at the cabin this summer (because GODSDAMMIT I want to swim and have a real vacation when active treatment is over).

And then it’ll feel like the 9 or 10 months of hell are over, and it’ll just be maintenance. Since my oncologist yelled at me (nicely) about it, I’m also in the middle of changing my activity and diet, because tamoxifen causes blood clots so sitting all day for work and my general lasyassness is no longer acceptable. Working in more activity while working, reading, and trying to get back into a regular writing schedule is more painful than it sounds. Speaking of that, it’s time to stand up and do something.

And I need more juice.

3 thoughts on “Even Valkyries Have Doctor Appointments

  1. You’re a Warrior Jess. I feel really bad for what you’re going through but you’re tough and strong and you will survive this and go on to do even more great things. You amaze me every day. You’re super intelligent and very motivated to share your knowledge. You make our lives richer and better. Thank you!! Take care. Auntie Kelly

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    1. He chats casually with the techs and such, too, and he’s close to 80. It definitely seemed more like he was excited to talk about the “weird” mythology he’s been reading. Although I generally assume I’m not getting hit on, in this case I’m certain he wasn’t.

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