The Reality of Radiation

Friday, May 28th marked my eighteenth radiation treatment, a milestone reaching the halfway point.  A week ago, I didn’t think I could go much further down the radiation road.  Because of what is getting radiated—my pelvic area, colon and the para-aortic lymph node, the side effects have been, at times, worse than chemo.  Initially, my radiologist told me that I’d receive twenty-five to twenty-eight treatments.  I could not get an answer on why the radiation treatments increased to thirty-six other than my treatment plan included thirty-six from the get-go.  I chalked it up to miscommunication, but was not comfortable with getting such a high dose of radiation.  I got a second opinion from a radiologist with a different medical group who put me at ease with a reasonable explanation for how the number of treatments are decided based on standards that are calculated from studies done over the years. Different cancers have different treatment schedules.  Basically, the number of treatments administered is enough to kill remaining undetectable cancer cells without causing permanent damage to the organs being impacted by the radiation. Long-term side effects are still a possibility, but are slim to none.  He further explained that I need more treatments to the lymph node than the pelvic area because the tumor that formed in the node was about the size of a sugar cube and contained about a billion cancer cells, and odds are, about a million undetectable cancer cells could still remain in the node. Yikes!

Excuse me, how many cancer cells?

Even though radiation targets only the cancer cells, good cells get damaged in the surrounding target area, mostly to the GI system in my case.  The good cells kick into healing mode after each treatment so I’m very fatigued most of the time, and the GI issues, well, let’s just say I’ve been miserable.  I’ve lost a couple pounds in the midst of still working on gaining weight.  My stamina is weak again and my nerves fragile.  But—the second opinion doctor assured me my body would indeed heal despite the draining short-term side effects. Being in excellent health for most of my adult life will support my healing and will help to sidestep the potential long-term side effects of radiation.  So there is something to be said about a healthy lifestyle despite getting cancer.  It will help the odds of me coming back strong and never seeing a cancerous tumor in my body again.  The second opinion radiologist ended our Zoom meeting by asking me if having peace of mind knowing that I did everything I could do to kill cancer cells would be worth living through the short term side effects.

I’ve read several Dean Koontz novels over the years, even sat next to him at a BIA dinner meeting and chatted with him about my favorite book of his, Watchers.

You betcha it would be worth it.

And how, you ask, do I manage the bad days?  Lots of naps and a recent prescription of Lomotil to quell the GI distress has been a godsend, but the best medicine is Samantha.

Sweet peas from my dad’s garden.

Samantha helping me select a channel.

 

Samantha “reading” a beautiful picture book by artist/author Amy Grimes, And The Light Comes In

My amusing, sweet girl.

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The Manifestation of Cat Mom

After I sold my condo three years ago and started packing-up all my stuff in preparation to move, I came across a journal from my high school days.  One entry stated that I didn’t want kids, that I didn’t like kids much and that I didn’t want to be married.  Well, that explains things!  At the age of fifteen, I set an intention that stuck.  I’ve never been married and never had children.  In my late 30s the desire to have a baby finally kicked-in, but my boyfriend at the time who I eventually became engaged to did not want kids.  It was either stay in the relationship or break it off with the hopes of finding the right match and someone who wanted kids.  I loved this guy and my desire to be in a romantic partnership was stronger than my need to have a child. After four years it turned out that we weren’t very compatible and despite the engagement, he was very trepidatious about marriage, which at the time was something I wanted.  Turns out my views on marriage had changed since that teenage journal entry.

When I purchased a condo in my mid-forties, I thought about adopting a child.  I had the room to raise a kid and a well-paying paralegal job.  But the job was demanding and my workdays long.  Between work, taking care of two cats, and myself I knew that I would not be able to dedicate the time, and would not have the energy it took to properly raise a child on my own.  Instead…I rescued another cat, Topper.

Topper and Froggie

I loved having three kitties in the house.  Lexington, Punkie and Topper.  When Punkie passed away at the age of 20, I rescued another kitty, Bella.  I wanted a kitten at the time, but at the age of eight, Bella had twice been relinquished to shelters. By the time I met her, she’d been with a rescue group for several months (older cats are often overlooked for adoption).  Besides feeling an instant connection with Bella, my heart hurt for her.  I wanted to give her the best home ever and all the love she deserved, and I succeeded.  I witnessed Bella blossom from guarded and scared to loving and confident.  Three years after I adopted Bella she died from lung cancer, which was devastating and took a long time to overcome.  But then another cat, Bobcat sauntered into my life and once again I had another feline to love and care for.

Bella

Bobcat

Bobcat, Topper and Lexington have all passed, and now I have a new kitty, Samantha.  Once again, my maternal instincts have resurfaced and are being put to good use.  It didn’t occur to my fifteen-year-old self that I could have kids that didn’t involve human children, that I could adopt children of the feline sort.

Samantha and “Bobcat”

I’ve been a proud cat mama for thirty-three years. And although I actually adore children unlike my younger self, I have no regrets for not having children of my own.

Happy Mother’s Day to mothers of humans, cats, dogs, bunnies, goats, horses or whatever  your child happens to be.

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Books, Music and More

Getting to know Samantha has been not only entertaining but also very enlightening.  It turns out that Samantha and I have quite a bit in common:

Samantha the Bookworm.  Although I tend to be drawn to historical fiction and memoir, with my most recent favorite good read, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, Samantha sticks to books that contain the word “cat” in the title, with her favorite being Men & Cats by Marie-Eva Gatuingt.

Music.  Who knew that Samantha would be into music? I now get a helping paw when picking out CDs. In the below photo she selected a CD by the Rolling Stones, Forty Licks.  After that we played Live at Blues Alley by Eva Cassidy (one of my favorite female vocalists—you must hear her arrangement of “Over the Rainbow”), which includes a sassy rendition of “Stormy Monday.” Some of Samantha’s favorite musical talents include Cat Stevens, The Pussycat Dolls, and The Animals, and her eyes light up when she hears Tom Jones belting out “What’s New Pussycat?”.

Yoga Kitty.  Samantha amazes me with her flexibility and determination to hold an asana (yoga pose).  And when I roll out the yoga mat she is right there with me watching my every move.  When I’m in downward dog pose, Samantha reclines underneath me, forcing me to hold the pose as long as possible.  And although she does a mean downward dog herself, I think her favorite pose is shavasana (a relaxing, meditative pose at the end of a yoga session).

Asana entitled: Spiralled Head to Knee

Shavasana

Cat Dancing.  When I dance around the house, Samantha prances along with me. She even has ballet in her genes like Cat Lady, often standing in a perfect first position, and becomes mesmerized with the ballet steps I can still execute, especially pas de chat (cat’s step).

Vintage Furniture.  Besides the bookcase, Samantha has a thing for the vintage chair where she spends hours on and under this lovely piece.

Samantha is purrrfect for me in a different way from Bobcat, Lexington, or any other of my beloved cats. We are both starting new chapters of our lives together.  We’re both recovering from surgery and helping each other heal from recent trauma; for me—a life threatening disease and for her, negligence by her former owner (I will not dignify that woman by calling her a cat mom).

I look forward to our growing bond, our respective transformations, and to seeing where our lives together will lead us.

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