Tuesday January 8, 2013

In some ways the "New Year" for this family started on January 7th.  I don't know if it will always feel that way, but it definitely did this year.  We completed a year without Shannon.  All those calendar dates that carry some importance, well, we've navigated them the first time around.  Check.

Now, I don't mean to say that year two will be easier, because living days and weeks and months without her will always be hard, and the pain and feeling of loss will ebb and flow.  But, as the rhythm of the new year reveals itself, we will know that at least, that we have covered this ground once before.

Speaking of ground we've covered before, today was my radiation simulation and planning appointment to prepare for my treatment.  It brought me back to the day they made Shannon's "smile mask".  (If you are relatively new to this blog, go back and read the entry from April 21, 2011 for more info.)

Thankfully, for breast radiation they don't have to make mold or imprint of the body part in question.  But you do have to lay there, topless, for an hour or so as they figure out the radiation field and positioning needed to effectively and safely radiate.  As an aside, I just have to comment here - more people have seen and touched my breast in the last 18 days than in the first 43 years of my life combined!  I am a pretty modest person who you'll find most days in a sweatshirt and mom jeans, so this puts me way out of my comfort zone.

Keeping with that theme, Dan and I had a good chuckle about the body parts I've had worked on over the past year.  If I could name three places I wouldn't want to have procedures done, well, I pretty much nailed it:  One ovary, three teeth, and now this.  I hope the next time I need medical attention, it involves something less intimate like an outer extremity...

So, back to today.  My planning session involved positioning and CT scans to see where my organs are located so they can be avoided when the radiation is being given.  Today also involved learning to do the "breath-hold" technique - a breathing method that I will use each day during radiation.  A physicist was involved in the planning today, running a program to figure out how deep a breath I need to take and hold to keep my heart away from the radiation field.  The physicist monitored my breathing for a period of time today, and figured out the ideal deep breath range to pull my heart back away from the chest wall.  Then, on a little monitor I watch through these special goggles, I can see my breathing monitor go up and down and then they give me a cue to "Hold Your Breath When You Are Ready" Then, I need to breathe deep enough to get my monitor into the "green range" and hold my breath while the radiation is given.  Then, when the radiation beam stops, the little monitor will say "Breathe Normally."  This is how we will do it each day for radiation.  It took some practice, but I was feeling pretty comfortable with it by the end.  The last step was to get my tattoos - four little ink dots that will help them line me up each day for radiation.  Dr. Laack, the dosimetrist and the physicist will now finalize the plan to radiate the field as effectively as possible while avoid the surrounding tissue and internal organs, and then we are ready to go.

If you look at it objectively, it's fascinating stuff.  If I think about what it really means and why I am there holding my breath, it could freak me out.

I am set to begin on January 21st.  I need to remember to take it one day at a time and not think about the fact I have to go do that five days a week for six weeks.

But, I have perspective.  It's pretty hard for me as a well adjusted (in my opinion) 43-year-old woman to bitch and moan about going through something that I watched a 12-year-old girl handle with fortitude and grace.

I know I will get through this.  I had a pretty good role model show me how it's done...